If you asked me what my recent big life decision has been, it has been deciding to see a shrink.
Not because I need help. Well, no, maybe I do. I just think I don’t. But what I need, even more, is an unadulterated hour of someone’s time. Someone who will hear me rant about everything that’s going wrong in my life: A breakup I haven’t yet recovered from; a long-overdue job promotion I know I deserve; family pressure and the countless rishtas my mother keeps sending my way. I’ve realised in hindsight problems always seem trivial but when you’re in it, they consume you–your mind, your time, your energy, your emotions.
And I’m sure most people will agree with me when I say that in today’s day and age, asking for someone’s time is worth its weight in gold. Even if you have to pay for it. In fact, time itself has become such a precious commodity that you’d better be willing to pay for it.
There might even be free lunch–somewhere in the world–if you looked far and wide, but definitely no free time.
So I begin my ‘shrinking’ session with my therapist: Twice a week, on her couch. She takes notes while I lie down staring at her ceiling, ranting about life and its many tribulations. An activity I’ve started to rather look forward to. Because like I mentioned earlier, who else will allow me the liberty of just expressing out loud everything that’s going on in my mind? Without judging me. Or trivialising my feelings. Or trying to change who I am. Or checking their Instagram feed instead of listening to me talk.
And pretty much every session ends with her explaining to me how I need to have faith. And patience. And self-control, over the gazillion thoughts that run helter-skelter through my head. Clearly, these are virtues that were missed out on while I was being created. She assures me that the universe is always conspiring in my favour and that I need to be more forgiving to myself. And most importantly, I need to show myself more love.
Self-love. Now that seems to be a prevalent theme these days. From social media posts to poetry, it’s all everyone’s ever talking about. Self-love. Finding perfection in imperfection. Celebrate yourself, she tells me.
Do whatever makes you happy. Ignore those who drain your mental energy. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to, right?
I walk out of her office, feeling positive. Feeling high on life, an emotion I know I haven’t experienced in a while. I love myself, I love myself, and I love myself. I repeat my newfound mantra, in my head. Over, and over, and over again.
And love and indulge myself I do, only to realise that this love affair is rather short-lived. Ephemeral. Fleeting.
All I have to do is open social media and boom, my insecurities are triggered. I am reminded how my acne, dandruff flakes, and muffin top are standing in the way of my ideal life. Told that I can’t get a stable boyfriend because well, my opinions scare men away. Why my hair, which resembles nothing like those enviable tresses they show in commercials, make it difficult to ace my dream job interview. And how I can eat, drink, exercise and buy my way to apparent perfection.
Creams that promise me fairer skin. Workouts for that apple bottom. The fad diet that everyone’s following–why didn’t I get the memo?
Critics might say that I’m faint-hearted. But for most young Indian women, these are real issues. We live and breathe social media–it’s no longer just a source of entertainment. Minds, perceptions, body images, political views are being shaped on social media. And even though a wave of brands and advertisers have embraced the message of positivity and self-love, there are still so many in the influencer-driven world, with their ring lights and editing apps, that make the ideal life seem so far-fetched for the average naari.
So many of us dread October through December, March through May; ’tis the Shaadi season on Instagram where every friend you know is getting married or proposed to, in palaces or to a string quartet.
Cut to a Karan Johar-Esque sangeet function followed by a Sabyasachi wedding party–whether the trousseau was from the designer’s store or Chandni Chowk–it’s all enough to trigger FOMO.
And as I scrolled through Instagram as a 26-year old, I knew in my mind and heart that there were others like me. Others needed a better message. A purpose, and a path to growth and learning that didn’t look down on their choices, their bodies, their habits, their accents.
Yes, this account is from an earlier time. But today, as a 30-something year old, I still look back at it and realise how it shaped me. How it shaped my business and its purpose.
It made me build a digital world where South Mumbai’s macarons can co-exist with Dadar’s vada pav without judgement.
Where we love budget shopping on Linking Road as much as we love Zara and H&M at Lower Parel. Where we champion mompreneurs and homepreneurs, and entrepreneurs running corporate companies, all the same.
In fact, even when I was starting my business in 2020, I would see how Instagram was flooded with overachieving accounts of people losing weight, starting new hobbies, and pursuing dream passions… right in the middle of a pandemic where so many people were dying. I would log off and take a deep breath, and just try to figure out how to keep my new businesses from crashing even before it launched… in a pandemic.
Do I still get triggered? Well, sometimes–maybe not as often as I used to. Four years later, I’ve learned and grown a lot. Grown a thick skin, a sense of self, and a drive to be the change that I wanted to see.
It’s a journey and I’m nowhere close to the destination, but I feel more prepared.
What brought me here was age, my shrink, my support system, and my ability to persist at self-love. And now, I try to be the voice of reason and comfort for women I meet in my own life; the voice I had in my ear when I was growing up and trying to find myself and my purpose.