Look After Yourself First, Before Others

Looking Out For Your Own Mental Health Is Just As Important As Looking Out For Someone Else's

How do you save someone else's life without putting yours at risk?

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I have always been the friend that everybody goes to for advice or for counsel.

I had learned from my parents to be empathetic and understanding of others; to always see the good in people even though their actions may reflect differently. I was taught to put others before myself; to always make sure everyone was comfortable though I may not be. I was raised to always make room for others, even if meant sacrificing your own space. Sounds like a good virtue to learn and live by...right? My parents meant no ill-intention when they taught me these core values. However, constantly giving away pieces of yourself even when you don't have any more pieces to give or letting people pour their issues and problems into you even when you're about to overflow is an extremely unhealthy practice.

At one of the darkest moments of my life, I found myself desperately trying to help others before myself.

Particularly, I was caught between the lines with a "friend" who latched on to me and depended on me for their survival. My emotional availability became their only reason to live. I felt like I was saving a life. I thought this was a good thing to do. This was the only way for my friend to stay alive, so I should do it.

Slowly but surely, however, my own mental and emotional health deteriorated. Everyone around me could see it. I was constantly sleep-deprived and anxious. My friends and mentors would encourage me to take care of myself, but I would respond with: "She needs me right now. I can't! If I don't call her or text back she'll threaten to kill herself again." I began to distance myself from my other friends. I felt responsible every time she lashed out and became suicidal again. She threatened to harm herself when I didn't text or call back. She would blame me for being a bad friend if I couldn't hang out. If I didn't provide emotional support, her death would be my fault. My best friends urged me to distance myself because I was becoming affected by it too. I refused to listen. I thought they were ignorant and apathetic to mental health. Little did I know that I was the one who was ignorant and apathetic to my own mental well-being.

One day, after an emotional break-down, my mentor called me and requested that we have a chat.

Sitting at her office, she looked stern but sympathetic. Without her saying anything, I knew that she understood the position I was pinched in between. She let out a sigh and said: "Right now, you are not responsible for anybody else's life except your own. Sometimes, it's necessary to be selfish. You have to understand the boundary between being a good friend and letting yourself be manipulated by someone who needs serious help. You focus so much on rebuilding her when you're the one falling apart. Abusive relationships don't just exist in romantic relationships; friendship, at least a true friendship, is NOT like this. You need to wake up. You need to seek help from a professional who can handle her. You cannot save someone who does not want to be saved. At this point, you're the one who needs saving."

After months of denial, my mentor's words suddenly reawoke my sense of reason.

I reflected on all the toxic behaviors I experienced in the friendship and decided that this pattern needed to end instantly. I reached out to my friend's parents and siblings and explained to them what had been happening. Together, we found the best therapists and psychiatrists in the area. We confronted my friend about her mental health and explained the urgency for her to be admitted to a rehabilitation center. Though she did not take it smoothly, we eventually came to a consensus. With the support of her family and mental health professionals, she was slowly, but surely recovering. I found myself sleeping peacefully, knowing that she was in safe hands and that her life no longer depended on my availability. Personally, I started seeing therapists and counselors as well just to make sure I was in a good mental and emotional state. I began researching mental health resources on the college-level, city-level, and even national level. When friends or family would reach out to me with critical signs of mental-health issues I immediately referred them to the resources I found while assisting them every step of the way throughout their mental-health recovery journey.

Today, I continue to become inspired by the core teachings of my parents; now, however, with much more caution.

I realized that being a supportive friend does not mean letting yourself become someone else's emotional outlet. It does not mean being responsible for making your friends happy, but rather helping them find a plethora of other ways to become happy again. With the intense academic culture that surrounds college campuses worldwide, mental health is something that needs to be recognized.

Luckily, there are many resources available.

The issue is educating people about them and teaching people the proper way to handle situations similar to the one I was in. I often reminisce the destructive situation I was put in and I now realize that it could've been solved immediately if I had just reached out to my friend's family members and mental health professionals who actually have the authority to take action. Though this experience was frightening, it opened up an opportunity to educate myself about mental health and the resources available to those who suffer from mental health issues. I learned more about how to better take care of myself and how to look out for others. Most importantly, it taught me how to save a life without putting my own life at risk.

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PSA: Keep Your Body-Negative Opinions Away From Little Girls This Summer

But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with.

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It's officially swimsuit season, y'all.

The temperature is rising, the sun is bright and shining, and a trip to the beach couldn't look more appealing than it does right now. This is the time of year that many of us have been rather impatiently waiting for. It's also the time of year that a lot of us feel our most self-conscious.

I could take the time to remind you that every body is a bikini body. I could type out how everyone is stunning in their own unique way and that no one should feel the need to conform to a certain standard of beauty to feel beautiful, male or female. I could sit here and tell you that the measurement of your waistline is not a reflection of your worth. I completely believe every single one of these things.

Hell, I've shared these exact thoughts more times than I can count. This time around, however, I'm not going to say all these things. Instead, I'm begging you to push your insecurities to the side and fake some confidence in yourself when you're in front of others.

Why?

Because our negative self-image is toxic and contagious and we're spreading this negative thinking on to others.

We're all guilty of this, we're with family or a friend and we make a nasty comment about some aspect of our appearance, not even giving a single thought to the impact our words have on the person with us. You might think that it shouldn't bother them- after all, we're not saying anything bad about them! We're just expressing our feelings about something we dislike about ourselves. While I agree that having conversations about our insecurities and feelings are important for our mental and emotional health, there is a proper and improper way of doing it. An open conversation can leave room for growth, acceptance, understanding, and healing. Making a rude or disheartening remark about yourself is destructive not only to yourself, but it will make the person you are saying these things around question their own self worth or body image by comparing themselves to you.

My little sister thinks she's "fat." She doesn't like how she looks. To use her own words, she thinks she's "too chubby" and that she "looks bad in everything."

She's 12 years old.

Do you want to know why she has this mindset? As her older sister, I failed in leading her by example. There were plenty of times when I was slightly younger, less sure of myself, and far more self-conscious than I am now, that I would look in the mirror and say that I looked too chubby, that my body didn't look good enough, that I wished I could change the size of my legs or stomach.

My little sister had to see the older sibling she looks up to, the big sis she thinks always looks beautiful, say awful and untrue things about herself because her own sense of body image was warped by media, puberty, and comparing herself to others.

My negativity rubbed off onto her and shaped how she looks at herself. I can just imagine her watching me fret over how I look thinking, "If she thinks she's too big, what does that make me?"

It makes me feel sick.

All of us are dealing with our own insecurities. It takes some of us longer than others to view ourselves in a positive, loving light. We're all working on ourselves every day, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with, our struggles and insecurities should not form into their own burdens.

Work on yourself in private. Speak kindly of yourself in front of others. Let your positivity, real or not, spread to others instead of the bad feelings we have a bad habit of letting loose.

The little girls of the world don't need your or my negative self-image this summer. Another kid doesn't need to feel worthless because we couldn't be a little more loving to ourselves and a lot more conscious of what we say out loud.

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I Don't Have To Wear Makeup To Be Beautiful

You don't have to, either.

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For about as long as modern makeup/cosmetics/skincare brands have been around, the notion that women have to use any of these cosmetic products to be considered "beautiful" has also been around.

(If you've read my earlier article about red lipstick giving me my confidence back, you would know that I absolutely adore certain skincare/makeup products.)

However, I personally don't believe that I need to wear any kind of makeup to be considered "beautiful." And you don't, either.

I think that we, as a society, have seriously overvalued aesthetic beauty and undervalued the beauty that comes from being a decent, honest, genuine, and kind person. I believe that while makeup has an incredible and transformation-giving effect on women, (and men too, just for the record), that none of us honestly should depend on x, y, and z products to make us feel that we are beautiful, or that our self worth and sense of self should be tied up in how many likes a selfie of us in a full face of makeup get.

And quite frankly, there is so much to love about our makeup free, naturally glowing skin that so many of us hide, simply because society would love to tell us that we're not beautiful, or pretty, or worth very much at all if we don't use [insert new trendy skincare product here].

Well, excuse my French, but I'm calling bull.

It's not okay for any of us to think of ourselves as less than, simply because we're not following those crazy and crappy societal trends. In a culture where "Instagram perfect" pictures are the ideal that every woman, or man, is expected to look up to, I'd say it's pretty revolutionary to dare to bare a fresh-faced look.

No one has to ever feel the need to compulsively put on makeup to be considered "beautiful."

Because, in all reality, makeup can't measure the kind of person you are.

Makeup/skincare products can't measure your kindness, your generosity, your bravery in the face of adversity, or any other kickass quality that you might have. Makeup can't do that; only what's inside of you, if brought out for the world to see, can do that. And yes, I'm well aware of how cliché and "junior high preachy" that sounds.

So, I hope this article will possibly spark some introspective thoughts on what beauty means to you. I hope you start to think about the fact that who you are as a person is not defined by how "attractive" or "beautiful" someone else might tell you you are.

You define who you are as a person, nobody else has that power.

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