#BOTAKHEADCHALLENGE: WHY I AM SHAVING MY HEAD AS A PRACTICE OF SELF-LOVE
To support me in my head shave, you can contribute to my fundraiser here — https://www.100percentproject.org/en/BotakAmelia
To join the #BotakHeadChallenge, find out more here — https://rb.gy/rzkgog
I’ve been contemplating a long time if I should write this - maybe I can just ask people to shave their heads without going into why I’m doing this but macam tak kena (doesn’t feel quite right) and it feels like a cop out.
The story I’m going to tell is deeply personal and it scares me to my wit’s end to publicly share it. I am afraid of making myself so vulnerable to so many people and I’m afraid that I’ll be judged or looked at differently. *scared emoji* but here goes!
PART 1 — THE CONFESSION
Hi, I’m Amelia Tan and I’m a Malaysian Millennial. I am also a social entrepreneur and I am the co-founder of 100% Project, a education crowdfunding platform.
I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery and self-development since my most serious bout of depression in 2016 — the one time where I contemplated taking my own life. I didn’t do anything to myself but the thought crept into my mind. I was lucky enough to have alarm bells sound in my own mind to kick myself out of it.
It is excruciatingly painful and shameful for me to confess this fact. I used to judge the people who took their lives when I was younger. I used to have a very misguided view of why people do it, thinking that it is selfish but it was because I did not understand what the struggle felt like.
I believe because I held this arrogant and unsympathetic view, life humbled me and taught me a lesson on humility and empathy by bringing me to my knees. #schooledbylife
In my moment of extreme despair, I was left with the choice to sink or swim. But I was lucky to have a saving grace — my family, whom I am so unconditionally loved by. It was when I imagined their suffering, that my alarm bells sounded. In that moment, despite feeling like I was gasping for air and drowning, I summoned the will to kick those damn feet! I remember thinking — “Get yourself out of this, Amelia! This is going into dangerous territory!”
PART 2 — THE REVELATION
It’s been 4 years since that day and I have been committed to making sure that those thoughts will never creep into my head again and I am happy and proud to say that they have not. Yay me! And mind you, life didn’t get easier during the last 4 years, shit still happened but I invested in building and training my mind through therapy and through an active self-love practice.
The thing about self-love is that everyone tells you that you must do it but no one tells you HOW TO DO IT correctly. People associate it with going out on a spa day, treat yourself to cake, get a massage and while these are all legit self-care methods for your mental well-being, no one ever talks about the actual treatment and care for the mind. It’s kind of ridiculous that we take such little notice and care of our minds when it is the one making ALL the decisions and doing ALL the interactions in our daily lives.
Revelation #1 — Therapy Is A Game Changer For Accelerated Growth
I can tell you this — the day I started committing to therapy was the day I felt that I was finally on the right track. It was such a relief to have found something that could help me figure all my stuff out. It has transformed my life and I have witnessed my growth over the last 4 years and it has been amazing. I’m not saying I haven’t gone through bad times since then. Life has still been a huge roller coaster ride but my ability to navigate all of this without my mind going “AHHHHHHHHH” or shutting down on me has been something I am so grateful for every day.
Through therapy, I uncovered so many things about myself that I know I would NEVER uncover without it. These are some of the things that therapy helped me with:
- It shone a bright warm light on who I was in a safe space.
- It allowed me to safely explore my shame and my pain.
- It helped me make sense of my childhood, come to terms with things that happened to me and to let go of the fears, anxieties and insecurities that arose from them.
- And after all of the above, it gave me tools and methods to train and manage my mind and essentially HOW TO LOVE MYSELF in difficult times!
It has been one of the most painful but exhilarating, powerful and rewarding experiences ever. However, therapy was just one part of my healing process.
Revelation #2 — The Importance of a Loving and Kind Community
The other really important part of this journey was having a community that I could be real with. Being able to share my deepest pain and all my ugly parts with people who held space for me was one of the most liberating and healing experiences ever.
This year has been another incredibly humbling year for me again — I struggled with multiple burn outs and the very real consequences of this pandemic which triggered a lot of fear and anxiety. But the work I had been doing on myself for the last 4 years helped me navigate these challenges better. I couldn’t get access to therapy this time around but I managed to overcome these struggles by leaning on my incredible support system — people who kept loving me so fiercely and unconditionally that I finally learnt to love myself in the same way. They helped me unravel and comfort the parts of me that were still broken and loved me so thoroughly that I could finally recognise my worth. Because of them, I was able to rise through my pain and I am now finally ready to share this story.
PART 3 — THE PLEDGE
I realise that not everyone has a support system or access to mental health care to help them overcome struggle. Talks about struggle and mental health is still a stigma and it is ONLY a stigma because people never talk about it.
So many people are living in shame and isolation because all we see on social media are people’s amazing lives. No one ever talks about their struggles because they don’t want to make people uncomfortable. There’s also this unhelpful perception that talking about our struggles will make us look weak or whiny or attention-seeking.
I can tell you now that it will take every ounce of my courage to publish this. As I write this I’m not even quite sure if I’ll publish this. I think of being judged, of being viewed differently but that’s exactly the voice I want to shut down.
This is me throwing my hat in the ring. I am sharing my story to fight this destructive and unkind stigma that’s been holding all of us back from healing our wounds and traumas to lead better and more peaceful lives. I am sharing this story so those who are struggling can have a safe space to share their stories and get the support they need.
And finally, I am shaving my head to show solidarity to those who are struggling every day to keep going and I’m doing it by actively overcoming something that have ruled my entire life.
PART 4 — WHY I AM SHAVING MY HEAD
I struggle with many things but one of my greatest struggle is my self-image and body issues. I have always been super self-conscious of the way I look. I grew up in a community that was very beauty-obsessed and critical about looks and body weight and made no qualms telling you “WAH YOU SO FAT ALREADY, FACE SO ROUND!”
While I am terrified that I will absolutely hate the way I look after I shave my head, I am determine to overcome this fear and pledge to love myself regardless of how certain segments of society would react. This isn’t for them. This is for me and the people below.
I dedicate my #BotakHeadChallenge to:
- My little cousin Christine who is a medical officer in Sabah who is fighting on the frontlines — she is definitely not little anymore. She tells me that she is exhausted, overworked, scared but still shows up every day in service of the nation. Christine, I am so proud of you. Your courage and resilience inspires me. I love you, Wonder Woman.
- My good friend, Bavani who inspired me last year with her own head shave. I remember looking up to you in awe — this power woman who looked so beautiful, free and light. You are so strong and I love you.
- To all the young girls and women who are struggling with loving the person they see in front of the mirror. I want you to know that you are SO beautiful. I see and know your heart. It is wonderful and it is the only thing that matters. You are perfect just the way you are.
I dedicate the funds raised from this challenge to:
- William Cheah of Kembara who is the originator of this campaign idea with #Botak4Sabah. I have not met or spoken to him in person but I respect and admire his heart and the work he does — which speaks for itself.
- Tressie Yap who coordinated the sewing of PPE for Sabah in the last wave and is back in action this time around. I have not met her or spoken to her in person too but I just have pure love for her soul! 100% Project is working with her to raise funds to send PPE to Sabah hospitals.
- The amazing team at Dignity For Children who does amazing work for children from marginalised communities with their vocational skills education programmes via social enterprises like sew x dignity (their communities are sewing PPE for Sabah) and cut x dignity (who will be shaving my head and anyone who wants to join for only RM15!)
If I raise more than RM6,000 I will pledge the excess funds to mental health care initiatives and I will personally pay for 3 sessions of therapy at The Red Clinic for anyone who needs it in this time but can’t afford it. Please reach out to me privately.
To all of you who have followed me on my journey and who have supported me thus far, I am asking you for help today.
Please help me unlock my head shave by contributing what you can. I need to raise RM6,000 before I shave all my hair off. You can contribute here — https://www.100percentproject.org/BotakAmelia
If you can’t contribute, that’s okay! Help me share this fundraising challenge and have a think about pledging your own head to someone who is struggling and to raise funds for our frontliners.
If enough of us do it, it won’t be scary or weird anymore — it’ll be fun, uplifting, inspiring and perhaps it’ll help reignite the immense love and generosity that this country contains to overcome this dark and difficult time.
Let’s go #Botak4Malaysia.
Stay safe, stay strong,
Co-founder of 100% Project