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How I Changed My Life by Remembering Who I Was Before the Pain

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.” ~Unknown

For a skinny, curly haired five-year-old girl, life was magical.

Buried in books and living in my imagination, I was constantly scribbling stories and dreaming of far away places. My inquisitive mind and persistent curiosity led me further than I ever thought possible. I was a little girl with big dreams, in a world where nothing seemed impossible, where life was bliss.

Then school started.

It wasn't easy. In fact, at times it was horrifying. And not academically, no, I enjoyed it very much. But being different and not trying to fit in made me an easy target for bullying.

Despite my efforts to look less noticeable, my peers constantly teased me for wearing glasses and for being a bookworm and a nerd.

I was once pushed in the classroom during an art project and suffered a concussion. Kids planted firecrackers in my jacket pockets and hood, and regularly threw them at me.

My math teacher, who called me “stupid” on several occasions and told me that brains and beauty don’t go together, regularly humiliated me in front of the whole class.

I had shivers before every exam, and as a result, I developed hatred toward math and a belief that I wasn't smart enough. Only when I started high school did I realize how amazing math was and that I wasn't bad at it at all.

This all had a great impact on how I treated others and myself. I became an irreparable people pleaser, never knowing how to say no or put myself first. In my mind I carried an image of a girl who was strong on the outside, but constantly on guard, defending herself.

As I grew older and became more aware of my looks, I started hating my skinny legs and big curly hair, finding fault in everything. The belief that I was unworthy of love made me fall for guys who were good at putting me down, feeding off of my pain and insecurities. I never had the courage to leave no matter how toxic the relationship was.

So I gave into sugar because I didn't have the courage to face my troubles, and the pleasure of eating made me feel good for a few moments. It was the only time when I felt satisfied, not having to think of anything else. But soon afterward I’d feel incredible pain and overwhelming guilt that made me hate myself even more.

I completely ignored my feelings and neglected what my body and mind were trying to tell me. I started doubting my abilities and lost confidence in my purpose, my dreams, and myself. I stopped smiling.

I often felt angry and anxious, which caused me to frequently cut my hair, indulge in sweets to the point of disgust, and overwork myself without taking a day off in weeks, so that I would go to bed tired and not have to think of my struggles.

But I was sick and tired of putting myself down, living a lie, and delaying my life because I didn’t know where I was going or what I wanted.

Deep down, I knew I needed to cure myself. I was determined to make a change.

Then one sunny winter day in Japan, while I was running by the river, I faced a moment of truth. I saw people around me going places, rushing to reach their destinations. But even though they seemed busy, they all looked as if they knew exactly where they were going.

That’s when I stopped and asked myself, “What do you really want in life?” It was a revelation hard to explain in words, an incredible energy and force that helped me wake up. In this tiny moment I found the strength to make a decision to take my life into my own hands and start living the life I deserved.

So I sat down and wrote everything I had ever wanted in life. I wrote all of my dreams, goals, and plans that I was going to reach “someday when I have more time.”

I changed my perspective and finally listened to my heart. I did what was good for me.

I decluttered my mind. My soul. My whole life.

After years of being an impulse shopper, I made a decision not to buy anything that doesn't serve a purpose and add value to my life.

I distanced myself from everyone who was draining the energy out of me.

I stopped eating processed sugar and turned to clean eating.

I now start every morning with a powerful routine that helps me begin each day happy, energized, and fulfilled. By waking up at 4AM I add two extra hours to my day to do the things that I enjoy, that are necessary for my wellbeing and happiness—meditating, reading, and exercising.

I now exercise out of love and enjoyment, not because I have to burn the excess sugar and fat that I uncontrollably stuffed myself with.

I made a decision to live in the moment. This was the hardest but most rewarding part of the process. After “living for tomorrow” since elementary school, and putting my life off until someday when things fall into place, I finally learned to say yes to life and enjoy it freely.

I make plans for the future, but I enjoy every step along the way without pausing my life until “that day” comes.

And I no longer wait for things to happen; I make an effort to make them happen.

I plan my days and weeks carefully and find that this helps me focus and prioritize better. And no matter how busy I am, I always find the time to do the things that matter to me.

My life transformation didn't come about overnight. It’s an ongoing process, and I’m enjoying every second of it.

Most importantly, this journey helped me learn to love myself again.

I learned that I have always been capable of being alone and have never needed anyone to show me that I am worthy of love.

I became aware of my sensitivity. I used to take things personally and react defensively to others, which caused me to feel even more critical of myself. Once I became aware of what triggered such behavior, I learned how to respond to such situations in a calm and understanding manner, without putting myself down.

I learned to love my body, and cherish and nourish it in every way I can.

When I realized who I truly was—that little girl who always knew the way, who was happy, ambitious, and kind, the one I shut down for so many years, hiding her, telling her she was ugly and unworthy—I completely changed the way I saw myself.

A whole new world opened up in front of me. A world of opportunities. A world of love. A world I only knew as a little girl. The little girl that freed me.

The woman I wanted to become has always been within me, and I found a way to let her out to be free, uninhibited, and extraordinary. Through my faith in who I wanted to become, I grew into the woman I am today.

Do you ever ask yourself what your life would be like if you had the courage to make a change and start living your dreams?

Life does change when you set goals, commit to your vision, and make an effort to bring it to life. Every time you challenge yourself you emerge as a stronger, more empowered, more capable person. Stop pausing your life until the right time comes or when things fall into place, when you get a better job, lose those last few pounds, or find someone to love.

You are in charge of your life, and you can change it at any time.

If you have a hard time believing in yourself, remember who you were before the world taught you to doubt yourself. Don't see yourself through the eyes of those who didn't see value in you. Know your worth even if they didn't. All you need is already within you. You just have to dig deep and find it.

You are beautiful and worthy, and you are one decision away from creating the life you’ve always dreamed of living.

About Tee R. Sebastian

Tee is the creator and founder of GrowBrilliant.org, certified life coach, writer, and the author of The WindFinder. She helps women reinvent themselves, gain confidence, build powerful habits, and reach dreams they never had the courage to pursue. Get your free workbook and learn what’s holding you back in life, what it is that you want, and how to get it.

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  • Manon

    Thank you so much for this article. It’s very inspiring and exactly what I needed to read. All the best for you.

  • Bret Jahnke

    What an awesome reminder. I was that boy. Wanting to discover the world and do great things. Then one day life happened. The innocence was lost and that boy was gone. I am inspired by your words. That’s the whole point, as children we only live for the moment until by some unfortunate misunderstanding we start to worry about the tomorrows. Too much, all at once. Today is all about today. Mahalo for your article.

  • Amy

    Thank you, Tee. Our lives have followed similar paths. The first memory I have was thinking of ways to escape from the kindergarten play yard because I didn’t feel like I belonged. I have accomplished a lot of things in my life, but the feeling that I don’t belong because I am a failure keeps haunting me. The only goal I have is to plod along in life until I can finally die and be done with it. I don’t know how to change.

  • Yes! Giving ourselves the reins to control our thoughts and our lives is the greatest gift ever! I, too, attempted many self medications to numb my pain from spending money to over-consuming food and alcohol just to find out that didn’t work. The morning routine is key for me as well. Thank you for this article!

  • Ari Maayan

    Thank you Tee. This is a heartbreaking and uplifting article in one. I was one of those little kids that didn’t fit in and was always on the outside. The one not chosen for anyone’s team because the leaders just couldn’t imagine me on their team. So, I grew up hating sports and any other participatory activities. No way would I create an art piece that anyone else might see. I know. I know. Your brave and wise journey to who you are is inspiring. I am soooo happy that you took the path and arrived at YOU!!! Blessings!!!!!!!!!!

  • Really beautiful, Tee! <3 #keepgrowing #keepcreating

  • H

    Such a very sweet article. And similarly, my self I knew as a teen helped my adult self become authentic again.

  • Tracy Bryan

    This is brilliant Tee! I can totally relate to the little and the big you:)

  • Sometimes, all it takes is to sit still. Feel your breath and detach yourself from who you think you are and that’s how you become a little bit saner than before.

  • Tee, this is so beautiful. I’m going through a similar transformation right now, and your story is inspiring. Thank you.

  • Tee

    Thank you, Manon. I am glad you found inspiration in it. <3

  • Tee

    So true Bret, thank you for sharing your story. It is easy to forget who we were before the world told us who we should be. Please continue to look for that little boy until you find him. He’s always been there, waiting for you to set him free. <3

  • Tee

    Hi Amy, thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about your childhood memories and that you feel that way. Please don’t give up. You’ve accomplished so much in life and there is so much more to look forward to. You have the power within you to change how you feel. Look deep into your soul. Listen to your heart. You are valuable because you are you. You are worthy of love and belonging. <3

  • Tee

    Cecily, thank you for sharing, I know exactly what you went through. I am so glad you found your morning routine rewarding. It’s my favorite part of the day. Keep going and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. <3

  • Tee

    Thank you, Ewen! Keep going and keep growing. Stay brilliant! <3

  • Tee

    Thank you, Ari. It is so inspiring to hear your story. I hope you found and embraced your beautiful uniqueness. It’s time to share your gift with the world. Be yourself. Let the world see the real, talented, magical you. <3

  • Tee

    So glad to hear that! Thank you for your warm words. <3

  • Tee

    Thank you, Tracy. I’m glad you could relate to my story. Stay strong. <3

  • Tee

    That is very true, Daikuro. It took time to silence the mind and listen to what my heart was trying to tell me. Beautifully said. <3

  • Tee

    Thank you, Mallory. I am so glad to hear that you found inspiration in my story. Stay true to yourself and enjoy the journey. <3

  • ccrgirl

    I cried. Thank you for sharing your story <3

  • NAP

    Tee I loved your story and thank you for sharing it. I think being authentic and living our truth takes courage and sometimes sacrifice. When we do, we grow and and life becomes much more than just a routine. We don’t need ‘things’ to find true happiness. The gifts of the spirit: love, kindness, joy, peace, goodness are really what makes a life ‘rich’.

  • Blake

    Thank you so much for this, I loved it.
    Currently in the process of making this change in life now, and it’s nice to read this to reflect on the journey we’re on

  • 😉

  • Kevin Akerman

    I am so amazed by your fight for what is good. You don’t need to know how to change, it’s happening. The tiny voice that drove you to post your struggles is proof. Feel, and I wanna remind you of this…You just affected me. I feel you. Don’t know why, or how come. But I feel you!!! I am a struggling alcoholic, addict and my childhood memories are now crushing me, for sobriety has let memories reawaken. Unfathomable sexual abuse, & my whole life I loved making my groomers happy. I was giving joy, & pleasure. Love

    Love? I thought so. Please let my words reach out to thank you. This is LOVE. I LOVE YOU. You are beautiful. Because you are YOU~

  • Thanks Tee 🙂

  • Kim

    It’s seem like we all are of one mind, we have the same hurts and insecurities when our paths veer in that direction. It is also true that we can all experience the same healing with the same habits. Bravo, this is a wonderful article, and I hope others will follow your example!

  • Tee

    Thank you so much for reading it! <3

  • Tee

    That is so true! Thank you for your warm words. When we are being authentic and true to ourselves, we become free by letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we really are. <3

  • Tee

    I’m glad you found inspiration in my story, Blake. Trust yourself and keep moving forward. You’re on your way to greatness. <3

  • Tee

    Thank you for your kind words, Kim. The experiences that we go through may bring change that we do not desire. But once we start the healing process we’re on the right path, the path of change that we chose for ourselves. We always have the power to influence our minds and let our souls heal. I’m happy you found inspiration in my article. <3

  • This is a beautiful article that I could relate to on so many levels having been bullied at school also and finding my way through the pain to discover my true self. Just back from a weekend where we reclaimed our lost power and invited butterflies back in, so the opening quote was also perfect timing. I love this.

  • Tee

    Thank you for your warm words, Dave. Knowing that you found value in my words brings me so much joy. I am glad to know that you found the power in you to say that the story you were living (all the hardships you went through) was not yours and that you decided to discover your true self after. Trust yourself and keep moving forward. <3