When It’s Ok Not To Be Ok
20 year old Presence Plumb inspired Tesse and Paula as she talked about when ” it is ok not to be ok.” Presence Plumb launched her podcast “It Starts with Action” in a spirit of curiosity and an intention to bring about change.
Presence charts her journey from the United Kingdom where she was born to Hong Kong. What was meant to be a short stay turned into a seven year stint, with young Presence being bullied for poor grades.
She become obsessed with fitting in and with becoming excellent. She was criticised for ‘being fat’. It was no surprise that in the face of such criticism, Presence became anorexic at 14 years and had a 3 months stay in hospital.
Saved by a mother’s love, she decided to live and recover. Sadly she lost all her hair from Alopecia, a physical sign that she had to live her life differently. She battled with depression and began the journey of discovery to control herself for the inside out, not from the outside in. Facing her inner critic with the support of compassionate friends, young Presence changed the way she talked and thought about herself.
Affirmations and conversations helped her to face her deepest insecurities, find her tribe, hang out with the right people who loved and accepted her for who she was. Today she enjoys in a healthier relationship with herself. She is better able to focus on what really matters to her and make optimal use of the time she has available. “The environment in which you operate matters, the friends you surround yourself with make a difference. My new friends are exploring life and are not afraid of failure. They mirror what I believe in and value” says Presence.
For parents, guardians, coaches, mentors and allies, Presence has more words of wisdom:
“Show up for young people, be conscious of and present for them. Coaches change my life by helping me gain clarity over who I am and who I can be. They enabled me to realise, acknowledge and speak my truth. Coaches helped me to change my life, and celebrate my uniqueness in the world”.
For Presence fitting it does not matter as much as picking the right people and realsing your worth. “It is better not to have friends rather than have the wrong friends. No one else can do what you can or be what you can be. We can change the world, one story or one initiative at a time concludes Presence.
Her Acronym, ACTION stands for Awareness, Confidence, Tenacity, Intention, Openness and Now.
Presence you are truly an inspiration!
Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to TesseLeads with your host Tesse Akpeki and cohost Paula Okonneh. TesseLeads is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, hear, and tell your stories and your experiences. You will hear from top experts and thought leaders, strategies, tips and techniques that they have found useful in navigating a diverse range of challenges, difficulties, dilemmas, as well as how you our listeners can create and shape opportunities. Today, our guest is Presence Plum, and we will be talking with her about “When it’s okay not to be okay”. Vulnerability is strength. I’ll tell you a little bit more about presence. Presence is 20 years old. She’s an economics students, she’s a coach, she’s a podcaster and she overcame anorexia and depression from alopecia, and that made her develop an interest in understanding the mind and habits of top performers. She started her podcast, it starts with action. When she discovered that the only way she could get to where she was, was by taking action, when she didn’t feel ready. She has a curiosity on why and what she could do to help others take bold action. And that became the mission of her podcast. So today she’s going to tell us a bit about that, but I want everyone to know that she’s studying and working on other projects with the aim to become a better human being for herself and for others. Presence, we’re so happy to have you here with us.
Presence: 00:02:00 Thank you so much for having me, Paula and Tesse
Tesse: 00:02:03 am so delighted to have you on the show, and Paula and I couldn’t wait to hear what you have to say. You know, you mentioned to me that you had overcome anorexia and depression, and you’d also overcome alopecia and you’re happy with who you are right now. But I’m curious as I’m sure Paula and our listeners are to hear more about your journey to what I would term victory.
Presence: 00:02:29 Let’s do a journey. So I guess it started from when I was. So I was born in the UK and then it was nine years old, I moved to Hong Kong to study. That was when there was a massive culture shock, I didn’t know the language, everything was super different. I didn’t expect to stay there for seven years, so I just like went there planning to come back. Okay. Ends up being seven years. So yeah, I started, like completely going to chinese school, and I realized that, yeah, I was kind of different, even though I’m half Asian, I was different, I didn’t know the language and i didn’t know how the school system works. And I guess when, you know, when you’re very young, bullying is quite common then. So I was bullied a lot for mainly having really bad grades, literally just. Every time I would, have an exam, people would see what score I got. And then on the way, home in the bus, people would start talking, it would be a main discussion. And so that continued for a few years, and that was when I started to become more self-conscious about grades and stuff, and just didn’t feel confident. And then it got to the point where like, ah, I know I just, I really need to change or do you want to do something about it. So I realized I’m just going to stick my head in the book and just care about nothing. I became really focused on like studying in school and that’s all I cared about, only exams. And so then I improved over time, I got to the best in the year, but that kind of, even though it it’s like, Oh, that’s amazing, you did so well in school, I was still super self-conscious and I changed high school. And then I started being bullied for how I looked, because I wouldn’t say I was fat at all, but they said I was so yeah. I was bullied for how I looked to mainly, and because I was so obsessed about wanting to fit in you know, I thought that getting the best grades, no one would bully me again, but i was wrong. And then when I got the good grades, people stopped bullying me for my, like my grades. So I thought, okay, so that must be a need to change something about myself to stop being bullied again. So I thought I need to lose some weight, have no clue what it meant to be losing weight, so I just Googled go on a diet for one week Apple diet, when, when i went in a diet and then that spiraled into six years of anorexia. And then I just became, I don’t even remember how I was, I don’t know how I did it, but just didn’t eat for a few years. And then it got to a point I was 14, It was at one week before our school ceremony and I had this goal, I wanted to get this, School trophy thing. It was like kind of my target, and then I knew I was going to get it, but then when we, before the ceremony I was sent hospital because I was too weak. And so yeah, I was in hospital and then they sent it via mail to me, and then I was just, I just remember the scene I was in bed, being super weak and looking at my heart rate, It was just really low. The doctor was saying that if I don’t do anything, then I’m going to die if I don’t choose to change. And that my goal was to do really well in school and to look my best so that I would fit in, but then I realized I don’t actually have any friends, I did. I worked so hard for everything, and then now I’m here, literally dying, I got what I want, but actually I also didn’t get one because no one actually likes me. That really kind of made me wake up to the fact that, chasing everything like chasing success kind of led down to just nothing really. I was killing myself for all of this, that didn’t mean anything. That’s when I realized staying three months in hospital, I learned a lot because I wasn’t allowed to do any schoolwork. I was actually forced to eat, and then I was separated from the family as well. But basically three months of, Looking and observing my environment, different children coming in, going out. The girl next to me who was paralyzed for life, it made me realize just how lucky I am to be alive, and I realized how I was in control of the whole time, you know, it was because of my actions that led to me being in hospital, and therefore I had the choice to recover. And that’s when I realized, like, I wanna do something about it, and so I dunno, I’m just mind blanking.
Paula: 00:06:43 You are saying the right thing.
Tesse: 00:06:46 You’re doing great. You’re doing great, and you’re just telling this story and that’s a story that is, is really impacting on me, I’m looking at Paula’s impact on her, impact on our listeners that you are saying it as it was for you. That journey that you, you made and, and what I’m hearing is your, you know, being a young person and the pressures that were on you and how you decided to live, because that’s what I’m hearing, how you decided you made a conscious decision, not today. And in addition, you made another conscious decision to live. Those are two different things and you’re very, you’re very brave.
Presence: 00:07:32 But I guess like the reality was, even though I said that I wanted to recover, it actually still took me another another, four nearly four years to actually finally take the leap and fully recover. Because even though I wanted to recover when you’re like really, really anorexic it’s all in the mind, it’s like, you want to do it, but it’s just so hard to change. And I just, I hated myself so much, like I just, there’s a point where I got to this stage, because of me, cause I know that I did this to myself and so I ended up hating myself even more, but then I wasn’t allowed to go out. I lived the hospital’s really far away from home, no one visited me, but my family and mainly my mom. And then I distinctly remember that I was not allowed to eat anything outside of hospital. But I was finally given the permission to eat with my mom, and she made me this quinoa like beef, really healthy beef stir fry, because I’ve never eaten anything with her or like a food for like years. And finally I had that move her and we were both sitting there and like eating and just like crying. That was kind of the, the moment where I realized that I, I know I want to recover, but I just can’t do it for myself. But like that meal, I realized that, actually, you know, recovering is not just for me. I’ve, because of like what I’ve done to myself I’ve made, and I’d been lying about as well, like lying about the meals I’ve eaten and everything. And so with my mum, and that moment is just when I realized that I need to recover for myself, but for her, because I really hated myself, I didn’t think that I deserve to really recover at alll. If it was one, one thing that got me to take the first step that was, yeah, that was my mom. So yeah, that’s kind of how it got the ball rolling. And there was a lot of ups and downs, and then three months on, I was supposed to stay in hospital longer, but I just couldn’t take it. So I kind of also wanted to like sign the papers and promised her that yeah, I would recover by myself thinking that will be easy. And then we decided to move back to the UK. And then, try to do it myself, it was like, I did really well, and then I went all back down, it says, Oh, up, up, and down, up and down. And then something happened when I came to the UK and changed school, thinking that i am going leave this anorexic identity behind, restart my life, no one knows me, I can just like, forget about anorexia, never say it again, never say I had it. That was kind of going well, but then in one month I lost all my hair out of the blue, and they realized that scored alopecia and as someone who was already self conscious trying to gain some weight, then losing all my hair, I was just like, ah, yeah. It was like the hardest time putting off losing all my hair was what really got me to realize that I need to do something to recover from anorexia. Because like for my weight, I can control it, I could consciously control how I looked and stuff, but for alopecia, I had no control over it, I had like, you know, just suddenly my hair decided to just go, I just couldn’t control it. And I was crying every single day from morning to night, it was so hard to go to school for like the rest of the two years. Because like, imagine just waking up and then you look down on your pillow, a bunch of hair you walk around, and then you sleep and it continues, and then to the point where you literally just like, yeah, i’m just going to shave my hair off and then wear a wig and then you wear a wig, and then you realize that people noticed, obviously it was, it was funnily enough, it happened over summers break but then I went to school with a new wig and I didn’t want to be bullied for a third thing. But yeah, people did see it and I did it hear stuff behind my back and stuff. So I just was again, very depressed, but then it got to a point where I just like, I feel the same as if i had anorexia, and, is this the same as just living like, this feels like this doesn’t feel like I’m living at all and then I reflected back on my time at hospital and realized that just how lucky I am to be where I am, and that this time I decided that I kind of need to do something, something, but maybe it’s not about controlling the outsiders, it’s about controlling the inside, that my mind. And that’s when I started to delve into podcasts and interviews and books about personal development and self love, and started to change how I talk to myself, and really just start to not think about what other people think of me, but more so how I think about myself, because I really did not like who I was. And I realized that was a problem, that was the main problem. It was not about anything else, it was just about how I see myself, not how other people see me. So yeah, I just went on to use a bunch of different methods like affirmations and just having conversations with myself. And then slowly but surely I felt comfortable, with everything and started to enjoy life a bit more. But then it wasn’t until lock down came, and I decided to share my journey on a podcast episode that I realized sharing my biggest insecurities was what led to the best relationships and was what led to my tribe. I think the main thing that I realized is that it’s not my problem, that people don’t like me, it’s just. I’m not with the right people. I’m not with my tribe. And once I found that I realized I can just be myself, like I can, I have different colored wigs, and I just wear it when I want to, with my friends and they were chill about it. And it’s just amazing when you find the right people who love you for who you are, and it’s not about changing who you are. You don’t need to be with the wrong type of people, you don’t need to change who you are. You just need to change the group of people, people you hang out with. So that’s kind of what I realized and what really changed, everything for me. And now I just hope that I can use my story, but also talk to other people who are going through something similar or something different, but just have a healthy relationship with themselves and realize that no life there’s so much more to life. Like I feel I’ve wasted so much of my time worrying about how I looked worry about everything, but now that I’ve overcome that, I just realized there’s so much stuff to learn in life that is, way more worth my time and focus. Because when you have anorexia nothing, everything is just food, the mind is just consumed by food or like, am I, and I don’t look like this. It’s just, you just don’t have enough time or space in your brain to think about the different topics I want to learn about and I want to learn about in economics right now, and i was really interested in psychology. There’s just so much in life that’s so exciting. But it’s not until you allow yourself to have the space in your brain and mental focus that you can really focus on the exciting stuff
Tesse: 00:14:37 That is so touching. I’m having tears in my eyes, but then I hear the pain and I, I, I hear your determination, but also what I hear is your self-awareness of what you needed to do as a result of what was happening to you and the things that you can control and those that you couldn’t control. And, and that’s just so exemplary of a, of a journey of a victorious woman. Thank you for sharing. Paula? Thank you
Paula: 00:15:15 I’ve Been quiet because I’ve had tears in my eyes too. Presence I had wanted to ask you, what would you say to young people on a similar journey? But I think you’ve said it all. You’ve mentioned that, you know, change of mindset, change of friends change.
Presence: 00:15:37 I think that’s the key
Paula: 00:15:38 Yeah
Presence: 00:15:39 It’s really like, yeah. If someone out there someone young or old is going through something I’m really really focused on the environment. I think if you can’t cause. It’s it’s sometimes really hard to you can’t change your mind. Like it takes time to change your mindset, but if you don’t change your environment as soon as possible, then it’s often a lot harder. So definitely I think like just seeing the other people around you and are they serving you in a way that’s getting you to where you want to be in terms of energy wise? Or are they really negative all the time? I surrounded myself with friends who just complained every single day or would point out their own flaws. And now my group of friends are just way more like, not self-absorbed, but they’re way more happy with who they are and then we will come confident, and they’re all exploring life and not afraid of failure. So like see life as a game, just, yeah, just the environment is just so important. I never really thought about back then, but what I realized is just key now. I think.
Paula: 00:16:49 You have struck gold. I think you have hit the nail on the head, which is, you realize now that this is what you have to do. And is that something that you would advise like parents? I know you’ve talked about people your age, who are probably going through similar things to you. What about parents here in this? I’m a parent and I’m listening to that. I listened to what you said intently because, yeah, my children may be older than you, but there’s always something that I can gain. And so I would love for you to just give a word to parents of children going through difficult circumstances. If you were a parent, what would you have done? What would you do? I should say.
Presence: 00:17:41 I think. If your children are young, then I definitely think it’s about feeding them with the right information in their minds, feeding them positive, words of encouragement, being there for them, and just like telling them and showing them that they can be whoever they want to be, as opposed to limit their goals. That if someone with their child says, Oh, I want to be an astronaut one day, then just go and like, say, Oh yeah, you can’t do that, only certain people can do that. That really affects someone over time. But I think thinking about, for me, like if my mom wasn’t there for me, when I was in hospital every single day, she would travel at two hours up to work to come to see me. And if she wasn’t there for me, then I genuinely don’t think it would be here today. So I think definitely if you know that your child or someone’s going through something, then the easiest thing that I think you can do that,not everyone really does all the time, it’s just be there for them and just really show that you are there for them. I think that’s the simplest thing that really makes the big difference. Yeah, it’s, it’s funny that I don’t really think about that much, but, I think definitely if she wasn’t there for me when I really needed her, I didn’t have any friends at that time. My mom is divorced, so I only have her. So if she wasn’t there for me, then I wouldn’t be here today. So I think like some thing just like showing that you’re there for your child or kid when they’re going through something, it’s just, it’s the simplest, but also most important thing, I think, because oftentimes we go through our days and we work to rarely spending time. But just making sure that you check in with them. I don’t know, I guess teenagers, I used to not really care, I mean, you know, my mom will come in and say, I don’t really want to talk to you. I would just really busy with work, but still I think just, just really checking in. Cause sometimes we don’t really like to say things to our parents, unless where we trust them, like we would trust them to be comfortable with them. And so I think like being consistent with showing up every day for them shows that you care and when they know that you care, then they’re more likely to, if not. Yeah, I don’t know if that helps.
Tesse: 00:20:07 Yeah. It, it really does help. And, I can see my, my co-host Paula is very touched by this, you know, she’s a mom, she has two lovely children, and then mum, the mother’s heart, there’s nothing like a mother’s heart, and if father can also have a mother’s heart. And what I’m hearing from you is the place of trust, but also the place for abiding, just staying away, being conscious of. Being present with, and that that’s so powerful. And, I’m thinking about, you know, we’ve talked about parents possible sponsoring. But these days, a lot of people in organizations in university and so on, they get mentors or get coaches. What would you be saying to a culture, a mentor listening in? What would you be saying to them about some of these kind of presencing? Examples that you’re sharing with us today.
Presence: 00:21:06 I think for me, people, coaches who have changed my life are those who, really help you gain clarity over who you are. Like those who’ve really helped me change my life and who I know like change other people’s lives are those who focus on helping like anyone from the young person, but helping the mentee or coachee, helping them really realize the truth I think. Oftentimes we either avoid the truth ourselves or avoid what you want to hear, but I think the best mentors, the best coaches are those who are straightforward and tell you what you need to hear as opposed to what you want to hear. And sometimes it can be hard and harsh, but I think those mentors who are really real and honest and tell you the truth, are those who really change people’s lives.
Tesse: 00:22:06 That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. Paula thoughts
Paula: 00:22:12 I have been tearing up here, tears streaming down my face. So that’s why I’m quiet, but my thoughts is. Presence, I love your name, I think it encompasses everything. My thoughts that your name says it. You have to be here, you are present, you have to be present. I heard what you said about your mom, and I could relate to that 100%. I’m happy you said your story because I know a lot of young people and even their parents are going to listen to this and it’s going to make a world of difference to young people, knowing that their lives matter, that they being around means a lot to their parents and to so many other people that sometimes they don’t even realize are there, as you said, rightfully change of mine, brought a change of attitude, brought a change of friends, and that made a world of difference. And so many young people need to know that, that if you’re not in the right crowd, that doesn’t mean there isn’t another crowd for you, not a set of people who won’t celebrate you. Because, we all bring something unique to this world and no one can do it like you.
Presence: 00:23:19 Pick your friends carefully for most, like I said, I just wanted to fit in. That’s all I cared about is I fit in with a group of people, I don’t mind if it’s the wrong group, I just want to fit in, but now I’m like, I don’t want to fit in I just want to make sure that I pick, I like, I pick the right people for me. I don’t need to fit in, they need to fit in with like my values, why I think it’s important. So it’s like kind of changing the perspective, realizing your worth. I guess, that you get to choose your friends. It’s not about like wanting your friends to like you, if you don’t have friends then especially to not have friends than to have the wrong friends.
Paula: 00:23:57 You are right. Oh, my word, you just said something that I think we need to wrap up with, which is your friends don’t have to choose you, you choose your friends, you make a difference it’s better you don’t have friends than to have the wrong friends. I think that’s a key note to anybody, whether you’re 10, whether you’re 20, 30, 40, sometimes, I mean, age is just the number. So thank you so much Presence for sharing that beautiful nugget, that makes a difference because now, as you said, you don’t want to be here some years ago, and now you realize that there is something about you being present. You’ve got some things to do in the world and no one else can do just like you can.
Tesse: 00:24:42 Presence your you’re just fantastic.
Presence: 00:24:45 Thanks for having me.
Paula: 00:24:47 Absolutely. So I’m going to wrap up with these words that pertain to you, Presence. Your precious stories and your life matter on ” TesseLeads” we asked you to share them with us. Because many are supported, encouraged, and nurtured when they know that they’re never alone, like Presence said, she knew she wasn’t alone because her mom came even if it took two hours each way her mom was there. Ladies you have been amazing. For our listeners, make sure please that you head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to your podcasts. And please subscribe to “TesseLeads”. If anything that you found today resonated with you, please let us know in your review. And if you have a question or topic you’d love for us to talk about, send us a note. We’d love for you to be a guest. Finally, head over to “www.tesseakpeki.com/Tessie leads”. To apply and become a guest that can help change the world, one story at a time.