I lost my grandmother days ago. She was suffering from ulcers for quite a long time which later burst and worsened her health. In retrospect, it feels like the point at which her health started worsening could have been avoided, only if she had spoken up about it and discussed her ailment with her family. She was not alone though, I know numerous women who never disclose their health issues until they become unbearable.
My grandma had been suffering a lot for months. She was regularly taken to the hospital and got new medicines prescribed. But nothing works if the patient is not vigilant and willing to be cured. Despite knowing about the illness, my grandma rarely took any precautions. She used to skip her medicines, eat things that were strictly prohibited and perform household chores instead of taking rest. Today, when she is no longer among us, all we can think about is how we could have saved her. This has also motivated me talk to women in my family about their health and urge them to take their illnesses seriously.
Women’s tendency to ignore their own health finds roots in their conditioning to put their loved ones over themselves. Sacrifice has been romanticised to a point where women see caring for themselves as a selfish act. But this approach needs to change. Women need to understand that their needs and discomfort deserve their attention. And just as they care for their loved ones, their families need to take care of their well-being.
Encourage women to prioritise health by telling them these five things:
You are more than your patriarchal identity
Women measure their worth as per the standards that patriarchy has set for women. And as per patriarchy, women are sacrificial beings who must devote themselves entirely to families’ and communities’ needs. But dear women, your identity is much more and much different than what society limits it to Before being a mother, sister, wife or bahu, you are a woman who needs to be taken care of and who deserves a healthy life.
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Caring for your health is your duty too
Women sacrifice their health for taking care of others because they think it is their duty. And who will not want to follow their duties and gain reward? But then caring for your own health is your duty too. Your body deserves your love and attention for helping your perform all your chores non-stop, for supporting your exhausting lifestyle and if you want it to continue doing that, you need to care for it.
Ignoring your health affects your loved ones too
Dear women do you know the consequence of your ignorance toward your health? It not only affects you but also the people around you who love you. No loving husband or child would like to see the woman in their life suffer ill health. They all want you to be fit – physically and emotionally. So caring for your own health is something that you need to do for your loved ones too.
You are setting the wrong example for women of the next generation
When daughters see their mother ignoring their health and prioritising responsibilities, they also internalise the same mindset. They also begin putting health on low priority and try to be as efficient as their mothers in work. Is this what you want your daughters to learn- that their health doesn’t matter? If no, then you need to lead by example and show them that health should be a priority for every person.
Don’t let criticisms or age-old beliefs make you feel guilty
The stereotyping of self-care as an selfish act needs to be quashed. Focusing on your health is not a selfish act, it is infact, an act of awareness. So overcome that guilt and stop telling yourself that not taking medications or going against doctor’s advise to rest will put you on a pedestal. Sacrifice is overrated.
Views expressed are the author’s own
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