by Louisa Wong:
Executive Chairman Global Sage and LinkedIn Influencer
In this series, professionals share the words of wisdom that made all the difference in their lives. Follow the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #BestAdvice in the body of your post).
Nobody can fully give you the best advice on how to overcome insecurity as everybody has their own insecurity — no matter how rich, successful or beautiful they are. In fact, success often brings more insecurity; it is hard to know exactly whether you are as successful as others, and you can always find someone who is richer than you.
I was fortunate to attend the prestigious St. Paul’s Convent High School in Hong Kong, but my insecurity was constantly around me. I came from a poor family, was fat and wore the thickest glasses given the short-sightedness that I inherited at a young age. They called me “Fat Yee” instead of “Wai Yee,” my real Chinese name. All the girls in the neighborhood were chased by the boys, and I was often left standing alone.
Academic excellence did not help me overcome my constant feelings of insecurity. At Harvard Business School, I gained even more weight as my fears prompted nervous eating. I was one of the youngest in the class and being Asian, I felt out of place. It took me months before I could speak up during our case study in class, and I achieved this only through the help of my professor. When I finally met my first boyfriend during my undergraduate studies, he left me because I was accepted into Harvard.
After graduation, I joined Morgan Guaranty Trust (now JP Morgan) and was pushed to conform to the fast-paced lifestyle in the highly competitive New York City. I became exhausted and could not focus on work; I was at best an average banker. My feet hurt most of the time as I was out dancing with the fashionable crowd almost every night.
Dr. Roberts, who was my podiatrist at the time, was kind enough to invite me over for dinner one night. She told me, “Listen to yourself, and only a few things matter in life.”
Her words changed the way I looked at myself since. Regardless of whether I am successful or not, one thing that matters most is my parents, and being the best daughter and putting their interests ahead of mine naturally became the focal point of my life. Focus calmed me and gave me purpose to give my best in everything I do. No matter what others may say, I am honest with myself and this gives me the courage to push harder to try and learn. I have made many mistakes, but I take responsibility of the consequences. Spending time alone and listening to yourself is often the best way to deal with insecurity. Most people surround themselves with others and occupy themselves with many things to do when they feel insecure as action often takes away the attention you have on yourself.
Nobody knows you better than yourself and only you know what matters most to you. Life is actually quite simple, and simplicity makes everything looks sharper and real. As an entrepreneur, I need to believe in myself. I was laughed at when I decided to start up a search firm in China in 1996 as salary in China was only a very small fraction of Hong Kong salary. But I am Chinese and believe in the potential of Chinese talent. Today we are the largest search firm in China and Asia. The journey of starting a business and building a company is often filled with many twists and turns. It is easy to lose sight of your mission and success can also have its dark side and make you deviate from your path.
I still feel insecure from time to time as one cannot avoid comparing oneself to others. Achievement does not stop insecurity. I know that I have been true to my values and that no matter what, I have achieved in putting the interest of those who matter most ahead of my own. Whenever I feel insecure, I think of the generosity and warmth of Dr. Roberts’ words, which help me to stand tall and move forward.