As South Asian women, we have a lot of garbage we have to put up with. The extra load of extra chores and emotional labor that we have to take on on top of our regular jobs or schoolwork is enough to make anyone snap.
There isn't much I can say about the pressure that hasn't been said before.
It sucks. It's unjust. It forces girls to grow up too quickly. It's sexist nonsense.
We have to take care of everyone else at the expense of ourselves, and it isn't healthy. Ideally, we go through a whole cultural shift within the next few weeks to the point where we start taking care of our women and girls and making sure that they are happy and healthy.
While that remains a cherished dream of mine, we need a plan to put into action.
Something concrete to help us get through our days and start prioritizing ourselves instead of sacrificing everything at the altar of tradition. Something a little more workable than the "communicate with your parents" that I continually got from the University's white mental health counselor when I tried to reach out for help.
These are a few tips I have picked up over the years myself, or from my sister, or learned from other South Asian women that I wanted to share with everyone.
We're going to make our own happy endings. Remember, you are worthy of love, and you are valuable, no matter what.
Make a sacred sanctity for yourself.
Now, I know this isn't the most intuitive solution, especially with the long list of things that have already been dumped on you, but hear me out. In this case, your "room" applies to any spot that is private and yours.
It could be anywhere, really. But for me, it's my room.
I am terrible at keeping things organized once I have cleaned. So, the whole task of picking up my stuff off the floor, organizing it into drawers and boxes, then dusting surfaces takes up the better part of an evening at least once a week — sometimes more.
That's one evening when you are busy with a wholesome, productive endeavor your family can't get mad about.
The longer you take to clean, the longer you get left alone, so have fun with it. Make the space yours, if you can.
If not, have a certain spot where you keep the things that are most special to you that you can go to when you need a break. Plus, now your personal space is clean, smells nice, and is once again a comforting spot you can rely on to be nice for you.
Taking care of your need for physical comfort is key to keeping yourself feeling like a person.
Pick and choose your battles wisely.
This is the one I personally have to work on the most. My rule is to pick three things that you need. You top three things that you have to have control over and set hard and fast boundaries over them.
Enforce your boundaries, over and over and over again, until your family gets the message.
It's exhausting. It's hard work. And it is absolutely necessary to protect your sense of self. You don't want to pick too many, or else you'll be backed into being combative and spending too much energy to defend your boundaries.
The goal of this tip is to make sure you have enough mental space and energy to enjoy your own life — not to make every day a battle.
Set boundaries that are important to you and you know are enforceable, then enjoy the slight sense of control you regain.
Have things you do alone and things you do with your family.
If you follow the little rules, you can break the big ones. That was my mantra going through high school. If I was quiet in class and turned in my homework on time, I could goof off and read my books during a lecture, since the teacher wouldn't notice. This is the same concept.
Go on your family walks. Engage with your parents about the different trees and birds that you see (even if they're the same ones every time). Sit through family time. Watch serials with your mom. Make your parents feel like they are part of your life.
Then, when you get time, say you're busy and enjoy your time in solace.
Find yourself an outlet: sport, or an art project, a video game — anything that makes you happy. Keep it on the down low. That activity is your thing.
You have full control of how often you participate, and how you enjoy yourself on that time.
Destroy the idea that you have to be good at it. Remember, this is your thing. You're doing it for fun.
If it isn't fun anymore, you don't have to do it. You deserve to have fun in your life, whatever that looks like for you.
Reach out to your friends.
This one is the most important one of all. You cannot live life pushing people from your family away, and expect that to lead to healthy results.
When your related family is too hard to deal with, lean on your found family. Your friends are a vital piece of this.
Vent to them, and listen to them. Take turns leaning on each other. Check in on each other's mental health.
If we want a world that prioritizes our mental health, it's up to us to make it for each other.