Fellow women, we have come a long way. From being shackled by ignorance to the first socialist movements in 1911, today we have achieved considerable social, economic, cultural and political progress.
Since the start of the first feminism wave, millions of women worldwide have come together to celebrate International Women’s Day. The theme this year is #BalanceforBetter. A gender-balanced world for a better world, in terms of wealth, knowledge, businesses, opportunities and more. However, the most important balance probably stems from within – one’s emotions and personal needs.
In our constant pursuit for balance and happiness, and to further empower the strong women we are today, I have sussed out three inspirational women from whom we can all learn a little more!
Fitness Trainer: Accept Your Flaws And Turn Your Insecurities Into Pride
A fitness instructor and personal trainer at Kulture Studios, 32-year-old Beckie Loh’s toned physique is like no other.
Beckie shares, “I have always been very active since secondary school. After giving birth to my daughter, I felt that I need the energy, health and strength to keep up with her and my work schedule. Plus, I tend to fall sick easily.”
This resolute young mother thus started weight lifting in the gym and also got into Muay Thai. From there, Beckie realised that she has the passion to help other mothers or anyone who lacks the motivation to keep fit and healthy.
“It has been 5 years in the fitness industry and I am still loving my job!”
The Importance Of Family
Even so, her journey was an arduous one. A single mother to a 12-year-old daughter, it has always been a struggle juggling work, personal life and taking care of her daughter.
“It is tough bringing up a kid on my own, but I am so lucky to have my family there to constantly support me in whatever I do. It gives me the strength to overcome all the difficulties I face in life,” she says.
“Looking at how my daughter grows every day, learning to be a better person, makes me happy. It is indeed a great sense of achievement.”
Family remains the priority for Beckie amidst her busy schedule. Of course, having sufficient me-time is also important to finding balance in her life.
She explains: “As busy as I can be, I always make sure to spend quality family time and have my own time as well. Weekends are my off days to have a good proper rest and sometimes I fit in a family outing. As for weekdays, I will arrange to have lunch or dinner with friends and family if my schedule allows for it!”
Confidence Starts From Within
It is hard to imagine this vivacious fitness instructor as anything but confident. But there was a time when Beckie was bothered by her body.
Musingly, she reveals, “I always feel inferior because of my stretch marks from pregnancy, ashamed of it even because of the way people looked at me. Even though my friends tell me it is okay and that these are my battle scars from giving birth, I guess this insecurity is what makes a human, human.”
“It took so much effort to convince myself to be confident. I have learnt to accept it slowly, just let it be a part of me and carry it with pride!”
Now, Beckie prefers to channel her energy into promoting a healthy lifestyle. Aside from obvious health benefits, having a healthy lifestyle makes a person more productive.
She goes on to explain: “Your brain works faster and better, making you more alert at the same time. Naturally as you work out more often, you will start to look fresher, feel more energised and have a glow from within that will help you feel more confident about yourself too!”
And for those who are hesitant to start exercising, Beckie has some fitness tips –
“It can be any form of activity or exercise. Most importantly, do something you love and enjoy because it is going to be much easier than telling yourself to go to the gym. Working out at home is also a great start! Keep yourself active every day, eat, sleep, and train well. Your body will thank you.”
Financial Consultant: Manage Your Finances Just Like Fashion
As most modern-day women would agree, financial security gives a woman confidence. Which better person to discuss this than with 34-year-old senior financial service consultant, Monalisa.
As I sat waiting expectantly, Monalisa breezes in with a confident gait and a charming smile. And yes, this is her real name!
A mother of two beautiful girls, she tells me excitedly how she teaches her elder daughter, who turns 8 this year, about savings and the concept of investment.
Sounds too complicated for a child? Not at all! This feisty mommy believes in starting young just like how her own mother taught her when she was only seven.
Money Woes Transformed Her Take On Life
Misfortune befell Monalisa’s family in 1997 when her mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Hefty medical bills followed by the crushing onset of the Asian financial crisis left the family in debt. These difficulties led Monalisa to realise the underrated importance of money management early in her life.
After graduating from NTU’s Engineering faculty, she started a career in the financial industry and quickly excelled. Monalisa laughs and says, “probably it is because of my engineering background that I reverse engineered the financial planning process!”
Whether it is her critical thinking skills or her determination to empower other women, her refreshing perspective on money matters makes it easier to impart knowledge to her clients.
Building Confidence And Not Excuses
Monalisa laments: “Many women, even educated ones, do not take charge of their own finances. They like to think that they do not understand how to or they prefer to leave it to their husband. Maybe some are just lazy. It is mostly during times of divorce or death that women start to look into money matters, sadly.”
“What really hinders women from taking charge of money is confidence!”
Even as a housewife with no income, women can start learning about finances by managing household expenses. She cites the example of marriage as a partnership.
“The guy can be the CEO and the wife can take over the role of CFO. Instead of depending on your husband, it is better when two parties work together – this in turn creates a stronger family.”
Unsurprisingly, she also offers an interesting viewpoint on money management. For most people, it is a psychological affair and there has to be a balance between gratification and long-term rewards.
“Creating a budget is the most common advice. I beg to differ. Decide on a fixed amount you want to save instead because micromanaging your expenses makes one live in fear. What is the point of working so hard and earning well but not enjoying?!”
“We deserve to indulge occasionally; go for that spa you want and buy the clothes you like. All you have to do is to save a certain percentage of your income monthly”, she quips.
Having achieved considerable success in her career and her personal life, Monalisa now wants to turn her attention to helping those in need through philanthropy banking.
She explains, “I serve a variety of clients. There are some who have a fortune and do not want to pass it all down to their children. This is when I hope to help them manage the money in a more meaningful way through social causes and charity groups.”
This walking treasure-trove of financial insights leaves me enlightened with one last piece of advice.
“Financial planning is like fashion. Like your personal style, it does not have to be complicated and you do not have to follow others. Choose something you are comfortable with.”
Intimacy Coach: Remove The Expectations Of Love
Meet 35-year-old Dr Angela Tan, a family physician who has deep interest in geriatric and palliative care, acupuncture and sex. Palliative care and intimacy issues are both sensitive topics that people tend to avoid. Angela is interested in both because “it makes me feel fulfilled by being able to empower and help others. And because I am good at handling difficult conversations.”
Known better as the ‘Intimacy Coach’, this energiser bunny tells me how it all started.
During clinical consultations with her patients as a family physician, she came to realise that sexual relationship problems are rife.
Angela explains: “Some of my patients confide and seek advice about sexual issues that they have with their partners because they do not know who to go to. Resolving sexual difficulties is as important as counselling couples about their relationship because it goes hand-in-hand.”
“That was when I decided to go further and train to be a life and intimacy coach!”
After an intensive course, Angela is now a certified member of the European Society of Sexual Medicine and helps patients in the physical and psychological aspect of intimacy issues.
As a doctor with many specialisations and a happy mom of a newborn daughter, one may think that she has it all. However, her spark was not always so bright.
A Change Of Mindsets Leads To An Awakening Purpose
When Angela was 12, her parents separated and left her in the care of her grandmother.
“My grandmother was a great caregiver; she gave me everything I needed. But maybe because of the age gap with my grandmother, I felt like I was alone and this became a disjointed part of my life.”
The fear of getting hurt and betrayed in relationships haunted her and this trust issue became an obstacle in her early life. It was until she attended a training programme ten years ago by Executive Coach International that her mindset changed.
Today, Angela is passionate about making real and impactful differences in her life. Besides being a life coach, she is also starting a social enterprise to help youths at-risk learn about entrepreneurship. So that they, like her, can pursue their dreams and lead a meaningful life.
“I do not want to be just one of the statistics, I want to inspire and empower the people around me.”
As her newborn starts to wake up and cry, I squeeze in one last question about sex and love.
Angela puts it simply: “It is not about the number of times one has sex but rather the connection between a couple in each sexual encounter. It can be in the form of a hug, a kiss, a simple flirt with your partner or even a dance. The essence to having a balanced and healthy sex life is to NOT deny one’s sexual expression.”
“Also, love should not be conditional – it is what it is. Only by removing the expectations of your partner and of a relationship, can real happiness be found!”
As these 3 inspiring women have shown, focusing on what we gain from our past experiences is the crux to becoming a more empowered and happier individual. This International Women’s Day, let us all celebrate the strong woman we can become!