Too often, we wallow in self-pity. We feel blue about the pandemic, climate change, pollution, racism…and the list goes on. Is it possible to uncover glimmers of light buried beneath the hate, sadness and worry?

Even though I am a certified life and happiness coach, it doesn’t mean that I was always able to see the glass as half full when it comes to my own life. Growing up, I had low self-esteem, was constantly worried about the opinions of others, and felt the world was always a little against me. 

I didn’t appreciate all that I had, and I would ruminate over the negative, then get stuck in bad memories or experiences. Only through practising gratitude, kindness and self-care over the years, did my understanding and appreciation of the good things in my life begin.

Learning to do so in the midst of tough times isn’t easy, but you’ll find that it is achievable when we start being kinder to ourselves, and accept our own shortcomings and even failures. 

With the world still in the midst of a long battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, I think it is important for us to learn how to face the tough moments, untangle them, learn from them, move on and see the light ahead.

Related: Keen on Practising Gratitude? Shireena Shroff Manchharam's Deck of Cards Can Guide You

A personal life experience

One of the earliest memories I have of feeling like I hit rock bottom was when I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis when I was 24. I remember having surgery and lying in bed at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, with my then boyfriend (now husband) by my side. 

The doctor came in and grimly explained that, because of the gynaecological complications I had, it would be quite unlikely I would be able to conceive a child naturally. 

I couldn’t comprehend what that meant. I assumed that after surgery, I would come out bright and shiny. I remember glancing at my (then) boyfriend and immediately feeling shame and guilt—that there was something so unnaturally wrong with me. 

I recall a family member telling me not to disclose this “dirty little secret” to anyone. What would others think of me? How could I not pop out babies effortlessly like other women can? What was wrong with me? 

Looking beyond the negativity

Infertility is so common, yet no one speaks about it. I felt alone, naive and very disheartened. I was told that injections, surgery, scans and medicine would help, and that all I had to do was just try them. I don’t remember a single friend at that time who struggled to conceive. 

Most of my friends at that time were busy having fun at bars and clubs, while I suddenly had an important decision to make. I was told that the earlier I tried IVF, the higher the chances of success are likely to get. 

Gathering all my wits, I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror and convincing myself that if I wanted children, I had to bite the bullet, sacrifice a bit of my 20s and just start trying for them even if it was a little earlier than I had imagined. 

I knew becoming a mother was something I always wanted. It was my dream to have a family full of screaming kids. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I tried to turn the situation around. I cleared my mind of negativity, in order to be able to see the choices and opportunities that are actually there in front of me. 

I told myself: I am lucky to even get a chance to have kids. I have the ability to try. Nothing is lost. I am so lucky and grateful to have a family who supports me. I also thought about how things could be worse than my situation: Some women who are facing infertility might not even have the option of IVF available to them. 

Related: Hong Kong Socialite Feiping Chang Gets Candid About IVF and Her Pregnancy Journey

Changing the narrative

I began to feel fortunate, even grateful that I get a chance at having a child. After all, I had the means to get the help of a qualified doctor, within a safe medical facility, to even attempt IVF. 

In the worst moments, through those agonising injections, heartbreaking failed attempts, and excruciating ectopic pregnancies, I reminded myself how lucky I was to be able to try IVF more than just once.

Friends who felt bad for me gave me the comforting “Aw, I’m sorry”. But that was not what I needed to hear, even though I understood where it came from. It’s easy to keep sinking into despair and hopelessness, and it is so much harder to extract the glimmers of hope and joy. 

However, miracles happen when we try to see the silver lining. It’s up to us to stop, notice and acknowledge it. The power to do so, give thanks, and be grateful for what you have can make even the worst situations completely beautiful.

I cleared my mind of negativity, in order to be able to see the choices and opportunities that are actually there in front of me. 

It’s possible to be happy—you just have to start by trying

It’s no surprise that in my work, I draw insights from my personal life experiences. Which is why I developed my coaching work to promote and celebrate happiness. It is my aim to help build a happier society, one in which we can fall, but pick ourselves up; have bad days, but also the resilience to fight it, be brave and break free of our fears. 

Of course, in no way do I think my journey of IVF is comparable to other hardships like having cancer or experiencing the loss of a loved one. It is but one of the many unfortunate things that can happen in anybody’s life. 

With the world still in the midst of a long battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, I think it is important for us to learn how to face the tough moments, untangle them, learn from them, move on and see the light ahead. I encourage you to practise gratitude and learn to find the silver lining in every situation, no matter how bleak the outlook is. Happiness is always there. 

Related: How to Be Happy, According to a Life and Happiness Coach in Singapore


Shireena Shroff Manchharam is a certified life and happiness coach with her own practice, Sheens Image Consulting. Her passion is in helping individuals reach their highest potential and she is always on a mission to bring happiness to people’s lives. Her husband, Ashish, and two kids—Lara and Arian—and her pet dog, Bowen, are her constant source of love and happiness. 

This is the tenth in a series by Shireena Shroff Manchharam on mindfulness and gratitude.

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