I had always thought I was happy. Even when kids in my small hometown in Rhode Island called me "Chop-Chop" and made fun of my Asian eyes, I learned to laugh with them. At eight, I didn't know how to deal with my true feelings, so I buried my shame and went to my imaginary happy place. I was thankful that I could get people to laugh, even if I bore the brunt of their careless comments.
At home, things were also under tight wraps, and there was a strict code of what was acceptable to say and do. To earn my parents' approval, I was a dutiful daughter: good in school, polite and quiet, and I didn't speak my mind there either. I knew they would be disappointed if they knew how sensitive I was, so again, I swallowed my true feelings. I never felt free to speak or live my own truth.
Thus I learned early on to smile in the face of slurs, to bury my emotions, and I convinced myself everything was fine. For most of my adult life, I was able to maintain a sunny disposition on the outside, priding myself on being available to anyone who suffered from lack of joy or who needed help. I was a loyal and trusted friend with a perpetually positive outlook, and I fiercely protected that persona even within my first marriage. I wanted so much to be that person, the one everyone perceived as being so confident and carefree.
Regretfully, perception is not always what it appears. And sometimes life has to take a drastic turn before things get better. Let's just say I saw my share of "drastic." But within that chaos, I discovered something very valuable: the true nature of gratitude, and for me, it made all the difference.
I had been drowning in the "drastic" part of my journey. Try as I might I could not be perfect, and my first marriage slowly and sadly disintegrated. I was completely depleted, the break-up was really painful, and I felt like a failure. I was still not able to express my authentic self and, truth be told, I was not even sure who I truly was. But at least I was free to start over and make different choices.
But as you might know, old habits die hard. Sure enough, it wasn't long before I became friends with a woman who desperately needed my help as she was leaving her marriage. I showed up as the dutiful friend, helping to babysit her children, buying her groceries and spending endless hours on the phone as her main source of support. But she was quickly depleting me, physically, emotionally and even financially -- the story of my life. Towards the end of our friendship, I lent her $2,000 to engage a lawyer. Mistake! Not only did she never pay it back, we never spoke again.
The cycle of lack was back with a vengeance. At first, I couldn't understand why I kept allowing myself to get used. Why did I keep putting other people's needs and happiness before my own? Why couldn't I stand up for what I wanted? Why didn't I do what is truly best for me?
I finally saw this as a recurring pattern and set out to break it. Through therapy, holistic studies and a lot of introspection, I came to realize the negative outcomes in my life were invariably the result of poor choices that I made. When I looked deeper, I could see those poor choices were driven by stress, anxiety and personal feelings of inadequacy. I didn't feel like I had enough, and worse, I didn't feel like I was enough. To break the cycle, I knew I had to stop the anxiety and poor self-esteem. But how?
I began my search when all of a sudden, the solution found me. It was gratitude. This flash of insight happened on a seemingly normal day, the evening after my daughter's 9th birthday party. She was so full of joy and love that I found my love for her filled me with appreciation for my life, the entirety of my life, the sheer wonder of it all. As I felt that gratitude course warmly through my body, I realized that this powerful emotion would be the "thing" that would help me make better choices and transform my life!
Steeped with gratitude, I gradually started to make different choices, and those choices led to better outcomes -- emotionally, physically and financially -- it all improved! Once I changed my beliefs about what was possible for me, abundance opened up all over. Seeing the world through the eyes of gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to transform your life. Rather than live in a cycle of hopelessness and scarcity, I believe anyone can live each day in abundance. Just power-up your appreciation for what you do have and who you truly are, and break free.