Dr Perpetua Neo (DClinPsy, UCL; MPhil, Cambridge) sorts out these blocks quickly and deeply— the Big Three of busy minds, toxic relationships and panic attacks, that most ignore. People come to her frustrated by how motivational seminars, self-help and meditation aren’t working. Dr Neo supports them to heal deeply first, because a tree can only soar as high as its roots are deep. Blending neuroscience/psychology and ancient wisdom, her once-overworked and perfectionist clients are charmed by how they start to love and respect themselves. So they not only look like they have it all, they feel and know that they have it all. Dr Neo’s also been spotlighted as an international expert on Forbes, Business Insider and ELLE, amongst others. She writes for The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen and Thrive Global. Her work has been translated into 21 languages.
What do I do best?
I’m great at making life beautiful. And I don’t mean simply painting things over with concealer.
What I mean is by helping people to find real joy and peace, and perform phenomenally. By detoxing everything in their life that’s expired— after all, we throw away spoilt milk, why not exorcise the stories that no longer serve us? I do this by simplifying ideas and making them come alive, because I love wordplay. And by helping people to understand themselves better, so they can master their mind, energy and biography.
When we can do that, we become whole, authentic versions of ourselves who have a deep love for who we are, embodying the dictum “Accept what you can’t change, change what you can’t accept”. We own our stories, and shine as our most incandescent selves, leveraging the unique ways we are wired rather than shoehorning ourselves into an expectation.
And, as someone who loves beautiful things, I always encourage my clients who are so inclined to invest guilt-free in beauty. If this brings you joy, then it is the simplest way you can build self-love into your life. It’s what I call #BeautyCapital.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Much as I revel in the decadent sensualities of life, I find true solace in reflexivity.
It’s daring to peer into your soul, heart and mind— gifts, warts and everything in-between— and facing who you are, rather than deluding yourself.
I often joke that the apple in the Garden of Eden bit me, not the other way round. Being existential from childhood can lead one down the dark rabbit hole of nihilism. Or catastrophising, and trying to control every outcome. I thought that was reflexivity. What I learned much later was to consciously imbue meaning into my life and make conscious choices to live my best life courageously. And hopefully inspire a soul or two along the way.
Reflexivity is now the conscious space where I get to do pre-and post-mortems of different chapters, not merely from an intellectual place. Committing to it has paradoxically made me time-rich and grounded. It’s also a space where I’ve learned to acknowledge my gifts, rather than downplay them— that’s been a vital lesson in learning to receive. It’s where I nourish myself, drawing from my favourite philosophical treatises.
When I work with my clients, I feel proud of how I’m no longer the person who draws from a few theories and cowers behind a bunch of qualifications— instead, I know in every cell, neurone and heartbeat that I walk my talk.
What are my aspirations?
BUSINESS: I’d love to impact and transform billions of lives via my work. That people know they can lead beautiful lives by mastering who they are— their energy, voice and biographies— while sleeping like a cat AND performing phenomenally, and to support women in previous or current toxic relationships to rise from their pasts. We often justify that our suffering isn’t worth thinking about, but if these haunt us in our darkest moments, then they own us. There are many metaphorical crosses we don’t have to carry— instead, we can put them down and burn them. In the next five years, I’d love to have the resources to set up a Foundation for women who’ve been abused, named for my late Aunt.
PERSONAL: I remember a Positive Psychology undergraduate class where the Head of Psychology asked us to share what makes our day successful. Whilst most people spoke about hanging out with friends and doing well in their work, I said “Being able to sleep peacefully at night”. She looked at me and said “That’s all?”. And then my friend told me “She must be thinking you are an unambitious person”. To me, being able to conk off to Sandman’s Turf with peace in my heart, and to wake up looking forward my day, is the true marker of success. I want to always be able to have that.
My Biggest Success?
The moment I realised I was being abused by my ex-partner, I was fraught with shame. And yet I blamed myself for triggering him.
The abyss starred at me— suicidality, fear, trauma— and eventually I chose to rise. Then I realised I’d been sleeping with a psychopath. And a very sophisticated one who later mocked me,“No one will believe you. I work for charity. I am spiritual”.
“You are at medium risk of homicide or significant harm”, the police woman at the domestic violence charity told me squarely. My blood went cold. I didn’t want to die that way by his hands. Weeks later, he shoved me twice in the belly. I packed my life up in 8 hours and left. Ten days after was the last time I ever responded to him. For starters, I am beyond proud of that.
But I was fearful. This man was physically large. He had shady connections. The police were nasty to me. What was I going to do about my immigration status? I felt displaced.
The road ahead was clear. I could either hide or rise.
I’d witness first-hand how he stalked people. But once upon a time, I was a private investigator. So I know that if someone wants to find you, they will.
I was filled with a sense of injustice. So I decided to be the champion that my younger self never had.
Being an Asian female, psychologist, and Singaporean, I wasn’t supposed to ‘wash my dirty linen in public’. But it was dirty as long as it was tainted with shame. I didn’t deserve to feel that. Nor did other women in my shoes.
So I told people the truth, instead of pretending I was ill. “I can’t do our meeting because I ran away from my ex-partner who got violent”. People understood. They offered love, support and resources. The few who were nasty or blamed me, I cut them off.
I committed to healing myself— to get to the root of why I was attracted to him, and to starve my demons of their food supply. I told my story, women started calling me up, recognising they’d been abused. Then Detox Your Heart was born, where I help women heal and emerge.
I used to lament how he chipped away at my happy, 20-year old self. But truth be told, she had her own insecurities and didn’t know she could have boundaries with people she cared for. And in honouring myself did I find her again, albeit a version of her who truly loves herself.
A year on, I sat at a Milanese café and this Antoine de Saint Exupery quote leapt out,“Perhaps love is the process of my gently leading you back to yourself”.
I realised, in loving a demon, did I learn to love myself. I found forgiveness for my flaws, both perceived and real. And unexpectedly, I found that I do not feel a thing for him anymore. Not even anger or hatred. I am free.
People remark to my friends, “She was with that crazy man for that long, how come she’s still in one piece?”
That is what I’m proudest of. Owning my story.
My Most Challenging Moment?
My cat Keira was dying.
A little history: amongst my biggest regrets are not being able to say goodbye to my grandparents before they died. I didn’t want to repeat that with my cat. But I asked myself. Was I being impulsive? Crazy? Dramatic? Preposterous? Could I really justify the 13-hour flight home to say goodbye?
A close friend who knew offered her support and wisdom. And my heart, mind and gut converged on a Yes. So I bought my air ticket and packed a suitcase.
Keira and I would Skype, and when someone put the phone to her ear, she’d start to purr, pupils dilated and her tail would wag. In the airport, my mother told me her tail couldn’t move anymore. I knew I had made the right decision to go home. I simply prayed with every fibre of my being she’d wait for me. And I called up every spiritual worker I knew to set up altars and petitions.
She let out a soft cry as I hugged her. There was a tear in the corner of her eye. My heart ached.
That night, we held a ceremony with a Body Talk specialist. By serendipity, the woman who had taken care of her in the SPCA where I’d adopted her from, showed up. My brother dialled in from the army. It was a beautiful goodbye.
She died later that morning, with her tongue slightly sticking out, the way she’d normally do when she was happy.
The thing about death is that it isn’t really about the ones who depart our plane of existence. It is really about us.
And I am forever grateful for those twelve hours with her.
For those years she spent in our lives. For every memory. Every worry. Every laughter. Everything.
As I perfumed her body with essential oils, and we buried her hours later, I thanked her.
Making that decision to go home affirmed in me the value of trusting my gut. Of showing up for those I care about, no matter how my Type A brain tries to “just be rational and unfeeling”. And ultimately, of gratitude.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” - Albert Einstein
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Leonardo da Vinci- a Renaissance man who integrated art and science. His art was so cryptic— making your brain contort with questions and yet in awe of the beauty of his sfumato technique. His mathematical precision, especially in the way he drew in the Codex Atlanticus, appeals alot to my somewhat-“OCD” nature. Leonardo was also steeped in spiritual practices— legend has it that he was spotted carrying a deck of the Sforza-Visconti tarot cards. In a world where rationality can be over-dominant, it’s always good to draw on his experiences and wisdom.
The Qing Dynasty Emperor KangXi. Under his wise leadership, China flourished. He dedicated his time and energy to ruling in the best interests of the people, modernising the empire. His poetry was beautiful. What I admire most, though, was how he managed to quash the manipulative faction leaders in his imperial court as a young teenager, in order to consolidate his power as Emperor. For me, he embodies Niccolo Machiavelli’s “Wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove” maxim.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
• A bookstore with a great selection of books— my #nerdvana. I love old bookstores that carry first editions, heady with that glorious Eau de Ancient Books, as much as hanging out in Kinokuniya in Singapore to stock up on Asian literature.
• Milano— the intersection of business, fashion and art. And speed. People stand up and have their caffé straight And everything feels so stylish there. I have fond memories of orchestrating my own Michelin tour of Milano.
• Manhattan. I love the speed, cosmopolitan nature and straight-talking there.
• Mayang Sari resort in Bintan, Indonesia. I have fond memories of sitting in the gorgeous villas, listening to the waves lap against the shore, illuminated by the moon.
• Anywhere that does a wonderful afternoon tea. I am a sucker for three-tier British-style afternoon teas, something my mother treated me to as a child. These days, I commit to them monthly. My favourite ones are The Ritz (London), The Salt Room (Brighton) for a seafood twist, and Indocafe (Singapore) for Peranakan fusion.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
• My MacBook Air & iPhone SE. They are tiny, powerful and make organising my life seamless. They’ve connected me with the whole world, important as an entrepreneur and as someone who’s emigrated from her home country. They contain an entire library of books in my Kindle app. And they’re where I pen my reflections. I’m a bit of a tech junkie— I started using computers when I was 2 years old, back in 1988!
• An exquisite pot of tea- A vintage cooked pu-erh, rose pouchong, or osmanthus with snow chrysanthemum.
• Doterra essential oils: ELEVATE blend, Frankincense and Clove. It contains tangerine, osmanthus, Hawaiian sandalwood and ylangylang— traditionally used in religious offerings across ancient cultures. I love how it helps us connect with our inner wisdom and divine nature. Frankincense smells divine, and I love how it amplifies our intentions. Cloves are spicy and lush, great for helping us establish healthy boundaries.
• My eyelash curler, a pencil dress and my Dolce & Gabbana red pumps. Beautiful lush, curly eyelashes are de rigeur; a pencil dress flatters my body type; and I’ve pounded down many a street with that pair of 5-inch heels.
My Current Passions?
• Almond croissants
• Old jazz vinyl
• Business collaborations with aligned souls
• New explorations pencilled in for 2018: Snake charming and more food pilgrimages!