How do I love myself? How do I show myself I care?

Hey dosts, the journey from feeling worthless to beginning to love/care for oneself can be long and arduous (I know mine was, and is still ongoing). There were many times where I questioned myself, wondered whether what I was doing was moral, and even if I was worth it (spoiler alert: it is). And how did I know I really loved myself? I’ll show you how I started to love and care for myself. Lets dive in.

The harsh realization: I didn’t love myself

I decided to write a blog post on this because of a Tik Tok I created about showing how I love and care for myself (def one of my mottos if there is one, check it out the tik tok on loving myself here!). And in the comments, I got so many questions on how? How do you love yourself? What’s one concrete way to show yourself you care about you? And that’s how I knew a blog post was needed. It’s not easy to love or care for yourself.

Looking back in my past, there isn’t 1 memory that gave me the realization “Oh wow, I don’t love myself.” Quite frankly, I don’t even think I realized that I didn’t love myself. It wasn’t even a question or thought that crossed my mind growing up in a first gen desi household. I was lucky because I had food on the table, a roof over my head, and I could only focus on school. I was #blessed and loving myself was definitely not a concern at all.

After I left for college I began focusing on myself because I was able to step away from my family (y’all, I moved across the country, from South Florida to Rochester, New York 😂). When I didn’t feel the heavy weight of my familial responsibility or emotional needs of those around me, something special happened.

I was able to hear my own voice in my head for the first time. EVER.

I was able to hear her, just above a whisper, telling me that I am tired. Telling me that I never pursued some of my dreams because I didn’t think I was good enough. Telling me I don’t notice certain things about myself because I was scared. Scared of what I might think, scared of what I might tell myself.

And dosts, that’s where my self love journey began. In a dorm room when I roomed with one of my best friends sophomore year (there were many tears that year and laughs because my friends are awesome and still my friends to date).

Baby Heena/my college roommate Vaidehi, circa 2012 in the throes of collegehood and finding ourselves sophomore year. I regret to inform you that Vaidehi Shah has still not found herself 😂.

A few ways I show myself that I love ME

Okay okay, but back to the matter at hand. I heard that tiny voice of mine in my head sophomore year and never stopped listening to her (on most days!). Showing myself I love ME comes in a lots of ways and is definitely a process.

Just like you show other people you love them through various gestures/actions and reassure them, you’ll have to do the same for yourself. You’re starting to build a relationships with yourself and here is as good a starting point as any.

My 2 cents is start with a small step you know you can commit to. It could be something as small as getting yourself your favorite cup of coffee once a week. Or even watching one of your favorite tv shows. Something that brings you joy (and doesn’t leave you suffering in the end, like a hangover headache. Not that anything is bad with drinking/having a good time. But we want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself in one way and not damaging any body parts/social situationships while doing so!). So choose anything, but pick one thing and stick with it. The most important about this step is to stick with it and be consistent. So if you decide to get your favorite cup of coffee once a week, make sure to actually do so consistently!

After committing to this one act of self-care, see how you feel. How did you feel after doing this one action? After you do this consistently, why not think about adding another? Slowly add on to each mini-habit. All you have to do is focus on the next step (no matter how little it may be) and you’ll slowly build habits of self-love and self-care. Keep going and don’t quit, because before you know it your habits and life will turn into an avalanche of this non-stop love fest for yourself! 😍 🥰

Below are a few places to start and how I personally show myself I care:

1. I listen to my body

One suuuuuper easy (well, easy now) way for me to show that I care is that I take care of my body. I go to the gym, I eat healthy nutritious foods, I get a good night’s sleep, etc.

Now these things ⬆️ are habits I built towards. I didn’t immediately say to myself one day: hey Heena, you should get 8 hours of sleep. Or you should eat healthy today. Dosts, it doesn’t work like that. I learned and practiced these things over time. And most importantly, during this process I gave myself grace, because I’ll be the first to say this certainly isn’t easy. This can be your end goal (or rather, end practice because it’s always ongoing).

But in the beginning? I started doing verrrryy little things. Perfect example, back then when I was hungry, I ate. Eat whatever dosts. But even just recognizing what hunger looked like in my body, the way I acted when I was hungry (yupp, I get hangry) and putting everything aside to give my body what it’s asking for… 👏 is 👏 HUGE 👏. And that was my next step.

Or when I had to use the restroom, I used the restroom. When I was tired, I sat down y’all. This is where I started and slowly built to eating healthy, getting 8 hours of sleep, going to the gym regularly, etc. As a loved one reminded me today:

“the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”

Motivational Proverb, found on the internet here

2. I carefully curate what I surround myself with

Now dosts, this one is pretty big. I knew I loved myself when I said no to certain things. This included things like: no, I don’t want to watch a scary movie because I have anxiety (trust me it’s not pretty in my head y’all).

Or no, I’m not going to read (or tolerate) haters comments on tik tok because (no offense) they don’t matter to me in my life or my journey. I curate my social media feeds amigos. Do you know what curate means? It means to carefully pick and choose what you see. So I specifically don’t follow (or mute) certain people on social media who don’t make me feel good when I see/read their posts. Or I don’t watch violent/gruesome tv shows/movies because they’ll end up in my dreams (and why would I want that y’all? 😳).

Watch what you’re watching. See if there are any negative nancies on your instagram/tik tok feed. Fill it what what you like and what makes you happy. I guarantee you that you’ll be happier at the end of that scrolling session.

3. I only surround myself with the very best people, unless I’m helping them

Again, another big one folks. I carefully choose the people who are allowed in my life. And yes, this does include family (I absolutely adore my family but they know that there are boundaries they should not cross, yes even in a desi family. Blog post coming soon 💖).

And if I’m choosing which family belong in my life, I’m also choosing which friends belongs in my life. I’m careful about who I share my personal information with. And I can say with full confidence that each one of my friends always uplift me (as I do for them!). That sounds like a pretty great relationship to me ❤️.

Now, did it take a lot of trial/error to figure out who my friends were? Yes. Did it take a lot longer to make friends? Absolutely. But can I call my friends in the middle of the night crying and they’d hop a train/plane/car to come over and get me? 1000%. And that, to me, makes all the difference.

Now dosts, I know what you’re thinking. There are people who are just kinda pushed into your life. Like coworkers (humans you’re obligated to interact/see everyday). You can’t necessarily control who comes in and out of your life. However you can control how much of you these people receive and how much work you put in to have them in your life. Just because you see somebody everyday does not mean you have to be best friends. Hell, you don’t even need to be friends. Just be cordial and polite. There’s nothing wrong with being picky about who you let into your life. Because in your time of need, they will have the ability to make or break you. And you’d want them to make you dosts, you deserve the best ❤️.

4. I nourish my creativity

Alright dosts, this one is really important and honestly something I learned a little later in my self-love journey. I make myself go out there and CREATE. This could be anything I’m actually creating. And not for practical reasons either (ie: a tik tok video to post), just for fun. It could be as simple as singing a song (I’m creating sounds with my voice, albeit pretty badly most times 😂).

It’s important to know the difference between creating and passively viewing. Let me give you a quick example, things like watching tv, tik tok, ig, (etc) does not count as creating. You’re not actively using your imagination or brain to create something out of nothing. Buuuut lets say you are creating a tik tok, creating an IG reel, or even creating a TV show, theeeen you are creating. Get the difference? As much as I love reading, it’s not creating. I usually have to find a balance between my books and my creative pursuits more often than not.

At least once every two weeks (practically it’s more like 2ish times a week), I engage in something creative. These activities vary from scrapbooking, writing (hello, hi beautiful reader!), creating tik toks, coloring, painting (painting with a twist and painting by numbers is really cool!), and dancing. It could even be as simple as playing with your kids’ play-dough or coloring with them. The possibilities are endless! 🥳

What took me so long to realize is that I’m a creator, just like you’re a creator. All human beings are creators. And you need time for your creativity to shine in whatever medium you choose. In many of these activities, I rarely think about the end result. I’m usually just bopping to some good music and begin to lose myself in the process. And this dosts, is priceless. I challenge you to go out and create something, even if it’s just for fun!

5. Baaaaalance

Now dosts, this may sound easy but it’s really not. I worked on myself until this point and tried to succeed and balance every part of my life while focusing on one thing at a time. When I talk about balance, I’m talking about the social, financial, physical, religious/spiritual, emotional, and health aspects that all encompass and make HEENA.

I understand that as an adult, it is my responsibility to take care of myself in all of these aspects. But it’s not easy to carry a plate that has a bunch of stuff on it. Now reader, you must be reading this and thinking, wow, that sounds like a LOT. But with a little practice and the right methodology, you’ll get there.

A note on the methodology: Start with one aspect and work on that while keeping the others in line. For example, while I focused on my health/fitness journey (I lost 65 pounds y’all) I still kept a job (financial) and kept seeing my friends (social). You don’t have to focus on every aspect all at once. Just keep them in line while focusing your efforts on the one sector of life you want to improve/work on. Then when that’s in line, move onto the next. And that is how I keep improving different aspects of my life while also keeping some balance of everything that makes me, well me.

Balancing my life means that I’m not failing in any one aspect in any part of my life dosts, and it’s a super important way I show myself (in ALL aspects of my life) that I care. I take care of them. I love them. And because I love each of these aspects of my life, I in turn show me I love me ❤️.

6. I don’t take disrespect from anyone (not even myself)

Amigos mios, this one is an important one. Disrespect is something I do NOT tolerate from people. Disrespect can happen in all sorts of ways. Somebody can disrespect your time, your money, your value, or you as a human. When you think of disrespect, it doesn’t have to be a shouting match between two people or calling each other bad names. It could also be someone not taking your feelings into consideration when making a decision or disrespecting something/someone you hold dear.

And are you ready to hear the secret on this one? Come hereeee, **whispers** closer!

You decide what you tolerate or do not tolerate.

This is completely up to you. You have to figure out what you consider disrespectful behavior. It definitely takes some work and reflection on what you are or aren’t okay with. And there will be situations that you leave hot headed because you figured out that what somebody did was not okay. And that’s partly a great situation because now you know what disrespect means to you. Information is power friends.

I will make a note that these things can absolutely differ based on sticky situations (scenarios like desi families, if a power hierarchy is involved, etc). In terms of setting boundaries it’s a lot more difficult for a child to set boundaries with their parent if they were never modeled how to set boundaries (and sometimes it’s difficult even if they were modeled!). Dosts if you find yourselves in any of these situations, I recommend seeking professional help (whatever that looks like for you). When setting my boundaries at the ripe age of 28 I sought out therapy and my therapist helped me tremendously during this tumultuous time of my life.

But at the heart of the statement above, it’s true amigas. You get to dictate how you are treated. And most of the time boundaries show up as what we tolerate versus what we say we tolerate (what we say is important too, but actions speak louder than words).

I challenge you, next time somebody does something that rubs you the wrong way, examine it. Reflect on it. Think about why it made you feel the way it did. Ask different questions like have you ever felt that feeling before? What did you do to help soothe yourself feel better? And do I always feel this way around this person?

After reflecting, talk to the person about it. Voice your feelings. See what they say. And if a boundary needs to be set, I challenge you to set it. It can be suuuuper difficult and definitely something that wasn’t taught to us first gen desis (or many other first gen Americans who have collectivist cultures, aka cultures which is centered around the family unit). But try it. See what happens.

A Note About my Inner Voice and Disrespect

Okay friends, I’m not sure about you, but I absolutely have an inner voice in my head (at times you may even find me talking to myself, don’t judge if so 😂). But for the majority of my life, this inner voice was suuuuuuper critical. I was never good enough, never pretty enough, never able to accomplish anything. And I would become enraged and insecure about things without me knowing what the hell caused me to get so mad. (I distinctly remember before leaving my house, looking in the mirror and thinking I was so pretty. Then I’d reached mosque, look in the mirror again and think I wasn’t good enough. I had no idea what I did to transition myself from a place of security to insecurity, but I remember telling myself these things and believing them).

And now dosts? Not only am I able to recognize my inner voice, but even more so I stop her when she gets out of hand. If she starts to disrespect me (you could have done that better) or de-motivate me (you’re not good enough) I just tell myself to SHUT IT. I’m not tolerating that type of self-talk, not in this head nunh-UNH.

Remember that Jane the Virgin sequence (GREAT tv) where she has the inner critic in her head and has to figure out how to get it out? Yea, I get it out by shutting down those thoughts and engaging my mind into something else. And reminding myself that I am amazing just the way I am ❤️.

8. I have FUN

This one’s pretty simple, I feed my inner child/inner creativity. I go out and do things I like to do! I don’t always “take one for the team” (although there are times when this is necessary) but I prioritize time for things that I want to do. These can include paint nights (the owner at my local Paint&Sip def recognizes me now 😂), scrapbooking, going to concerts I really like (heyooo Zac Brown Band) or even going to the movies.

There are small things you can do today to have fun, they don’t need to be an international trip to Morocco (albeit that’s definitely on the list!). Grab your favorite cup of coffee, make your favorite meal, do one of your favorite activities, go karaoke! Whatever you like to do, make time for that (even if it’s just for 10 minutes). It’s a matter of prioritizing your fun over any other activity. Tomorrow will be another day and time will always be an issue. Make it a priority and make it happen!

Photo of ice cream, watermelon, and happy face balloons and colorfully painted wall with a young woman in blue jeans and a blue shirt with sneakers on.
Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash.

9. I say NO to things I don’t want

This one is an important one dosts. Part of creating and prioritizing time for things we want, we have to say no to things we don’t want.

We’ve all been there. Somebody we care about (or don’t care about) make us an offer and our people pleasing tendencies come to the forefront of our minds bodies and souls. Or we feel bad that no one else will do it. Or we feel as if it is our duty to help them (hellooooo desi families). So what do we do? We say yes. Even though we really didn’t want to.

Whatever the case may be. I’m here to tell you that every time you say yes, you’re saying no to yourself. You’re dishonoring yourself. You can say no. No is a complete sentence (my tik tok on saying no). Unless it’s a YAAAAAAAAAAS, it’s a no. Simple as that.

And when you finally say no, you show yourself you care. You care about things you want. You care about things you do or don’t want to do. You listen to yourself. You love yourself. Saying no is a step towards self-love and self care ❤️.

10. I ultimately treat myself how I treat other people: like a person

This one is HUGE amigos. At the end of the day, I treat myself and see myself as a human being as much as I can. And human beings have needs. We have dreams. We have fun. We love, we laugh, we cry, we even get angry. We disappoint people. We make mistakes. And 👏 that 👏 is 👏 okay 👏.

As a desi girl (and many I’ve seen), we treat ourselves as indispensable or unworthy. Here’s your sign my dosts:

YOU ARE WORTHY

You are worthy of love, of kindness, of caring, of anything you are asking of other people. You are worthy of it I promise you. Never forget that you are worthy (tik tok on what happens when you realize you’re worthy here).

Pro Tip:

In the beginning of my self love journey I started treating myself like a person I care about in my life (since I’m such a giver). So what I would do for other people, I started doing for myself! This flipped the script in my head of how I should treat myself. Instead of treating myself like crap I began to treat myself like a queen, and guess what? I automatically reached #queenstatus. So don’t forget to ever treat yourself with kindness, respect, and grace.

Silver queen's crown with diamonds on a blue table.
Photo by Church of the King on Unsplash.

When I start taking care of myself, I start feeling better about myself and tell myself that it is okay to be utterly and authentically me. Because I’m a human. And human beings have the right to be loved, valued and cared for. By virtue of being a human being.

I dare you to be YOU and take care of you, because as a first gen desi, I certainly wasn’t taught that. Lets all start to take better care of ourselves and start this revolution with a match. Once yours is lit, pass it on. Light only begets more light ❤️.

With love, light, and life,

Heens

Psssst, I’d like to point out and reiterate that I am not a mental health professional and this is not a form of therapy. These posts are based on my experiences and helped me in my journey. There are local websites available for professional mental health services.

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