I Am My Sanctuary
“You are who you choose to be.”
–Hogarth Hughes, The Iron Giant
Let’s start at the very beginning. I was never an anxious kid. In the formative and post-formative stages of my life, I was rather affable and easy-going. Then life happened. At the (not so) tender age of 13, I changed schools. This wasn’t a novel circumstance for me. I’d changed 10 schools prior to that. But this was different. My first day there I got well acquainted with the acrimonious act of bullying. My physical appearance seemed to bother my new peers quite a bit. Oddly enough, it hadn’t occurred to me till then that my physical appearance had anything remotely to do with my personality. After that though, it was all I could conclude.
Amazing, isn’t it? How one word, one sentence and one act is all it took to crumble my self esteem to pieces?
It’s not amazing. It’s abhorrent. It’s despicable that words are used in such a way. But that is exactly why they ought to be used prudently. My bullies didn’t do so. They were ruthless, immature, and spineless. They bullied me out of that school, and I’m glad they did. For if they hadn’t, I never would’ve realised how beautiful I really am. The school that followed was a pleasant sunny day after a rough night’s sleep. I was happy there. I was content.
But I still didn’t love myself.
Because every time I saw myself in the mirror, I could see a million flaws. I could notice things I probably wouldn’t have before. I hated the way I looked. And I wanted to do just about anything to change that. Self-hate is cruel. It’s probably the worst thing you can do to yourself. And I did it to myself for 6 years straight. I still do it sometimes, and then I apologise to myself because I don’t deserve it. I never did.
I didn’t even know what my definition of being ‘good looking’ was back then. I just knew I wasn’t. Despite repeated efforts from my parents and friends telling me I was. I didn’t believe them. I only believed my bullies. It was unhealthy and toxic, but it was true. And you can’t blame it on anyone except for this bitter culture we thrive in.
“In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.” –Caroline Caldwell
It wasn’t even limited to my looks. It projected on to my personality. I was insecure that I wasn’t worthy of being close to my friends. That I wasn’t a laudable daughter. And that I just wasn’t enough. I questioned the very core of my identity.
Later on though, things started marginally getting better. I had my braces come off when I was 16. I discovered the magical art of makeup when I was 18 and I had this new wave of confidence over me. Everything was looking up. I was finally starting to be okay with myself rather than outright loathing myself. And then it happened- again.
We were in a trial room. She was thinner than me. I tried on the cutest pair of shorts and stepped out to show my best friend what they looked like. She didn’t say anything at first because I didn’t ask her. As I was admiring myself in the mirror, she said, “They’d look better if you dropped a few kilos though.” I stood there, in consternation. I couldn’t believe it. This best friend of mine who I choose not to name isn’t even a friend anymore. (You now know why). She always used to talk about being skinny and how that’s all she wants in life. I never bothered because it was her opinion and her body, it was never my business. Until she made it so. You know what’s really ironic though? Up until that fiasco, I didn’t think I was fat. And I didn’t think fat was a bad thing. And then suddenly, I did.
I spent hours in a day looking at myself in the mirror. I was back at it. Self depreciation had reentered my life with a huge thud. And this time, it wasn’t just my face that I critiqued and despised. It was everything about me. I spent days scrawling into my diary about how I wish I didn’t look like this. How I was so undesirable and vile that I didn’t deserve to live.
Hours went into days, days went into weeks and weeks became years. Soon after, tragedy hit me. I took ill- extremely ill. To the point where I couldn’t move myself without support, I didn’t eat for months and my body was covered in puss filled rashes. I was in pain. The pain taught me an invaluable lesson though. It made me fall in love with myself. The pain made me fall in love with my life. It’s not that hard to grasp. I just became adamantine. Realising that life could slip me away any second, I learnt to value it. I learnt to value myself. As I got better and I started recovering, I used to get surges of self-hate, but they didn’t last because inherently, I had forgiven my bullies, I had forgiven my best friend and I had forgiven the world for being so callous with me. I was forgiving and forgetting. I couldn’t possibly live my life with hatred in my heart for everyone and everything that had ever wronged me.
I had to rise above it.
And so, I did.
I rise above it every day. I face the music every day. I’ve made myself my sanctuary.
I am all I’ll ever need now. I’m learning to trust myself, love myself and treasure myself more than ever before. I found my hope. And all along, it was inside of me.
There was that day and there’s today. 13 year old Arushi would be so proud of 20 year old Arushi. We made it so far. We thought we wouldn’t, and we did.
I am my sanctuary.
And that is all I’ll ever need.
Thanks for reading my post! I hope you liked what you read. And if you did, do give it a little heart down below. You can even recommend it if you want to.
// Stay buoyant. xx