A year ago, at the age of 30, I was unfulfilled and discontent in many areas of my life. On the surface, I seemed to have a great life, living in the heart of San Francisco, working at my dream company and globetrotting in my spare time. Deep down inside, I felt lost and stuck, moving through the motions of life but not moving forward. I constantly felt stressed out and drained from work and had two panic attacks that resulted in a $5K bill to the Emergency Room. I struggled with on and off food addiction, to keep my emotional stress under control. To offset the shame and guilt I would feel from the aftermath, I would spend much of my waking hours agonizing over what I should and should not eat. I was constantly waging war against my body. Stepping on the scale became a daily ritual for self-judgment. I felt trapped in the labyrinth of my fears and negative self-talk, constantly feeling not good enough and comparing myself to others. Travel became a form of escapism. I desperately looked outside for answers on what I should do next and how I can turn my life around. 

When the world collapsed into distress during COVID-19, so did my inner world. The fortress of protection and isolation I had built around me started to crumble. I could no longer hold the life that I was pretending. Before I knew it, I fell into the camp of corporate burnt outs. 

Oprah always says, first the message comes as a whisper, and it then gets louder and louder until it becomes a thud. That was my thud. My message was loud and clear, telling me to start taking my life seriously. It shook me to the core of my being. I felt terrified and paralyzed. I stopped everything I was doing and listened to that voice within. I took a pause from work, sold all my belongings and moved back home with my parents. I didn’t know what I was going to do next nor did I have a plan. As I sat in my childhood room, all the roles, titles, and achievements I had attached myself to started to fade away. I was left with the question, Who am I?

Learning how to give myself the permission to embark on the journey of self-discovery became my greatest transformation.

For the first time, I reconnected with my body and realized that it had been in a perpetual state of fight, flight or freeze, holding tensions from years of distress and social anxiety. Connecting with my buried emotions led me to open my heart and welcome my inner child. I grieved with my 6-year old child who felt neglected and ashamed for constantly being criticized for her “wrong-doings”. I wrote 40 pages of forgiveness letters, to those I had blamed for my sufferings. Most importantly, I forgave myself. I wrote pages after pages of lies that I’ve been telling myself my whole life and pulled out the weeds of toxic self-criticisms that had deprived me of nourishment and self-love. As everyone in the world put on their masks, I discarded the invisible masks that hid my truth. In the process of seeking external validation, I had rejected my true self. 

While I felt terrified making the difficult decision to eventually quit my corporate job, I took back my power to choose a new beginning where I can design a life that I truly love. 

I began to let go of my expectations of how things should be and to accept my messy process of becoming. I spent time in solitude. Through meditation, yoga, dance and quiet journaling, I got to know a deeper part of who I am and found my strengths and power within. My perceptions began to shift. Instead of blaming myself, I began to learn and grow from my past mistakes. When I dropped my judgment of others’ imperfections, I began to fully accept myself and saw beauty through all the little pieces of my own imperfections. For the first time, I allowed myself to be visibly seen and found true love on the other side of fear. 

Today, a year later, I have found my way back home, to self-acceptance, and ended years of self-sabotage. Instead of denying my emotions, I became curious about the hidden messages from my unmet needs. Instead of constantly resisting my life, I gave myself the permission to find my flow.

What I learned from this journey was that I became burnt out because I was not living in alignment with my truth. I wanted to be the person who is liked and approved by everyone when I didn’t like or approve of myself. When I embraced my truth, I reclaimed my power and became whole. Until we give ourselves the permission to connect with our true essence, including the wounds that we carry, we will feel estranged from our own being and from others. When we allow our true essence to bloom, we give others the permission to own their truth.