Being the first girl in the family to have had moved out of home, not married despite being in the late 20s, pursuing my passions, and ‘being myself’ has come with a price. The process involved experiencing blame, guilt, shame, and isolation. But guess what? - it is absolutely worth it.
Starting with dealing with my own self-doubt, low self-worth, hormones, there were a lot of add-ons in the form of blames, calling names - that the family, relatives, and society brought. It was not easy to ignore or even manage. However, the phase passed and it came with so many learnings and revelations about myself. The biggest learning was that I beat my own and others’ fears completely. I was much better than I thought I was. I developed tacts to handle situations I had not experienced before. I was clearly beginning to see my personality now. It was hazy earlier as it was layered with societal and gender norms, stereotypes, biases, myths, confusion, and the need to please others.
I rose above that and accepted that I am capable. I started loving and appreciating myself a lot more. Of course this did not come easy! It took a toll on my mental well being and I also developed some self-care habits that helped me come a long way. I would like to share some of those with you.
The first and the most important self-care habit I developed is to exercise regularly. Not only did it keep me healthy and fit, it also kept my stress away. I was energised through the day, gained more confidence and felt good about my body.
Mirror mirror! I do a mirror exercise everytime I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t feel happy with how I am feeling. I know that I need a conversation with the most important person in my life - me. I look at myself in the eyes and have a powerful and honest conversation like it was really a second person. This may sound crazy but I have some of the best conversations like this. This helped me pull myself up.
Blaming helps none. Working on gender issues made it slightly difficult to engage in everyday conversations with men and women, without getting into an argument or being edgy. However, the learning here was to understand that blaming anyone is of no help. However, what helped was trying to understand their world and environment and see if there is any impact I could make through dialogue or action.
Sharing and listening: I was conditioned to not share how I feel and express freely. However, I have started expressing myself openly with friends, family, and other forums. I have come to terms that my voice and opinions need to be heard, even if they might be wrong, just for the sake of exercising my basic right. There is no need to suppress that.
“I can be wrong”. Learning this got me freedom and also power. I am not as scared about being wrong or compulsive about saying the correct thing at all times. I acknowledge that I may be wrong and I am open to learning. Yay!!
“Sometimes the problem is me”. I realise that nothing is/can be wrong with the world at all times. A little self reflection and I know that I need to change the way I am looking at something to be able to deal with it effectively. Sometimes, I am aware that I have built unsettling stories in my own head about how things are and what people said. Catching myself do this helps me drop the negative thoughts instantly.
Nature and animals: The best breaks, reflection, and insights I have got are from being in the nature. It instantly kills the human narcissism, and problems and conflicts I deal with everyday. I make it a point to take one big break in the year - usually to the mountains. Being up in the mountains, all the conflicts, confusions, and chaos disappear. Because there is no space for it. Nature is so magnificent that it instantly makes you and your problems seem small. More often than not, it also gives you solutions in its own ways.
Art/me time: I also indulge in my “Me time”. Listening to Jack Johnson when I am feeling calm, SOAD when I need inspiration and need to kick ass, and Porcupine tree when I want to wander. I thoroughly enjoy painting - although I am no artist. I choose the colors first and everything else follows. Making strokes with the brushes is therapeutic and even meditative for me. I’d say - Invest in your ‘me time’.