I was very fortunate to grow up with not just amazing parents, but some pretty amazing aunts. One conversation that is vividly clear is one that my aunt (mami-ji) had with me over a cup of chai. I’m not sure where everyone went, but it was just me and her at the kitchen table, I’m also not sure what she saw in me that prompted her random piece of advice. She said “Repe (this is my nickname for my entire family), do you know when you fly the attendant goes over the safety rules, and do you know why they tell you to put your mask on first before helping others? They say this because the only way you can help someone else is if you’re ok to do so”. That’s all, she didn’t explain anymore, just continued sipping her chai. This stuck with me for life.
For many of us, including me, taking time out for ourselves can be so challenging, especially amongst South Asian females. I’m not sure how (and I don’t think we are taught this), but we subconsciously develop this rule that the needs of everyone else are more important than our own. We feel guilty or selfish if dinner is not made but we’re lazing about reading a book or watching TV. Whenever I feel this way my aunt’s words come flooding back and in that moment I prioritize my own happiness above everyone else’s, I do this because that’s the only way I’ll be ok enough to put on their mask.
So, I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to read that book, take that nap, indulge in a spa night or whatever it is that makes you feel happy.