You Can Have It ALL

Growing up in Asia, I did not believe that I could have it all and still be a girl. Here, the value of being a female and male is visibly communicated from households, schools to work places, the society and the media. It did not dawn on me that I was of the weaker sex until it was drilled into me by older family members, teachers and some “well-meaning folks” who had claimed to know better.

By the age of 10, I felt defeated. I thought that I had already lost in life by being born a girl. And the only redemption I could afford myself was to become better than the boys.

So, I had to toughen up, become faster, cleverer and just do every darn thing better than the boys – get better grades, speak up louder and trained harder at sports. I had to pretend that I was not afraid of worms, lizards, cockroaches and whatever critters the boys would put into my school bag or pencil-case just to prank me. I even learnt to beat the boys up physically so that they would stop tugging at my bra, looking up my skirt or pulling my hair. Above all, I did not allow myself to cry – especially in front of the boys. I never wanted to give any of them the satisfaction of knowing that their annoying antics got to me.

As far as I was concerned, nothing came easy to a girl. We had to work a lot harder in every sense of the word. For starters, the boys were already blessed with the advantage of being physically stronger than the girls. The boys were allowed to dress and behave in whatever manner they wished. The girls had to watch how they speak/act, what they wear as to not incite any unsavoury attention from the opposite sex, and be extra careful when they venture out.

In general, the boys got the license to be themselves, and still be accepted by society. To add further injury to the situation, the girls were “damned” to bleed out every month and made to carry the painful burden of childbirth. The guys seemed to be spared from every agonising aspect of life.

These words were replayed so often in my childhood that it sounded like pop propaganda – “you can’t do that because you are a girl!” Or, “But you are just a girl!”

Over time my benchmark became the men.

I thought that if I could be better than the men, then I would become a woman to be respected.

To compensate for my lack of physical strength, I built up my inner strength and courage. To mask my weaknesses and fears, I put up a cold front. To excel, I pushed myself to be smarter and suppressed my emotions. In short, I severed every feminine fibre of my being in order to become what I thought was the epitome of a successful individual. Little did I know that I was actually setting myself up to be a pitiful forgery of a man.

Before I knew it, I was becoming more “masculine” in my ways. I even saw womanly attributes as demeaning. I wore pants because it was more practical. I did not use make up as I saw them to be a nuisance. I was abrasive, curt and blunt in my speech/actions. Soon, I earned the nickname: Snow Bitch Queen. It was a play on the Chinese literal translation of my name – “Shirley” loosely translated into Chinese meant Snow Beauty. Of course, there was a running joke on how I would never get any man to marry me unless he was retarded.

I realised that my inner strength and courage were not real. I was merely numbing myself by becoming colder and harder. That only made me more aggressive and impatient. The more I suppressed my emotions, the more I felt oppressed and unhinged. Nothing good came from all that pretence. In fact, I was stifling the real me from inside out. 

It did not hit me until late in life that I was not being true to myself. It was not Gender Identity Disorder (GID). I was not inclined towards being like a man because I thought I was a man trapped in a woman’s body, though I can understand why some people must have thought so. GID is very real. I have many friends who are transgender people. I have a great deal of respect for them. What I went through paled in comparison to what they are made to suffer. This is why I would never take such matters lightly.

My root problem was in believing that as a woman, I was never going to be good enough.

Thankfully, I had the good fortune of meeting great role models, mentors and life teachers of all shapes, ages, races and sizes. They were men, women and transgender individuals. They not only opened my mind, but more importantly, my heart. They showed me how each person has had to endure their own identity crisis or other forms of adversity. In fact, no one had it easy. In the end, they taught me that I was enough as I am. This is why I would always say that I am a late bloomer. Hey, better late than never. 🙂

In truth, everyone goes through trying times – be it women, men or children. It is not a gender thing. It is a human thing. Every single person has his or her own share of problems and afflictions. No one is spared. Though there are still pertinent issues at hand; I feel we, as humankind, will be able to resolve them when we empower one another EQUALLY. Because ALL LIVES MATTER.

Today, I would say that I am an accomplished woman. I am accomplished in the respect that I am finally comfortable with my own identity, capability and sensuality. I am loving this shell of a body which I am blessed with. I no longer see my gender as a curse. I no longer see my weaknesses, flaws and frailty as “liabilities”. More than anything else, I enjoy being true to myself. I do not ever have to be a bad imitation of another person in order to be successful and happy in life. I just have to be me. 

As a woman, I am complete and wonderful. As a woman, I can achieve amazing feats and make a difference. The only person who can stop me is myself.

These days, not all successful women want the same things in life, love or work. Not all men, for that matter. IT IS OK. We are all allowed to design the lifestyle that best suits us. We all have the right to choose.

Don’t worry yourself to death if the choices you make will be bad ones. Some may well be. But you will learn from them, and grow so much more. They will not defeat you or seal your fate. As shared in my previous post, Why Do We Settle? – please realise that we can replace a bad choice by making a better one. It is not the end of the world. As we evolve; so will our needs, priorities and choices. Most importantly, our understanding of life, love and especially, of ourselves, will deepen tremendously as well.

“Having it all isn’t about checking all the boxes on the page (wife, mother, career woman). It’s about choosing and checking only the boxes you want to experience in this life and celebrating those choices because they are your own.” ~ Lisa Steadman

These days, I am very discerning with my work, friends and time. I do what I really enjoy, and I choose to be with those who make me happy, or those who inspire me. I pick and choose from the long list of “everything”. Because not “everything” helps me to be a greater person than who I was. Not “everything” fulfils or enriches me either. Therefore, what I do have is ALL that I truly want for myself.

So, yes, you can have it all and you should. When you know your own self-worth, especially what adds meaning and value to you; you will know what’s really important and necessary in your life. Having it all is NOT about getting every single item in our “wish list”. It is about recognising which items in the list will make us greater people, and fulfil us in the highest sense.

At the end of the day, it is about becoming better than the person we were; and not competing with anyone else, or becoming someone else.

You are wonderful and complete as you are. 

You matter, your dreams matter as well as your passions.  YOU are irreplaceable. 

Regardless of your gender, you are here to claim your greatness according to your own terms.

Make the choices which will enhance your life, and celebrate who you are.




For your further fearless reading:-

1) The 5 Life Hacks by Cindy Gallop

2) The 12 Issues Facing Women Today

3) The Honor Diaries Video

4) Women Who Have It All by Jamie Khoo

5) There is a Woman at the Beginning of All Great Things


Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

  • Helena Hann-Basquiat
    March 16, 2015

    Hi Shirley,

    I think the fact that the benchmark for so many women is MEN is silly and unfair. Women are forced to make choices that no man does, and the idea of having it all — a successful career, a successful marriage, being a good mother — is something of a fallacy. It’s way too much pressure, and the balancing act that women have to play is greatly unappreciated and misunderstood. But I do agree with you that you can make choices to be the best you that you can be.

    • shirleymaya
      March 20, 2015

      Always a pleasure to hear from you, Helena. Sorry, I have been super tied up and up to my eye balls. Thanks for coming over and sharing your thoughts. Personally, I do not think it is possible to have everything in life. Simply because there is not enough time and we are just one person. Hence, we need to know what’s of value and meaning to us. Then make the best choices based on that. Love the new cover of the new book. Very chic! 🙂

  • Tournesol (Clr)
    March 17, 2015

    What a great post!! it was such a pleasure (painful at times) traveling with you on this journey. I totally agree that we can choose what we want to do, make our dreams come true and not by comparing or trying to measure up to men. As a young woman, I talked but did not walk the talk…and learned by my mistakes and yet I seem to remember better (smiles) having two adult children, one male and one female, I see the struggles they are both against as 30 something adults. There are always shades of grey (not that kind though…smirk)…everyone develops at their own pace. Late bloomer? I was 43 when I started; it is never too late. big hugs to you for being you, you ARE a beauty queen:) Cheryl-Lynn

    • shirleymaya
      March 20, 2015

      Hi stranger!
      So very lovely to hear from you. Hope all is well with you. I am sorry that I have not been able to read up on as many blogs as I would have liked. Time is really a luxury these days.
      I am glad to know that I am not a late bloomer. But there is a unique beauty and value to every bloom, regardless of age. I think I am finally beginning to enjoy being me more than I ever did. Yes, it is never too late. As we witness our children go through theirs, they will find their own way too. We are all Beauty Queens and Kings, cherie.
      Love and Hugs x

  • Carol Balawyder
    March 21, 2015

    What an inspiring post, Shirley. I loved this: (Having it all)..”is about recognising which items in the list will make us greater people, and fulfil us in the highest sense.” The video is awesome! Thank you for these great resources. 🙂

    • shirleymaya
      March 26, 2015

      I love that video very much too, Carol. When I am feeling down, I watch that video. Thank you for your supportive comments as always. Means a great deal. Will be replying your email in due time. Thank you for your very gracious patience and understanding. Much care x