Self-care and self-love were words I did not hear growing up. Being raised in a Pakistani household, I was more likely to witness burnout, adopt the mindset of overachieving, and look at rest to be synonymous with weakness. It would take me well into my late 20s and entering my 30s to remove the shame and stigma that came with practicing self-care and self-love. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 22, against my parent’s wishes. I wanted to pursue a career in acting. If you know South Asian culture, you know that it isn’t often children of Brown parents who go against their parent’s wishes without there being immense backlash. I would spend the next decade exploring and having discovery after discovery around the idea of self-love. From pursuing relationships that didn't align with who I wanted to become, to learning to put myself first and work through the internal shame that came with being on my own and losing family relationships, I eventually reached out for help via therapy. Putting ourselves first can be a foreign concept for South-Asian women, but I love to see how it’s changing. After meeting my husband and experiencing disownment, I started to practice the art of putting myself first, prioritizing my happiness, and redefining what it meant to be happy in the context of where I came from. Self-care means taking care of my mind and body via meditation, working out, eating nourishing foods, slowing down, and being present with the things I love. It means not answering my phone when I know the energy on the other side may not be helpful in my healing. Self-love for me at 35 means forgiving myself for the times I didn’t know better, being comfortable with the journey and who I am today, and also knowing it’s ok to strive for more so I can be a better me as time goes on. I encourage other women within my culture not to be afraid to seek help and to be unapologetic about pursuing the things that make them happy. I often encourage doing work that will let us go of the idea that others’ opinions matter. Being bold in creating a life that is based on their authentic selves. While it doesn’t come without its challenges, I can’t imagine living a life that didn’t reflect the truth of who I am. I hope that anyone who reads this knows that they’re not alone and that practicing self-care and learning to love ourselves isn’t a sin but rather a way to honor this gift we call life.
Best, Natasha Khawja