Loving Being Yourself

The piece below was written by Sadia, a young teacher who has worked in East London, UK. It was first posted on her site, Sincerely Sadia.

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

To love being ourselves. Not necessarily ‘loving ourselves’, as that classic modern dictum goes: as though we can act as separate entities from our own selves, able to ‘give ourselves’ the love that we, by nature, need, from others. But to love being ourselves.

How can we love being us?

I want to talk about who we really are, again. And how, over time, various groups, settings, have expected, demanded different things of us. Praised certain attributes, may-haps, and while criticising others. Who are we originally? What (within the constraints of Objective Morality) speaks to us the most, irrespective of how ‘attractive’ or ‘stylish’ various external parties might consider it all?

What do you love? What do you love doing? What do you love learning about? Who are you, in truth?

I want to talk, again, about that whole ‘Cool’ vs. ‘Sad’ dichotomy. And how false and untrue it is: allow me to explain…

‘Cool’ [it’s kind of ‘un-cool’ to even use the word ‘cool’ these days. When I was much younger, the ‘cool’ olders even used words like ‘nang’. Does anyone remember that? ‘Piff’ as well. The wonderful[ly weird] world of… BBM [wAGWAN piff ting, can I get your BBM?]. Super ‘cool’, back then. Wearing bright blue eyeshadow, even. Certain hairstyles. ‘Low-bats’. Now: cringe, cringe, cringe]. ‘Cool’ necessitates a grand covering up: seem strong, kind of unbreakable [self-protection. If you show ‘weakness’, openness, ‘vulnerability’: well, what if you break?]. Being neutral with most things, and apathetic-seeming in regard to others. Keep up with ‘trends’, and fit in, and don’t let anything ‘stand out’, ‘stick out’, lest your arms and legs get hurt on… the rollercoaster that is social life.

Don’t be too expressive. Cancel out those exclamation marks. Act like you are ‘above’ caring… about each and every of those ‘small’ things that… you do care about. ‘Cool’ is speaking in a certain way. Measured, ‘edgy’. Pique some attentions, but… not too much. It’s caring much about what people think [we all do. All humans, except, perhaps, the clinically insane of us]… so much so that you do anything to act like you don’t care.

I tell you: have you ever seen how dramatic a creature a child is? Loving cars so much, he wants them everywhere. The colour pink so much: almost everything she has, she asks for it in pink. He wants a black dot printed on his new cap: nobody really understands why.

She starts muttering to herself, beneath her breath, like she is far away from here, imagining all sorts of other things. He likes examining insects. Sees new people: hides behind his mum. She says that she is a princess: the plastic tiara on her head is made up of diamonds, in her head. A sparkly wand, a fighting stance: he’s quite into karate, we find, now.

Suddenly, theme parks are ‘cool’, and so is… doing Sheesha. Boasting about [apparently doing] it, to the others, at school. Designers are ‘cool’, and so is… never tripping up. Walls, defences, high. Phone in hand, makeup on. It’s self-protection. Act like you don’t care. ‘Cool’ is a thing about social hierarchy, no? Social ‘popularity’: power.

face is put on, to meet the world outside. But come home, close the door, and hide.

‘Mature’. You seem ‘cool’: like… you’ve ‘outgrown‘ yourself, somehow. But I don’t think we ever do. And if we ever could: well then, what a tragedy that would be.

It’s strange how the whole thing works, and how it pretty much always has. ‘Cool’ kids stopped bringing in… their Hannah Montana packed lunch bags to school. Stopped showing an interest, perhaps, in many things (save for… in the opposite gender). And then it seems like that is the standard to meet, in the eyes of others. Hiding things, to appear ‘admirable’, ‘enviable’, acceptable, ‘popular‘.

[But don’t you miss yourself?! The ‘simple pleasures’ of waking up early, to see your room flooded with orange light? Designing paper aeroplanes to glide well, or to boomerang? Researching different breeds of birds; playing Power Rangers? Sitting on the circular swing, at the park, in order to read a book, sort of upside-down?]

‘Cool’ may make others look and think they, too, want to be it. But: when we love people, we are endeared not to the images they may put up of themselves, but… to their very humanities.

Maybe one reason as to why I speak so much on this topic is because I have been there, in Year Seven. New school, and suddenly I was ‘cool’. I had to do everything to maintain it. Act like I don’t care pretty much at all about school-related things. Facebook. Spend time with certain people: they seem to exude ‘self-confidence’, don’t they? And then I parted with the fakeness, meanness, vanity of that whole scene, for… its polar opposite.

I, for some reason, decided to try to become a ‘full-on nerd’ in Year Eight. [This, in retrospect, was probably not the most healthy thing either. A desire to work on one’s intellect and hobbies and such does not necessarily need to translate to… copying established ‘tropes’ to feel accepted into the ‘scene’]. ‘Big Bang Theory’, chess competitions, Maths Club, and the rest. Still, maybe, not being entirely authentic to myself. But: a necessary step on the journey (to balance), methinks.

I remember, once, one of the ‘cool’ friends I once had: I’d seen her at a shop near our secondary school, after she’d left as a student there. I told her I’d just come out of Maths Club — and she seemed… so disappointed in me, like I’d done something wrong somehow. I guess, back then, the prevalent mentality had been (and, in the eyes of some, still is!): anything that impresses boys is ‘good’. Anything else: that expression I vaguely recall her looking at me with…

Similar to another thing that happened, with a girl from that same ‘friendship’ group: back then, I felt the pressure to dress to ‘impress’, or, at least, to evade criticism. One day, I had worn something — to some summer scheme thing — that had not been particularly ‘stylish’ in their eyes. And, there and then, the vain mentality of ‘coolness™’ showed me how truly untrue, precarious, it is: she looked at me in a look of what I could only really call disdain. “I thought you were stylish, Sadia.” Like I’d done something so terribly… wrong.

But a true friend is, actually, somebody who sees you, and smiles upon you, in truth. And not solely when you are coming across as being particularly ‘stylish’/’attractive’/entertaining/upbeat or whatever else.

How much we are known to do, so as to try to escape criticism, the feeling of ‘social rejection’. The faces, masks we put on; hide beneath, decorate, for whatever egoic/self-protective purposes.

And when I had pinned myself to expectations of being ‘cool’: I’d essentially been staring up in adulation at what is actually, by nature, a mirage. And if ‘cool’ is does not care: I think, by now, I know I’d rather have its complete opposite.

Some more anecdotal things by way of processing my thoughts, and explaining them: consistent readers of this blog of mine will likely be aware that… I am in acquaintance with quite a lot of people (Alhamdulillah). Family, friends, family-friends, former schoolmates, neighbours’ brothers’ families, and the rest. I know people who remind me of the girls I had wanted to ‘be like’, in Year Seven. Looks can, and very often do, deceive:

Like when people find they cannot face the world, without makeup on. Even in the comfort of their own homes: if guests (even just one or two) are coming around, eyebrows need to be filled, under-eyes concealed, forehead powdered. I say this, I hope, not in a mean way. Just:

Once, I went to somebody’s house, and she put a member of her own household (perhaps jokingly, but it seemed to be somewhat in-earnest too) into the box of being a ”sad’, weird nerd’. By someone wearing makeup, seemingly to welcome only one, or two, guests. I sort of wanted to know more. What makes passionately talking about… the wonders of the human body, for instance… ‘sad’?

I know for a fact that secure people feel no need to make other people feel bad about themselves. I also know that this happens time and time again: if a person feels like they cannot join in on ‘intellectual’ conversations, sometimes the defensive mechanism that is projected (like projectile vomit) is… “Boring, sad, weird. Nerd!

But then, after a while of witnessing this ‘lighthearted’ bullying, I asked the ‘nerd’-saying person why… she presents herself differently to the outside world, versus when she is at home. [At home: she feels comfortable enough to do and say ‘weird’ things. She’s intelligent too, Masha Allah]. She admitted that she does stop herself from saying things that could be seen as being ‘intellectual’, for example. She does tend to behave differently, when outside of home. Many of us learn to be afraid, almost, of being ourselves, outside. Put up an act; get validated, on account of it. I’m pretty sure she’s into reading too.

Maybe: as a defence [since, deep down, you know what you are doing] put others down as well [becoming what you, yourself, fear, actually…] for… being themselves.

Like when somebody else I have known, who spoke intelligently, Masha Allah, and had a good vocabulary, sort of made me feel like I’m a little ‘weird’ for… being whom I am, loving what I love. The classic: acted like she did not care; makeup, designer things. Where did her vocabulary come from? She said that, when she was younger, she used to read a dictionary before going to bed or something. How “sad,” she said. She knows.

But: it’s not ‘sad‘. What makes that sad? Why ought it be some cause of ‘sorrow’? Why did she… stop doing things like this, in the end? Or, does she stillbut while hiding it before others, whose opinions of her matter to her so greatly? [And would it, by contrast, have been not-‘sad’ if she had spent her time… talking to boys, whom she would never again speak to in the future?] I think, if somebody loved words when they were younger, how on Earth does one outgrow true love for something? I don’t think it’s quite possible. See how complex and self-protective and yet -contradictory all this is: renounce something like this as being “sad”, indicative of a person having ‘no life’. But… it’s you. You’re afraid. But you need to act like you are beyond this: mightier, now, somehow. We’re not, though; we never are.

We’re warm-blooded creatures, and with beating hearts. Insecure, clumsy: ‘imperfections’ would appear to be embedded in our skins, when we peer into ourselves, in the looking glass.

How could we be… ice-cold, tough, ‘unbreakable’, ‘cool’?

[Also, any time someone is excessively defensive/destructive towards another person, I think it’s a huge indication of personal insecurity. Projection, coupled with some need to feel superior.]

And if it’s ‘sad’ to, for example, love learning new words; send emails to professors whose works we find we are fond of; care deeply about the things we have pretty much always cared deeply about, and show that we care about them… then what is its opposite? What is… ‘happy’? What is, in opposition to ‘not having a life’, having one?! Is it just… ‘drugs, sex [appeal] and rock ‘n’ roll’? How image-based, how fake and shallow, and how… sad. [There’s More to life…]

You know, it’s okay for us to laugh at ourselves, sometimes. To attend to the mundane: we all have to, don’t we? To not want to be around other people all the time. So long as we do not allow ourselves to fester within prison walls that so many people build around their souls, in order to be (or, seem) ‘cool’. [We’re going to die, sometime soon. So is this lying worth it?]

We’re so busy ‘protecting ourselves’, and our truths, from criticism, and from others enacting ‘social superiority’ over us. Maybe we are instead actually harming ourselves in the process.

It is [more than] okay for you to be you; to love being yourself. You being you allows others to put their masks down a little more; to feel more comfortable being them, too… Break the ice a little; let flowers grow.

Home is where we are real. Who are you, at home? Is there, for example, a particular outfit you have, which screams [Your Name + Surname here]? Dear reader, I dare you to wear it. Even if it is the most ‘unstylish’ thing in the world. Home (in terms of places and people) ought to be where you are real: and I hope you feel comfortable, remember whom you are, and feel real. You: it’s beautiful, but, still, not everyone in the world has to agree. [They’ve got their own troubles to be dealing with, attending to, to be honest].

“Loneliness doesn’t stop when we are surrounded by people. It stops when we are seen (and smiled at. Loved) for whom we truly are.”

‘Whom we truly are’. Nothing else, really, will satisfy these souls of ours. One of the biggest cliché statements in existence, maybe. It is of so much value: be yourself. Love being yourself. What a worthy thing to do. The disapprovals, criticisms, will most likely continue to come. You are going to, I hope, continue to love being you, and not everyone is going to agree with you. Surely, though, who we are, and the things that we love, are [more than] worth it, though?!

With Salaam, Sadia2021.

Rose garden

In the rose garden,
the scent of rain,
a touch,
arbours stand with sunlight,
gardeners in green
dream and scrape.

cherry and cream.
sunset gold.
Doris Day,
yellow kingdom.

Trumpet song,
upright on thorns,
looking for music,
the circling crowd,
the crouching photographer.

Somewhere, between,
a hand holds
one rose
watered in the downpour
high over the willow
the crowd scatter
as the ducks swim,
the sky thunders.


Poems by Lilian Le Mesurier (1935)

Presented here are some poems from A Book of Verse by Lilian Le Mesurier, published in 1935. Le Mesurier was a writer and activist who researched and campaigned for prison reform. Amongst other works, she wrote Boys in Trouble: A Study of Adolescent Crime and its Treatment (1939) and  A Socialist Woman’s Guide to Intelligence: A Reply to Mr Shaw (1929).

The poems express feelings on social progress, activism, motherhood, hope and despair.


The Journey

It’s a wild night for a soul to go,
Stars shine, but winds blow,
And the flood tides flow.

It’s a long road to the nearest star,
Where the band of well-beloved are,
But I shall reach it near or far.

A wild night for a naked soul
To cast aside the broken bowl
And start for the distant goal.

A wild night and a lonely way,
And Death is terrible they say
Yet methinks I like his looks to-day!

And glad I’ll lay my garment by
And fling me forth to the windy sky
When Death rides by.

A long road to the nearest star,
Where the band of well-beloved are.
But I shall reach it, near or far.


Hands of a Boy

Oh! sunburnt hands of a boy that hold my heart,
Play your part!

I wish you humble and eager, quick to learn
And slow to spurn.

I wish you wisdom and strength and long to live,
That you may have more to give.

Give largesse to the world of all you find,
Give your heart and your toil and your mind.

You will build perhaps a City of Beautiful Joy,
Oh! hands beloved, oh! clean-cut hands of a boy!

A shrine, or a shop, or a home, as you may choose,
But something for men to use.

And whether you build in lives or stone or song,
Build strong!

If the work that you planned in hope is not built true,
Scrap it and build anew.

Oh! hands of a boy, brown hands that hold my heart,
Worthily play your part!


Midsummer Night in London

London, London, blazing bright,
Streams of traffic and streams of light
And all the beating pulse of the summer in your garish night.

And, just one step away, the silent square,
The blackness of the trees against the fair
Far sky, and little winds that blow in my uncovered hair.

Both part of London’s heart, and she holds ours.
Sordid and sacred, mistress and mother both,
Her children and her lovers, nothing loath,
Come when she beckons. All her throbbing hours
Are wrapped to-night in June, as in a cloak
Of beauty. Do they see, these hurrying folk,
Who seem so sunk in self or sin or care?

At least they feel the beauty unaware.


The Thinker

(To Graham Wallas)

As one who waits, his finger on his lips,
Rapt, and expectant of the coming God,
So the tense Soul

Waits for his thought, until the Spirit stirs
Within him, like a babe at quickening time,
And he perceives the goal.

He knows it shall be, but not when or how
Or with what labour and anguish. So he waits
Patient within the gates.

Brooding he sits. His vast enveloping gaze
Now inward turned, now flashing near and far
To every world and star.

Through the long years behind him and ahead
He sends his travelling thought, his straining mind,
To probe, and search, and find.

Then the quick leap of the inventive brain,
And the new thought to ease an ancient past
Comes to the birth at last.

All birth is hope. A child, or else a thought,
Or maybe both in one. Who counts the cost
When such a hope is bought?

Such a fierce wonder of joy! Who measures pain?
Or the long waiting in the wilderness
When life is born again.

Now thoughts for an old world, to help and heal.
Not dreams for fairy islands far away,
But here and for to-day.

His ripe fruit given, then he passes on
Again to brooding patience and slow toil;
For so more fruit is won.

As one who waits expectant of the God,
And passionately eager for the goal,
So the tense Thinker’s Soul.


Glacier Water

Grey glacier water
under my window,
through the Alpine village
turbulent, tossing.
Day-time and dark-time
patient, persistent,
never never ceasing.
From days primordial
shaping the mountains.

Thoughts men are thinking,
passionate, relentless,
born of emotion
dumb and disturbing.
Nurturing in silence
struggling for utterance,
pressing for action,
clamouring for beauty,
Shaping the future.

Force of the water,
force of men’s thinking,
nothing can stop them.

Life-givers, death-dealers,
as we may use them.
Dam them and hinder,
stop up their channels,
they will break prison
spreading destruction.
Make them a fair-way
give them free passage,
they will bring plenty,
they will make beauty.


Suggested by Epstein’s “Genesis”

Life, straining, struggling to be born!
Man’s life.
From the womb of the beast pressing outwards,
From the loins of the East surging upwards.
Pushing onwards through travail
To fill the worlds and replenish the earth.

No easy spawning!
The patient mother is heavy and gross
In the moment of torpor before the birth-pangs tear her.
She is ugly, bestial, horrible,
Moving to terror and pity,
But she is great with the promise of power.

The tenderness of maternity is nascent in her tragic eyes,
Lust is forgotten in fecundity.
In the gesture of her ape-like hands that pray for privacy
and demand reverance,
She celebrates the sacredness of birth,
Bears witness to the miracle of life made new.

She is inviolable.


The One Taken to the Other Left

When we can talk no longer,
Let not your heart be wrung,
With grief for words we did not say
And songs we might have sung.
Think only, words were needless,
For all we left unsaid
Was clear to us as daylight
Let love be comforted!

And when all beauty hurts you,
Life’s lovely days and nights
That once we shared and made our own,
Earth’s poignant fresh delights!
Still let the years bring comfort,
The helpful healing years.
They helped and healed me living,
And, dead, I need no tears.

I think your laugh would teach me
Wherever I might be.
So glad a sound God could not spare
From cosmic harmony!

Yet if I sleep unhearing,
All’s well, nor needs lament,
For waking I’ll wake gladly,
Or sleeping, lie content.


Written in Dejection

Life, you have broken my heart,
Death, will you mend it?
Sooth I am fain to depart
Mend it or end it.

I am too old for more coping
With getting and giving.
I am too sad for more hoping,
Too tired for more living.

Grief that consumes every part,
Who should endure it?
Life, you have broken my heart!
Death, can you cure it?