Why (and how) I Set Clear Boundaries With My Child

I have been working on self-awareness to resolve the key issues plaguing my life.

While I succeeded to some extent in getting an insight into their root causes and triggers, there is something that has been undermining all my efforts.

After much struggle and facing constant failures, I taught myself the art of being a peaceful parent.

I was confident that I had already won half the battle.

I was sure that the road ahead of my parenting journey would be rather smooth that I had conquered (or rather well understood) my biggest enemy, my anger.

Little did I know that all this while I had been ignoring a major fault in my personality.

One that held the power of undoing all the good my new-found wisdom brought my way.

The flaw of not setting clear boundaries.

The lack of certainty in my actions.

The blurred, unclear boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour I set for my child, soon started nibbling on my new found peace.

Amongst the many strategies I’d adopted, my success (in being a peaceful parent) rested on two major conditions being fulfilled.

Bestowing positive attention to my child

and

Making room for self-care.

I noticed that in my quest to make more room for quality time to bond with my child, I had gone overboard.

I did not notice it right away.

The extra time I was spending with Pari soon started stepping on the time I had set for myself.

While I was mindful of this encroachment in the start, the doting mother in me chose the wishes of her daughter over her well-being.

Gradually as this became a routine, I found myself returning to the bad old days of yelling and feeling agitated over trifle issues.

This time around I was conscious enough to notice it right away.

On reflection, I discovered the one powerful emotion that is ALWAYS responsible for the devil take over me.

Feeling powerless.

I felt powerless when my child wouldn’t let me complete my assignments because she wanted me to play with her a little longer.

I felt powerless when I couldn’t control my child’s behaviour.

I felt powerless when despite planning well, I couldn’t get my child to sleep on time before an important event.

I felt powerless when I just couldn’t get my kid get ready for school on time despite an early start.

I would have been better equipped to control these negative thoughts had I not been feeling weak on the inside.

This weakness came from having skewed my self-care routine.

I was working late into the night to accommodate my kid’s request for an extra story.

I was sacrificing my exercise time to cook elaborate breakfasts on school mornings.

I missed out on an important work assignment because of spending an extra hour at the playground, just because my kid refused to get back home until dark.

I was sacrificing my diet plan by obliging to let my kid have an extra serve of the dessert only to end up having to eat it myself.

In hindsight, these situations look pretty manageable.

But on the day, for an exhausted mom, these occasions were enough to make her feel powerless, weak and an incompetent parent.

And that was how I realised I still had a lot more work to do before I can begin to feel I have this parenting thing sorted (somewhat).

While I was clearly saying NO, I was diluting its impact with repeated requests, orders and sometimes threats that I did not follow through.

I was failing at making up my mind as to what mattered most to me. Giving into my child’s momentary requests or allowing her momentary grief to go on with life as per plan.

I was failing at setting clear boundaries.

I was an emotional mess.

I would hurt when my child threw a tantrum when her requests weren’t granted and when I did succumb to her pleadings, I would end up kicking myself for the chaos my daily schedule ended up being.

The worst came to fore when I let self-care take a back seat.

I was letting my personal needs to be pushed to an unseen tomorrow and as a result, it was having a devastating effect on how I was treating my child in our regular interactions.

It was in this hour of crisis, I came across this quote;

How do you set limits as a parent when you've got sour faces to look at? Setting Limits with kids can be really difficult. Read on to learn why it is setting and establishing boundaries for children so vital and learn how I'm creating healthy boundaries for my family. #theerailivedin #selfcare #momlife #parents #kids #children #positiveparenting #singlemom #toddlers #toddlers #settinglimits

This provided me with ample food for thought.

By ignoring myself I was teaching my child to not learn to respect the needs of others. I was modelling a behaviour where putting ourselves after the people we love was a norm.

This message was all over in my attempts to prioritize my child’s needs and desires over my own.

This was my wake up call.

The people pleaser in me, the part of me that sought validation in gifting joy to others was shaken.

I was brought to the point where I had to consciously decide what I wanted to see happen in my life and my home.

I had to make my child aware of my needs, be confident in enforcing the limits and stick to them no matter how much I wanted to act otherwise.

But life doesn’t unfold like a scripted play.

No matter how much research you invest in making your relationships work, it always boils down to customising your approach if you wish to see any success.

My case was no different.

All the parenting books and articles that I have been reading say two prominent things.

Discipline without bruising your child (or their heart).

Parents need to show their children (through their words and actions) that they’re the boss.

How in the world, could one implement these two together?

I had to learn to find the middle ground.

I was not ready to fight another war with my kid. The very thought of possible power struggles, arguments, emotional meltdowns and yelling loosened my grip on the resolve to set clearer boundaries.

At this point, I wish to share, that I found this bit hard to work around because I have never been allowed to (or rather shown how to) assert myself or to put my foot down in my growing years.

Simply because ‘good girls’ don’t do that.

As skewed is this mindset, so is the conditioning ingrained in my very being.

However, this was my chance to turn things around.

For myself and my daughter.

It was the golden opportunity I couldn’t let go because on it rested the emotional well-being of us girls and our relationships.

This is why I choose to take it one step at a time.

After all, growing a back of steel can’t be a one-day act, isn’t it?

When I pictured setting healthy boundaries, I visualised the time when Pari was a few months old. Every time I would have to run errands or step away from her, I’d create a barricade of pillows and cushions that kept my daughter safe, playful and me without the worry of constantly supervising her or interrupting her with repeated “No(s)”.

I had to do just that.

My initial steps at putting my foot down were met with extreme resistance (as expected) by my daughter. In those times, often an undue argument would ensue and I’d be drawn in to either engage in a power struggle that ended in my getting angry or me choosing to succumb to my daughter’s wishes and wants.

It took me a long time to figure out that being the boss didn’t necessarily mean that I had to overpower my child.

The desire to overpower triggers yelling, threatening or bribing which take us two steps backwards in the quest to set healthy boundaries.

Intimidation is seeking favourable outcomes out of fear. We’re losing respect in the bargain. And if you look closely, threatening is a form of bullying.

Then what works?

Be you.

The person you are, in your honest, assertive form who is eager to connect with the child but is determined to play the leader.

It actually works because you’re harnessing the powers of your authentic self. This approach gifts encouraging results with us (the parents) sticking to our words and enforcing the set rules with confidence.

No bargaining, threats or bribing along the way is allowed.

When I first started setting boundaries, I’d tell Pari to do something (for example to put her toys back in their place) and she’d push back.  It took me immense will-power to not meet her head-to-head.

It was my responsibility to make this work. That’s why I’d deploy the one trick that works well with my willful child.

Options.

I’d give her options that she could pick what she wanted to first. Put her clothes in the laundry basket or rearrange the toys. Though it meant that eventually, she’d be doing all I’d asked her initially.

Pari was relieved to see that she could exercise some control and had the power to choose.

This worked for sometime before Pari understood how this works. This was the cue for me to shift gears. I added competition to the mix.

I’d challenge her to do a task at hand faster than I did the task I had scheduled for the day. No rewards were needed. The prize would be the task done and the pride that came with winning a challenge.

Though there were times when Pari wouldn’t agree to do as told.

Earlier, after telling her a few times, I’d eventually get the work done in a huff. What I realised later on was, this was having a deleterious impact on my child. I was teaching her to be slow deliberately so that the work got done by someone else.

That’s when I started leaving the work undone. If Pari cared enough for the task, she’d have to do it herself.

This was very difficult for the cleanliness freak in me and rather convenient for my kid. That’s why I created a backup plan. I started using consequences for the actions delayed beyond a certain time.

No enforcement, no threatening, no pressure. Only direct consequences.

No tidying up the room meant no TV time that day.

No homework meant no going out to play.

There was whining, sobbing and lashing out in anger in the start.

It took me a while to see that It wasn’t an ask to fix every problem for my child. At times, it was best to let them figure it out for themselves.

All that’s needed is to accept, acknowledge, and let the feelings be.

The one thing that has helped me cross the bridge between feeling powerless when my kid threw a tantrum and confidently putting my foot down is that on all these occasions I set limits in clear words.

When I can’t oblige by reading another bedtime story to her, I calmly say “You want me to read another story, I hear that. But for now, mom has to complete her assignment.”

It didn’t come naturally to me.

I faltered by sounding unsure if I really wanted to break my darling’s heart only to regret doing so, later.

While there might be many tactics that I employ, the one thing that has stayed common in them all, that bear results was to,

Define boundaries with certainty.

The calm confidence with which you give clear instructions actually sets the tone of favourable outcomes.

Where does the confidence come from?

Practice my dear parent.

When you define boundaries on a daily basis, your child learns to respect them because the certainty these limits gift makes them feel secure.

While being the boss is important, it’s vital that you follow through when executing the consequences.

I’ve seen my daughter thrive on positive outcomes. The ones when she’s made to feel like an important part of the workforce helping the smooth running of our household.

In due course, simple, predictable days offer more dependable break times because children are more likely to go with the flow when they know the routine.

We, the parents, especially moms need that time each day to recharge our emotional batteries and, if nothing else, think our own thoughts.

Self-care is essentially getting these rejuvenating breaks.

What’s the bottom line?

Parenting is an exhausting, overwhelming responsibility. But it needn’t feel that way if we mindfully set healthy boundaries for the well-being of the family.

Go ahead, love your children. Care for them well.

But, in the process, don’t forget to love and take care of yourself a little too.

Am not yet fully sorted, but am working on simplifying life, setting one boundary at a time.

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The song on my mind: Zindagi ki yehi reet hai ~ Mr India

Why (and how) I Stopped Taking Things Personally

Every now and then, I make myself jot down a list of things that have been stressing me out.

The items on the list keep changing and so does the length of the list.

Though there’s one thing that remains constant. My inability to get these stressors under control.

Wait, a minute, let me tell you what I actually mean.

I am aware that no matter how hard we try to solve problems or try to distract ourselves, there will always be reasons to worry about.

Even the relationships we are part of, owing to their dynamic nature, constantly bring new causes of worry. We cannot do much about the factors that are beyond us.

However, we can certainly do something about the things that are under our control.

Our mind, our thoughts, our mindset, our beliefs and also our attitude towards life in general.

You must be wondering that if I already know how to tackle the problems in my life, why haven’t I addressed all the issues that keep bothering me?

The answer is,

I have been too scared to say it aloud to myself that I need to change.

I understand what needs to be done to make a shift to a rather stress-free area in my life, but I’m afraid of actively working on it.

I fear, I’d disturb the peaceful order of the family.

I dread upsetting the people I sincerely care for.

The excuses are endless, but so are the nights I’ve spent worrying.

Let me share a few examples.

After my divorce, when I had been struggling to get back to a normal life, I was discouraged from joining a full-time job with these words;

“Being a woman who is now solely responsible for the upbringing of a child, you better stay at home and care for the home and the baby.”

Every time I stand up for myself and my rights, people attempt to shut me up with;

“You’re a fast, feminist woman who wouldn’t accept male authority. No wonder your husband divorced you.”

The list of such incidents is endless and so are the harps that are shot at me to bruise my soul.

The pain, the hurt and the pinch of the constant remarks made on my marital status or single parenthood or my current financial situation or worse because of my gender (a woman) were costing me time, sanity and money.

I’d get so upset with the comments that if it was in a business setting, I’d avoid taking up any projects with the said party in the future.

If it was a neighbour, I’d limit our interaction to a formal greeting in the future.

When it came from the family, I’d stay disturbed and angry and would try my best to limit interactions by keeping myself occupied all the time.

The downside of this was, I was perpetually barring myself from human interaction because I was constantly living in the fear of a personal attack.

I would avoid feedback for the fear of a rejection or a negative remark.

Every time I confide in a friend or a family member, I receive the same advice.

“Stop taking things personally.”

Sometimes the phrases varied, but they all meant the same.

“Don’t take life too seriously.”

“You need to harden up”

“Learn to be resilient”

And it just doesn’t stop at that.

What follows is also rather predictable, irrespective of the problem and who I’m seeking advice from.

“It’s not about you, it’s about them. You need to have thick skin in life. You can’t control what other people think or say. What others think of you is none of your business.”

That’s all well and good, but it still hurts.

And most importantly, how can I stop feeling bad when someone says hurtful things to me? How can I make it happen?

This nagging thought made me work relentlessly to find answers to the questions that have been troubling me.

I wanted a way out.

Do you take things personally? I always have. When I stopped taking things personally, I took a leap in personal growth. I stopped blaming other people for my unhappiness, built a life on self-awareness that's HAPPY, peaceful & mindful. Read the full article to learn the steps to be in full control of your life & the goodness this approach brings. #theerailivedin #personalgrowth #mindfulness #beyou #happy #selfcare

The initial steps:

One day, when I had finally had enough, I decided to work around the one advice I’d grown tired of, “Stop taking things personally.”

In my journal, I deconstructed the problems, the remarks and the situations that had hurt me the most.

When I re-read all I had written, I made some interesting observations.

I was failing to see anything beyond my criticism long after the conversation had ended.

I was letting other people hurt me with their words, without having the courage to speak up for myself. This was despite the fact that I knew what I was being told wasn’t the complete picture.

I was letting people trespass in my personal life and question the choices I’d made.

I had been reacting too fast, without taking a moment to use logic, analyse people’s words and act accordingly.

These observations led me to conclude that, maybe:

I had come to believe people’s version of my truth and there was nothing I could do about it.

I was clearly overanalyzing situations and replaying conversations in my mind. This had to stop.

I was lacking in self-confidence. I lacked the conviction that the decisions I’d taken stood on sound analysis.

I was failing at setting clear boundaries. I wasn’t giving a clear message as to when the people needed to stop trespassing in my personal territory.

I needed to stop reacting without giving myself enough time to see why I was letting the hurt, the slight get the better of me.

I was clearly a people pleaser who was draining a huge chunk of her energy seeking validation in other people’s approval of herself.

This was the moment when another realization struck me.

Being a single mom, I have had an immense influence on my child. While all parents are their children’s role models, I have this double responsibility of making sure I model the behaviour I wish to see to see my child emulate.

This is a daunting realization. Though it wasn’t the very first time I had felt that way. This understanding has given me the needed nudge from time to time to make massive shifts in my attitude, mindset and habits.

On a handful of occasions, I had noticed Pari come back from school, angry, upset and in tears when she’d had an argument or a fight with a classmate.

I have been empathetic and patient with my child as we openly talk about what she could do in such situations. However, I couldn’t help but note how I’d been advising my child to not worry about what other people said or thought about her, I wasn’t doing the same myself.

This was why I could feel the pressure build up in me to go ahead and plan a strategy that would help me check myself in the tracks of letting other people have power over my emotional well-being and my life in general.

What could I do to change my mindset?

The first step was taking a step back and to acknowledge the sources of my hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration and unhappiness.

I had to take up the responsibility of my moods, my actions, reactions, perceptions and interpretations.

Ultimately, I had to aim at defining clear boundaries for everyone a part of my life and also for those whom I had brief interactions with to not let anything they said or did affect my well-being.

All of it hinted at one thing.

I had to train myself in self-confidence.

I had to learn to trust my own instincts, to stand by my choices.

I needed to work on my beliefs and have an acceptance of the life I lived, while mindfully letting go of all the thoughts, beliefs and emotions that were nibbling at my soul.

I needed to be at peace with myself, my life choices and my life to be able to stand up for myself and not be discouraged by people’s perceptions.

I had to stop blaming others for my unhappiness.

It was a lot of work to do, but I was clear that there was no way around it.

I had to find the answers to the questions that were feeding my self-doubt.

I had to stop making assumptions and start asking more questions to get a better understanding of what drove a person to say what he/she did.

Though I started right away, I was rather generous in allowing myself as long as it takes to seek the answers I was searching for.

Over time I understood that when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

The real challenge was getting to that point.

Identifying the triggers:

I had to work on the triggers by first identifying the emotional causes that were giving me grief:

  1. Deep down, I agreed with the critique.
  2. I perceived myself being treated unfairly in the situation and wished people would stop doing whatever it was. But it was merely wishful thinking.
  3. I often felt excluded. I was constantly blaming the rejections and failures on my not being good enough.
  4. I had unrealistic expectations. This was the bitter pill that I ultimately had to swallow.
  5. People’s reactions made me experience an emotional flashback. I’d connect a hurtful memory of the past to the current situation allowing it to blow up without logical thinking.

Seeking answers within: 

Once I had my triggers jotted down in my journal, I began working on channelizing my energy and all the positivity I could find, inwards.

One step at a time, I talked myself through all the painful memories to assess them open-mindedly. The more I delved, I realised that the clearer I got about my choices and be accountable for their consequences, the better I felt on the inside.

The happier and clearer I got on my inside, I found the cynic in me make room for a calmer, content person in me.

The newfound peace started reflecting on my relationships and interactions.

I now had answers to the questions my conscience had been asking me.

This state of self-awareness slowly boosted my self-confidence.

I no longer needed to rely on other people’s view of me to validate my feelings and neither did I had to believe what they said to/ about me.

So what should I do when someone said unpleasant things about me or anything part of my life?

At first, I tried apathy.

To not care or give a damn about what other people talked or thought about me.

But it didn’t work.

I could not go on in life, without feeling anything. It was not possible.

Trying to change everybody around me wasn’t plausible either. Besides, even remotely attempting to do so implied that I didn’t like them as they were.

After much hit and trial, I learnt what worked best for me.

I chose to respond from a place of self-awareness.

Mindfulness helped me get there. It helped me to consider the possibility that whatever has happened might not be personal.

My answer to people’s hate, criticism or critique has been to respond in a way that I could clear the air.

I needed to communicate without a need to be right but also without a need to please the recipient of my message.

Saying things as they were, not letting the hurt from past experiences cloud my mind, has had amazing results for me.

There’s a reason why they say, “haters are gonna hate.”

No matter what you do, how you do it, there will always be people who’re not going to like it.

Overthinking things, latching our ego onto comments, situations, people’s reactions, glances and more is a surefire way of letting go of our happiness and peace of mind.

It pays to remember that no one, not even our parents, our children, our significant other, our best friend, the universe and everyone-in-between owes us anything.

Instead of focussing our energy and time on their actions we must direct it inwards, to our conscience that is ALWAYS striving towards our well-being.

It calls for taking back the reigns of power. From others to ourselves.

It is vital to think logically and understand that negative feedback (in any scenario) does not necessarily mean the person doesn’t like you, doesn’t care for your beliefs or doesn’t respect your capabilities. This helps shift the focus from rejection to what can be done to attain a positive outcome.

What if the negativity persists?

Yup, it happens.

And it will repeat itself till you build up a mechanism, a personal one to tackle it.

Here’s what I do.

I have it written in my journal that,

I am not my thoughts.

I am not my opinion.

I am not my reputation.

I am not what people perceive me to be.

How does this work?

Visiting this gives me a split-second break in my train of thoughts. Often the one I need to return to my state of self-awareness.

There have been times when I have laughed out loud.

Yes, I did just that, to break free from my reverie. And no matter how crazy that sounds, it ACTUALLY works.

What good did stopping to take things personally do?

Do you take things personally? I always have. When I stopped taking things personally, I took a leap in personal growth. I stopped blaming other people for my unhappiness, built a life on self-awareness that's HAPPY, peaceful & mindful. Read the full article to learn the steps to be in full control of your life & the goodness this approach brings. #theerailivedin #personalgrowth #mindfulness #beyou #happy #selfcare #quotes #positivequotes #inspiration #quotestoliveby

When something external is capable of disturbing you and triggers an unpleasant emotion, it is highly likely that we have some important work yet to do internally.

This applies to the habit of getting angry quickly and also to being hypersensitive towards people and life in general.

From the time I started focussing all my energy on strengthening my core, leading a more self-aware life, I noticed that I had reclaimed happiness in a new way.

Now I was solely responsible for all of my feelings and I felt I was in better control of my emotions. With this new mindset, I knew that I had nothing to do with how the world perceived me.

I could feel a burden lift off my shoulders. I was no longer struggling to skim through the people I interacted with because I was now comfortable in my own skin.

I became more open to social interactions.

I learnt to take feedback on my work in a positive light.

And the biggest gamechanger was how this new mindset impacted the relationships in my life.

I had freed everyone part of my life from the burden of the responsibility to treat me right (the way I’d not feel attacked).

My child could act childlike without me feeling her feisty, defiance was a threat to my authority. My friends could openly discuss their married lives with me without making me feel out-of-place. I no longer dreaded questions about my marital status. I could freely seek advice on my personal matters.

Choosing to not dwell in the past, even if it was just a minute ago needs a mindset shift.

It allows us more room to LIVE NOW, to easily let go of our bad days and shoos our unpleasant encounters off.  It opens up ways of embracing positive opportunities and connections.

Consciously learn to stop taking anything personally, so you can go ahead, give yourself the permission to discover, embrace and step into who you are and whom you want to be.

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The Song On My Mind: Ae zindagi, gale laga le ~ Sadma

Why Self-Care Doesn’t Come Naturally To Me (and probably to you too)

Writing about self-care is as difficult to me as has been embracing it in my life. The reason being, what should come naturally to all living beings, the act(s) of self-preservation that is, wasn’t introduced in my life until recently.

Let me begin by dispelling a myth that’s pretty rampant in my part of the world.

MYTH: Self-Care = Self-Pampering

The concept that self-pampering, indulgences, expensive vacations, shopping sprees make up self-care is both harmful and misleading for two important reasons;

Firstly, a person who spends on shopping, indulging in a luxurious lifestyle isn’t necessarily in love with themselves.

Secondly, true love is totally free. It can’t be bought.

Loving ourselves looks like sleeping in an extra hour whenever you get an opportunity. Making time for regular exercise to keep our body and mind healthy.

Spending time eating healthy, making time to do things we love, pursue our hobbies and everything that makes us feel loved and cared for.

Self-care is the basic act of tending to the basic needs of our living selves.

“Self-care is not self-indulgence or self-pampering, but choosing behaviours that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors like exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or meditation or pursuing creative outlets” – Dr. Christine Meinecke

My first introduction to self-care!

My first introduction to self-care came from my boss at my first job overseas. As ironic as it may sound, but she was the one who showed me that the constant anxiety I had been experiencing had been because of a lack of a self-care routine.

Read my full story on the blog! Self-care is an act of finding our true selves in a world that doesn't treat women as equal human beings. It's an act of political warfare. This is my journey of discovering why self-care has been elusive in my life.

My boss, who at that time had daughters of my age, and was particularly fond of me, once during a staff going away party, casually questioned me about my routine. Without giving it much thought, I blurted out my schedule that incorporated mainly of work, cooking and the long commute with occasional outings in the evening with my ex-husband.

“What about the weekends?” 

“Nothing much, just grocery shopping, occasionally entertaining guests, catching up on missed TV shows, some Internet time, occasional movies and prepping for food to get a headstart for the cooking through the week.”

All this while, what sounded like a small-talk, soon shifted gears to become the talk that gifted me food for thought that changed my life forever.

After a pause of around 15 minutes when she was interrupted by the formalities of the event, when I thought that our conversation was over, she got back to me.

What she said then left me confused but makes perfect sense to me today.

She said, “Era, you need to make time to do things you really enjoy. Make time for yourself, else this hectic schedule at the hospital will not let you go on at the same pace for long.”

I must have looked amused by her advise because she left me with a gentle, “think about it.

I tried to make sense of her words on my train ride back home that evening. Nothing seemed to make sense. I guessed, maybe it was the cultural differences in our background that led to the divide in our thinking process. I came as close to co-relating indulging at the spa, window shopping or going for a girl’s night out (that was pretty common with the staff at my workplace, but something I often shied away from) was what she hinted at.

Self-care is an act of finding our true selves in a world that don't treat women as equal human beings. It's an act of political warfare.

At that point, to find a concrete answer, I did something I habitually do while seeking answers. To take cues from my childhood. My parent’s life has been the yardstick for seeking answers, all my life, until recently.

During that train ride and in the hours that followed, I remember recollecting how my mother had led by example a life of putting everyone (dear to her) ahead of her.

I have always drawn parallels between my life and my behaviour with what I have grown up seeing in my mother, grandmother and other women in my family.

Not only in her role as a mother but as the woman in the family, the one role I saw her playing every minute of her existence was that of the nurturer. The self-sacrificing, forever giving, a tireless caregiver who’d emotionally and physically invest her time, resources and energy to care for everyone’s needs.

While doing so, I’ve grown up seeing my mother put her health on the back-burner. Be it fever or her shooting blood pressure or a chronic illness like diabetes (and cancer, recently), nothing could deter her from working all day to keep meeting everyone’s needs before hers.

This was exactly what I’d seen my grandmother do and felt pride in following their footsteps. At that time, more than a decade ago, I couldn’t even in my wildest dreams had imagined what was I missing in the whole scheme of things.

With that kind of a mindset and my limited life-experience, every time someone came up with the notion that I should make time for pursuing things that made me happy, go out and spend my time taking a break from the family duties, I would promptly dismiss them considering them to be selfish acts.

I believed, my happiness lay in the happiness of my family. I was part of a bigger picture and was not an entity on my own.

The concept of loving ourselves has been foreign to the women in my family.

Not only because we’d misunderstood what self-care entails but also because didn’t even knew who our real ‘selves’ were.

I know it sounds rather crazy, but nevertheless, it highlights the underlying problem that lies in the root of us, especially women struggling to be self-aware, be unapologetic about self-care rituals and most importantly being accepting ourselves as ourselves.

We have painstakingly learnt to put our values in what we can do for others, to seek validation from the outside world for everything. We try to appear attractive, nice, good, valid, legitimate or worthy of someone else instead of discovering what we actually feel and want for ourselves.

Feminism and self-care are interrelated!

It was only later, around a year or two from that eventful day, when I was introduced to feminism that my understanding of the society, the patriarchal set-up and the traditions that dictate the lives women lead began to broaden.

Ever since I have read a lot about how feminism (in its pure, holistic approach aims at equality for women in every sphere of life) and self-care for women are basically interconnected.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

Did learning to believe “I’m important and that taking care of myself is important” change my life radically?

Yes and No.

Yes, because I had finally found the key to my emotional and mental well-being. I now knew how I could revive my wallowing in sorrow, battling anxiety and depression, life back on track.

No, because, though I was awakened about what I ought to do for my emotional, mental and physical well-being but my family was yet not ready to accept this new thought process. I was still part of a system, a family that believed that as a woman (who was now a single parent) I must focus my time and energies taking care of my young child while tending to the needs of the family.

The status quo had to be challenged and that needed an investment of time and energy with the need to making everyone around me understand that what I was beginning to do was not a selfish act but was intended for self -preservation.

Self-care is an act of finding our true selves in a world that don't treat women as equal human beings. It's an act of political warfare.

Losing sight of this new insight is pretty easy.

There have been endless episodes of me going back to my old, giving-more-than-I could-handle self. It was at times like these, listening to my body and its needs helped me get back on track.

The benefits of prioritising my health have had encouraging results and my mental health is nowhere close to where I was, say, two years from today.

Self-care is often seen as a manifestation of individual identity. It couldn’t be further from the truth!

Women practising self-care in the day to day life is considered a threat to the culture of considering families above individual identities.

Bringing about a change, at this core level, in my family hasn’t been easy.

And the irony of the situation has been that I cannot make it to the end without having my family embrace it.

But, I’m not giving up.

It might be tough, it might be tiring but is definitely a battle I ought to fight, to teach my little girl to care for herself, unapologetically, just like her mother did.

P.S- Self-Care is #17 in the 21 Steps To Build A Positive Life.

Download a free copy of the e-Book that talks in depth about the steps that are helping me build a more positive life.

The song on my mind: Main koi aisa geet gaoon – Yes Boss