It seems almost too simplistic of a question to be asked, but when you think about it, does anybody really know why? We say it matters because it just does, as we are told to, but do we step back and understand why we should do it?
In the context of mental health awareness month, I wanted to write a piece that resonated with the people around me and a part of myself that I’m still trying to work on – the issue of self-love. We all speak about it in passing and recognise that we should do it, yet, a lot of the time we are unable to. It is universally known but also underestimated, a phrase we say to others but rarely to ourselves, which is strange when we agree it is a necessity. It is possibly one of the hardest to do, especially when there’s no set formula or correct way to practice it. Not only that, but it’s so difficult to come to terms with and isn’t solved overnight.
We forget that so much of this validation is not taught. We are never reminded that we should value and listen to ourselves, not in a narcissistic way, but in one that doesn’t judge us so harshly for who we are. Especially in the time we live in, we are relentlessly surrounded by comparison and contrast even if we try to escape from it. Everything seems to parallel a competition or a standard to meet, even if it is a lie. Furthermore, so many of the events that happen to us growing up can distort the way we see ourselves and make us assume that we are lacking in some way. As much as we dislike it, so many of our views are shaped by how people treat us, as we are brought up in a society that magnifies the importance of external affirmation. These factors combined together amass to a difficulty for us to accept and be kinder to ourselves when we feel undeserving of it.
Over time, the main method that helped me was gaining awareness and directly asking myself why these doubts existed. It allowed me to monitor the thoughts I was letting linger in my mind for extensive periods. Sometimes simply realising that you’re bombarding yourself with these criticisms, is a surprise as it is easy to forget that we are even contemplating these feelings so vividly in the first place. Working out why the specific emotions I felt existed whilst tracing them back to different memories made me conscious of the causes of my insecurities. It wasn’t an immediate solution, but it was a step towards acknowledging what I needed to hear when I was down. Now I try to remind myself that despite the days where I am spiralling, there are good moments that have existed before. It was about grasping those small pockets of happiness that were possible and would happen again. A setback doesn’t equate to a complete erasure of one’s progress. People continue to grow over time and the lessons they have learned up until that point will always remain intact regardless.
For me, it was about knowing that there was temperance in everything, with the good and especially the bad. Knowing that I had little control over the external circumstances and other people made me more reassured in that sense, as the one thing I did have power over was my own mindset alongside how I reacted. Self-love became important for me when I realised that despite what advice I was being given, I could only really believe it when I did myself, otherwise, it would never assimilate. I spent so many years believing that the people around me were supposed to solve my problems for good. However, I began to see that they could help but should not be wholly responsible for my self-image, as the attitudes that I held towards myself were more stable, long-term affirmations. Regardless of any criticism or comment that was supposed to hurt me, I could fall back on my own support and rely on my own truth.
Being able to differentiate the reality and fiction of the content in my head, allowed me to change my perception gradually. Having that new approach towards my thoughts made me able to manage them as I was the one that had authority. When they become too enmeshed, writing them down or voicing them out allows me to visualise that the negativity is external from my body, meaning I can physically examine what I’m dealing with. I think the daunting part is challenging something you can’t necessarily see, making it more difficult to understand. Once I removed it from my system and pieced the sources of my judgements together, they became easier to comprehend as I saw that so many of my internal criticisms were not evidenced by anything but mere assumptions.
As straightforward as it sounds, prioritising and looking after yourself allows you to see that you’re worthy of receiving what you want in your life. We often forget that it is central to our perspective, which influences how we view our own happiness. Slowly granting myself the right to gain back control over my thoughts and surroundings gave me newfound freedom towards what made me comfortable in my own skin. This allowed me to adopt healthier habits and gave me better clarity over what alongside who was good for me. Trusting yourself and that process is a lifelong journey, which is intimidating, but it does get easier to navigate once you begin to treat yourself with that deserved respect. Self-love is subject to interpretation and differs between all of us, as we know ourselves the best. In that sense, it’s about finding what works to access the support that we need to hear the most, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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