We Cannot Fix Each Other – Vanessa Tai

When we find out that a loved one is hurting, it’s normal to want to reach out and solve their problems. However, it’s not our duty to do so, as Vanessa Tai is slowly discovering. 

material world_love2

I don’t know when or how this started but from a very young age, I’ve had a heightened sensitivity to the pain of others. I intuitively knew when someone was hurting, even if they tried to put on a brave front. And if the person was someone close to me, I often hurt along with them and would spend time and energy trying to make them feel better.

One of my closest friends used to suffer from clinical depression. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the disease so I tried all sorts of ways to “get her out of her funk”. I would write long letters to affirm her self-worth, devote hours listening to her grievances and gave her countless pep talks. It was tiring but on some level, I always felt it was my duty to “fix” her.

I’m sure you can relate. When our loved ones share with us their problems, it’s normal to want to find a solution as quickly as possible. Of course, if the problem is something tangible like being unable to find a job or a health concern, the solutions are more straightforward – send them relevant job contacts, recommend them a specialist, etc. However, when it comes to emotional pain, that’s where things get complicated. Because, as much as we want to, we cannot take away the pain that people feel inside.

This is something I’m only slowly coming to terms with. In the past, I used to get terribly frustrated when my efforts to cheer my friend up went to nought. I remember how she would perk up for a couple of days before spiralling downward into misery again. Our relationship soon took on a pattern where I was constantly racking my brains on how to keep her happy. It got to a point where I grew resentful of how she was draining me emotionally, and I found myself keeping my distance from her. However, she eventually sought professional help for her depression and is much better now. Our relationship has also improved.

This experience is one of the main reasons I’ve come to realise we can’t solve the problems of the people around us. Despite our best intentions, it’s impossible to fix each other. We may constantly push aside our own needs to try and meet the needs of those we love, but it’ll never be enough. Nobody can play the role of caregiver forever; the stream of self-sacrifice will dry up eventually and we’ll only end up feeling frustrated or resentful. To be a healthy caregiver, you’ll need to tend to your own needs on top of caring for the needs of others. If you’re emotionally spent, how are you going to invest into the lives of others? It’s just like the safety instruction videos onboard airplanes – in an emergency, adults are supposed to put on the oxygen mask before helping their child.

To be clear, it’s not that I no longer feel empathy for people’s problems or sorrows. When loved ones confide in me, I still experience a strong urge to throw my arms tightly around them to “hug the pain away.” But I know that only serves to soothe the symptoms, not eradicate the problem. We can never solve people’s problems anyway. We can never fully understand what others are going through, and we can never make their pain go away. After all, this is not some kind of magical Utopia. Each of us has a private pain that we carry around with us, and will probably carry with us till we die. If we truly want to help someone, the answer is not to try and “fix” him or her but simply to love and accept them without making any judgments. Hurt and disappointment will always be permanent fixtures in our lives but if we know we have the support of an unshakeable, immutable love, I think we will make it out okay.

material world_love

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

Entertainment, Friends, Lifestyle, Relationships

The 8 Times You’re A Total Biatch Without Knowing It – Matthew Fam

Biatch moves that take you from girlfriend to Grinch from hell? Totally possible. And you might not even be aware that you’re committing them! While we may have every good intention to be Girlfriend of The Year, look out for these 8 common communication faux pas that can potentially slap an ugly biatch label on you.



1. Tagging Unglam Photos Of Your friends

What you think you’re saying:
“Hey, I’m so glad we all hung out last night!”

What you’re actually saying:
“Hi, I don’t give a hoot if you look like crap so long as I’m the gorgeous one in this group shot.”

Use your discretion: if your friend is in an unflattering angle, be considerate and give tagging a pass. Or avoid even posting altogether. And, drunk shots are totally out of the question- unless your girl friend can rock a glassy-eyed look like its hangover chic.

I know you're talking about my dark circles.

I know you’re talking about my dark circles.

2. “You Look Tired”

What you think you’re saying:
“Are you feeling okay? I’m concerned that you’re not getting enough rest.”

What you’re actually saying:
“You look like crap and I don’t want to look at your face. Slap on some concealer and go. Home. NOW.”

Uhh… no thanks?? This is the single most innocent comment that’s totally not welcomed. Nobody (nobody!) needs to be reminded of their dark circles.

3. Laughing Over Friend’s Misfortune

What you think you’re saying:
“You’ve emerged stronger from this episode, and you’re bigger than it. Let’s celebrate by duping this incident.”

What you’re actually saying:
“Hi wound, meet salt.”

Some of us are extra-sensitive beings that need extra TLC, so handle with care! Teasing your friend may come across as you using her misfortunes as fodder for cheap jokes. So, ensure that she’s over it before you pull the comic card. 

Think you could ever share a crush like Betty and Veronica?

Think you could ever share a crush like Betty and Veronica?

4. Stealing Your Friend’s Crush

What you think you’re saying:

“With your looks, you can totally snag a guy way better than this!

What you’re actually saying:
“Move over, sweetie. I’m spraying my perfume all over and marking my territory.”

So what do you do when both parties are interested in the same guy, then?

Technically, the one who calls dibs lays claim first. Or if you reaaally like him, have a chat with your girlfriend. Hey, if Betty and Veronica shares, why can’t you too? (Then edge her out as the better candidate! Shh… subtly of course.)



5. Dishing Dirt

What you think you’re saying:
You’re in my little inner circle now. Besides, isn’t the enemy of your enemy your friend?

What you’re actually saying:
“If I can gossip about others, what makes you think I can’t do the same to you?”

Everybody loves a great gossip session, right? Wrong. Some people want to remain absolutely drama-free, and will take your goss as reason not to trust you. If you’re itching to get the latest 411 off your back, spill your caustic words to a group of friends you absolutely trust.

6. Comparisons

What you think you’re saying:
“I want to share my happiness with you. Ooh—and about that month-long trip to Italy I incessantly updated my Instagram over. Have you seen it??”

What you’re actually saying:
“Yes. Bow down to my fabulosity. I want you jealous- right now.”

Okay, please just stop. I’m not interested in your Balenciaga bag, or your social media-publicised vacation. You may, however, introduce all your hot friends made during said Euro trip, kthxbye.

7. Dissing People’s Appearances

What you think you’re saying:
“Well… If we’re both thinking it, might as well get the pink elephant out of the room!”

What you’re actually saying:
“I am hypercritical of everything- that includes you. Oh, yes- I’m also insecure about myself.”

Yes, I’ll admit that bonding over bitching is totally legit. But don’t go overboard, girlfriend! Nobody likes a bitter biatch. If you absolutely must, one nasty comment tops; then talk about other redeeming qualities of that person.

ewwwww8. Telling People What They Should Do

What you think you’re saying:
“I want to see you become the best version of yourself.”

What you’re actually saying:
“I’m not listening to what you’re going through. Everything that you’re doing is wrong and needs correction- stat.”

Sure, giving friends advice may come from a place of concern, but drilling the message home is a whole different ball game altogether. Listen to her entire predicament first. Respect the decision your friend makes, and use this as an opportunity to see matters in a different light!


Guilty of committing any of these potential biatch moves? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and freelancer. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, origami, and is passionate about Singaporean Theatre.

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2. Are You Being Critical Or Are You Looking For Flaws? – Tan Lili

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Friends, Relationships

Here’s Why You Are Invited To A Wedding – Deborah Tan

I know many people probably believe they are invited to weddings to “make up the numbers”, to “pay for the wedding banquet”, to “show face”. We probably tell ourselves all these reasons so that we won’t feel bad if we ever decide to drop out or be a no-show. But … I beg to differ.

Beyond all that charts about how much money one should put into their ang pows based on which hotel the wedding banquet is held, beyond all the talk about you are obliged to give the couple a red packet when it’s an overseas wedding, people generally follow ONE rule when they plan their guest-list:

Is it too much to wish for all your friends to be at your wedding?

Is it too much to wish for all your friends to be at your wedding?

Is this an important person in my life? Is this person someone I like enough to want to share such an important moment of my life with him/her?

When you back out of a wedding, and the bride gets upset, it is not because you have presented her with a logistical problem.

You are MORE than just a seat to fill. What you have – in effect – become is a presence she’ll miss. She’ll look back on what could be one of the most important days of her life and feel your absence. It is an emotional thing.

When you search, “Friends dropping out of wedding”, you get 44,000,000 results telling you how to do it properly, how to it without ruining your friendship, how to deal with it as a bride or how your wedding planner should resolve the logistical issues etc.

To look upon it as a “problem” that needs solving is just scratching the surface. The heart of the matter lies in the question, “We think you are important, do you think we are to you?”

Deciding to get married is a big leap of faith to take for many people. Yes, some women have planned their dream wedding for years. And yes, to some women, a wedding is a fantasy, a show, a flashy public proclamation of love they want everyone to see. But what about those who are looking forward to share the moment with you, it’s a bit heartbreaking to drop out without a good reason.

What is a good reason? Well, sorry to sound brutal but other than a late-stage pregnancy, a funeral, a death in the family, in the middle of a relocation, on the other side of the world, or you are under house arrest, nothing is acceptable – especially when you have already said you would be there.

Some websites suggest you tell your friend a white lie and say you can’t afford to attend her wedding. Well, I speak for myself, but I didn’t invite you for your money. You can come and not give me an ang pow. It’s not the gift that I want. I want YOU there.

Some websites list “work commitments” as a legit excuse to use. It’s not. Yeah, sure, you can’t come for a birthday party because of work, fine. We have birthdays every year. If you can’t come for a girls’ night out because of work, fine. We can always meet up again. But a wedding is – hopefully – once in a lifetime. As friends, you have both shared many conversations about your love lives and relationships, you have confided in each other about crushes, and you have consoled her when her heart got broken … you have been there every step of the way and you are now not going to be at the most important event. How do you think your friend will feel?

You are invited to a wedding not because you are proof of the couple’s popularity. You are invited because you are a major character in their story and things simply wouldn’t be the same without you.

In the grand scheme of things that matter to you, ask yourself this, “Is this person important enough for me to fight to be at her wedding?” When you’ve answered that, you both will likely get a better idea where this friendship really stands.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She will follow her bridesmaids’ advice and just let go. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.

This is not the end …
1. [Love In Lines] Wedding Woes
2. Why You Should Hire a Wedding Planner
3. I Refuse To Be A Size 2 Bride
4. The One Thing Brides Shouldn’t Obsess About

Career, Opinions, Self-Improvement, Vanessa Tai

Working With Friends – Vanessa Tai

Yesterday, I read an article in the newspapers about how it may not be a good idea to work with a friend. On the surface, it may seem like a fantastic idea – working alongside your BFF for eight (or more) hours a day – what could be better, right? However, according to the article, friends tend to have the same outlook as you so this might lead to a shortage of fresh ideas coming into the company. Another potential problem with working with friends is the unwillingness to question or criticise each other’s ideas.

I found it very relevant for us at Material World because after all, we Material Girls are friends who started this business venture together. (We didn’t start off as friends, though. We were colleagues first, then friends, and now we are business partners.) While the article did bring up some salient points, I think the four of us have found a way to make this partnership work without compromising on our friendship. Here are some of the methods, which hopefully you’ll find useful if you ever find yourself having to work alongside a friend!

1. Be Honest

As with all relationships, transparency really is key. You can’t have a thriving relationship if you’re not honest with what you’re really thinking about. We’ve had frank discussions about our strengths, our weaknesses and even supposedly touchy topics like our finances. And whenever we have brainstorm sessions, we’re not afraid to tell each other if an idea doesn’t work. Which brings me to my next point …

2. Grow A Thick Skin

For some reason, being criticised stings more when it comes from someone we’re close to. That’s because we value the person’s opinion way more than say, a random hater on the Internet. However, you’ll need to view things from a macro perspective; everything that’s being said is for the good of the company. So shrug off those hurt feelings and focus on how you can improve the quality of your work.

3. Communicate (A Lot)

"Anyones wants to go with me for the event?" (What a typical Material World text might look like)

“Anyone wants to go with me for the event?” (What a typical Material World text might look like)

The Material Girls have two chat groups on WhatsApp (don’t ask me why.) And not a day goes by without us updating the group chat about our daily on-goings, whether it’s a story we’re working on or an event we’re attending. We also have a compulsory weekly meeting and once a month, we spend an entire day working alongside each other. So because we’re constantly kept in the loop of each other’s lives and work progress, we are able to easily pick up the slack should one of us fall ill or go overseas.

4. Spend Time Away From Work

Work hard, play harder!

Work hard, play harder!

This is a very important point. Sometimes, if you spend too much time working with someone, you’ll just start to associate them with work, which is why it’s crucial to spend time with your friend/co-worker doing non-work-related stuff.We Material Girls often do things like boot camp or night treks together. The endorphins plus the great outdoors make for a fantastic stress-reliever, plus it serves as a reminder why we enjoy each other’s company so much.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

Life Moments Worth Celebrating – Deborah Tan

I didn’t even know why I was in such a horrendous mood this afternoon. It could be the weather, it could be because I found out our business bank screwed up an application, or it could be because I was forwarded a rather insincere email and was reminded of how horrible people can be to each other.

I was thisclose to hammering out an angst-ridden piece about why the world should not be treating me so shabbily. I know. Hissy fits from a woman trying to be a super successful media entrepreneur are rather embarrassing. So instead of focusing on the negative, I took my friend Howard’s advice and dwelt on the positive instead.

So I decided to write about this: Moments in a person’s life worth celebrating.

Cheng, the founder of Cedele. Her passion for her work is extremely inspiring

Cheng, the founder of Cedele. Her passion for her work is extremely inspiring

1. When Someone Asks You About Your Job …

… and you actually feel happy talking about it. I went to a tasting by Cedele this afternoon and met the founder herself, Yeap Cheng Guat. The lunch tasting began with her recounting how Cedele started, what her philosophy towards food and health is, her insistence on using only the freshest ingredients in her food, etc. When Cheng spoke about her business, her voice was filled with passion and belief. The happiness in Cheng was so genuine, I left the lunch feeling energised and inspired.

2. When A Cheesy TV Show … 

… makes you tear up like a softie. I shall spare you the details and not talk about the show, and why it made me cry. But think about the last movie or TV series that warmed the cockles of your heart and made your tear ducts work overtime … did you not feel more “human” after? And, did that not make you feel better?

3. When You Get Treated Unjustly …

… and your friends back you up and say, “I feel so angry for you right now”. If you asked me whether I would rather have powerful friends or friends with powerful emotions, my answer would definitely be the latter group. I want friends who would cry with me, cry for me, and make other people cry when they piss me off. I want friends who are “bias” – their loyalty to me is so strong, there is no doubt which side they will pick when shit hits the fan.

sandwich4. When A Kick-Ass Sandwich …

… was created by none other than yourself. You take whatever you have in the fridge and do the best you can. And the end product isn’t at all that bad. And then you go back for seconds – now, that’s validation nobody can give and no money can buy.

5. When Your Boyfriend Comes Home … 

… and marches right in front of you and plants a big, wet kiss on your lips. Then he drags you out for dinner and “orders” you to leave the “damn phone” at home so “we can finally have a good conversation”. Knowing that your man wants to spend quality time with you, it’s difficult to keep your heart from melting into mush.

What other life moments are worth celebrating? Share it with your fellow Material World readers here, or fill in the form below with a pseudonym and we’ll post up your answer on your behalf.


About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and spends 5 hours every Sunday watching HK drama series. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Friends, Money, Relationships, Self-Improvement

Awkward Money Situations – Vanessa Tai

Human relationships are already complicated, but throw money into the fray and it could potentially be nightmarish. That’s because everybody has different beliefs and values when it comes to money, so when you’re among people you don’t know very well, it could lead to some potentially awkward scenarios. This is probably why the Chinese have a saying about how “discussions about money sour relations.” Here, some common money conundrums, and the graceful way to tackle them.

Scenario 1: Someone you don’t know very well asks how much you earn.

The first time this happened to me, I was absolutely stunned. It’s long been drilled into me that asking another person about their salary is a big no-no. I hemmed and hawed, before finally saying something evasive like, “Oh, just the average graduate’s pay.” For some reason, the person didn’t get the hint and kept pressing for an exact figure.

How to deal: Put on a big smile, and say something like, “Enough to pay my bills. How about you?” When you throw the question back at the person, they’ll probably be caught up with talking about themselves and forget they asked you a question.

An interesting thing to note though, there are some people who believe disclosing one’s salary shouldn’t be taboo. They believe that knowledge is power – if you know your salary doesn’t quite stack up to the rest of your peers, you can use this information when negotiating for a higher pay.

Of course, if any talk about salary makes you feel uncomfortable, feel free to use the above tip to gently deflect the question.

Scenario 2: You’re at a restaurant having dinner with a group of friends, but you only ordered an appetiser. When the bill arrives, the group agrees to split the bill equally (instead of taking into account what each person had.)

It's all fun and games ... until the bill arrives.

It’s all fun and games … until the bill arrives.

If you’re among close friends, it’s probably easy to voice up and say you only had a small dish. However, if you’re among people you don’t know well, you may feel a bit uncomfortable voicing up because the last thing you want is to look stingy.

How to deal: There’s usually one person in the group who’ll be busy collating the cash from everybody. Go up to him/her discreetly and ask, “So how much was my appetiser?” More likely than not, they will get the hint and call for a re-calculation.

Scenario 3: Your friend owes you money, and has yet to pay up.

Some people hate chasing their friends for money because they feel their friend “should take the initiative.” However, sitting around with all these expectations of what people should or should not do will not get your money back.

How to deal: Start by texting your friend once every two to three days for about a week. If they still fail to return your money, find a way to meet them face-to-face and tell them, “It’s not that I’m being calculative, but I have bills to pay too. I hope you understand.” In all your communication, remember to be assertive, not aggressive.

Being demanding isn't the best way to get back your money.

Being demanding is not the best way to get back your money.

Using intimidating words may put your friend on the defensive. Most people are reasonable, and would return you the money as soon as they can. However, if for some reason your friend is unable to return your money even after months of chasing, you might have to resign yourself to writing it off as a bad debt. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but bad debts help us remember to be more prudent about who we lend our money to in future.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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Opinions, Relationships, Vanessa Tai

Fighting Is Good For Relationships – Vanessa Tai

Quite honestly, the people I am closest to are the people I argue with the most. In fact, hardly a day goes by without my best friend and I arguing about something or the other. From current affairs to human rights and even to which part of Singapore has the best food (the jury is still out on this one), we relish every opportunity for a debate.

Funnily enough, I used to hate confrontation and would acquiesce to whatever the other person was saying just to maintain some semblance of peace. But of course it’s impossible to avoid disagreements. When I did go head-to-head with certain people, I realised it helped me understand them better and know which buttons of theirs not to push in future.

That being said, there are healthy fights and there are unhealthy ones. The former allow you to understand the other person’s point of view better, and you leave the conversation without a heavy feeling in your heart. Unhealthy fights are those that degrade to personal attacks or name-calling. The line between the two can get fuzzy though, especially since it’s common for emotions to run high during particularly heated arguments. So how do you ensure you fight clean?

yAsk yourself: “Why am I even arguing?”

If it’s just to make the other person see the “folly of their ways,” then you’re probably heading straight for a dead-end. Most people argue simply for the pleasure of their opponents admitting defeat; to prove to that they were “right all along.”  However, in most arguments, there really isn’t a right or wrong. There’re only differing opinions. When you view your argument as an exchange of ideas instead of a battle of who’s correct and who’s not, you’re less likely to degenerate to an ugly fracas.


Very often, even in normal conversations, we’re barely listening to what the other person is saying because we’re too busy formulating a response in our head. However, if you really take time to listen to what the other person is saying, you may pick up on things that they’re actually not saying. For example, if your mum is grumbling about how you’re always staying out late, it could be her way of telling you she feels neglected and would like you to spend more time with her.

Take a breather.

If you’ve been quarrelling with your boyfriend for hours and it’s going nowhere, there’s really no point trying to overturn the stalemate. Take 10 minutes to go for a short walk and clear your head. When you step away from the issue at hand, you’ll be able to see the situation more clearly from a macro perspective.

xAt the end of the day, however, there are some arguments not worth winning. Yes, you may have proven your case but was it at the expense of losing a treasured relationship?

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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