As one of Singapore’s former top models, Sheila Sim almost always looks like a glamazon, whether in photos, on screen, or on the runway. But behind the glamorous façade was a girl who battled with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition where you keep seeing your body in a worse state than what it is. And despite having abs, the 1.74-metre tall actress “never had the guts to go out in midriff”.
She even resorted to starving herself, surviving on one green apple a day when she first started modelling at 16. “I eventually passed out 14 days later,” she reveals in a post on Instagram. “Since then, I've never gone on an extreme diet. However, I used to work out four to five times a week in the past. I would cycle 20 mins to the pool, swim 20 laps, and then hit the gym for two hours. At my lightest, I was 47kg. I was literally skin and bones but still, I would felt insufficient and less than good enough.
“I guess modelling made me feel even more insecure and expectations of myself got even higher because my job required my aesthetic and physical state to always be in a tiptop condition.”
"Wait, you're so thin and you had body image issues?" we ask. "Yes! A lot of people think I'm so skinny why would I have this issue? But it's not about me being skinny and it doesn't just happen to plus size people. It is the fact that I don't think that I'm good enough and that is something that is very common," Sheila tells 8days.sg.
Well, those days are behind her now. Not only is the 35-year-old comfortable in her own skin — wrinkles, pigmentation, and all — she has made it her “mission in life” to empower others to overcome their insecurities and be their best selves.
For the past ten months, Sheila has been doing a course in positive psychology and feels she is ready to use her experience and what she’s learned to help others.
“I've already been sharing [about my life journey and past issues with bad relationships on social media] and people would reach out to me with their issues too but I would feel very inadequate ‘cos I didn’t have enough knowledge to be sharing with them the right information, which was why I went to do the course. Now, I feel I have the ability to help others and I want to help other people. As a celebrity, I have a voice and I want to use this voice to say the right things,” she says.
For starters, Sheila will be collaborating with host Jade Seah, who is also her course mate, and The Positive Movement, which specialises in positive psychology programmes, to create a series of monthly workshops called Wonder & Wellness that “explore the science of well-being”. These are "topics that have impacted us" and the first session, Getting To Know Your Authentic Self, which touches on self-care, self-compassion and body image, is in April.
“This positive psychology workshop is something that I have been wanting to do to help people and myself. I feel that it is always a two-way thing ‘cos when I share with people and [in return] when they share with me, I'm also learning. So I'm very happy to do this,” she says.