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Stop Taking Yourself Too Seriously

09 June 2015

I am turning 31. I don't feel old or young. I just feel incredibly lucky, to have live in a wonderful country for the past 17 years, to have healthy and loving parents, to have many amazing friends, to have enormous support from customers and fans of Oz Fair Trade, to have dreams and to be able to live life to the fullest every day. 

Along the way, I made serious mistakes, felt lost and extremely lonely, said things I deeply regret, and almost killed myself numerous times by being clumsy and stupid. 

A bad habit of mine is offering advice without being asked. Sometimes people find it useful, such as my recent advice given to other start-ups about SEO. But other times, I just can't help myself and I don't care if anyone reads or listens. So here I am again, offering lessons that I have learned in the last 5 years, because looking back I realise how much I have grown over this period and I have a burning desire to share them with other young women/men: 

- You start living life when you stop taking yourself too seriously. 

I was a timid, shy and serious young woman who was afraid of saying the wrong things or making a fool of myself in front of other people. I never spoke up in lectures and meetings. I only opened up when I was with close friends, and even then I was afraid of embarrassment. But over the years, I have learned to make fun of myself and loosen up. It doesn't matter if I used inappropriate words in a lecture theatre (one of the words I used was "threesome") or pooed in a public toilet. While I haven't found the courage to dance on stage yet, but at least I stand up and do some moves in concerts. I stopped caring what other people might think of me, and life suddenly became much simpler and happier. 

- Take every failure and rejection as proof that you are one step closer to achieving your goal. 

I hated rejection. I took it personally and I would be sad for a long time. I was scared to approach someone I liked or admired in fear of being rejected/ignored. Over the years, I have developed a thick skin, or an invisible shell that protects me from the hurt I would feel from rejection and failure. It might temporarily hurt my confidence, but that would only last a few days at most. Nowadays, I often amaze myself how quickly I bounce back. Most importantly, I don't take rejection and failure personally anymore. This applies to love, career and business. It is a numbers game, and the more you try, the closer you are to reaching your goal. 

- No matter how busy you are, don't forget your family and friends. 

I recently found myself single and living with my father. It's a strange situation to be in as a 31-year-old independent woman. My friends swear that this is the reason I have been unlucky in love. To be honest, I quite enjoy living with my father, who has taken over all my household chores and looked after my dog. He even helps me with my business, by sending out parcels while I work full time. I know this arrangement is only short term, which makes me appreciate it even more. My mother lives in another city and I visit her often. We exchange posts on social media almost every day. She uses autofill to write me text messages and occasionally stuff up and crack me up. I deeply love my parents, and even though they might never understand why I have so much passion for "fair trade", they support me nevertheless. 

My friends are so awesome. I have old friends from China, including my secondary school teacher, and I keep gaining new friends. It is not true that making friends is harder as you get older. The only barrier to making friends is you. Get the hell out there and stop worrying about what others might think of you. While social media is great for keeping in touch, nothing beats face to face catch up. 

- The only way to keep growing is to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

Finally, if you also fear public speaking, I have one advice to offer: find your style. Some people are good at memorising and giving well-constructed speeches. Others like me are not that gifted. I realised that I am more comfortable when I don't take myself seriously on stage and just be authentic. I learned that it was not about me but what I can share. Being a non-native English speaker, I have the added fear of not understanding a question or using wrong words or grammar. But I realised that if I don't take myself seriously, it's ok to say I didn't understand your question, it's ok to make dumb mistakes, it's ok. The sky is not going to fall and I will recover even if I look like the biggest fool in the world for a moment. It doesn't matter. 

As I look back to that timid, nervous and serious 20 something me, I can't help but be impressed with how far I have come. I think travel definitely helped (and I will be eternally grateful to my first boyfriend who helped me to see a bigger world), and starting Oz Fair Trade also helped me enormously as it constantly pushed me to network, to learn new skills, to speak up, to sell myself and the brand, and to keep my passion alive. 

So my ultimate advice as a 31-year-old confident young woman is: live life, give love, laugh often!