Happy Sunday morning, Chums. I feel like it has been ages since my last Self-Care Sunday post, which went up in mid-May. I suppose in that sense, it has been a damned long time, hasn’t it?
One of the biggest things for me to remember is that life happens and occasionally it will prevent me from doing a lot of things that I love doing, such as writing blog posts and focusing on self-care. This year alone has been one of the most sporadic periods for me in such a long fucking time, whether it’s with blogging or trying to be a proper student (which didn’t work out; I will talk about this in a future SCS segment). With all of these whirlwinds of feelings and challenges and confusion, I haven’t had a lick of inspiration to impart for this series. It’s my favourite series that I do here on BiblioNyan and half-arsing it merely to stick to a schedule didn’t feel right or respectful to me. Instead, I avoided it like the plague. Then this morning, I made an impulsive decision to browse through my previous SCS posts, and it made me extremely emotional.
Looking back at the previous twenty discussions on various elements of self-care, I recognised for the first time how terrifyingly vulnerable I allow myself to become. There are memories and occurrences in my past that I never like to chat about, yet the idea of it helping even a single person out there, makes me want to fight through any and all of the discomfort that I may be feeling. This also helped me to understand how much I cherish the blogging community. Y’all are a family to me. People whom I know I can turn to when I need some support or a friend in my time of suffering, and that’s probably the greatest form of self-care that I could ask for.
That realisation and that understanding that I came to at approximately 1:55 am was a self-affirmation. It was something positive in my life that I could look to and find comfort in; I could obtain a great sense of inspiration from it, and also allay my loneliness. This simple notion provided me with a sense of value for myself that went beyond the confines of Pros and Cons of being alive.
The black clouds that had been hovering in my mind for the past few weeks were finally starting to fade a tiny bit and oxygen found its way to me. Oxygen in this context would be the ability to try and be more positive. My brain took this miniscule grain and took off with it: what other positive things have happened to me or with me over the past few days? Things that I may have been too pre-occupied or depressed to notice?
The proverbial can had been opened, my friends, and it felt rather fantastic.
How Systemised Negativity Creates a Fog in our Future
Since I began my journey of self-care and trying to understand how to be the best version of myself, which included confronting many harmful things that I was taught as a child, or habits and beliefs I picked up along my journey in life—whatever the negative element was I knew that it could only be changed via hard work and dedication, and a desire to feel joy. However, it became more and more obvious that in a world that is constantly zeroing in on the hateful and negative things at all times of the day, achieving that change can feel nigh impossible. Since we were kids, the system instils into our brains that when we have success, it’s better to look at the shortcomings within that success rather than appreciate the fact that we accomplished something wonderful.
As a child, whenever I did something my parents didn’t approve of, such as playing with the kids next door or not being able to sit a certain way (I was less than ten years old), my mother never really sat down and explained why it was wrong, just that “girls shouldn’t do this or that.” As I aged, that was something that I would hear a lot—“this shouldn’t be done, or that shouldn’t be done,”—without any reason as what makes them so forbidden. The same thing happened with most of my achievements.
My mother rewarded me for things that she deemed a success. When I got straight A’s in the sixth grade, she gave me three-hundred-dollars, which was a lot of money for our family at that time. That’s when I adopted my first pet, my cockatiel Rani. This trend would continue through each grade level, but usually only with things that matched her expectations. In junior high school, or seventh grade, I wrote my first story. It was a fantasy story that I wrote and illustrated about a bunch of tropical birds who had to find and protect a jewelled coconut that controlled the rain of the rainforest. I received high marks and was very proud of the work that I did, yet I remember being made fun of for writing such a simple tale or for not concentrating on my weaker subjects like mathematics.
Growing up, there was always room for improvement in everything that I did, and that was more often than not pointed out to me. Teachers and family members (except for my brother) would constantly say, “Good job with this, but next time try this,” or “You did a remarkable job for a girl/someone like you.” On the surface it appears to be a practise in constructive criticism, yet when it is all that’s have ever known, it turns into a technique in instilling an instinct to focus entirely on the negatives rather than the positives; also known as being passive aggressive.
Society is an excellent example of how the belief of “You Can Do Better” is imperative in order to associate someone with being successful. We see this with how people treat those individuals that are unemployed, homeless, or require government assistance to get by. We this in schools where teachers have very rigid expectations of their students, regardless of the different learning levels or learning disabilities that they may have. It’s even exhibited in the ways that we perceive certain groups of people.
“How can you suck at math, aren’t you Asian?”
“You can’t be an author, you’re Asian. Aren’t you only allowed to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer?”
“Your English is so good for a foreigner. You can almost pass for a native speaker. Congratulations.”
These are a few in the tons of comments I used to hear as a child and adolescent, and even now as an adult. Negativity isn’t always something that is as obvious as the colour of grass or the shape of a banana (random examples for the win). It can be far subtler and thus far more insidious and influential on our brains and ability to react to certain situations or events, particularly as a child when the brain is far more susceptible to being moulded one way or the other. When we are nurtured in an inherently toxic environment like that, we aren’t able to be immediately self-aware of how we, ourselves, are imparting that same sort of negative energy. Another example: it’s easier to point out how a person didn’t clean the dishes correctly rather than be appreciative of the fact that they took the time to do this chore.
If our minds are wired to gravitate towards what we’re familiar with, and if that familiarity contains an excess of hateful and damaging experiences and associations, then it becomes dishearteningly natural for the bad to repetitively supersede the good.
A Lighthouse of Opportunity
Lighthouses were really cool to me as a kid, mostly because of how bloody tall they can be. Aside from that, I didn’t understand what they stood for or why they were important. I always assumed it was some Western thing I merely didn’t get. Then I met Sir Besty. They have a tattoo of a lighthouse on their leg that is overlooking an area that is dead. The trees are withering away and there are bones intermingled with the roots, yet the lighthouse has this single flame to it. I asked them about it because I felt so confused by its imagery. Then they told me:
“The lighthouse is a symbol of potential; it’s a moniker of opportunity. That single flame could be the only light left in the world, the one light that someone out there may need to find their way in the dark. Everything that is dead, or withering is what happens to people who are too afraid to look at the light and walk towards it; people too frightened or too ignorant to understand that change is possible, and the darkness doesn’t have to last forever, or that what they are now doesn’t have to define who they will become.”
I was so fucking mind-blown, and it’s become my favourite tattoo that they have. I also love the story of how they got it because it’s pretty funny, but that’s for another day.
Becoming cognisant of negativity in our lives and understanding that we may not even be aware to how it impacts us, or the people around us (possibly even because of us), is the first step towards that flickering flame. Being informed of what to look for and then searching for potential influences helps us develop self-awareness, and that is the key to unlocking the potential for change.
I’ve written quite a few posts about taking small steps towards a better and brighter tomorrow (as cliché as that sounds) and the reason for that is because these little moments are what accumulate into a massive accomplishment over time. A single inch can turn into a gigantic leap towards the biggest goal a person has set for themselves, and once our brains are wired to appreciate and veer towards the positive aspects of something, those moments can be so wholeheartedly genuine and all the more validating to us and our self-worth.
A Place to Begin
When I first moved in with Sir Besty and began my excruciating and agonising crawl out of the black tar pits of Rock Bottom, I had no fucking idea where the hell I should start. I spent a few months dillydallying with many different methods and techniques that were suggested to me either by my psychiatrist, or that had randomly popped into my mind. Most of those did help me. They helped me with getting through the messy aftermath of escaping a dangerous situation. Nevertheless, my self-esteem and my inability to see the value in any of my triumphs kept me from finding joy of any kind. No matter what I did, I never saw improvements in my depressive episodes and my pessimism was at its all-time highest.
Then in January of 2017, Sir Besty handed me a small spiral notebook. It was all black with a sketch of a beaming sun and some flying birds on the cover, with this quote:
“In the midst of our lives, we must find the magic that makes our souls soar.”
Sir Besty had tasked with me a very simple assignment: every single night before going to bed, I had to write down five moments in my day that were good. They could’ve been anything at all, from drinking a glass of water to writing a book review. Anything. Additionally, they wanted me to share one moment of inspiration from that day. The inspiration bit I didn’t have to do every single day because there were going to be some days where inspiration would be completely absent. But the five moments gig was non-negotiable.
I laughed in their face. I’m really sorry to say, but I did. Then my laughter mutated into gross-sobbing because the idea that five good things could happen in every single day of my life was absolutely fucking hilarious to me. Hilariously outrageous. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot.
This was my moment of recognising the negatives. It began with this gift from Sir Besty, for if they never gave me this journal and prompted me to do this, I don’t think I ever would have grasped the depth of systemised negativity in my life and how much it prevented me from enjoying what I had, finding pleasure in the simple act of just being alive.
Henceforth, I was better equipped at acquiring methods for coping with my mental illnesses such as PTSD, severe anxiety attacks, and more. To see how quickly I began to climb that invisible ladder out of Rock Bottom was indescribably astonishing. These moments of self-affirmation helped me to get control of my life. It became something that I looked forward to doing at the end of a brutally shitty day. Hell, I even tried to make sure I did something good during my day just so I could add it to the list at night, thus making myself more productive, more positive, and more eager to see beautiful changes in my path ahead. It’s honestly the most wonderful form of brain-training for positivity that I’ve ever partaken in.
Here are some of my entries from the past couple of years. I will confess that I went through periods where I wouldn’t touch this notebook for days, weeks, or months. However, I always found my way back to it when I needed it most (like this morning, after not having touched it since October 2018) and it has always re-ignited my faith in myself and the future that I want, which is filled with joy and many published books… and cats.
Being able to grasp the idea that negativity is something taught in many different shapes and forms, throughout myriad cultures and societies, that concept of how insidiously intertwined it can become with our brains, is the first step in enacting change. It’s becoming self-aware and training yourself to adapt accordingly, which is one bitch of a battle, yet so worth the effort and the energy, especially for a better, healthier, and happier you.
I challenge you, any of you who may be undergoing conflicts that have allowed you to view life as something extremely negative and unbearable. If you’re feeling alone and hopeless, and honestly don’t think you’ll ever see that light, try practising self-affirmations. Place five good moments of your day into a journal. It can be a notebook or on your computer or on the inside door of your closet (my nephew does this). If you’re an artist, rather than list the items, draw the moment. For example, you saw a beautiful flower or had an amazing cup of your favourite beverage. Draw it. Draw your moment. Draw whatever helps you maintain a positive association to that good thing that happened in your day.
Give yourself the value that you deserve, for these moments are what can help us achieve the most stunning things that life can offer us. Just look the light and don’t give up.
Thank you so much for visiting me today. I appreciate the support! Until next time, keep reading and keep otakuing.
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