“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anais Nin
“The journey I’m taking is inside me. Just like blood travels down veins, what I’m seeing is my inner self and what seems threatening is just the echo of the fear in my heart.”
“I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story—I will.”
– Amy Schumer
As we were heading out to lunch today, my friend and trusted aesthetic doctor, Dr Rachel Ho of La Clinic asked me how Mmerci started.
My mind immediately went to the days I was writing and editing beauty. I just recall trying so many products till my skin was inflamed and sensitive year-round. It used to be a joke among my colleagues that my skin would break out with just water.
As you can imagine, being the face (and voice) of the beauty department by the age of 24 – fully immersed in writing, presenting, sharing about it meant that I fell into some warped universe where I pressured myself to not only act but look the part.
I guess it didn’t help – walking into certain clinics to interview or review treatments only to be blatantly told by some doctors that there was something wrong with you. Would you like diet pills? (Funny, I never had a problem with my body… till that moment). Something to zap the cellulite away? (What, this? I’m good). Always something to fix. For all their well-meaning words and intentions, I just felt worse about myself.
For the record, I’m not painting all aesthetic doctors with the same brush as many are great, but Dr Rachel is – just putting it out there – a rare find.
Beyond breakouts, I recall the time I broke down in tears in the studio while getting my Editor’s Note portrait shots taken. I’m shy and have always been better behind the scenes, but this was a moment of pure stage fright. I was absolutely wooden and terrible to shoot. If I had booked me as a model, lets just say I would have called my booker and gotten a replacement On. The. Spot.
The photographer was so exasperated at my ability to ‘give’ to the camera, he shouted in Mandarin: “You have a black heart!”
And then my heart just sort of fell to the floor. I dissolved into tears and was Done with a capital D.
And so, Mmerci started as an anti-beauty beauty journal of sorts. It marked my return to the soul, and things that are beautiful to me.
That doesn’t mean I don’t need help from time to time. Who doesn’t want smaller pores and more refined skint? But the main distinction this time is: only I get to determine what I would like to improve about myself. Not my partner. Not my friends. Not my doctor. Nobody else.
Only I say what I would like to correct or refine. If I want that super expressive furrow ironed out, and it makes me feel better about myself, that’s my call to make.
Also, it’s 2018. Everybody has had a little something done. Get over it, people.
Perhaps that’s one of the upsides about aging: you just grow into yourself and by listening to your intuition, become more confident in sharing what works for you.
Getting cosmetic treatments is not anti-feminist. Criticising women who get them is.
Which is why it’s important for anyone considering any aesthetic procedure – whether it’s a lunchtime refresh involving lasers or something more extensive – to visit someone who isn’t just well-qualified (that’s a given) but someone you trust. Trust to listen to your concerns (instead of forcing their ideas on you). Trust to not take your insecurities and use them against you. Trust to think about your safety and health in the long term.
I had been personally searching for someone who was warm & could explain things at my level, someone who is goodhearted, views you objectively but with kind eyes, and has a killer aesthetic instinct about how to help you be your best you. And for me, that person happened to be Dr Rachel.
You never feel rushed, you never feel like your questions are dumb or ridiculous. She’ll openly talk about anything from the pros and cons of fillers, to her latest favourite cafe in town. And as any patient staring down the barrel of a needle will tell you, bedside manner is everything. She of course, has that in spades.
Aside from being a talented doctor with years of clinical experience under her belt (she’s best known for her threadlifts), she’s also a mum to baby S, an incredible calligraphy artist, and the on-call aesthetic guru at Buro 24/7.
She’ll also go down in my books as the first doctor who let me explain what I’d like to improve about myself, instead of suggesting I make 101 changes on myself without listening to my needs. I know that I’m in good hands because I feel really positive and cared for after every encounter – social, medical or otherwise. And I know for a fact, after a session with her, that she and her team are fantastic at what they do.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself when shopping for the right aesthetic doctor:
Do they put the patient’s safety first?
How much experience have they had and where?
Are they caring and genuinely concerned for your wellbeing?
Are they sharing and fully disclosing information in an educational, open and honest way?
How is their bedside manner? Do they make you feel at ease? Are they patient and helping you understand what’s next? Do they help manage expectations or seem to be rushing on to the next patient?
How is their skill – are they heavy-handed or prefer to work bit-by-bit?
How do they talk to and relate with their team? How are the support staff, such as the nurses?
Well, there are many paths to beautiful. For some it’s holistic, and for others, it’s a mix of modalities and treatments. Here’s to finding the right combination that works best for you. x Alli
“You’ll never shine throwing shade“
So here’s the thing. Pray and hope all you like to be a more patient, loving person, but you’re always going to be patient in theory until your wifi slows down or your suppliers don’t respond to emails, or people at pop-ups make snap (mostly entitled or misinformed) judgments, or things just simply don’t go your way.
Patience and lovingkindness need loads of hands-on, real-time practice, especially for someone like me who wants it all. But I don’t just want it all, I wanted it yesterday, and therein lies the tension.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be living in Singapore: land of efficiency, home that I love. But this season, more than ever, I find myself stretched on the patience front in interactions with others but mostly, myself.
It’s like patience is the pigeon pose. And every time I think I’ve got it, that I’m feeling a nice stretch, the teacher (patience) comes around and pushes you deeper and deeper into that posture.
All this circles back to grace. The grace you extend to others when things aren’t going your way, and the grace you give yourself when you’re messing up so royally.
And I’m learning in this season to also live less triggered. Saw a shady post online? Trying to move past it. Overhead a dodgy statement? Breathing through it. Felt like someone you were generous to is just being plain calculative? Trying to find a middle ground. Whatever it is: the goal is to react less. Not all opinions need to be verbalised or expressed.
Even on a cellular level, we know that stress hormone, cortisol, is the body’s persona non grata over prolonged amounts of time. It has your body in a gridlocked flight-or-fight mode. It makes you edgy, creates inflammation in the body, influences weight gain and a whole bunch of non-helpful things. I realised every time I give into these triggers, I see these manifest in my body. A frozen hip here, an eczema flare up there.
I guess it’s about recognising how you’re feeling in that moment. Acknowledging that it sucks and then deciding one of several things:
a) Save your fucks. This issue won’t matter in a year and it doesn’t warrant a response. I generally recommend saving your fucks for big things that matter – the environment, equality, female empowerment, not stealing other people’s creative work & passing it off as your next brainwave, not doing or accepting dervative work. That sort of thing
b) You need to respond but not before taking time to really process your next move. Pause, and think about how your reacting is going to play out 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 years from now. Pause so that you can regroup and be really intentional with your words. Mostly so you don’t ‘rain down fucks’ on someone as Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck puts it, but also so that you don’t unnecessarily burn any bridges in the heat of anger, as I’ve learned before. (My lessons are expensive)
c) trying to find a conciliatory middle ground and seeing how grace can be extended
So here’s what I’ve begun doing since late last year with varying degrees of success: I see you and your shadiness, your attempt to hurt because you are hurt or insecure, and possibly envious (though you don’t know it just yet—because see, what haters do, is hate on you, then copy), and simply, look away without judgement.
In the immortal words of Coco Chanel, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”
I focus my joy and the light of my being, and give myself to what really matters. I diffuse. I move on. You’re not living rent free in here *places hand on head and over heart simultaneously*
Hypothalamus, you can relax. Tell all your other friends: the adrenals, the limbic system and the like that you are safe and not under threat. You are whole. Nothing is going to get you down.
And remember, you’ll never shine throwing shade. And impatience with yourself or a situation, is not going to get you to where you want to be any faster.