Women often overestimate themselves. They think they can do everything in the world and try to look like a super-woman. Actually, this is a big-big lie that we can do everything! No, we can’t! We are human beings, not super-humans! We have our limitations and we must accept and appreciate that! It’s time we stop blaming and hating ourselves for the things we are unable to do and show love and encourage ourselves for the things we are able to accomplish. Overcoming the hurdles of life and emerging as a winner Nidhi Chaitanya has also discovered how to love herself. A sex abuse survivor who is now helping others to fall in love with themselves, she has penned down this very inspiring post for all the women out there. Read it now.
I now have ‘Self Love’ tattooed on my hands…
I am 34 and ‘self-love’ is not an idea many kids of my generation grew up with. We all grew up unknowingly programmed to listen, to obey, to conform, to sacrifice, to adjust, to bow down, to apologize, to always occupy the pillion seat in our own lives.
Although I belong to a culture where supposedly fierce women like Durga and Kali are worshipped, in real life, only the women with ‘approvable’ conduct draped in a minimum of 6-9 yards of unhealthy self-sacrificing martyrdom, are loved, respected, wanted and treated like ‘Goddesses’. The rest of us who rebel against the norms, question the patriarchy, speak their minds, take care of their needs, wear what they want and seek insane stuff like equality, are often the ones gone rogue!
We watch this narrative unfold in so many gross and subliminal ways so often ever since we are kids, that unknowingly we all at some point succumb to these passive learnings, even if we may be educated urban women or believers of egalitarianism. And if like me, you grew up in the India of 80s and 90s, then Bollywood and Indian TV of that age may have further fuelled those archaic sexist ideas in ways we still are unraveling.
Although I thought I was a confident, self-respecting, educated career woman, all it took was some gaslighting and emotional abuse, and I was the helpless damsel in distress, ready to go to any length to prove my sanity, to win approval, to live in harmony with people I thought I loved.
I listened, I obeyed, I conformed, I sacrificed, I adjusted, I bowed down, I apologized, I always occupied the pillion seat in my own life. Slowly over a period of a decade, I was fully convinced that a lot was wrong with me, and so I needed to keep trying harder to be fixed sufficiently to be the ‘approval’ woman. I was always blamed for being over-reactive, emotional, dramatic, and unnecessarily ‘womanly’. Soon, I hated my femininity. I wanted to be strong, unemotional, steady, like a man. And in my battle to be the woman who is ‘no less than a man’, I had almost killed myself – both literally and metaphorically. From life-threatening diseases to failed suicide attempts, I had checked all the boxes that would make me a case of serious self-hate.
Every other night, I cried to bed. And I was told that it was my fault that I was being such a victim of my emotions. I reported sexual abuse by a very powerful man, and I was told that I was too nice and that gave wrong signals to him. I was the problem behind all the issues in my life. And I hated me.
But fortunately, I am a philosopher and I ‘think’. And over the years, one thing that became clear to me was the fact that something was awfully wrong with my life. And slowly it dawned on me that everything was wrong with my life. I was in the wrong place, with the wrong people, doing the wrong stuff. I knew it because my unhappiness and pain was proof that I needed my help.
I finally pressed the reset button, decided to move away from everything that I called ‘my life’ and restart from scratch. When I distanced myself from my past to a sufficient extent to allow my mind to look back with objectivity, I was very angry with myself for letting me go through what I had gone through in the previous 15 years. I could not fathom why I had been such an idiot to stay in a toxic place for so long. ‘Why did I not leave earlier?’ – was a question that haunted me for a long time. It still sometimes does.
And after much turmoil, I figured that I was conditioned to believe my happiness matters, I matter, my life matters. I stuck to a toxic place because I did not know a better way to find love, respect, validation, and I craved it because I never offered it to myself. I was so disconnected from myself that my own calls for help never reached me. I realized that all my younger self needed in life was self-love. She needed to just re-connect with herself enough and she would have never let herself go through so much mess. She needed herself.
So I decided to work on a mindset shift and start loving myself more, first. I wanted to gift myself back to myself. And let me confess: This was not easy.
Very often I felt like I had become selfish. Sometimes, I feared I was wrong. I fell often into pits of self-depreciation. I made many blunders of putting myself aside, out of sheer muscle memory. But I now was okay with my mistakes. I had learned that I had to stand by me through every fall. I kept working on deepening my sense of self-love every single day. And slowly my life began to change. Because I genuinely loved myself,…
- I wanted me to be happy: I let go of all those people and interactions which felt toxic to my fundamental happiness and wellbeing.
- I wanted me to be healthy: I started taking more care of my biology, thus exercising regularly, eating right, and healing myself, ensuring I am the fittest I have been in a whole decade.
- I wanted me to be free: I felt confident to make choices for my life, without being overwhelmed by how it made other people feel.
- I wanted me to be unburdened: I began to be able to forgive the people from my past because I no longer willed to live under the weight of resentment.
- I wanted me to be me: While my internal battles with my body and mind began to recede, I found a natural gateway into my inner-being. I effortlessly connected to the calm center in me, which earlier was very difficult to access. My meditation delved deeper. I delved deeper. I found it!
My life now looks so different from my past, that every single day feels like a surprise gift I curated for myself. I am grateful, I am so grateful to me for loving me the way I do.
Of course, I no longer cry to sleep.
And, I now have ‘Self Love’ tattooed on my hands. Or maybe, not just on my hands!
An authority in world philosophy, a master in Vedic thinking, a practitioner of meditation, a certified yoga trainer, a passionate self-love warrior, a sex abuse survivor, a nutrition & lifestyle expert from Stanford University, a certified Reiki master from Lisa Powers, a neuro-flexibility researcher, trained and certified counsellor from University of Edinburgh, a non-conventional teacher and a very brave person, Nidhi Chaitanya is also a TEDx Speaker, a Woman Game-Changer Awardee and the founder of Project Self-Work. She has also studied Philosophy & Critical Thinking with the University of Queensland.
A great proponent of the idea of self-love, her first-of-its-kind live talk-show series “Conversations” brought out her extremely radical and new-age ideas of philosophical relevance in crucial topics and millennial dialogues on entrepreneurship, digitalization, adulting, dating, drugs, parenting, education, sustainability, cannabis, egalitarianism, etc.
A passionate believer and practitioner of self-work, she is the lead philosopher at Project Self-Work and stands out as a much-loved and sought-after teacher and mentor to thousands of thinkers and self-workers around the world. She understands that self-work is a multi-dimensional process and must be approached using a multi-disciplinary knowledge-base. She draws inspiration from different philosophies, examines them in the light of logic and practicality, customizes and upgrades them to suit modern thinking minds, and helps individuals curate a self-work-based life and lifestyle for themselves.
An avid social media user, a brilliant poetess, and a truly powerful human being, Nidhi Chaitanya has ‘self-love’ tattooed both on her hand and on her heart.