Validation – where do you get it from?

The selfie - the ultimate tool of self-validation
The selfie – the ultimate tool of self-validation
What is validation? The free, online dictionary says it means to make valid; substantiate; confirm.

For me, validation is what I feel when I belong somewhere, have a purpose or when I’m being recognized for doing something well.

Usually, I feel validated as a result of interacting with different people.

In the past (and still) that feeling mostly came from my family, who validated my very existence by telling me I was THEBESTPERSONEVER in different ways. As you can imagine this has led to my somewhat distorted sense of reality and an inflated sense of confidence that has only increased over the years (yes, I know, it’s borderline obnoxious, but you cannot deny that I am also very aware of my faults).

Most of my validation, these days, comes from friends. After I have spent time with a very close friend one-on-one, or a group of like-minded friends, I feel like I belong, that I’ve contributed, that I’ve helped in some way. This is especially true when I’ve given a good bit of advice or we’ve worked through some situation together.

At work – say I write a kick-ass press release, and all the media I invited attend a press conference I arrange and the news is brilliantly covered – I feel validated. This is then bolstered by thank yous and compliments from colleagues, involved parties and of course bosses.

And now, in this weird day and age, I also get my validation from the Internet people. These are real people (like you!) and people I vaguely know from Internet-land. When they interact with me on social media and I get notifications that tell me – I’m doing a really good job at taking staged pictures of my life on Instagram, or that my taste in dining room tables is so good that someone is actually re-pinning it on Pinterest and the ultimate – when my readership spikes for a particular blog post – I feel like I’m on some crazy validation high.

Validation is important and necessary and I think is a way to feel love and belonging and boost my self-esteem.

But what then happens, when I’m alone at night and I’m not working on work and no one has whatsapped and there are no pings. I have to be by myself and with myself.

I’ve been realizing more and more that I don’t want to keep reaching for and relying on that next hit of validation.

I want to know that I am ok as I am, without needing someone to validate me.

Moments of Absolute Clarity

Like a beam from the sky!
Like a beam from the sky!
80% of the time I walk around with about a billion things on my mind.

It’s either work or friends or that next thing I have to do or, or, or…

So when something is really bothering me, I try to find a billion solutions.

I talk to my friends about it.
I talk to myself about it.
I blog about it.
I go see a counselor about it.
I Google my Astrology sign.
I Google somemore.

In the middle of me trying to solve, or resolve, whatever is bothering me, I sometimes fill my head up with so much noise that I don’t ever really find the answer or the peace I am seeking.

And then if I ever find myself about to walk somewhere, a perfect time for reflection, I choose to plug in my earphones and listen to whatever playlist is striking my fancy (right now it’s Latin Dance – yeah you know it’s good) and dance myself to my next destination.

There is little time for me to really just think about observe a situation and come up with any sort of realization. And when trying to address something, I analyze all reason out of it.

But luckily it seems like my mind has figured out a way to help me out.

When I’m half-awake at night stumbling to the bathroom for a middle of the night pee (All you small-bladdered people do this – don’t lie), sometimes I find I am struck by these BLINDING epiphanies about whatever is bothering me.

I kid you not, halfway from my room to the john the voice in my head will go from “Oh, why is there SO much light” to suddenly “How could you have worried about that inane thing, when in reality you’re being ridiculous and need to just take it easy.”

Funnily enough most of my midnight conversations to myself involve telling myself to chill out. And then my other self tells my clarity self, “Yes, yes I know, now let me pee and sleep, I’m very tired.”

In the morning I’m usually struck by this feeling like I’ve spoken to a fairy godmother or something and that they’ve told me something really important.

I guess I’m lucky – to have a fairy godmother AKA myself – who’s got my back. Maybe I just need to trust myself, a little bit more and Google, a little bit less.

It’s like I visited Mongolia or something…

A wider shot than the original - so you can see the BIG BLUE SKY
A wider shot than the original – so you can see the BIG BLUE SKY

As you all know – I went to Mongolia for a vacation, recently, and I took a lot of pretty pictures.

But the thing is I actually took even more than the ones you’ve seen. So voila! Ils sont ici!

This is a photo story combined with random things I think you should know about Mongolia.

Rocks and sky. There's a story behind this rock. Ask me in person. Used a VSCO filter
Rocks and sky. There’s a story behind this rock. Ask me in person. Used a VSCO filter
Lightly edited shot in the countryside
Lightly edited shot in the countryside
Wide shot of the gyrs we stayed in
Wide shot of the gyrs we stayed in
Shot of the gyr! And my Dad looking badass. Used a VSCO filter
Shot of the gyr! And my Dad looking badass. Used a VSCO filter
That sky!
That sky!
Sky, sky, sky!
Sky, sky, sky!
Me and my father-in-law? I don't know what I'm supposed to call him, but father in Mongolian is "Ow" as in ow!
Me and my father-in-law? I don’t know what I’m supposed to call him, but father in Mongolian is “Ow” as in ow!
I took this shot after a 30 minute solitary hike/walk up a hill in the countryside while listening to 90s tunes. I needed to get away and I got great pictures!
I took this shot after a 30 minute solitary hike/walk up a hill in the countryside while listening to 90s tunes. I needed to get away and I got great pictures!

They are famous for their meat and their dairy. I don’t drink milk, but I did eat a lot of sheep, beef and more sheep. It was delicious. Top three things to eat in Mongolia, horshoo (deep fried meat dumpling), horhog (meat and vegetables cooked in a pressure cooker with the heat from freakishly hot pebbles) and barbecue (you know this). Try and get home-cooked versions of this. Like by making friends with locals.

Mongolian currency is Tugguruk – and it’s about USD1 to MGT1,900. Think about it like Korean won (if you’re familiar) and it’s close. Things in Mongolia aren’t that cheap – you’re looking at pricing similar to Singapore for food and clothing.

Parking lot at the Genghis Khan memorial
Parking lot at the Genghis Khan memorial
Genghis Khan - shot from below
Genghis Khan – shot from below
I don't know what I was trying to show. Maybe that the statue is really big?
I don’t know what I was trying to show. Maybe that the statue is really big?

People are really into Adidas. Like REALLY.

Mongolian sounds like a cross between Korean and Russian. It sounds especially Korean to me because of that one time, I lived in Korea…

The city was modeled after Soviet cities. Whatever that means.

View from the apartment in Ulaanbaatar
View from the apartment in Ulaanbaatar
Streets near the apartment in Ulaanbaatar
Streets near the apartment in Ulaanbaatar
Downtown Ulanbaatar
Downtown Ulanbaatar
Downtown Ulanbaatar
Downtown Ulanbaatar
Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar
Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar
Sukhbaatar Square - lightly edited
Sukhbaatar Square – lightly edited
Genghis Khan (of course) - processed with a VSCO filter
Genghis Khan (of course) in Sukhbaatar Square – processed with a VSCO filter
Genghis' bodyguards. I used a VSCO filter
Genghis’ bodyguards. I used a VSCO filter
Lightly edited shot from the Sukhbaatar Square. Lot of construction going on in Mongolia
Lightly edited shot from the Sukhbaatar Square. Lot of construction going on in Mongolia

Alcoholism is a problem.

Pick-pockets are everywhere. Keep you money stashed safely on your person and don’t flash your fancy shit around.

Summer doesn’t start till July/August.

Buddha statue and me! I used a VSCO filter
Buddha statue and me! I used a VSCO filter
Soviet WWII War Memorial on what used to be the highest hill in Mongolia. Processed with a VSCO filter
Soviet WWII War Memorial on what used to be the highest hill in Mongolia. Processed with a VSCO filter

The Mongolian alphabet is the Cyrillic alphabet – aka the Russian alphabet.

Good places to eat while in Ulaanbaatar:
Broadway – serves great Western and other food.
Jur Ur – the best chocolate tart I’ve eaten in my life came from this place. There’s either coconut or bits of heaven in the crust.
Korean food is generally great – so you can probably eat that anywhere.

The two best things in Mongolia are it’s BIG BLUE SKY and it’s people. They are straightforward, warm and hospitable.

As we sped to the airport my brother yelled, "Take a picture - that's UB!" This is that picture.
As we sped to the airport my brother yelled, “Take a picture – that’s UB!” This is that picture.

Got my mind on my mind

2015-04-26 19.01.16

“We are all, as Byron put it, differently organized. We each move within the restraints of our temperament and live up only partially to its possibilities.” – Kay Redfield Jamison

I suffer from what I like to call an unquiet mind. Which is also, coincidentally, the title of the book from which the quote above is taken.

It is an affliction that renders me unable to:

  • interact with people without assessing their (and my) ulterior motives
  • make a decision without obsessing about the effect about my future (this includes whether or not I eat a chocolate-almond croissant for breakfast)
  • watch any movie without analyzing why and who it was made for (as as result I can never actually tell you if a movie was “good or not” because IT’S ALL RELATIVE)
  • exist in this moment – here and now

So everyday, I go round and round and round. Interaction after interaction, moment after moment, is felt, processed, and imprinted.

There are times when this feeling of living inside my head is all-consuming and there are times when it’s closer to the surface, manageable, even.

This past month I spent a lot of time living in my head. My loved ones, tolerated this, because see: Love.

When I surfaced from this period of self-absorption and indulgence and sent the, “I’ve sorry I’ve been a douchebag,” message to my closest friends, I realized that everyone around me was also dealing with their own restlessness and disquiet. Their own demons.

And it hit me that sometimes the key to finding peace might not come from within. I think it might lie in realizing that you are not alone and also that someone else might need you.

That simple act of empathy and then if you can find it within yourself, grace and kindness, might free you.

And if that doesn’t work there’s always chocolate.

Cheers to the freaking weekEND

See our happy faces?
See our happy faces?
It’s that time of the week again – when you shrug your tight shoulders (courtesy of being hunched over the computer) loose, swap your OL (office lady / lad) polyester garb for club / weekend chic and let down your heavily styled hair. It’s the weekend my friends and it’s what I (and a lot of other people) call real life.

Let me explain, I know that 8:30am to 6:00pm (I know, my work hours are a little too long), Monday to Friday, 52 weeks of the year is a lot of time to not be calling your real life.

But it feels like it isn’t.

When the weekend comes – I go into weekend mode. I don’t think about work, I just think nourishment, friends, sun, laughter – and that’s when I’m in Singapore.

It’s almost as though a black cloud lifts at the end of the week and the weekend becomes this weird alternate universe of frenzied activity, pool parties, long catch ups over brunch and horrifyingly decadent eating.

When Monday rolls around I almost feel as though I’m being slapped in the face by reality.

The funny thing is I actually REALLY like my job.

So why the shift?

Sometimes I think these weekend shenanigans are a result of being in Singapore without my family. Kind of like a symptom of being an expat. How can I make it so, SO fun this weekend that I completely forget about the fact that I’m slightly lonely.

Or maybe that’s unfair.

Maybe it’s a symptom of being young and knowing that in this moment I am free to do all these things with little regard for time and responsibilities.

Or maybe it’s because Singapore is a small place and if you aren’t traveling somewhere, you should be doing something REALLYCOOLRIGHTNOW.

All I know is that it all smells a bit like a YOLO a lot like escapism.

I didn’t write this because I’m preaching or because I think there’s a better way to use or experience a weekend. I wrote it because I’m trying to figure out what I feel about the whole thing.

Now excuse me, because I need to get ready for dinner and drinks. OMGITSGONNABEAWESOMEYALL.

Weekend Meal Prep YOUCANDO

Prepping for prep
Prepping for prep

Every weekend I set aside about two to three hours, to plan how I’m going to take over the world.

No seriously, because the only way that I can take over the world is if I eat well-balanced, nutritious food that will then give me enough energy to take over the world. Right?

But more seriously this is my post about meal prepping on weekends. I got into meal prepping for two simple reasons 1) Shutterbean and 2) IHAVENOTIME.

Let me explain.

1) Shutterbean is this fantastic blog written by Tracy who cooks these wonderfully healthy and varied meals not just for her blog, but also for her family (her husband and son). And she achieves this by being organized and prepping the ingredients and pre-cooking certain items on the weekend. Check out her awe/jealousy-inspiring meal prep grams here, here and here.

2) IHAVENOTIME. I know, I have a choice in life, I can stop saying I’m so busy and sit down and smell the roses… but guess what? I don’t want to do that. I want to run and go to yoga and hang out with my friends and go to work and read and do my laundry and read a book and get 8 hours of sleep AND eat somewhat healthily. SO. That means being a little organized and getting some stuff prepped over the weekend.

I don’t prep like Tracy, since I don’t have a family, but what I do is that I have a simple rule. I try not to eat more than one meal out a day, so if I’m eating dinner out I’ll pack a lunch for work, if not I’ll eat the dinner for the week.

I hard-boil 5 eggs for breakfast and make either a muesli or granola every two weeks which I enjoy with greek yogurt. That is my breakfast all week – minus the one day I get my chocolate almond croissant from Tiong Bahru Bakery.

I prep a salad for the week by buying spinach leaves or romaine (they keep fresh for about three days), grill vegetables (usually a combo of carrots, beets, peppers, etc), grill chicken, make a salad dressing (loving this one right now) and cook 1/2 cup of dried quinoa (about 5 meals worth for me). That lasts me for about five meals and mid-week I usually re-do the whole process.

This takes me about 2 to 3 hours, with plenty of time in between to dance around my apartment or do more laundry.

Totally doable right? And I’m not advocating an oat and salad filled existence.

Make whatever the hell you want.

Mel, my apartment mate, preps awesome tofu-veggie pasta salads every weekend.

Another good friend puts together protein and fish and fruit every night for her BYOL.

Just think about eating and living intentionally. Because – it’s kind of awesome.

Existential Crisis #1,000,001

"Crap on our coffee table" - a piece by the very talented Melissa
“Crap on our coffee table” – a piece by the very talented Melissa

Recently I’ve felt this restlessness rising in me – and rising – almost as though I’m going to choke on it.

Woah. Just got semi-poetic there.

It’s probably a result of having spent my childhood moving from country to country. In the past, this restlessness has manifested itself by causing me to – chop all my hair off, quit my job, work out a lot AKA become REALLY skinny and/or start new activities.

Well, I suppose I already chopped off my hair in the most extreme fashion last year. I also love my job. Even though I sometimes wonder if I’m really the best person for it or whether I could be doing better. My girlfriends all tell me I suffer from impostor syndrome, which is apparently a very common affliction for many professional women. But, you know, what if I AM, actually, just, incompetent?

No, that can’t be right.

Well, I already work out a decent amount. Like I run a bit and do some Insanity and core exercises. And I’m really trying to get away from this whole, I gotta look hot, coz I gotta look hot, coz you know, I gotta look hot.

So that leaves me with, new activities. Hmm. So far I’m trying to decide between starting a new yoga class, joining a beginner’s hip-hop class or volunteering my time to help like… people. Oh and figure out a way to practice my Spanish because – I think that my comprendo-ing, isn’t doing too well.

While I try and figure out which one to do (I have a feeling it’s going to be all), I really wonder, do these feelings stem from the fact that I feel I need change in my life? Or is it a result of trying to fill a void?

Are there any guarantees that once I’ve got the dream job, partner, life, whatever, that I still won’t keep wanting something different?

Will the restlessness continue to haunt me, like Juliet Binoche’s character in Chocolat?

Good movie. Mmm… chocolate. IWANTACOOKIE.

But I digress.

Are these feelings of restlessness something that I should always be trying to resolve? Should I maybe just learn to sit with them, and maybe just maybe, they might just pass?