Interview With: A Little Woman Born To Overcome A Giant Hurdle

Theingi (Wint Wint) Soe
37, Director of CLAY-STREET.COM and Swiss Celergen

Born with growth hormone deficiency, Theingi is a short woman with short legs and short arms. Short everything.  She is what most people refer to as a dwarf, a midget or even a smurf(ette). Where Theingi lacks in physical growth, she makes up with ambition and heart. In her thirties, she owns a home and runs several businesses. Today, she is a professional speaker who speaks to over hundreds of grassroot leaders and Ministers of Parliament (MPs). In all the years (10+) I known this awe-inspiring lady, I never knew about the deep-seeded challenges she has had to overcome. Until now.

What was it like growing up different from everyone else?
I was born in Myanmar to a big, close-knit family. As the youngest of five siblings, I would say I had a normal childhood. I didn’t feel different from the other kids. We are all the same height!

At what point, did you start noticing that you were different?
When I was around 10 years old. At primary school, we lined up for assembly according to height. Shortest in front. Tallest at the back. I started noticing something was wrong when my classmates, who used to partner me (of equal height), started moving to the back. They were growing taller while I remained short and stayed at the front of the line.

One time, when I was walking down the school corridor, a group of boys started mimicking the way I walked. They surrounded me, obstructed my way and began to laugh at and ridicule me. I went home and cried. After that incident, I started to notice people pointing fingers, whispering, laughing and staring sideways – at me. That was the time I realized I was different. I wouldn’t say it was a hurdle in my life. Rather, a condition I got to accept and learn to handle emotionally.

What is your view of Singaporeans’ and Asians’ acceptance of dwarfism – are we an accepting bunch?
To me, the acceptance level in developing countries, like Myanmar, is not high. People who are disadvantaged or disabled are generally not seen in public. For example, there was a time when I went back to Myanmar (in the rural areas) for a visit,  the whole village came out to look at me. In Singapore and some parts of Asia, parents would make hurtful comments by saying to their kids “See, if you are not a good girl/boy, you will become like that” or “Eat your veggies, or you will stop growing and be like her”. However, in USA and Australia, I can go about normally without attracting attention. And when kids question their parents about my being, they would come up and talk to me instead.

What is one thing that you feel people are most misled about dwarfism?
Most people think it is due to lack of nutrition, or something that runs in the family. I have seen doctors on this. And all of them have no answer. While they say it is in the genes, no one in my family (and extended family) have this condition.

What was the turning point in your life?
In 2004, I went to a network marketing seminar. I was instantly attracted to the people and positive environment. Not to mention, they conducted a lot of personal development courses that I was interested in. It was during this period – of major personal development transformation – that I started learning to accept myself, and my body. It was not easy. And lasted 8 years. Being involved with this multi-networking group was a platform for me to make an impact on others. And being an example to others that they, too, can be different.

What advice would you give to people who may feel disadvantaged – physically and/or mentally?
The world may label us as disadvantaged and disabled. What matters is that we don’t label ourselves that. As long as we don’t give up on ourselves, nobody else matters.

Who inspires you?
My country’s democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Whenever I think of what hardship I have to go through, I think of her. Her philosophy and her wisdom have great impact on me. Another is my friend and business mentor Alvin Yong. He is the catalyst in my personal development breakthroughs.

Lastly, if you can save the planet by adopting one eco-friendly habit, what would it be?
To cut down the use of plastic bags, and foam cups!


Thanks Theingi ♥

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