Who are you when no one is watching?
How do you act when you don’t have an audience? What songs are you listening to? You know, the ones that resonate with your soul so much, it was like the artist wrote it just for you. Who are you when you’re tucking yourself into bed, in your oversized t-shirt that has holes in it that you refuse to throw away? Who are you when you complete your nightly routine that you’ve stayed on top of for three years now? Who are you when no one is there and what dreams are you pining after? What things do you have yet to achieve, and why do you want it so badly? Who are you when all of your walls are down and you haven’t a care in the world? Who are you at your most vulnerable? What are the things that make your heart ache? What kinds of things do you see that touch you and move you? Who are you in your greatest mistakes, and how did you learn from them? When the world has gone quiet and the lights are out, what does that conversation sound like? The ones you have with yourself where honesty meets you at two am? Who are you when no one is watching and do you like who you’ve become? Do you like who you’re becoming?
When no one is watching, I hope it’s you that is the most kind to yourself. I hope you’ve learned that authenticity and the real you is what the world needs most. I hope the songs you listen to tell a story about someone who has overcome so much and come out on the other side. Behind closed doors and on a face and without makeup or undone hair, I hope you look at your reflection and see someone beautiful looking back. I hope the dreams that have yet to become reality light a fire under you because you’re on your way to achieving it; not something lost along the way of ‘what ifs.’ I hope you realize vulnerability is not weakness. I hope when you think of love, you are at the top of your own list followed by everyone else who deserves and is worthy of your best. I hope you aren’t caught up in the kinds of relationships where you pine after love of wolves draped in sheep wool, only to deceive you. I hope you learnt o forgive yourself knowing you are only human and still learning. I hope you surround yourself with the kind of people who love even the sharp parts of yourself that you’re still learning to. I hope in your quietest moments, you find peace within yourself for all you are.
I love being horribly straightforward. I love sending reckless text messages (because how reckless can a form of digitalized communication be?) and telling people that I love them, telling people that they are absolutely magical human beings and that I cannot believe they exist.
I love saying “kiss me harder,” and “you’re a good person,” and “you brighten my day.” I live my life as straightforward as possible.
Because one day, I might get hit by a bus.
Maybe that’s weird.
And maybe it’s scary, and seems downright impossible to just be—to just let people know you want them, need them, feel like, in this very moment, you will die if you do not see them, hold them, touch them—whether it’s your feet under theirs or your thighs touching on the couch, or your tongue in their mouth, maybe it’s their heart in your hands.
There is nothing more beautiful than being desperate.
And there is nothing more risky than pretending not to care.
We are young, beautiful, wild human beings, and we are not always as in control as we like to think. We never know who needs us back. We never know the magic that can arise between ourselves and other human beings.
We never know when we’ll get hit by a bus.
People say that your life really, literally flashes before your eyes before you die. Something about the last few minutes of death, studied to conclude the idea of living your life over before the last breath escapes your soul.
So when the bus does come, I promise that you’ll want to remember every moment and impact you had with the thousands of beings you came across.
“You never know who is driving with cake.” -Dr. Joseph Bouchelle.
The phrase above is from a story I heard in my College Composition class, about a woman who managed a small cake business in Los Angeles, California. It was small enough that she didn’t have big delivery trucks or several orders a day. She did her own deliveries of celebratory cakes in a mini-van. You can imagine driving a mini-van with large cakes in the back going down the busy streets of LA. She drove with caution; took turns slowly, accelerated slowly, and overall drove gradually to ensure the cake’s safety in not falling or breaking. People around her were often quick to judge the dawdling van, which came with road raged gestures. On a particular trip that her brother embarked on, he asked his sister if the drivers bothered her because of their impatient behaviors. She replied, “no, they don’t know I’m driving with cake.”
We never know who is driving with cake. We never know what battles or trials someone else is dealing with. It’s human nature to make snap judgments towards others because they may be different than the rest of us. Everyone carries weight on their shoulders and everyone is battling something that the rest of us don’t have an idea about. Being kind to those around you is an important skill to acquire. There is some science to this idea, starting with survival of the fittest and Darwin.
Survival of the fittest implies the idea of being selfish—an often basic instinct—to survive among everyone else. But Darwin was a studier of human evolution. He didn't see mankind as being biologically competitive and self-interested. Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual, rather than only looking to help yourself. This idea still stands in modern science studies. It has now shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting well-being.
There are different ways to practice being kind. One way to be kind is to open your eyes and be active when you see people in need. Do you notice when people could use a helping hand? Opening your eyes means noticing when others are suffering. How self-absorbed and ignorant must we be to not recognize that everyone needs help and kindness within their lives? Taking the time to make sure those around us are O.K. and offering to be there to lend a helping hand or listening ear does not take much time. We do not need a reason to help people. It may not be the easiest or most convenient thing to do, but it has the potential to change everything for someone. Life is service, right? If we expect blessings from God or a God, might we be kind to His people? A sense of community is created when people are kind to those who need help. People will remember how you make them feel, and you will be remembered for the last thing you do, so be kind.
You do not who is driving with cake.
“Healing isn’t about changing who you are, it’s about changing your relationship to who you are. A fundamental part of that, is honoring how you feel.” -Suzanne Heyn
Have you ever been challenged to look at yourself in the mirror everyday, and say something nice to yourself, or about yourself? Have you tried it, but always felt silly or embarrassed? If you have then I’m right there with you. It can be really difficult sometimes to talk kindly to yourself. And it’s really difficult when you already aren’t so nice to yourself. But being positive with yourself is actually really important, even if you aren’t speaking out loud.
A personal practice I do to remind myself of my worth, my potential, and my overall positivity is to write on my dorm mirror with Expo markers. I find a quote, lyric, or sentence that I like, and I write it down in big letters so I can see it everyday. These become silent reminders that I keep in mind throughout the day.
If you’ve ever been in a sport, and struggled with a specific skill, you might have heard that you can’t be negative about conquering that desired skill. And that is absolutely true. If you tell yourself something enough, your brain will begin to believe those exact words. That’s why the practice of telling yourself positive things is so important. If the brain believes something it’s told enough, why would you want anything other than confidence and positive reinforcement flowing through you? Mental health is integral to living a healthy, balanced life.
Dr. Glen Xiong, says “emotional and mental health is important because it’s a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Being healthy emotionally can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving.” He explains that this idea is important because it takes part in the health of your relationships, and allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity. “Small things like exercising, eating a balanced and healthy meals, opening up to other people in your life, taking a break when you need to, remembering something you are grateful for and getting a good night’s sleep, can be helpful in boosting your emotional and mental health.”
When you’re in a good mental place, you’re happy. And if you’re happy, it’s because you recognized something positive happening in your life. Even if you didn’t say it out loud, or have that direct connection, somewhere in your brain, there was a recognition of something good going on in life, and with you. And those are things you should want to keep around. Talking to yourself doesn’t have to be weird or difficult, even silent reminders of positivity, praise, and wellness, can improve your mental health. If your mental health is happy, your body is happy. Mental health connects your emotional, and physical health too. Your mental health improves the rest of you, it should be priority. So talk to yourself! Give yourself the credit you deserve.
Positive mental health allows people to:
There is nothing more important than knowing yourself, and your limits. Knowing those things, means you know how to take care of yourself. In health, in sickness, mentally, emotionally, or physically. The definition of self-care is care for oneself provided by oneself often without the consultation of a medical professional. It’s self-treatment. Taking time for yourself means caring for your body, mind, and spirit. It is your greatest responsibility. It’s about listening to the needs of your soul and then honoring them.
“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”
Self-care is not a luxury, it is priority and necessary. And it will not always be a luxury. It will not always be pretty. It’s not always candies and a bathtub full of roses. Sometimes it’s forcing yourself out of bed and dragging yourself all day. Sometimes it’s that peptalk you give yourself to keep yourself going. Sometimes it’s convincing yourself to do all of these day-to-day things that you should be doing, but you have no will whatsoever. Sometimes it’s a relapse of a hurt past and telling yourself you can’t go back to square one. Sometimes it’s cutting ties no matter how precious they were. And sometimes it’s the bitter medicine you need to give yourself. Self-care is not always pretty, but it is worth it. To become the best version of yourself, and to live up to the potential you have, it is a necessity.
Self-care is not just caring for yourself, it is self-acceptance, self-love, and self-compassion. It is your inner strength. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first. Stefan Deutsch, NYS certified Psychotherapist says: “I pondered the questions and shared with the insight I believed to be foundational. The SELF-LOVE needed for self-care was missing. Academicians use terms like self-esteem, self-worth, self-support, self-care but rarely self-love. That is left to the spiritual community. People don’t realize that taking care of their own needs; eating, drinking, brushing their teeth, showering, wearing clean clothes, going to work are all acts of self-love. My own clients conceded that they were on the bottom of their Totem Pole of priorities. Everything in their life came before their own health and wellbeing; the job, the house, the kids, the family, the car, finances, and so forth. People who prioritize taking care of themselves are often thought of as selfish and self-centered — two of the worst characteristics people can be called. The problem is that people have a hard time reaching for balance in their lives — it seems to be anathema for too many.”
She goes on to say “How can we teach people to take better care of themselves without first teaching them that it is OK to take care of themselves? Just saying they should has never worked. Excuses people have are a lack of time or skepticism that something can help. Translate both? Everything I am willing to commit to is more important than taking care of myself.”
There is a theory to love, and it is that: Love is literally nourishment like air, food, and water — which is why we feel so deprived when we don’t get it. It follows then that people need to be taught ; 1. That it is as OK to love self as it is to eat and drink, 2. How to do it effectively, and finally 3. that we all need to become self-sufficient feeding ourself love, as we are feeding ourself food.
Self-care is not selfish. Harry Emerson Fosdick says that “no one can have inner peace by pouncing on it.” Taking care of yourself is being aware of yourself. When you take care of yourself, and move you further along personally, you feel less worried about when the next wave of things comes and knocks you off your feet. Never forget how far you’ve come. Everything you have gotten through. All the times you have pushed on even when you felt you couldn’t. All the mornings you got out of bed no matter how hard it was. All the times you wanted to give up but you got through another day. Never forget how much strength you have learned and developed.
You are worth it, you are important, and you are beautiful. So take it easy, and learn to love yourself, be patient with yourself, and take care of yourself.
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