Poh Ling Yeow On Overcoming Self-Doubt And Finding Her Worth: “Self-Esteem Is Like A Muscle: It Requires Maintenance To Keep It In Shape”
The chef and presenter shares how she pushed through debilitating shyness to become a prime time television personality
As she steps onto the set of the marie claire x L’Oréal Paris Know Your Worth campaign photoshoot – featured within marie claire’s April issue – chef and TV presenter Poh Ling Yeow has an air of confidence about her.
It would be easy to assume that self-confidence has always come easy for this 47-year-old, who shot to fame as a contestant on MasterChef Australia in 2009. However, when she moved to Australia from Malaysia, aged nine, Ling Yeow was, by her own admission, painfully shy. “I was so self-conscious about the way I looked when I was younger,” she says, explaining that she earned the nickname Geisha because of the thick makeup she wore. “I was always shy, but coming to Australia and looking different to everyone else made it even worse. I spent a lot of time obsessing over my appearance and trying to fit in.”
At the time, a close group of friends helped Ling Yeow to overcome her crippling shyness. Yet even now, despite her status as a much loved personality, it’s a cramp that still needs massaging. “Every time I stand in front of a camera or sit down to write another book or start a new painting, that self-doubt is still there. For me, self-esteem is like a muscle, you have to keep flexing it so you can build up a bit of muscle memory,” says Ling Yeow. “There’s nothing more humbling than thinking you’ve sorted yourself out and then walking into a moment that transports you back to your childhood awkwardness and reminds you that you’re still a dork.”
Image: Darren McDonald
Having come to terms with her insecurities and stepped into her power as a formidable, fearless female, Ling Yeow is perfectly poised to join the ranks of marie claire’s Know Your Worth campaign in partnership with L’Oréal Paris. Fronted by cover girl Jessica Mauboy, along with other game-changers such as athlete Ellyse Perry, activist Rosie Batty and writer and presenter Phoebe Burgess, the campaign seeks to end the cycle of self-doubt, and empower women to realise their true value.
The L’Oréal Paris tagline “Because I’m Worth It” turns 50 this year – yet, the issue of self-doubt amongst Australian women has never been more pressing. A shocking 94 per cent of Australian women say they experience low self-esteem and nearly 70 per cent say self-doubt is their biggest block to success, according to new research commissioned by L’Oréal Paris1.
Image: Darren McDonald
“There’s power in embracing yourself, freeing yourself of expectations and walking to the beat of your own drum,” explains Ling Yeow, who says her new appointment as a L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth , along with her involvement in our Know Your Worth campaign, is incredibly meaningful – not just to her, but also to all the young women out there who feel different, inadequate, other. “In hindsight, my self-doubt was a double-edged sword. On one hand, it made me feel invisible, but on the other, it made me fight harder.”