I come from a culture and an upbringing where it’s always you before me. Where it’s always them before I. Where you have to sacrifice your mental health for those around you. And if you do all this you’re highly appreciated. You’re a saint.
This culture isn’t toxic, but it tastes like acid when the same feelings aren’t reciprocated. You give certain people every part of you with love and in return they’ll bite your heart and spit it out like gum. It hurts when you treat people with love, respect, kindness and all they do is walk over you like you’re the land beneath their feet. They’ll take you for granted like you’re a pair of flip flops that can be replaced.
It’s hard for me to let things and people go. I keep them close and my world starts revolving around them, and the sun just blurs out of view and then slowly I blur out of view. I keep holding onto the hope that maybe people will change. That there is good in everyone, but because of this trait I end up hurting myself, and the cycle just repeats. If it was up to me, I’d hide in my comfort zone and never come out. But there’s a breaking point. There’s always a limit.
The culture I come from frowns upon self-love. “How can you think about yourself when the people around you are suffering?”
“No. Think of how she would feel.”
“Rip your heart out of your chest and give it to someone else so they could use it.”
“Stop thinking about your betterment, don’t you see they’re suffering?”
It’s not my fault they’re suffering. Is it? Why am I being held responsible for someone else’s happiness? Just because someone else is sad, does that mean I should be sad too? Just because someone else is hurting does that mean that I should be in pain too?
There’s a thin line between being selfish and being selfless and I don’t know where that line is. I don’t know how to practice self-love when all my life I’ve been taught to love others more than myself.
How do I unlearn something that’s been drilled into my brain over and over again? How do I un-wire my brain if I’m not in control of the wires. How do I love myself when I can’t stop thinking about other people?
Even making simple choices for my future revolve around other people and their happiness. Do I regret it? Yes! If I could change it, would I? Most likely No. I think I would do it over and over again. That’s just how my brain is wired. That’s just how I am.
I don’t know what to do anymore. No matter what I choose I’ll end up hurting myself. It’s like if I go ahead, I’ll fall into a deep well and if I go back I’ll plunge into an ocean. Why is self-love so hard?
But that’s the thing. Self-love isn’t supposed to be beautiful. It’s supposed to be messy, confusing and time consuming. It takes time and effort and maybe on the first try you won’t get it right. You’ll probably fail and that’s okay. You’ll get there at your own pace. You can’t let culture, or society, stop you from loving yourself.
Think of it like this. How possibly can you give other people love when you don’t have any for yourself? Replenish yourself with so much love that it drips from your body like sweat on a hot summer day. Love yourself so much that watching you people fall in love with themselves.
This isn’t an easy process, but that’s okay. You have all the time in the world to fall in love with yourself. If a culture is toxic then it needs to change and so do the people. You need to stop looking for excuses to defend something that’s toxic to you. It’s hard to un-wire your brain and unlearn so many things, but you have to start somewhere. Start by being kind to yourself. In difficult times take things easy. When you make a mistake comfort yourself like you would comfort a friend. Keep in mind that you would never curse out a friend when they do something wrong. You would give them hope and show them the bright side of things. Do that to yourself too. Don’t be so hard on yourself. The world will screw you over regardless. Why screw yourself over? Meditate. Cry. Scream. Do whatever you have to, to make yourself stable. An unstable mind will not only cause damage to itself, but it will also cause damage to others.
Just like your body needs healthy food to function, your mind needs positivity and optimism to operate. Give yourself a break. Take it one step at a time. Don’t let this toxic culture damage you in any way. Breathe. And then resume your journey.