Me time. The concept that one might prefer one’s own company from time to time is something quite alien to certain people. However, it’s also something other people think is an absolute necessity. I fall in the latter group, as many who know me will very well be aware. I totally love spending time by myself. But let’s get this straight. Enjoying me time doesn’t mean I’m anti-social but that I’m comfortable not being around people all the time. In fact, let’s go a bit further than being “comfortable” with it and say that it’s something I believe everyone should try even if they may not be so keen to begin with.
Spending time alone can have so many benefits; the most important of them all being that it can give you a chance to get out of your own head. However, as an Indian woman, albeit having been born and brought up in the UK, I don’t think many people realise how conformed we become at just being around people all the time. It’s just that little bit worse when you’re an only child, like me. Indian women on the whole are always around people – parents, siblings, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, colleagues, neighbours. The Indian women I know, even those who are around the same age or younger than me, are always listening to, looking after or busy being “something” to someone. That’s not a criticism at all. It’s perhaps a cultural thing most of us fall into or perhaps partly describes the natural nurturing gene that most women carry through their lives. However, when do we get the time and space to just be us? When am I just me? When I’m alone. And if I’m hardly ever alone, how do I ever take care of me? How do I know that I exist outside of the people and relationships I cherish so much.
In so many of my life’s situations, without even realising it, the actions I’ve taken or the way I’ve dealt with something is very often because I’m… my parents’ daughter, my grandparents’ grand-daughter, my cousin’s cousin, my aunt or uncle’s niece, or something. I realised this a few months ago about myself and my own mindset. I’m not saying that every women feels that way but sometimes the actions of the ladies around me make me feel like they never do things solely as themselves or even for themselves.
So many women of my mother’s generation and younger/older have portrayed their uneasiness at spending time without their families or friends. I’ve seen the emotions around this thought at different times and it’s easily identifiable particularly because I am on a different wavelength. And I don’t mean that as a one-off family-is-out-so-I-can-happily-sit-and-watch-my-fave-programme-for-once type thing. I mean a regular taking time out from your daily grind or routine to be yourself and do something that might give you the chance to concentrate on and pamper you. There doesn’t need to be a reason for it. I know many of this generation find it very odd that this kind of thing isn’t something they should feel guilty about. But this is exactly the reason I believe me time is so important for Indian or Asian women, more so for those who feel so defined by the relationships that they are surrounded by and the various roles they themselves play, with so many hats juggled on their heads at any one time.
Spending time with oneself can be hugely fulfilling. Not only that, it can help you get to know you, without all the other voices or responsibilities or things that might otherwise weigh you down – for want of a better phrase. When you are comfortable and easy with yourself, your relationships are automatically going to be different. However, I believe it really is true that we are never really taught, as women growing up in an Asian culture, to be happy alone. A 2016 Buzzfeed article by Kavita Rao gave me real food for thought and I agree wholly with the reality that most women, even in a westernised culture, go from living with parents to living with a husband/in laws. I’m not saying every woman should live alone for a considerable period of time. But I think every woman should give herself a chance to break the cycle that suggests that you spending time on or for yourself is something that you should feel guilty about, whether or not others make you feel that way or you just feel it yourself.
Whether it’s to watch your favourite TV programme or Netflix or Prime series, whether it’s to blog, whether it’s to get on the phone and talk to a friend you’ve not caught up with in ages, whether it’s visiting the park for a stroll, whether it’s walking around and exploring a city you’re never visited… it can be anything. You are worthy and entitled to spend time alone and never let anyone tell you otherwise. This article in Psychology Today represents every thought I’m getting at without my having to explain in detail. Spending time with yourself will not only allow you to get to know yourself better but it will, ultimately, enrich your life in other ways. Just because your culture may not be kind to that way of thinking, don’t shy away from letting some me time enter your thoughts or your life.
In current times, spending time alone may not be a choice for some people and I fully do not recommend that you spend months inside your four walls, only talking to people virtually. That would and probably is having a huge effect on people’s mental health. However, when normal times commence again, I hope more women realise the benefits of time alone. Don’t get caught up in the reaction of anyone who doesn’t understand. Instead, make good habits to get more you time. I promise you, you’ll feel so much better for it!