These are some common misconceptions about mental health I encountered, I hope it helps someone.
1. Esteem is a constant. With the additional stressors of the pandemic, people who think high esteem is a forever thing that only strong people naturally possess might beat themselves up when their esteem dips.
They might think of themselves as weak, fear forever being weak, never able to be "like before" AKA go back to pre pandemic selves or feeling fatalistic, never being able to become one of the "strong confident ones".
They then lower their standards to meet the toxicity of the world, instead of standing firm with conviction, continue to forge forward to elevate themselves.
Esteem building is methodical and can be done, there is hope, don't give up.
Our esteem is dependent not just on people within our inner circle but also larger conditions outside our control that worry us, such as ridiculously strict Big Brother oversight, esteem does fluctuate and it's suppose to.
When your esteem dips, question if those around you might have escalated into becoming abusive or how it might be a long term troubling systemic issue that can only be fixed by mobilising a larger group of activists.
Don't attempt to carry the weight alone, you're not the only one called to defend human rights, if you're a feminist, all females benefit from it, it's OK to delegate and share the load.
2. Boundaries are taboo for females because the default sexist view is we must allow access to everyone at all times, this includes male, females, kids, adults while sidelining ourselves to play supportive roles, letting them take center stage.
We support them shining while we keep small, minimise ourselves, be invisible, dim our lights and disappear into the background.
Then we work hard once again to reclaim ourselves.
Time to stop this cycle.
Remind yourself how much work you put into curating your mental health, you do not want to have to do that again.
Anything less than subservience is viewed as wrong and socially punished, we however will always develop terrible mental health if we buy in, since none of our needs are ever prioritised or met, resentment and bitterness is sure to occur.
We're only human even if sexism is such that we're viewed as sub human, we have the power to reject what's harmful for us and be part of the change we want to see.
I always say no will tell you what someone is made of immediately, it will tell you more about someone than a million yeses.
Saying no can be hard for females who grew up in abusive or sexist families where their silent slippery slide to their own demise was forcefully traded for males in their families to thrive.
Learn to give yourself time, find empowered women online to tune into, heal, learn and grow out of your programming.
Women with boundaries are seen as selfish and greedy, unkind, unethical, bitchy, uncaring, all kinds of negative associations you can think of.
However, we're pushed to a corner and simply have no choice but to manage our mental health, not everyone gets it and that's OK, we do us and they do them.
We know they unfortunately have to awaken up to this someday and quit their learn helplessness and handmaiden ways, they will find us again when they get it.
Unfortunately this means they will be incessantly exploited until they do, since it is usually arrogance that skewed their abilities to judge well, note that it's OK to reject them when they wake up from it. Since they do injure you, are right now complicit in your demise as well as their own, there is no need to take on the burden of forgiveness.
Remember that sexist women exist, women can internalise it and become patriarchal soldiers for men, where they ally with them for rewards, prioritise their needs while neglecting yours.
Drawing boundaries means ditching both sexist men and sexist women, remember that you're aiming for higher standards, you can only look up when you refuse to bend down.
They're not your friends, whether you're healing or whether you're looking for support, they want to exploit you to continue to benefit males who already benefit by default. At the end of the day, unless we all hold the line of full humanness, refuse to cave in together, we all fall together.
This is not something every female understand, they can be more competitive than cooperative. Since sexist conditioning also condones female to female exploitation on top of male to female exploitation, females can be just as exploitative as males.
It's better to stand tall and proud alone than live without dignity amongst many, you stand in your light and truth, even if no one likes it and high quality educated people will respect you. There's many who aren't either of this so don't bother expecting that either.
Boundaries are healthy, recommended by all healers and are a must in every relationship we have.
3. There're wrong emotions. Also due to sexist taboos, valid emotional states such as anger, resentment, bitterness, disappointment and rage are repressed by women all the time. It is usually spun into a socially acceptable version that results in depression and anxiety.
Millions of females are officially diagnosed or self diagnosed with both, because a diagnosis can legitimise what feels wrong to them, it can be a relief to pinpoint what's wrong with them, these are however symptoms and not the root causes.
We see a lot of coping, we don't see a lot of problem solving, sexism is so widespread and so controversial, the stressors of advocacy alone is enough to push new feminists back to psychologically sub human status in their heads.
They're so conditioned, they can feel envious or jealous of females who express those emotions they kept in instead. When they want to take ownership of their pain, they also expect free emotional labour from females to make up for how they feel short changed in general.
They however aren't ready to face how it was primarily men that short changed them and therefore not the job of competent females who also face the obstacles they faced to assist them.
Competent females help females do it because we didn't get help ourselves and know how hard it is, we don't want them to be so alone, not because we were so special to escape oppression in its entirety.
There is no such thing.
Handmaidens often used black and white thinking to cope and this narrow minded thinking is also why they cannot understand gender non conforming women, that kind of strength and the agency we have to be ourselves are lost on them.
Those females might have bought into the mother instinct myth that they're excellent emotional labourers by default and don't need any training, their over confidence ends up re-victimising other women, providing no help at all while enabling each other.
Whatever it is, you still deserve to address your pain and you still deserve good mental health even if people disapprove, sabotage, gatekeep and get up to all kinds of monkey business to prevent you from seeking it.
Don't expect non professionals to get it, it will not happen. Armchair diagnosis and lay people psychoanalysing has become one of the biggest mental health challenges. They spread misinformation that professionals have to battle to overturn instead of taking cues from professionals and disseminating with due diligence, they see personal opinions based on hurt feelings as facts, they're wrong all the time.
Anger is such a common trigger for women, some will have a vague idea of feeling bad when they experience it, they usually try to dial down the intensity into sadness or disappointment instead of letting themselves feel the full force of it, even doing it privately is a tall task for them, forget about expecting them to accept you being angry in front of them.
Feminists understand, we know women need to engage their rage and we're fine with it.
This is a struggle every single woman who has been forced to be palatable to survive will struggle with, don't forget patriarchal gains can be mental health for men and patriarchal oppression can be robbing females of it as well.
Even if that anger wasn't directed towards them personally, viewing it or feeling old anger can trigger the fight of flight reflex and frighten them.
Also why your rage will liberate you, when you tune into your rage, it means you recognise how harmful sexism really is. Therefore not only how unjust it is but how crazy impossible patriarchal expectations are, patriarchal attitudes are truly forcing women to the brink, casually pushing us over the cliff daily like Lemmings to the slaughter.
If someone is sexist, they will punish female anger more harshly than male ones. Toxic positivity results in repression, it is an unhealthy common coping mechanism, this is often used on females to dismiss and invalidate us, then our ill mental health is then weaponised back into other forms of duress such as accusations of PMSing, irrationality, hysteria and craziness when it's normal reactions to trauma that men have when they have been abused as well.
It is not a personal weakness, it is a normal reaction to being traumatised that women are penalised more harshly for, keeping us trapped within a cycle of exploitation and helplessness, feeling distress, exhausted and lost.
The problem is every single woman has trauma, not every one of them have a good gauge how injured they're, therefore cannot appreciate the value of free labour from women who earned their healing anyway, this is the Dunning Kruger effect, the most incompetent think they're the most competent.
You just end up more stressed out, still broke and now your mental health sucks as well.
This devaluation from all sides then make it impossible to thrive within sexist female circles, which is also why self reliance is vital to your personal wellbeing and also feminist solidarity.
If you feel torn between your own wellbeing and someone else's, learn to choose yourself, because no one is choosing you. People have their own commitments, their own things to attend to and that's fine, you focus on yourself.
Remember that having the same life events as males such as child abuse doesn't always mean they aren't exploitative of females, sexism is so embedded within societies, it will override some very painful mutual struggles men and women experience. It's sad because this means solace can't always be found together, it's always easier to console each other without barriers, this just makes it that much harder to advocate for specific social issues.
It's also that people in pain tend to become apathetic and are unable to provide the empathy you need to heal, it is only the ones with the strongest principles and values that keep their empathy while struggling with their own pain, they're worthy of our admiration.
They're more rare than people think as well, most become apathetic, are easily overwhelmed and are unavailable in all ways.
The latter group make excellent social justice defenders, both because of their unshakeable integrities and the conviction that comes when their activism mature into greatness beyond one person's empowerment.
They also need guidance as well. With so many kinds of women to help, we can only pick and choose some, it's impossible to invest in everyone the same way.
4. Survivor guilt is real. Survivor guilt can drive you to be overly involved in someone else's life or over commit to a social cause to avoid addressing your own pain.
This can be associated with a positive connotations, twisted into loving, caring, bigger person, altruistic or kind in your head, which is a survival method females take on, it is not a healthy long term coping method.
This is because that was the only way your mom and your grandmother saw themselves, by being utterly self sacrificial, throwing themselves under the bus for everyone else, they blindly hoped to achieve social acceptance through sacrifices that never do add up, they gave so much away but got so little in return, became resentful and bitter for a good reason.
If you don't want to turn out like them, you need to take ownership of your life ASAP and participate in campaigning for gender equality. If you don't want to at the very least support people advocating for you, then stop complaining, you cannot want something and then sabotage the people doing it for you.
As women, they never found their authentic most empowered selves that demanded equal status as men, they were resigned to what they see as a woman's fate. You're capable of rewriting this story to suit a woman of your generation, you do not need to live by society's rule book, a book that harms us to no end.
Don't fall into the same trap of self neglect and self sabotage, be careful you don't advice females to think this way as well.
Remember that no matter what your motivations were to help someone, even if it was a misguided way to help, you did help someone anyway so congratulate yourself for it and forgive yourself for not knowing better.
It didn't take away from how helpful you were, it does mean you now understand yourself better, your female relatives and your female friends better now.
You have discovered a new chapter to your life and that's to be applauded.
5. Same bar for everyone. Some people are rigid thinkers, they have the same ranking system for women around the world, often being west looking and seeing European or American women (usually white) as role models, be aware this is the effect of colonisation, it promotes the same bar of Eurocentric standards that do not apply to millions of non white females that set us up to fail as they ride on the coattails of privilege and we're left behind to fend for ourselves.
It is damaging to swop one form of silence for another, to swop subservience from one group to another group, whether visually or socially, white people have benefited off the backs of non white people globally.
Don't forget this.
Question if you're white washed and see what're your real needs, usually your pressures are real and you might want a specific kind of inclusion, campaign for those instead, don't keep small and kowtow to them, they do not deserve us.
In countries where feminism is robust and people are politically involved, there're all kinds of social rewards to be had, it can be monetary, psychological and emotional as well as a rapid online following.
This is not true for all women around the world, some lack funds, have no local support, no universal healthcare, have their own personal conditions that're too far fetched for women in the global north to even comprehend.
Be kind, people are sometimes stretched to the limits and cannot do more, forcing them just means we lose another warrior with potential, people drop out of activism because it's too much pressure.
All these rewards can motivate someone, you have your own conditions, it's OK to walk at your own pace, adapt to your conditions to avoid your demise, you're as important as them.
It's the age of globalisation but true support hasn't reached all countries yet, it takes a lot more risks, a lot more courage for women from certain countries to do similar things as women from the west, through the lens of racism, it will not be seen as the same.
We're overqualified and they think we're underqualified, that is the gulf of racism for you, we're othered yet again.
A single person protest can get Singaporean activists charged by the police while western women are hesitant to join in large marches spoon fed to them. Even taking a tiny easy step towards gender equality is too much for them, the disparity in courage is jarring, as is the level of high praise for tiny things they do that we have been doing for a lifetime.
Learn to be super kind this year to yourself, it's OK to ease up on confrontations, people are feeling battered from the pandemic stressors of last year, people are definitely going to be clingy and explode in rage when they can't be fixed quickly.
It is not your problem, people often underestimate how "easy" healing is, because they never tried doing it themselves. People usually need it to escalate to unbearable levels before they feel motivated enough to even start, it's a sooner or later issue, the pain will take over at some point, it always does.
Remember that not everyone is an activist and non activists are the most judgemental. They know nothing, don't listen to them, they're secretly learning from the sidelines without giving anyone credit. Too frighten to even amplify, they just take as you pay the rent for their existence, definitely don't seek their approval.
Come on, they're already benefiting, what more do they want? They do not get to have an opinion, they're inexperience and no one listens to inexperienced people.
Our priorities are always people in the fight and not benchwarmers, sometimes supporting people in the fight is already taxing enough. Learn to sustain yourself your own way, you don't have to be the fiercest warrior, we need sustainable activism more than we need occasional bursts of sudden courage driven by adrenaline. All that roller coaster false bravado is temporary and they will crash and burn themselves without your interference.
People are going to try to be more exploitive and more abusive this year, people can increase their sense of entitlement when they feel insecure. Not everyone with the same problems have empathy, sometimes it means it's easier to compare suffering, ending up with more guilt and shame on both sides.
People who compare suffering see you as more a foe than a friend, their own lives are out of control, they want to rely on you so they can decorate their own homes with your blood, hex them instead!
Same for people who encounter the same problems, they might become apathetic instead, the biggest support might not come from the people you think would be and this nice surprise is aways touching.
A majority of people do not want to advocate, they just want to focus on themselves. They have no intention to support the same people advocating for them, it's just insane how they cut down the people that provide for them while complaining about the same personal issues for years on end.
Never underestimate the selfishness of people, this will be your fatal flaw.
If you're advocating and healing at the same time, give yourself praise that you're doing twice of what they're doing, be careful not to overworked.
Survivor guilt can drive us to overwork as well, there might be a conflict of interest between these two areas, the stress can make it tempting to revert to old habits, it's OK to step back and relook at what you can handle.
If you have a habit of comparative suffering, you probably have a scarcity limiting mindset fuelled by false beliefs, it's time to consider setting it down.
Know that it is common that people pick up a false belief system to cope, actually most people have a false belief system, they just don't know it.
Know that you're not alone, people will understand.
Remember that wounded people wound people, healed people heal people, your personal healing also requires picking up skills, this can be a future employment avenue for you, don't forget the possibility of that.
God always calls the broken and the abandoned, we make the best healers because we lived through it so we know how to overcome it as well.
It's OK to take time off to heal, I know I did in 2017, even though it meant making sacrifices then so this year will be on track, it was the best year of my life as well.
Eshet chayil, God is a She
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