Lily Zhao is sharing her story and her perspective on finding freedom through responsibility.
Growing up as the only Chinese kid in Japan, I was constantly bullied and alienated by my classmates. I felt like everywhere I go, I didn’t belong; I felt like an outsider. As a result, I had low self-esteem, and I didn’t like myself growing up. I thought if I lost the weight, altered my look, I would like myself more. Having low esteem manifested into all areas of life, I was in an unhealthy relationship, and I had difficulty saying no to others.
Since last year, I started to consciously build my self-esteem. I realized the cost of having low self-esteem was too high and made the decision to claim my power back. I started to stand up to my inner critics. I learned the importance of integrity and making sure my actions match my words. When I compromised my values for acceptance and convenience, I became far more vulnerable to self-attacks. Inner critics love to see these shortcomings, so it is important to think about your core values and principles and act in line with those beliefs.
Note to my younger self:
Do things every day that empower you to like yourself because having high esteem is amazing. It gives you the ability to stay true to who you are and stand for what you believe in, and once we stand for ourselves, we can stand for others.
In pursuit of my happiness, my greatest lesson has been the duality of responsibility and freedom. When I was younger, I thought not being responsible gave me freedom, but I was wrong. My body broke down after neglecting my health. I was controlled in the relationship because I wasn’t responsible financially, and my inner critics made me mentally ill. When I learned that you get more freedom by being responsible, it changed my life. I am becoming emotionally free by increasing my emotional literacy; and my ability to love by cultivating positive emotions and compassionately witnessing and transforming negative ones. I am becoming financially free by continuously investing and increasing financial literacy that creates time freedom. With time freedom, I am enjoying living my life by my own design and on my own terms. Lastly, I am working to free my mind by doing meditation daily as my morning routine. Freedom came after responsibility.