#Spur A thought: Is it too soon or too late for neo-race relations in SA?

Emotional intelligence
noun
  1. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
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    When we were growing up, it was normal practice for adults other than one’s parents to dish out discipline. If you were in the wrong, you knew there would be repercussions. If this didn’t come in the form of an adult hauling you before your own parents and leaving them to handle you, it would come in the form of them giving you some form of corporal punishment.

    Elders allowed this for two reasons – one, that youngsters saw the consistency of discipline (it doesn’t matter who I am; I’m still your parent) and – Two; to foster a sense of respect. So, there really wasn’t room for manipulation from us kids – we’d learn and never repeat the same mistakes. Therefore, the ideology that it takes a village to raise a child truly applied then and took precedence.

    Of course, our world has evolved immensely since then. Black people aren’t limited to growing up in underdeveloped areas or townships anymore: Our lives have transcended the niche communities with one culture, colour; language and practices.

    In effect, the prerequisite of that evolution was the adoption of a different approach to personal conduct and inter-personal relations. For some individuals, the process of assimilation is easy while others will find themselves in conflict with their environment.

    We’ve somehow grown accustomed to racist slurs everywhere and how they come out during seemingly relaxed moments. Perhaps as a reminder that we are not quite there yet; we haven’t even begun. Each day our level of conflict with our environment is exposed and it isn’t surprising how something like road rage is now our breakfast and dinner. Still, we continue feeding these monsters.

    Having had the opportunity to tap into the viral Spur video, I personally saw a lot of dynamics at play. The first thing that South Africans are generally engineered to sense is the racist aspect -and granted, there usually is an element of that somewhere. Our racist sensors are very sensitive and this is warranted given our historical disposition. However, this has created a grey area where people can literally get away with being just plain awful; where other dynamics at play can be ignored.

    Bestselling co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry describes emotional intelligence as something that affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is a critical ingredient to self-awareness and self-management. Therefore, people who lack EQ are more likely to lack the ability to navigate through life, assess their environment and respond accordingly, among other things.

    With the two parties at each other’s throats and an audience of children around them, witnessing the insults being hurled back and forth- this scene was disturbing. It is obvious that while the fight was seemingly the result of one child bugging another, this wasn’t about the children anymore.

    With adults behaving in that manner, who needs growing up? The intention is not to sound like a soccer fan watching his team losing a match from his couch and thinking he could have done a better job than the team, coach and referee put together.

    However, as a parent myself there have been incidents in the past where my child has come home crying because of a playground altercation and I would simply say “Sorry, my child but s’ka ntsenya mo dintweng tsa gago.” This is simply to say: Fight your own battles, toughen up. I will choose which battles to fight for you. But it is equally important to bring the children together and get them to apologise to one another. Done. Everyone is happy.

    This is just as applicable if roles are to be reversed – no child needs to be privy to grown-ups fighting or to be subjected to such reckless behaviour. If we kept in mind that the minds of children are like sponges, perhaps we would act differently.

    Their only take-away (pun intended) from this is that one section of society still perceives the other as lacking the basic ability to raise children properly, therefore an instruction to toe the line can be issued with no consultation. Secondly, they’ve learnt that if they are under pressure then self-destruction is the way to go. What would you think would have happened had either of these people reacted differently?

    G*
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Ode to Bongani “B” Mahlangu

I reckon that sometimes it is necessary to get out of the ordinary scheme of things; to escape normality and do things differently.

Today is one such day for me; an opportunity to pay tribute to a man who believed in me so much that he went to all lengths to make sure that my dreams became reality.

Ours is a relationship that began in 2011 following an article I had written as an unemployed graduate. Through him, I was given the opportunity to go on radio and tell my story. Doors opened as I was also able to gain access to one of the most formidable men in the Coaching fraternity, Mongezi Makhalima– who served as an invaluable life guide.

Both taught me that it’s important to have vision, drive and determination because it makes it easier for people to support you.

We show gratitude in different ways: We cry, salute and smile. Sometimes words escape us and we don’t know how to say “thank you”- not sure if it’s enough at all. I guess the greatest lesson that Bongani has taught me is that the rewards of giving are greater than the rewards of receiving. Giving of your time, resources, networks and knowledge can benefit others ten-fold (even more).

Especially important is that the baton gets passed on and they also give of themselves to others in need. That is how better societies are built!

To Bongani…Words can never be enough to express how proud I am to be associated with you and to learn from you. You did way more than you needed to for a stranger and now you are family. Ndo livhuwa nga maanda!

 

 

He’s Ben 10, What’s Your Superpower?

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So over the weekend I decided to watch the film Their Eyes Were Watching God, an adaptation of the novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Of course for the umpteenth time, but then again a good movie never goes out of style.

So Janie decides to get herself a man twelve years her junior- or rather, he happens to her! I suppose love does come in shapes and sizes, and it’s not quite what we anticipate at times. Obviously, the entire town watches the love affair with great intrigue and expects it to go downhill. After all, she’s the revered mayor’s wife and he just a hood-rat; probably looking for a quick buck.

What I also did was to look at websites catering to the infamous Cougar and found Gerry Ellenon writing candidly on the “10 Rules of Dating a Younger Man”. Ten Rules. I thought how strange it is that such rules exist; more like breeding a Maltese Poodle or something! What a lot of work these Ben 10’s are…“Keep exercising and eating well, do Yoga and meditate”- Be impressed and supportive BUT please- DON’T MOTHER HIM!

Personally, I’ve never encountered as many rules being applicable to Sugar-daddies- if they give them a second thought anyway. The rule of thumb is simple : Just have deep pockets, the rest will follow. So, one gets the sense that the older, more confident woman without much hang-ups is really nothing but a facade.

Anyway, I’ve never understood the allure of a younger man. This is simply because of my bossy nature and knowing how being in that situation would push me to be domineering. Besides this, I’ve always been of the opinion that sex begins in the mind before it wanders off elsewhere.

It’s been scientifically proven that women’s brains mature faster than men’s. Mental stimulation is underrated when in fact it is a significant factor that can determine the longevity of a relationship. Therefore, maturity is non-negotiable.

Playing mum to a full-grown man isn’t all that appealing to yours truly I’m afraid and gets in the way of any advancement toward a “real” relationship.I hear this is sexy in some circles- many more circles than we are aware of these days. Again, a (huge) part of older women’s attraction to younger men is the sex. Nothing makes a cougar’s heart beat faster than virility, abs, energy, enthusiasm; it’s crazy 🙂

One cannot deny the huge ego boost that comes from getting the nod from someone younger- it gives you the feeling of relevance and that you haven’t become a fossil- just yet. It provides motivation for one to be more aware of themselves, to groom well etc: Things we should be doing for our own benefit anyway! So, while the heat is bound to fizzle at some point for some; for others it’s a dizzying fairytale- Just ask aus Monkie! 😉

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Different strokes for different folks, they say.

Age is…

Human-Development

Every Friday in my office we have a culture of asking the “Friday Question” and this could be any question under the sun with the aim of getting to know fellow team members better.

Most of the time the responses from these questions are interesting, funny and give one a sense of having better understanding of the other.

My questions have always been controversial- and this is not because they have anything to do with religion, politics, sexuality or anything that is not permissible in the office. I’ve been told that, well…I’m just too deep. Perhaps I should have been a Psychologist instead?

Anyway, I posed this question this week: “At what age did you become an adult?” Pretty simple question I thought, and if not, it would be a nice way for people to apply their minds. I was mistaken and realized that what we perceive is shaped by where we come from and our experiences. All of that comes together to shape reality as we know it.

I love this quote by Martha Graham, “‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.”

How many times have you looked at some people and thought their age is not in line with their maturity (or lack thereof- read stupid)? How do we then effectively gauge whether someone is mature or not without imposing our beliefs on them? We can’t. Without applying our own experiences and knowledge- and therefore judgement on the actions and behaviour of others, we would probably see the world in monochrome.

I had a conversation with a friend about a family member of his who bought a car that he cannot  maintain despite the fact that he couldn’t even put fuel in it without asking for cash from someone else. It didn’t come as a surprise considering the number of people who live beyond their means.

The saying, “age is nothing but a number” is often used to define and/or justify cross generational relationships, among other things. The phrase also correctly indicates that the crux of maturity lies in discipline, responsibility and one’s ability to respond to their environment appropriately more than it does on actual age. We see immaturity in others when we realize the deficiency in these qualities.

In the same instance adulthood does not necessarily equate maturity. I became an adult at the age of twenty-two when I had my child and even though I had assumed full and unequivocal responsibility of her and my own circumstances, I feel maturity had not quite settled in. This was long after the age of 18 when I could legally drink whatever titillated my taste buds, etc.

In essence, maturity is work in progress. For some it comes very early; for some just in the nick of time and for others  – it just never shows up!

Dear Mageza

taxi

Having been a victim of an unprovoked verbal attack on my way to work this morning, I feel I need to say a few things.

I am not certain, however, that you will read any of this-seeing how things like reading are last on your list of priorities. Again, you say absurd things like “stelling” when you mean “steering wheel” but that’s none of my business since I know better than to ridicule anyone who doesn’t speak the Queen’s language properly.

It’s funny because you like things: You put up bumper stickers all over the place, about overweight people, people not being allowed to doze off in the front seat and lo and behold that people ought to shut up because they don’t have cars- we must see you, we must feel you. And who the hell told you that everyone who takes a taxi doesn’t have a car of their own??

Then again, your narrow-mindedness precedes you! You probably suffer an inadequacy complex, you can frog march people because it gives you some sort of power and that’s the thing-we let you get away with it.

This Mageza rained on yours truly this morning following a request to be dropped off where I get off each and every morning. He maintained that he had asked where everyone was going. “I speak Tswana”, I said- wait, is it a cardinal sin to not speak Zulu in Johannesburg? When did Zulu become our primary national language?It doesn’t end there, he continues his tirade by telling another that if he were to insult me-I would hear. Yes, I heard everything. I maintained a dignified silence. It could have been cowardice or perhaps the realization that no wise person in their right mind should argue with a moron.

Now, dear Mageza, you are uncouth and arrogant- the last word should always be yours. No matter what. You treat commuters like they owe you the world, as if your service is a favour. That’s what you do when you overload a taxi and expect everyone to pay the same price; when your seats are so in ruins one has to hold on for dear life to avoid falling over; when you risk the lives of passengers by skipping traffic lights.

You bask so well in the stereotypes attached to you that you ruin it for other taxi drivers who are decent and treat commuters with respect. I will not offer any remedies for your condition or try to school you- you are a lost cause, completely consumed by the little world you inhabit; complete in waking up and not impacting positively on the world around you. Unfortunately, half of this country depends on the taxi industry to bridge the gap between home and workplace-so you must be chuffed.

I’ll tell you though that customer service and courtesy is not some foreign exercise meant for the corporate world or as you would say “those who know too mush (much)”, they are everywhere you go. Respect is earned and not demanded.

Sincerely,

Gomo’

Vat en Sit- ‘Way to Go?

LR COHABITATION PH

One of the lessons shared by veteran actor Jerry Mofokeng and wife Claudine on marriage recently is that, in order for the institution of marriage to weather the storms, two parties need to be friends. Reminiscent of Mpharanyane’s  “Nka nako ho mo tseba” (take time to know her), they made it clear that getting to know one another is an integral part of that process.

Now, I don’t know how folks way back in the day did their thing with the absence of mobile phones, social media and all. While long, elaborate and imaginative letters bridged the gap between lovers; the most probable assumption is that older generations didn’t get to really know one another until they were married.

The contrast would be stark if one had to compare a typical 27 year-old like me, even 40 year-olds’ state of mind in present day to individuals of the same age 60 years ago. Our priorities are completely different.  Sometimes one has to admit that the current generation behave in a manner that suggests that they might live forever. However, that isn’t another suggestion that we must then pursue unfulfilling lives plagued by scores of kids or general frustration or being black-mailed into making a home with someone we don’t have affection for. We have all the liberties that past generations could only dream of.

One of the liberties that we have grabbed and ran with is that of co-habitation or in common terms, vat en sit. They say good relationships are “built upon knowing and enjoying each other on social, recreational, spiritual, intellectual and communicative levels”. Yes, and of course the sexual levels! For some people, cohabiting is a necessary litmus test on how to proceed with a relationship.

Obviously this is at odds with older generations who find the rationale of demo’ marriages disrespectful because the absence of a formal agreement between two families to unite two people means that, in the legal sense, there is no leg to stand on. Again, what parent wants to have a constant “returned soldier” on their door-step because she simply isn’t cutting it?

It begs the question; how long does it take to really get to know someone? I hear the going rate is two years, which is when some people will start contemplating marriage. Then again, we all probably know people who have cohabited for five, ten, and fifteen…donkey years! What the hell does that mean? They are comfortable or complacent? God forbid, they are still getting to know each other!

The truth is that women who go into a vat en sit situation often than not aspire to marriage. Whether men aspire to same is the million rand question. Armed with tunnel vision into the happily-ever- after with the stop nonsense and 2.5 kids, many soon learn that there are no guarantees in life. They soon realize that rather than becoming a catalyst for marriage, cohabitation puts it all in slow motion.

Take it from someone who in her early twenties dabbled in a bit of shacking up. I became so engrossed with cleaning up after a varsity sweetheart; gaily doing his laundry, cooking his meals and dishing out good nookie. The reality of the relationship collapsing hit home very hard. When we recently gathered to celebrate the shot-gun nuptials of my 57 year-old uncle; a bona fide hard-core bachelor for ever, another opportunity to assess cohabitation presented itself.

He did not marry his long-time live-in partner whom he had been with for thirteen years. He did not marry the woman that enjoyed a close relationship with the family or the one who dutifully attended family gatherings and was at his hospital bedside on his sick occasions. No. He married someone he introduced at Christmas a few months before. I rest my case.

Isn’t it so easy to take such things for granted?

 

 

 

Judging A Book By Its Cover

I’ve come to realise how a single kind gesture, perhaps even a single word uttered at the right moment to someone can change their day -even the course of their lives- for the better. This is one of those things that as human beings we take for granted; our ability to set in motion a chain of events that can impact positively or negatively on the lives of others.

In the knowledge that we are “powerful beyond measure” some will use it (this knowledge) for the betterment of society. Sometimes when we are aware and cognisant of just how powerful we are, we become arrogant and don’t shy away from assertions that some individuals wouldn’t be what they are (where they are) without us.

I love Maya Angelou’s quote about the butterfly’s metamorphosis. She says, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” At face value, this seems like just an inevitable biological process created by nature.

If one looks closer, it is a wonderful metaphor that feeds into the narrative of our everyday lives: It speaks to how we use initial perceptions about one another to form judgements (sub-conscious or otherwise) that shape how we relate to –and treat- one another. Therefore, the phrase “first impressions last” certainly rings true.

How many times have you judged people simply by what they do for a living? I suppose it is quite negligible how often we reckon we have other people figured out, isn’t it?

Ever stopped for a moment to observe the contempt with which some people treat cleaning staff, if you’re in a corporate environment? How about the petrol attendant at the filling station? Or are you one of those people?

a judgeJust a few months ago, in the latter part of 2013 my sister and I took on a catering job at short-notice. We had anticipated the pressure that would come with accepting the offer but what we hadn’t was the somewhat odd, condescending attitude that we encountered from the client.

It could have been that we looked rather young (and wet behind the ears) and for the ‘veterans’ translated to incompetence.I don’t know, perhaps a power trip at play there? I have no doubt that the treatment would have been different if we pitched there dressed in corporate clothing.

It is an open secret that the idea of starting a life with someone -and growing with them  throughout  emotional, physical and especially financial challenges- just doesn’t seem to be ‘cutting it’ anymore.

We can debate all we like about why the ready-made man has such allure to the 21st century woman. We don’t want to know. All we want are the good stories and polished diamonds from which we believe we ought to gain something but to which very little is contributed.

I had to confront myself with serious questions after my mentor –a Media and Communications specialist- revealed that he spent part of his youth doing piece jobs, including scrubbing toilets. He eventually saved up enough cash for a plane ticket to the UK where he kick-started his career, sharing a cramped flat with a group of other migrants.

Would I have treated him with the same kind of reverence then as I do now? Or, would I have dismissed him as a “nobody” and concluded that his fate was sealed?

Quite simply, one’s current circumstances aren’t their defining circumstances. Therefore, let’s remember that life can go either way; a person who had it all can easily find himself right at the bottom of the pile and vice versa. Will you be one of the people condemning him or helping him up?

RSVP, What the Fudge???

Did you know that the abbreviation R.S.V.P. is derived from the French phrase “répondez s’il vous plait”? This, in English terms means “request for responses”. Yes? No? I’ll confess and say I had no idea! I have been under the false impression that it literally meant “RESERVE PLACE”, which sort of-kind of makes sense since I have always seen marked chairs at events with those four letters.

It took me a while to finish reading Joyce Meyer’s book Change Your Words-Change Your Life. Let’s just say my interaction with the material wasn’t all that easy. Anyway, I did pick up a lot of lessons and things to think about like Meyer’s stern caution on the importance of keeping one’s word: “If you RSVP for a party, be sure you either go, or call and cancel your reservation if you cannot go. [They] are ordering food based on your commitment.

That’s if one RSVPs in the first place, Ms. Meyer! See, there is no such thing as RSVP-ing in African culture, and only the modern and upwardly mobile ascribe to such. In my culture, you don’t get invited to an event- you just show up and mingle.

However, this is not to suggest that we don’t get the occasional sparkly and frilly wedding invite with the magic letters and someone’s number at the bottom. We do! While I have no recollection of either of my folks formally declining or accepting any of them, I do know that some of the nicer invitations have enjoyed extended stays displayed on the wall-unit in the lounge.

How can we forget the little controversy that occurred over Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu almost not attending Tata Mandela’s funeral service? His foundation announced just the day before the service that Tutu would not attend as he was “not invited” but the confusion was later cleared and he was able to attend.

It was hardly surprising that something of that nature happened since the practice of inviting people to funerals is foreign to a lot of us. Despite this, everyone in my household concurred that without the strictly-by-invitation (or accreditation, if you will) measure in place, Mr Mandela’s funeral would have been a logistical mess.

rsvp

BUT numbers are a big thing in my culture. The number of people that show up at one’s event (especially funerals) is an indicator of the level of “morale support” given by others and, conversely, how much the deceased or their family gave of themselves to others.

It is for this very reason that if you don’t have numbers on your side…shame! When a member of our extended family passed on years ago, his grieving mother left us gobsmacked when she -even in mourning- almost gleefully quipped, “A le bone batho ba ba neng ba le ko lesong?!”(Did you see the number of people at the service?!) She saw that? Did it even matter? Phew!

With the new-age bunch of kids, there is a growing trend towards curbing the number of people attending a particular event by having the event on location. Let’s face it, if you have an event ko Kasi everyone will pitch!

So, this presents a definite shift from instances where the community is involved in the preparations to make way for events coordinators and small, intimate affairs. It also eliminates those cringe-worthy situations where only “VIPs” (whatever that means) hog the chairs and J.C le Roux’s in the marquees while the rest of the masses bake in the sun.

We still operate largely in a word of mouth realm and perhaps learning to RSVP (and honour the invite) is really the last thing on our to-do list. Let’s not forget that the First World people have yet to master it as well. This, clearly, might take a while. If you still think that RSVP-ing is useless, you might want to consider that it may just be your saving grace the next time you decide to turn up for an event at the last minute. Either that or contend with the embarrassment of not finding your name on the guestlist.

I Am Not My Hair…

Resolutions are the name of the game. At the beginning of each year we make them; to make good on them or break ‘em. After three wonderful years of wearing my hair in dreadlocks, I have decided to part ways with it. I have always been a gung-ho kind of person where hair is concerned, so getting the chop at least once a year never was problem.

But what I experienced while contemplating the transition has been a mixture of denial, internal conflict and bizarre dreams of having suspicious blonde tresses on my head. Is this where I’m heading? I wondered. I knew the day I professed how good my hair still looked and how fabulously “versatile” it is, that I would take it all off the next. Funny how I’m the last person I listen to sometimes!

from this...

from this…

What I experienced was similar to the end of a love-affair and being caught up in nostalgic rapture to prolong the inevitable. Let’s not forget the receding hairline (traction alopecia nightmares), the heat at the back of the neck in summer (but good for winter, yeah?), high maintenance, the build-up… need I say more?

I was facing another dilemma: To sell or not to sell? With January financial blues looming, the thought of selling the locks for a couple of thousand crossed my mind several times and seemed very attractive. Dreadlocks are fast becoming hot property this side, to the extent where poor souls are increasingly targeted by lazy sods looking to make a quick buck through hair-jacking. But I wanted to keep my hair!

So began the painstakingly long process of combing each lock out (took me a week). I was still to face my sister -giving me funny, disapproving looks each time she got a chance. I didn’t know this was a polygamous situation! This has certainly been a “unique” situation where just about everyone has discouraged the change, to the point where I have virtually felt imprisoned by my hair.

...to kinky fabulousity!

…to kinky fabulousity!

When the last one dropped, I felt a new found freedom- like taking a well-needed breath of fresh air. Change couldn’t have come at a better time. I was reminded that, in the midst of what the world tells you or even what they say about you, what truly matters is what you say to yourself. If we become too fixated on the physical (and the past), there is a good chance we stand to lose out on who we truly are (and living life fully in the present).

No hairstyle can determine who I am and therefore, who I’m not. It is a frivolous yardstick that some use to determine someone’s level of political and social awareness; of sexual liberation, who knows what other things a person’s hair can say about them!

For me, that’s one less resolution to worry about…on to the next one!

 

Mirror, Mirror

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Someone recently made an unexpected and rather awkward observation of yours truly. In fact this particular observation and subsequent comment got me confused as whether to gulp down the rest of the wine in my glass and ask for fifteen more rounds or to shrug off the comment.’ Maybe just fall off the damn chair once and for all?! Instead, I just sat there with what I reckon was a stupefied look on my face.

Perhaps someone else would be flattered at being told that child-birth certainly was beneficial in increasing, ehm (cough)…breast size. I wasn’t. I could hardly conceal my embarrassment as I presume that should be the last place anyone dares to direct their stares. My modesty notwithstanding, I immediately shrugged it off with, “nah, not really”. That, my friends, is the truth and nothing but the truth.

The truth is, this girl simply grew up and learnt to shop for a good, padded and flattering bra. Yep, no amount of suckling from SuperGirl could have even vaguely taken me to a decent size 34A. Oh well! :-/

The one thing that motherhood surprisingly gave me was renewed body image. Until that tipsy comment about my slight bosom, I had distanced myself from obsessing about its nonexistence. Same thing about those fantasies about lying on Dr. Rey’s operating table waiting for him to drill silicone into my body that I’d happily parade around in a scant bikini afterwards. Yet I relapsed, if only for a short time.

Don’t we all have a certain part of our body that we would rather trade-in for something better? Yes, I also know those of you who stuff their bras with tissue and those Viagra poppers when nobody’s watching only to dish up political correctness to the less enlightened. It’s okay. We understand. We know you are perfect the way you are, and you wouldn’t want to change a thing! Mhmm… of course you are, we all are!

Either way, it is true that if one’s esteem is linked to the external- that is, what people think of you- then trouble isn’t too far off. That’s why it’s important to build that self-esteem so it’s not blown over by idle winds.

I grew up with “boob issues” half of my life. I have vague memories of my childhood when once or twice during play a certain insect was said to be able to make breasts grow, provided you let it suckle on your nipples for a bit.

The impressionable me bought into this childish hogwash until it was forgotten, thereafter it was back to ogling my friends’ abundant bosoms. I mean, some of these girls had huge boobs even before leaving primary school and there was me with a flat chest! Then I could probably blame my grandmothers for not sweeping my chest with a broom just before puberty, as it is apparently supposed to be done.

During the moments that my ego took a hard knock, future plastic surgery seemed a possible option but good Lord I’d never ever, ever be able to face the embarrassment if I had to kick the bucket on the operating table while doing a boob job!!! Noooooo!

The observer was certainly right; motherhood was a blessing in disguise.

Instead of seeking affirmation from all the wrong places, I learnt that I’m the first place where my daughter needs to get affirmation from and this is the most important place she will get it from. It has taught me that no matter how she looks, hearing the words “You are beautiful” from me (and her dad) will be important blocks to building her character and esteem.

Being an adult has taught me that I don’t need to over-compensate for anything that is lacking. Boob issues? So frivolous! J