Friday, April 14, 2017

Transition Post 1: Conditioning Self Love

UPDATE: Someone pointed me to this common-sensical and yet often forgotten tenet of self-care, especially for those in the intellectual/creative professions.  One thing that comes to mind, especially in that powerful opening, is how we sometimes transfer our own insecurities/inadequacy/self-loathing into our interaction with others - we say and do things that hurt others without thinking of the consequence, perhaps because we do not have to bear the consequence directly, at least not immediately. I think an important thing to do is learn how to balance between truth-telling and thoughtfulness in all our actions, which could only come with cultivated EQ. Many of us in intellectual-centric professions tend to valorise intellect over intra- and interpersonal intelligence, and put minimal effort into cultivating the latter; which is dangerous for society especially if your work involves influencing lives, and detrimental to your own personal life in the longer term. 

In the process of going through transitions, since my last post, much has happened, hence the lack of posts, but that is being remedied now. However, that process of transition is still ongoing, and will properly continue on until the end of 2017. To think that one could end that transition just because one has moved into new jobs, new environments, new relationships, or even new way of being is like getting oneself prematurely off a course of antibiotics (probably a bad analogue but you get what I mean). So the overarching theme for someone, such as myself, who is going through major changes in many different departments, is transition. And one of the things about transition I want to speak of, is self-care, which will come in a series of posts. They represent some of the things I am working with within my own life, and some insights I'd derived in the process that I am trying my darndest to put to practice. But the first thing I will write about here is the process of slowing down and self-love.
One very crucial macro aspects of self-care in any act of transitioning is slowing down and asking oneself, why one does what one does. It is a hard process, especially when we think that we must always being in the fast lane, getting the next thing done and out of the way, and moving one to the next accomplishment because continuously achieving is a form of crack for those who pride themselves as high-achievers/successful/going places. But I see real success as only happening when one is willing first of all, to slow down. Slowing down forces you to grapple with how you might have led a life characterised by others' valuation and perception of yourself, be it in the professional or personal sphere, and how this can effect us adversely when not properly managed, with the most dominant manifestation coming in the form of stress. If you think about it, modern society, and its technologies (including social media), is built upon that form of self-validation, for good or bad. This does not mean we should heap ourselves with ego/arrogance as a form of self-preservation; having a thick-skin in dealing with all forms of perceived rejection and criticism is not about being arrogant. Rather, it is not about letting negative judgement paralysed us from taking the next step. As an academic in transition, I understand what it means to be in a very judgemental sector.

Take the time to ask yourself, honestly and sincerely, the root causes behind the insecurities that cause things to affect you so deeply as to make you incapable of feeling good about yourself or your life in general; or why are you holding on so insistently to something, no matter what. Otherwise, we are forever that Sisyphus, working very hard to push the burden away for us, only to have it falling back on us even more quickly and crushing us to the point of ruination. Acknowledging is the first step to healing, and dealing, all of which, require long-term work. But it is so worth it as it will affect not only our intrapersonal but also interpersonal relationship. As many wise ones have said, if you cannot learn to love yourself, you will never truly love another. And if you cannot trust yourself, you will never learn to trust another properly. And to get to the point of trusting yourself, you need to be truthful to yourself.

Even as we work on our inner self, we must not forget our outer self. In fact, the way we appear outwardly is also testimony to how much we really care, or do not care, about ourselves. We think that caring about our appearances is vanity - vanity is obsessing about one's appearance to the point of it taking precedence over other important things. Caring about one's appearances is not about vanity, it is also part of loving yourself. I mentioned how the way we lead out lives brought on a lot of stress, which manifests itself in psychosomatic symptoms: poor sleep habits, drastic weight-changes, and overall poor health (aches, pains, proneness to flu, mood-swings, etc). Our body gets affected by all these as our hormones are also swinging out of control, bringing about changes to our outward appearances that could also influence how we feel about ourselves.  One of the things I have started doing a lot more of, even as I am working towards personal and career goals, is to educate myself more on the science behind health, well-being, beauty, and even personal grooming/style.

I used to be more mindful of doing this in my twenties (as someone reminded me just recently), before graduate school happened, but have badly neglected these important areas of self-care, save for trips to a dermatologist and nutritionist, over the mistaken belief that one should not pay too much heed to one's  appearances, all without attending to the fact that the inner and outer are connected. In other words, instead of being pro-active in taking care of myself, and I have allowed others to decide for me. The first impression you create in other is important, especially if you lack other forms of privilege (race, gender, sexuality etc), to present a profile that is commanding of respect and dignity. Even if you have all that privilege, nobody will take your worth seriously if you cannot command respect by your presentation of yourself.  In fact, I have an experience with this just fairly recently, but I will do a separate post on this later in the year, when I have accumulated more experiences to be able to form a more cogent analysis.

In the process of obsessive research (you can't completely wean the academic side out), I have found a wealth of information that I am eager to put to practice, and which will, in the long run, turn me into a more informed consumer and intentional person. The mistake that many make is to think that there is a quick fix, rather than long-term foundation building. Even if you can afford the most expensive beauty or health elixir in the market, you will only get a superficial cosmetic fix as long as nothing else in your life changes, and what has to change is also one's attitude to one's own life. The next posts to come will consider some experiments in self-care I am doing with myself. I have only started these in earnest since February, so I still have a long way to go.