Smile and the world smiles with you.
There is always room for self-improvement.

HAVE you ever played that game, “if you could change one thing about me, what would it be?”?

I usually play it when I want my husband to compliment me on how beautiful and wonderful I am (trickery and attention-seeking, I know! Haha). He knows by now that the answer to that game is: “absolutely nothing”. He learnt this after many years and arguments over his failed answers - “maybe your lips could be little less dry”, “you talk a little too loud” and “maybe you should try that teeth whitening toothpaste?”

Sometimes we switch the game and have to answer what we will change about ourselves. For the longest time, my list was endless; my cheeks were too big, I needed higher cheekbones, I wanted my arms to be more toned, my nose is too flat, I wish I was taller, my teeth could be whiter, I craved clearer skin.

I would pick at every part of my body that I was unhappy with and would get quite upset in the process until my husband reminded me: “It’s just a game. Don’t take it too seriously.”

He was right, I was unfairly nitpicking on my body, but I started to reflect on my answers.

Why did I want to change my physical traits and not my character?

At my age (27, goodness I’m ancient!) and having lived through life experiences, I have come to learn that there is nothing that we can physically change about ourselves, except of course lose weight through a healthier lifestyle for a better quality of life. I am a big advocate of that. I cannot make my nose more pronounced, I will not get any taller and it’s highly unlikely that I will increase my bra size (let’s be real… #sigh).

What I can control is the type of person I am.

So if I already knew all that, why was I always picking on my physical traits and not my character and values?

Our physical traits do not bring us forward - it’s the contributions we make to the communities and world around us by being good, kind and compassionate.

There is so much I want to internally change about myself. I want to be kinder, more compassionate and honest. I need to be more patient, less aggressive and trusting. There is much room for self-improvement before I can even begin to say that I am a decent human being who makes this world a better place.

That’s ultimately what we’re here to do, isn’t it?

It’s not to worry about the length of our legs, the size of our heads or our slightly crooked bottom teeth. We are all beautiful, no matter our size, shape or colour. I truly believe that. But our physical traits do not bring us forward - it is the contributions we make to the communities and world around us by being good, kind and compassionate.

To be compassionate is not difficult, it simply takes a split second decision to let go our prejudices and judgments, and be more thoughtful in how we speak and act. A smile and a positive attitude will make this quality a lot easier to come by.

To be patient requires a bit of practice, especially for me, because I am very easily riled up and get emotional at the drop of a hat. But I have learnt that taking five seconds before responding to a situation, instead of my usual one second, makes a big difference in how I react.

We’re able to put things into perspective and not act as harshly as we may have originally done because we’ve had time to process a situation. Who knows, perhaps the reason the woman behind the counter is taking too long to get me my scoop of ice-cream is because she has had a long day and I am her 116th customer? And getting my ice-cream 30 seconds later than I would’ve wanted is not going to make it taste any less delicious.

To be kind is one of the easiest things in the world, however, so many of us choose to be difficult and abrasive. I believe how you treat people in the service industry is a reflection of your character. If you are kind, speak humbly and are respectful to them then, in my eyes, you’re a star.

However, if you speak to the waiter at McDonald’s rudely for not wiping the table well and treat him with disrespect by leaving your dirty tray on the table instead of clearing up after the meal, then you have to work on yourself.

There are values and qualities that I need to improve on too. If my message and thoughts resonate with you, I am beyond touched.

We all have to make this shift, from immediately thinking there is something wrong with our bodies, to loving who we are and starting to consciously put effort into developing into strong characters with meaningful life values.

It is easy to automatically pick on our body because it’s something we can physically see, but – as we always hear – it’s what inside that matters.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful, and you are someone this world needs.

Ashraf has learnt how to answer my tricky questions.

Journalism graduate Iman Azman continues to navigate her way through the creative industry as a member of The dUCk Group’s marketing team. Here, she muses about her work, finding balance in life and shares what it’s like diving in headfirst into new experiences and opportunities.

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