Self care is not just for white people. Mental health is not just a “white people” thing.
I grew up thinking that therapy was for white people, and that only “goras” have mental diagnoses or struggle with mental health.
This hurts our communities in multiple ways – for instance, not only does it discourage anyone who seeks help from doing so, but it also places value on pushing through feelings of pain, loneliness, helplessness, depression, and anxiety despite the consequences. We are teaching our own children that it is better to care what others think of you rather than to take the time to prioritize your own personal growth.
Therapy, personal growth, and self-help aren’t just for the “damned” or the “crazy,” or for white people.
We all know how important it is to eat right and work out on a daily, or at least frequent, basis. However, when it comes to this kind of preventative work for mental health, it is completely dismissed.
What if we thought of attending therapy, or reading self-help books, or participating whatever forms of self-care and rituals resonate with us, was more of a preventative measure to deal with anxiety and depression, rather than stigmatizing these activities and the people who participate in them?
Self-care is a human issue, and we cannot exclude ourselves from taking care of ourselves on a basic level. I know this because I have seen so many family members, both young and old, and South Asian peers of mine choose to suffer in silence, rather than risk anyone finding out that they have a mental disorder or are going through a difficult time. This silence is detrimental. This lack of support can drive people deeper into depression, or help them to turn to self-medicating, and at its absolute worst, can result in suicide.
When we speak out about the shame and when we are vulnerable about our struggles, we become free. However, for many of us South Asians, it can be incredibly daunting when you know that you will often be ridiculed or told to suck it up by your own family members. We may even find it easier to open up to friends or a stranger rather than our own flesh and blood, simply because of how our communities have been taught to deal with mental health issues.
Our community deserves better.
Another point to make here is that self-care isn’t all face masks and rose petal baths. Self care can look like setting boundaries, cutting off relationships and activities that don’t serve your Higher Self, and can even encompass a spiritual practice or ritual.
Taking care of ourselves can help us be better partners and friends and can even help us make healthier decisions that serve us wholly.
If you don’t practice setting boundaries with yourself (yes, you can make self-care a boundary in itself), it will only get more difficult to make others respect your boundaries. When others don’t respect your boundaries and space, you begin to feel resentful and even taken advantage of. When you feel resentful, it’s difficult to be grateful. It’s difficult to live in the present moment.
When we’re constantly dwelling on the past, or constantly anxious about the future, we forget to stay present in our relationships, in your work, and with yourself. This is when some of life’s best moments can pass us by. This is the feeling that we get when things are so good, and so pure, that we immediately jump to fear because we believe that it can’t last.
Imagine that everyone in our community took a little time for themselves, to nurture their needs, and to become a little more self-aware. Consider a world in which our parents, cousins, and all the Auntys we knew took a little time for self-love and personal growth, and a little less time for judgement. We would become a much more understanding and tolerant community. There would be fewer individuals exiled from our societies, and would be embraced, instead.
Our families would grow. Our love for one another would grow. Our love for ourselves and our community would grow.
Invest in self-care. It is a step in the right direction for all of us.
Let me know in the comments below – What will you do this week to commit to self-care?