From self-loathing to self-love

Wan Raihana: I never want to go back to the days when I was brimming with nothing but bitterness and resentment.

I USED to hate the idea of outgrowing my clothes.

I remember tasting the bile that clawed its way up my throat as I felt the sleeves of my favourite T-shirt clasp around my arms, accentuating my flab.

I would scurry past mirrors to avoid confronting how I looked.

And I would get angry at my friends for taking photos of me – when I was in fact angry at the thought of seeing myself in a photo where others could scrutinise me.

At the time, all I could feel was that fat was ugly and unhealthy. It meant laziness. I absolutely did not want to be those things.

I could not separate the connotations of “fat” from its denotation, the implication of it being too immense. Thus, I made it my mission to never be associated with the word “fat”.

I started going to the gym multiple times a week, never removing my digital watch that tracked my activity. I counted not going to the gym as a personal failure, an offence of the highest calibre.

Not completing all my targeted activities was a cardinal sin. Forgetting to charge my watch was an inconvenience beyond belief. I ate as little as I could. Most certainly, I was meaner to myself during this period than before.

Yes, I could look at myself in the mirror, but only with more discerning eyes that picked apart everything laid out before me.

I would instantly single out an area of myself that needed improvement and was not good enough. And yes, I could handle photos being taken of me, but I became even more distraught when I felt I looked ugly in them, as if all the work I had done was meaningless, all for naught.

And, to be deeply honest, I was meaner to other people as well. I was filled with judgement, envy and jealousy.

I projected my insecurities onto others and disregarded their own struggles. I felt as though mine held more weight and were of higher importance.

This, I realised, was the true ugliness – this green-eyed part of myself that I allowed to metastasise until it consumed me whole.

It was never my outlook that determined my beauty or worth; it was my inner self.

Upon this realisation, I decided to let go. I took off my digital watch and stopped tracking my steps.

I stopped dissecting the nutritional details behind a packet of food and started disregarding the number of calories.

I stopped hating the fact that my body looked a certain way and started feeling grateful that I had the facilities that enabled me to move, laugh, dance, sing, smile and communicate.

This new approach to how I viewed myself made me experience something I had not felt in a long time – genuine appreciation for my body.

This feeling was cathartic, a revelation. I began to have more fun going to the gym, exercising for the sake of it, rather than solely to lose weight.

I began enjoying the taste of food, eating a variety that was necessary for my body, and more importantly, prioritising my happiness.

How could one ever give up the simple pleasure of consuming delicious food? Such a straightforward question, yet its answer became muddled in the blizzard of my own self-loathing.

This, however, does not mean that all my insecurities regarding my self-image have entirely dissipated.

I still have days when I feel embarrassed by how my body looks, ashamed of how my clothes fit me. There are still days when I feel really down after eating more than usual.

In these moments, I take a step back and a deep breath in. I remind myself that it is not the end of the world.

Self-acceptance will always be an ongoing process. It is a journey that will make us stronger, more forgiving and more compassionate, not only to ourselves, but to others as well.

During moments of overwhelming self-consciousness, I always remind myself that I never want to go back to the days when I was brimming with nothing but bitterness and resentment.

A kinder and gentler version of myself will always hold greater importance than one that is unhappy and cruel.

Wan Raihana, 18, a student in Kuala Lumpur, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to

With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1 On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, how important is outward appearance to you? Explain your stance.

2 Suggest five forms of daily exercise that one can do to stay fit and healthy. Share your ideas with your friends.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email

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BRATs , Star-NiE , body image , self-acceptance


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