by Charlotte Goh, Founding Member, The Brilliant Foundation
SINGAPORE - I am of the age when I am more comfortable with fear and recognise the truth that courage takes place in the face of fear, not the absence of it. Born with Tourette Syndrome, I grew up feeling highly insecure, always feeling not good enough, fearing what others think of me, fearing I wasn’t up to scratch. I overcompensated with my extension of myself, to ‘make up’ for what I was not.
And I realise that no matter how much inner work I do on myself, the fears, the insecurities still rears its head, even after all these years. That’s when I realise like old friend, when it comes and visits me, I am reminded of how much stronger, aware and more insightful I can be, to learn how to speak to it, process it and quell it. Then, I try to respond, not react.
In my late teenage years, as a coping mechanism, I became bulimic and struggled with this eating disorder for the next 20 years. Stuffing myself with food comforted me somewhat, and purging it, allowed me to release all the uncomfortable feelings I had within. As you can imagine, it was more than vanity, it was a way to cope, a way to live and to survive.
In my 20s, I started smoking when I was in university. Another way of coping or numbing my fears.
Fast forward to year 36 of my life. I married my husband Hannes who loves me regardless of my eating disorder and all my complexities. This secure space of love started to slowly nourish me. I was trying to get pregnant and my dear friend Visha told me that it is hard to retain a pregnancy if I am throwing up 6 times a day. That might have been obvious to anyone else but it was an AHA! moment for me. This fateful day started my inner work journey.
At 40, Jonas was born. Jonas, our son is now 10 years of age. He is a beautiful, sweet-hearted boy that warms my heart every day when I look at him.
Also at 40, I started looking within, at my fears, at the self I had come to hate for so many years. I recognised that it will take some work for to look within, face my insecurities, fears and learn to love myself. You could say, my life lesson was to love myself.
It was a hard journey that threatened to bring out more emotions like anger, resentment, unforgiveness, guilt, and more fear. It required courage. Each step of the way, I understood more about myself. The process brought healing; inner healing, peace and liberation.
If I can share three points that helped me in my journey, these would be it:
- The Power of Inner work and Self-awareness
- What are the stories you are telling yourself?
- What are my limiting beliefs?
The Power of Inner Work and Self-awareness
When you work on yourself, you become more self-aware about who you are, to yourself, to others and to your environment. Self-awareness is one of the most powerful aspects of living a fuller life. Self-awareness allows me to hold space for myself, it allows me to reflect and respond, not react to situations and people. It allows me to create. It allows me to be more compassionate and to practice empathy. It paves the way for better decisions because I am able to be more centred, to know my source of strength, my challenges and navigate them. Self-awareness is powerful. Leadership at any level starts with knowing yourself. With that knowledge, you have the ability to navigate your limiting beliefs and use your strengths to create and respond.
The Power of Relationships Built On Trust
I admit I am an extrovert and I thrive on the energy exchange I have with people.
I have many friends that are introverts. While they draw positive energy from spending time with themselves, they cherish the power of close relationships, built on trust and authenticity.
The power of trusting relationships empower us. The energy exchange from these genuine relationships fills our bucket.
I have close friends from primary school, secondary school and university. Visha and Limi journeyed with me when my many low moments of my eating disorder hit. They got angry with me for harming myself. They wrote letters to me to stop damaging myself. They were equally desperate that I stop hurting.
Limi lived with me in university and she could hear the retching in the bathroom repeatedly, feeling helpless. Over the years, we experienced bouts of anger and lies from both sides (the lies were on my side, hiding the truth and then openly falling apart). Ultimately, these invaluable supportive friendships and long-term relationships healed me.
My family was in denial. While it was hard to speak to them about it, the fact that they accepted me was such a blessing. Maybe a part of this stoic Asian culture “lets-not-speak-about-it” helped me feel accepted somewhat. I know I had a home. I know I was welcomed at home which was comforting.
Giving Back, Helping and Volunteering
While I was still grappling with the illness, we supported others in their journeys. (I must admit, at one stage, it got a wee bit tough for me to be a pillar of support while I was falling apart myself.) I moved on to help others informally – those with eating disorders and those with Tourette Syndrome.
Whether you see giving as altruistic or not, it allows one to take the focus off yourself for a while, and exercise love towards another. The energy exchange, or some say karma, fills your bucket.
Who is Charlotte?
Charlotte was a high-functioning insecure person, who on the outlook, had an aura of confidence that allowed her to perform to perfection in school and at her job. She was a trained social worker who served as a Medical Social Worker before she entered the corporate scene. She rose to many professional challenges and personal opportunities to shine. Then, she was the Director of Marketing of for a media outfit for 14 years. Together with the team, she launched CLEO Malaysia, The Singapore Women’s Weekly, The Malaysian Women’s Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar Singapore and Malaysia and Cosmopolitan Singapore and Malaysia. All this time, dancing between an aura of confidence and performance, and at many times feeling helpless, living in fear of constantly not being good enough.
Charlotte is now still a high functioning person living with Tourette Syndrome, loving life, taking on new challenges each day (as the world presents its uncertainty). She is the executive director of an IPC Charity, loves scuba diving (now limited to Singapore waters), took up mountain biking during COVID19, and most importantly, loves herself and has the courage to face up to her fears, process them and overcome them.
The journey of self-awareness and respond-vs-react is not over. We are human and there are times when insecurities, anger, guilt rears its head. I acknowledge and recognise these emotions, feeling them fully. In doing so, I take a moment - breathe, I observe, and I proceed with love.
I continue to support others in volunteer work and support groups. Over and above all, I choose gratitude for the journey.
Your Brilliant Feedback
We would love to hear your thoughts on Charlotte’s life journey.
Please sign up or join The Brilliant Foundation to write or offer your feedback.
- Do you know of anyone who has the Tourette Syndrome Condition? Are you able to share your or friend’s experience?
- What did you learn about this article that Charlotte has shared personally?
- Self-Awareness, Self-Acceptance is a journey towards Leadership and leading a fulfilling life. Do you have an example to share?
Please scroll down to enter your comments below. Thank you.
Helpline in Singapore
Who conducts Support for Eating Disorders Singapore (SEDS)?
Date: 1st Thursday of each month
Time: 7.15pm – 8.45pm
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Helpline in Australia
The Butterfly Foundation
The Butterfly Foundation is here for anyone in Australia concerned by eating disorders or body image issues, whether you need support for yourself or someone you care about. All our counsellors are qualified mental health professionals including psychologists, social workers and bachelor-educated counsellors, with specialist training in eating disorders and body image.
Phone 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673)
8am – Midnight – 7 days a week
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