Tips & Tricks Life

Journaling lets me remember my self-growth journey

I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. Occasionally, I like to skim through the top shelf of my cabinet and pull out one of my journals to read. Do I cringe when I read my younger self’s entries? Yes. But it’s all a huge part of self-growth. 

Journaling has proven to have many benefits, particularly for mental health. For me, the biggest benefit was the reduction in stress. As someone who is prone to have stress-induced panic attacks, journaling – whether it’s small doodles or a novella – has helped by giving me clarity and a place to express my emotions. A 2005 study found expressive writing to be therapeutic, noting that participants who expressed trauma, stress and other emotions through writing decreased their chances of getting sick significantly. In the long run, people who journal are less seriously affected by trauma as opposed to their non-journaling counterparts. Although I wouldn’t consider myself completely unscathed by my experiences at school, I do look back at my journals and applaud myself for the strength I mustered to get through it. 

So what does journaling do for the soul? Reduces stress and anxiety as well as boosts your immune function. Well, there are other benefits. One great one I have noticed in myself is the ability to put things into perspective. Journaling is a great regulator of emotions as when you write down how you feel, everything becomes comprehensible and once you have the chance to figure out your own emotions, you are presented with the amazing opportunity to be able to process other people’s too. It is a great way to promote self-growth and confidence as many people, myself included, read over their past personal struggles and either laugh at themselves or marvel in awe at the inner strength they didn’t know they had. 

And the best part of journaling? There are so many different styles you could go for. Days where I am feeling more creative, I’ll do some art journaling or bullet journaling. Some days, it’s easier for me to do an electronic journal (I highly recommend Notion because you type or record videos straight into the app). And you don’t have to do the typical ‘dear diary’ stuff. Make it yours. Of course, there are other tidbits people concern themselves with before they start writing, namely,  what do I write about

My easiest tip is to start writing about anything. There was a class exercise one of my lecturers used to do with us in my first year of university and that was writing for the first 15 minutes of class. “If you don’t know what to write, write ‘I am writing’ until the thought, any thought, comes into your head.” Although this is not a piece of advice I had when I first started journaling, it is something I would pass on to new journalers. Start where you are. The great thing about journals is that they are private to you so they can be two words or a whole novel if you want it to. Even if it’s just a single line, or what you had for lunch, write it. Don’t censor yourself. This is for you and it’s your personal journey. There is no right and wrong when it comes to journaling because it’s an experience so personal and tailored to the individual. 

So unlearn anything you had learned about ‘keeping a diary’ back in the earlier stages of education and go with what works for you because you don’t get graded on how you feel. I’m sure that you would appreciate the nostalgia and growth that comes with looking back at your journey in your journal as much as I do.

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Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Book Reviews The Tempest Reading Challenge Love + Sex Love Books

Relationship expert Iris Krasnow unravels the secrets of real intimacy

Iris Krasnow is a journalist, storyteller, friend, mother, wife, and my professor.

I first met Krasnow when I was a freshman in college. She was my professor for an introductory writing class in which I had written a personal essay about ghosting for my final assignment. Looking back at this piece, it might have been more of a rant, but nonetheless this was one of the first times that I felt heard through my writing. She let me write candidly about the space in-between the lines of nurturing and insufficient relationships. She let me grow. 

Krasnow is curious, compassionate, and the author of seven best-selling books all about intimate relationships. Her book Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes is the self-help book that has been selected for The Tempest’s Reading Challenge this year and just this past April she published Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship, Courage, and Loyalty.

For me, Krasnow is a defining voice of reason for anything in the periphery of relationships, communication, love, and womanhood. Each of her books revolves around personal growth in conjunction with intimate relationships. Sex After offers a series of compelling, and reliable, insights about how to build an intimate relationship, whether that be romantically or with family and friends. The vitality of any relationship is dependent on love and commitment. Basically, true love is found within emotionality. That is, your ability to relate to another person and to enhance their experiences. It is not always about lust. But I’d say that it is somewhat about longing, though. 

This longing could be found within commitment. Each chapter in Sex After focuses on some major life event or change being thrown suddenly onto a couple and ultimately how they persevere. She talks to breast cancer survivors, widows, women who came out later in life, and couples who have experienced infidelity. Each time they tackle the problem, make it their own, and connect through mind, body, and soul along the way. Sure, almost always they also go through the stages of despair and agony, but more often than not these couples do come out stronger and more in love than they were before. This is all a result of trust and reliability. Through this combined process of healing, people, especially women, begin to feel validated. And validation, to me, is an extremely close step towards genuine intimacy.

The female growth cycle seems to be evergreen in her writing. Each character becomes sexier and more alive with every turn of the page. Krasnow’s in-depth reporting and research explores sexuality credibly in real-time and ensures understanding on nearly every level—for nearly every emotion or phase of bodily awakening. 

I love the emphasis that she places on non-sexual love, too, which is why I find so much comfort in her recent book Camp Girls. There is truly nothing like the solace we find in conversations with friends about things along every dotted line in the spectrum. Together, Krasnow makes clear, we can manifest the ellipsis while gaining lessons that are impossible to replicate without the connected experiences that we share with those who are growing and learning just the same by our side. These relationships maintain incredible intimacy, as well as a shoulder to lean on, through allegiance, sympathy, care, and exploration. Krasnow shares that her friends help her feel stronger, more in tune with inner-self, and that hours together feel like seconds while memories from decades ago feel like yesterday. Their company keeps her young, feisty, and in love. 

One notion that I’ve learned from Iris Krasnow that has stuck with me is the idea that you have to be your own soulmate. You will never have the capacity to love someone else, or to believe that another person loves you, unless you love yourself first.

Real intimacy is found after unraveling the layers and free-falling into the depths that you alone locate. With compelling words, Iris Krasnow reminds women of every generation that we must remain honest with our raw selves and loyal to those we grace, and are graced, with companionship. 

Big news: I will be going live with Iris Krasnow herself on The Tempest Instagram (@WeAreTheTempest) on Thursday, May 21, at 12pm EST. We’ll have a candid conversation about love, sex, and everything in between! Join us and come ask Iris your questions.
Makeup Beauty Lookbook

How social isolation altered my relationship with makeup

I wake up, make a cup of coffee, have a shower, and get ready for my nine to five. It’s a normal working day; except it isn’t. It’s a working day in quarantine. 

Being in quarantine has changed my routine in many interesting ways. One such way is that I no longer wear makeup daily. I’ve stopped spending each morning penciling my eyebrows a little darker, lengthening my lashes with mascara, or carving a cheekbone with my bronzer palette. Without spending my mornings subtly improving my face through makeup, I’ve learned to love my face as it is. 

Coming to rely on makeup:

I’ve struggled with insecurities about my face for at least a decade. Like many teenagers, I had bad acne. But my struggle with acne followed me into my early twenties. While I wasn’t permitted to wear foundation as a high school student, I came to rely on it as a matter of necessity as an adult.

To add to my plethora of adolescent insecurities, I also developed insecurity surrounding my eyes. In high school, a friend told me my eyes were, “a four out of ten.” I proceeded to develop new insecurity: my eyes. So I started wearing mascara daily, with no exceptions. Although I’ve since come to love my eyes, I still seldom leave my home without mascara on my lashes.  

Makeup became my tool for covering up my insecurities. Bronzer slimmed my chubby cheeks. Mascara made my eyes look bigger and brighter. Foundation covered my acne and acne scars. I only really liked my face when it had makeup on it, and on some days, even that didn’t do the trick.

I had become so used to what my face looked like with makeup on it, that I learned to dislike my face as it is, naturally.

The pursuit of enoughness:

Don’t get me wrong: I love makeup. It can empower the people who use it and I enjoy the artistry of it. But, I had become so used to what my face looked like with makeup on it, that I learned to dislike my face as it is, naturally. In quarantine, without wearing makeup daily, I don’t have my made-up face to compare my natural face to. I look in the mirror and I see myself. For the first time in a long time, the beauty of the person looking back at me is enough.

Enoughness is something I’ve been in pursuit of for most of my life. Much of the way that the world is represented to us through media and advertising is geared towards us feeling like we don’t have enough, and that we ourselves are not enoughI often reflect on how major corporations manufacture our insecurities to capitalize on them. Major cosmetic brand Maybelline is famous for its tagline, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.” Taglines such as this perpetuate the idea that what you are born with is not enough. Forced to absorb this rhetoric, it’s easy to begin to believe these ideas of who is and isn’t “enough”.

Enoughness is something I’ve been in pursuit of for most of my life.

Unlearning beauty ideals, learning self-love:

While I’ve spent a lot of my adult life working to unlearn these ideals, that work takes time and is difficult. The work of unlearning beauty ideals that society has ingrained in us often involves deep introspection and a heck of a lot of reading. Imagine my surprise when quarantine (of all things!) helped me to unlearn some of the beauty ideals I’ve been working to overcome for at least a decade.

It’s a strange feeling for me to wake up, look in my mirror, and like what I see. It feels cheesy to articulate this feeling. Writing about self-acceptance often feels that way, but it shouldn’t. I deserve to feel that I am enough, as is. You deserve to feel enough. We deserve to feel enough.


How important are our fashion choices in the midst of a global pandemic?

It’s day twenty-something of quarantine where I live. Comfort is something I’ve come to crave in these very bizarre and scary times. I read somewhere that this situation isn’t about simply working from home – rather, it’s about having no choice but to stay at home due to a global pandemic during which we are trying to work. In the midst of everything feeling offbeat, we turn to what is safe: warming bowls of pantry pasta, Netflix parties, endless FaceTime calls, and clothes that make us feel fuzzy and comfortable – usually our pyjamas. Whilst many of us stick to PJs or sweatpants for our quarantine OOTDs, there’s a whole movement of people not letting social distancing stop them from living their best fashion lives.

At its core, quarantine fashion too can be a source of comfort for many. Dressing as if you weren’t confined to your home is, in a way, a defiant alternative to the reality of life at this moment in time. It gives those partaking in it something to look forward to everyday, and the ability to have control over and replicate a semblance of normalcy in some aspect of their everyday lives.

An example of this is the Working From Home Fits Instagram account (@wfhfits), which documents the outfits of various followers who send in photos of their chosen ensembles for the day. As you scroll through the account’s posts, what is most eye-opening is the little glances it affords us into how we humans are living right now. The account, like a candle, illuminates different parts of the world, giving us a sneak peek into the quarantine outfits of people in the midst of their improvised home offices, with their pets and their plants. There is something incredibly special about being able to partake in the experiences being shared. Everything is so unfiltered, so real and so relatable, that it creates a camaraderie and solidarity among us as we face the world today.

Could wearing our favorite meant-for-outside outfit while stuck inside really make so much of a difference in our day?

Maybe it’s the thought of wearing their pre-planned outfit that helps someone get out of bed in the mornings. Maybe it’s the group chat’s glowing responses to a photo of said outfit that brightens up their day. Maybe it’s the thought of wearing all these different outfits outside once quarantine lifts that gives someone hope. Maybe it’s what helps them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you can’t understand how someone dressing for comfort or making fun fashion choices, or doing a full face of makeup can be so impactful, you have to know that the magic is as much in the process as it is in the result. In a lot of ways, our outer appearance affects our mental health. If this isn’t a time for deliberate and dedicated self-care, what is?

In the middle of thinking about all this, I took out my makeup bag and swept my favorite glitter eyeshadow across my eyelids, and put on my favorite dangly star earrings. It’s been close to four weeks since I’ve done either, yet I didn’t expect such a small act to make me feel so much better while writing. What was mundane isn’t mundane anymore. What was routine can somehow bring joy to me now. Quarantine-chic, quarantine-fits, quarantine-lookbooking – there’s something to be said in favor of it all.

It’s incredibly important to remember, however, that for all those who consider style a form of personal expression and haven’t dressed up much while staying at home, that’s okay too. It is truly about what makes us feel most comfortable in these wild times. Clothes and accessories and makeup are all tools for any individual to use to their own liking. What brings comfort? What brings joy? Is it those oversized bunny slippers, or is it a tailored power-suit? It really isn’t for anyone but you to decide.

Health Care Culture Beauty Wellness Life

I decided to step off the treadmill and let my body be

There are a couple of sounds that instantly take me back to a simpler time in my life; the music of onions frying in a kitchen, U-Roy playing on a loop and sneakers being tied. I grew up in a family that took exercise seriously. In every single office that my father has occupied, he has a photo of him completing the Boston Marathon, a smile gracing his damp face, one arm raised in celebration of his achievement. My sister would stretch this way and that before she would go on a run. My other sister used to be a dedicated swimmer.

Suffice to say, part of our identities were tied up in exercise. It’s something that I didn’t embrace until I was much older, which elicited annoyance from my family.  But that time did come. For me, it was almost like a siren call. The gym beckoned to me, promising to be a place that I could solve my problems and cultivate the discipline that I desperately needed and, in the beginning, it was. I learned that I was much stronger than I looked and that I could push through discomfort to lift a heavier dumbbell. It turns out those were valuable lessons for me to learn. As I’ve aged, I’ve been put in situations where I have to push back against my discomfort and stand my ground. I honestly do not think I would have been able to do that without stepping foot into the gym.

But then Instagram happened. Ah, Instagram; the bane and yet the light of our modern society. I was never an avid user of Instagram until about two years ago. I was so opposed to the app that a friend used to run my account. I didn’t see the less savory side of it until I started looking for workout videos on the app. While those videos were helpful, I couldn’t help but notice a pretty obvious pattern. All the women’s bodies looked the same. An extremely flat and toned stomach with a round, curvy butt that seemed to defy gravity paired with strong muscular thighs.

These Instagram fitness coaches preached about taking time for yourself and investing in your well being in between adds of slimming teas (which are laxatives, don’t let anyone tell you any different). In between all the weightlifting, yoga classes, high-intensity exercises, and skincare tips that I came to follow, something changed. My body never looked better, but my mind was messy. No matter how much muscle I had gained or every achievement, it wasn’t enough for me.

I was miserable. I began looking at myself in the mirror just after showering, handling my body unkindly and asking myself how come my butt didn’t look like theirs? Why weren’t my arms growing at a faster rate? How come I hadn’t hit a certain number of calories burned on the treadmill?  I didn’t realize that part of the wellness culture online is cultivating the feeling that you could be better and that your best self is just around the corner. If you can hold out for just long enough and spend a little more money, use more derma rollers to firm up your cellulite or wear these leggings while doing weighted rows, your life will change.

Months later and I was burnt out. Not just physically but emotionally. Deep down, I knew something had to give. So I did the one thing I needed to do; I took a break. I ate whatever I wanted, and that includes ice cream for dinner because why not? I only exercised when I felt like it and not a minute more. I let my body be, with no expectations attached. Through this process, I discovered A Swole Woman‘s Instagram account. Her only goal is to teach people about the strength of their bodies even if they don’t see it or feel it. Through her, I have learned to focus not on the aesthetics of my body, but the strength that it holds.

I am currently still on my break from exercise. I am dedicated to refocusing my joy on what my body can do and not what it looks like. I am also relearning that my body does not need to be on a constant track to something better. Through this, I’ve learned to love my body more, even if I don’t necessarily like it all the time. Soon enough, I will walk into a gym again in the cold and put my hands on a squatted rack the same way I did a year ago. But the reasons for it will be very different and so much better.

Mind Love Advice

7 tips to start your minimalist journey

What do you associate with minimalism? Clean white lines? Deep breathing? Lots of plants?

Let me tell you, it’s a little different than that.

“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.”

The Minimalists

It’s an opportunity to rid yourself of life’s guilts, fears and stresses. A common misconception is that minimalism is giving up on owning things. This is not true! The problem isn’t in owning stuff. The problem is in the toxic meaning we give to material possessions, due to which we forsake our health, relationships, personal growth and our ability to find purpose and give back to life. Minimalism is simply about doing everything and anything you want to do, just a little more consciously. It is about optimizing your time and your life. It brings clarity and mindfulness. And it helps you love yourself and take care of yourself, the way you deserve it.

Below are seven steps a beginner minimalist can take to help them get through the initial stages of their minimalist journey, and come out stronger than before.

1. Write it down

Jaffar from Aladdin unrolls a long scroll.
[Image description: Jaffar from Aladdin unrolls a long scroll.] Via Giphy
Identify your reason. What’s your why? Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint? Does your job not make you happy? Feel like you’re too tied down and not living out any experiences? Write it down – all of it. Decide what you need out, and why it needs to go.

2. Choose a system, stick to it

A wizard surrounded by a yellow light saying. " Don't rush the magic."
[Image description: A wizard surrounded by a yellow light saying. ” Don’t rush the magic.”] Via Giphy
Don’t just wake up one day and empty out your entire house! Start with something physical. Choose an area of your life that overwhelms you and find your system through that. It could be your closet, or your garage.

Starting with something physical will allow you to understand the process of minimalism better versus directly going for major life changes. For example, starting with clearing your kitchen cupboards might be an easier task than leaving your job- which can be an exceedingly emotional process. Step by step, build on to tackling bigger challenges that will encourage you.

3. Make piles

A lady holding a shirt is saying, 'If it brings you joy, you keep it, and if it doesn't, out it goes."
[Image Description: A lady holding a shirt saying. “If it brings you joy, you keep it, and if it doesn’t, out it goes.”] Via Giphy
Put your stuff into piles of ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Maybe’. This is such an important step to go through because it gets you so, so organized. More importantly, it gets you thinking about where your stuff will go after. Recycle. Repurpose. Borrow. And most importantly, donate! Why hold onto something in perfectly good condition that is just not adding anything to your life. Think of someone who could really use it and make the most out of it. Having this mindset is a huge help in letting go of your things and de-cluttering with less anxiety.

4. Self care, self care, self care

Three women dancing it out in their living room. They are laughing.
[Image Description: Three women dancing it out in their living room. They are laughing.] Via Giphy
Ask yourself, ‘What makes you happy?’ Involve yourself in experiences that are memorable, and make you feel alive. Spend more time with the people you call your family. Take up meditation and yoga. Join a dance class, start a positivity journal. JUST DO IT. Stop going on unnecessary shopping sprees to unwind or find some kind of temporary relief. This is your LIFE. You have to live it every single day. Stop adding to your physical and mental clutter. Minimalism is finding the value of your life.l Take care and pay attention to yourself because it will make it easier for you to differentiate the things that make you happy and those that don’t. Most importantly, it gives you the courage to start your minimalism journey. Do what makes you happy.

5. Don’t compare yourself

A gif showing the message, ' Do your thing.' The words are in blue
[Image description: A gif showing the message, “Do your thing.” The words are in blue.] Via Giphy
This is so important when you’re starting out. You have to remember that minimalism does not have one set approach. Everyone has a different motivation. Everyone has a different starting point, and everyone will go about it in a different way. Focus on your own journey, reflect solely upon yourself. Your priority should be you because how else will you know what to change?

6. Keep on decluttering

A woman with dark hair emphatically saying "Keep Going."
[Image description: A woman with dark hair emphatically saying. “Keep Going.”] Via Giphy
Life is always going to get in the way. Don’t give up! Keep going, keep decluttering, keep adjusting. Be open to change. As life goes on you won’t stay the same person and there will be things you can’t inculcate into your minimalism routine anymore. Be flexible because it’ll help you explore and discover new ideas that will only enhance your life.

7. Take it easy

A woman taking a deep breath, looking content.
[Image description : A woman taking a deep breath, looking content.] Via Giphy
No, but seriously! This is a lifestyle change. Don’t be so hard on yourself! It is okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to do things differently. This is about YOU. This is about figuring out a life you’re proud to live! You will grow, and so will your journey.

The above GIF of Lorelai Gilmore is the level of satisfaction minimalism should help you reach.

Minimalism could be exactly what your’e looking for. Don’t be afraid to test it out, it might just surprise you and change your life.

World News The Internet Music The World BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Here’s how BTS made history at the United Nations General Assembly – and encourage you to #SpeakYourself

I’m sure that by now, the K-Pop band BTS needs no elaborate introduction. Even if you haven’t heard their music or seen their faces, you’ve heard the name. And whether or not you’re an ARMY or you understand why they’re so popular, you have to admit how that shows the strength of their global impact.

The band of seven young men from South Korea, who quite literally started from the bottom, are now in the midst of their world tour after having released their latest album “Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer'” to conclude their Love Yourself era. They have now made history as the first K-Pop group to attend and give a speech at the 73rd UN General Assembly as part of the #Youth2030 campaign. 

[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook Source: AllKPop]
[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin. Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook – Source: AllKPop]
BTS have previously partnered with UNICEF to launch their Love Myself campaign last year, which aimed to end violence and to protect children and the youth from its disastrous effects. For people who still question their relevance, you might want to rethink your battle strategies the next time you have shit to say.

Yesterday, the seven men took center stage yet again, albeit it was a stage of a different kind. Their leader, 24 year old Kim Namjoon (also known as RM) delivered a six minute speech in fluent English to the numerous world leaders, ambassadors and royalty present at the event.

Namjoon talked about how, being an ordinary boy growing up in the city of Ilsan, he had extraordinary dreams of saving the world.

However, those dreams began to dull due to the fear of what others thought of him. Fear that was caused by people, including themselves at times, doubting their chances of success.

“No one called my name, and neither did I.

My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut.

So, like this, I, we all lost our names

We became like ghosts…”

He then talked about how all of the members, individually and collectively, have battled numerous hurdles in order to get to where they are now. He also insisted that they will continue to do so, only this time, with help of ever-growing faith and love for themselves and that their fans (the ARMY) give them. 

There is no doubt that ARMY have been inspired by the boys to love themselves and use that to overcome their hardships and conquer their own peaks. Namjoon acknowledged that and concluded his speech by encouraging us to “Speak Yourself”. He urges young people to find and own our names and voices, to embrace our passions and faults alike, and to be love ourselves in all our imperfectly perfect glory and tell our stories.

You can view the speech here:

A few hours later, #SpeakYourself is now one of the top trends on social media, with ARMYs from all over the world sharing their hearts, fears, flaws and dreams to the world with pride.

[Description: Kim Namjoon (RM) saying “No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, your gender identity, just speak yourself.” at the UN Assembly with Jung Hoseok (J-Hope) and Jin standing behind him. – Source: Giphy]
Aside from their success story, BTS have won over millions of hearts because despite their celebrity status as idols, they never hid or suppressed their humanity. They never fail to remind us that they, too, are just as human as the rest of us. They have individual and collective flaws, they make mistakes, stumble from time to time, and have dealt with mental health issues (a subject still considered taboo in South Korea). They can be unabashedly goofy and silly and do not lead perfect lives.

They’ve all come from different cities, financial and educational backgrounds. Instead, of shunning their differences, they’ve treated them as bits of the uniqueness that collectively created the magic that is BTS.

Most importantly, they acknowledge that the process of loving themselves was just as tedious and taxing for them as it is for everyone of us. It won’t always be easy and mistakes (both big and small) will be inevitable, but that’s okay. The key is to accept that, learn from that, and continue.

Knowing all that and knowing their influence, they use it to encourage us to take that rocky road to personal well being in a dog-eat-dog world. It’s as if to say “We know what you feel because we’ve felt it too, but this is what helped us to be happy and can help you. It may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. We believe in you.”

BTS have proven time and time again how they are not just your everyday run-of-the-mill boyband, but an actual force to be reckoned with. They’ve shown that pop culture, depending on how it’s used, has the power to affect even international politics. That just through spreading self-love and positivity, once we own our voices and ‘our names’, we will have the power to change the world.

So…what is your name?

[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They're all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga - Source: Ticketmaster]
[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They’re all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga – Source: Ticketmaster]
Music Pop Culture

BTS just dropped their new album and here’s everything you need to know

It’s hard to describe the rush and exhilaration of entering a new fandom to someone who’s never actually partaken. But, it’s kind of like opening an immaculately designed door and revealing an endless buffet full of all your most favorite foods. For me, that’s exactly what finding BTS felt like.

As someone with depression and anxiety, getting through winter is always extremely difficult for me. Between the short days and the frigid temperatures, it becomes far too easy for me to do nothing but stay in bed and wallow.

When BTS was in the US for the American Music Awards last year, I saw endless tweets about their arrival and even after watching the performance live, I was curious but managed to stubbornly avoid their lure for months. When I finally, tripped and fell headfirst into this new fandom, it was the best thing I could have done for myself and for my mental health.

As cheesy as it sounds, in the harsh and brutal darkness of winter, BTS became a much needed glimmer of warmth and light. And now, with their comeback and new album rapidly approaching (May 18th!), I feel like it is now my duty to spread the good news. So let’s do this! Here are the answers to five burning questions I’m sure you have:

1. So who’s BTS again?

Source: [Image description: A .gif of all seven members of BTS. They are dressed in black and white outfits smiling at the camera. Jungkook, the youngest member, is holding a stuffed toy.]
BTS, also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan, is a seven-piece Korean music group. They debuted in 2013 and since then they have gone on to slowly but surely take both Korea and countries abroad by storm. BTS members include RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. The group can also be further divided into the rap line (Suga, RM, and J-Hope), the vocal line (Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, and V), and the dance line (J-Hope, Jimin, and Jungkook).

2. Why should I care? What have they accomplished so far?

Source: [Image description: A .gif of the members of BTS embracing each other at last year’s Billboard Music Awards]

In addition to boasting an impressive and exhaustive list of Korean music honors (including multiple Gaon Chart Music and Golden Disc Awards), BTS became the first K-pop group to perform at the American Music Awards last year. Similarly, this weekend, they are set to check another “first” off of their list: the first K-pop group to perform and have a comeback stage at the Billboard Music Awards.

3. Uhhh what’s a comeback?

Source: [Image description: A .gif of a scene from the newest teaser for BTS’s upcoming music video for “Fake Love.” The camera zooms in on Jungkook who is dancing expressively and wearing a multi-colored, tie-dye shirt.]

When a K-pop group releases a new single or album, it is known as a “comeback.” Unlike that of their Western counterparts, Korean comebacks are a bit more involved and exciting. With every comeback, K-pop fans can expect new hair, new makeup looks, new wardrobe, and a new overall aesthetic from their favorite idols. With each comeback is a chance for the group to completely reinvent themselves.

On May 18th, BTS will officially have their comeback with the 11-track full-length album entitled Love Yourself: Tear.

4. Do they have any upcoming US performances or appearances?

Source: [Image description: A .gif of BTS from their 2017 appearance on Ellen. All of the boys are visible but the camera is focused on Jimin who forms a heart-shape with his hands directly in front of the camera.]

YES! First up, as I mentioned previously, they have the Billboard Music Awards performance this Sunday, May 20th at 8pm EST. Afterwards, on May 24th, they have an extended comeback special premiering on the Korean station MNET, as well as an appearance/performance on the Ellen show on May 25th. And finally, James Corden hinted on Twitter that the boys paid his show a visit as well. However, there hasn’t been any official confirmation as of yet. Needless to say….I’ll be riding the euphoria of these May performances well into the summer.

5. Any last things I should know?

Source: [Image description: All of the members of BTS sitting close to one another on some stairs. They are embracing and leaning against each other and smiling at the camera.]

The most exciting thing about entering a new fandom is all of the uncharted content. And the scariest thing about entering a new fandom is…well…all of the uncharted content. Especially with a band like BTS, who are supreme Kings of Fan Service, the music videos, the interviews, the reality shows, and the weekly game shows can feel incredibly intimidating. But, that’s exactly why comeback in the perfect time to climb aboard the Bangtan train!

As your trusted and primary guide through this comeback season, I would first advise you to watch the intro video that was released last week. “Singularity” is the first track of the new album, Love Yourself: Tear, and sonically and visually, was the very first taste we got of this new era. Therefore, that should be your jumping off point. Next up, you should continue on to watch their new video “Fake Love,” that debuted on May 18th. After that, feel free to fall headfirst into a YouTube spiral. There you’ll be able to go back and watch all of their older stuff at your leisure.

So get out there, have fun, and congratulations….you’re an ARMY now.


Gender & Identity Food & Drinks Life

I’m Arab and I grew up hating my body – because of my family

Trigger Warning: Mentions of bad thoughts and eating disorders.

Growing up, I was always surrounded by at least one family member who was on a diet.

Eating restrictions were a common part of our everyday lives. I knew all about counting calories, ‘light’ products, pounds and kilos before I was 12. There was an obsession among everyone around me, no matter how old they were or what their gender was, to attain the “perfect body.”

Scrutinizing and analyzing each other’s bodies is a common occurrence in a lot of Arab families. My conversations with friends have made me notice that others struggle with body image issues too. We, as a society, focus way too much on looking a certain way rather than embracing the genes we were born with and treating our bodies right. We focus too much on what others might think of us, that we don’t notice how poorly we see ourselves.

Everyone wants to have that ideal body that is displayed all over the magazines. The washboard abs and the stick-thin figure has always been appealing. Unfortunately, though, many will do whatever it takes to get it. I’ve seen it in the women I grew up around who obsessively counted calories. I’ve seen it in friends who would go on restrictive diets just to lose that extra five kilos.

I’ve even seen it in myself when I’d spend hours analyzing every angle of my body.

At only the tender age of 10, I realized I completely and utterly hated my body.  In fifth grade, I ended up moving to a new school where I didn’t know a single person. It didn’t help that I was the only one in my entire grade who was of a different nationality (i.e. automatic exclusion). Until a few students warmed up to me, I spent most of the year sitting alone or having lunch with my English teacher (no joke, I was that kid for like four months).

It was then that I started turning to food for comfort. If I had a rough day at school, I would come home and eat snacks to make myself feel better.

I had an unhealthy relationship with my body. I would eat to comfort myself about how crappy I felt at school, but then I would end up feeling even worse when I would put on weight. I spent years losing and gaining weight continuously. They were full of tears, hungry nights, vomiting after meals, and negative thinking. I knew that I didn’t have the ideal body type and being criticized by my family wasn’t making it any easier.

I was really unhappy for a long time. It was only when I started university that I truly changed the way I saw myself. I started cooking healthy meals because I wanted to. I started doing yoga and working out a few times a week because it made me feel good. There are days where I still feel insecure about myself, but I’ve learned to differentiate my own voice from everyone else’s.

Whenever I have a bad day or think I’m just not good enough, I take the time to list affirmations in front of the mirror. It takes a little getting used to and it might be a bit awkward at first, but it helps.

I came to realize that the more you focus on loving your body, the sooner you’ll start to believe it. All it takes is realizing that the unhealthy mindset that so many of us have grown up with is detrimental. It all starts when we ignore the negative comments around us, focus on ourselves, and do what we want to do to make ourselves happy.

It takes time, and I, for one, am nowhere near feeling 100 percent confident in myself. But I know that I’m on my way to getting there.

Love + Sex Love Advice

I ignored what he did with my friend, because I just wanted him to love me

As wise as I often attempt to sound, I’ve been the poster girl for toxic relationships for as long as I can remember.

As a 16-year-old who was an ardent fan-girl and bibliophile, I pretended like I had ultimate worldly wisdom. The only relationship that I had ever been in was perhaps with Draco Malfoy (in my head). I was convinced that I was too evolved a human being to fall for just another boy. The plot twist that I had failed to foresee was that behind the facade that I had conveniently put up, secretly hid just another naive 16-year-old.

At school, I was friends with a boy who was the quintessential nice guy. As much as I detested his loved-by-all character we ended up becoming close friends.

As someone who does not open up to people easily and has had multiple massacred friendships, I was baffled at how I voluntarily let down my guard with him. We texted each other for hours each day. Our walk back from school seemed like the most anticipated walk of the day (and I hate walking). He was the friend I knew I could talk to no matter what and he’d be there for me.

[bctt tweet=”As wise as I often attempt to sound, I’ve been the poster girl for toxic relationships for as long as I can remember.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I gradually began to realize that I started developing feelings for him. Soon after, he admitted to like me as well and I couldn’t have asked for more. As much as I valued him as my friend, a part of me hoped that our feelings would materialize into something more than friendship. But the fear of having to deal with the repercussions of a possibly messed up romantic relationship (which could end our friendship) consumed him and stopped us from taking things forward.

However, his reluctance towards a relationship and the differences in our opinions regarding the situation made things more complex than I imagined it to be.

Initially, the feeling of having someone that close was so overwhelming that I refused to notice the red signs that kept blinking right before me.

I wasn’t the only one he had in mind.

He ended up hatching a similar “almost” scenario with a close friend of mine at the same time as me, who also happened to be his best friend. But honestly, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst and the most crippling part was that I knew about it and compelled myself to be cool with it. Just because I had agreed to be someone’s “almost” I decided it was okay to trivialize my feelings for that transient and frivolous sense of joy. I deceived myself to believe that the feeling of being wanted was more important than my happiness.

[bctt tweet=”I deceived myself to believe that the feeling of being wanted was more important than my happiness.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I fabricated a bubble of self-doubt and insecurities, believing that I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough or good enough. My friendship with both of them began to crumble as I started pushing myself to hate them and knowing that I’d never get those friendships back.

I started loathing myself in every possible way until I realized that it had to come to an end. I was finally left with no choice but to make him choose between her and me. And the moment he said it was her, the only feeling that prominently stood out for me was the relief.

While he and I managed to mend things and let go of the past, I lost her as a friend in my futile endeavor of being happy.

We’re all guilty of having an unhealthy obsession of surrounding ourselves with people just so we can evade the stigma of being a loner. We tend to equate happiness with other people even if they bring nothing but toxicity and misery to our lives and their absence often makes us feel like we’re shrouded by a cloud of loneliness. We allow ourselves to go through the worst just for that momentary feeling of being loved.

[bctt tweet=”We allow ourselves to go through the worst just for that momentary feeling of being loved.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The most underrated concept of all time that is so deeply buried under the shenanigans of companionship is finding happiness in yourself and the life you lead.

As beautiful as the feeling of love may be, our mental health and personal well-being come before any inane relationship. Believe my favorite K-Pop group, BTS, when they say “Love Yourself” because that is the only love that one needs to lead a complete life.

You deserve better than relationships that do not help you grow.

Tech Now + Beyond

Startup apps that are taking the reins of mental health care in India

In my final year at university, I was assigned the task of making a documentary about the mental health care scenario in India. I went ahead with it like I would with any other assignment, but the more I researched and learned about the issue, the more concerned I became and soon the assignment turned into a personal mission to spread awareness. I now believe that no matter how many documentaries or articles I make based on the topic, it will never seem enough to me.

We all are familiar with the stigma attached to the conversation over mental health all over the world but compared to the west, India still has a lot to learn. Indians often fall short of providing support and care to those who wish to discuss their mental health issues openly.

Quoting data from National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, 2005, the last report available:

Nearly 60 million people in India suffer from mental disorders, out of which nearly 10-20 million (1-2% of the population) Indians suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million (5% of population) suffered from common mental disorders like depression and anxiety

One major aspect that India lacks in terms of the mental health care scenario, is psychiatrists. The reason being the vast population of India. A huge portion of the mental health care facilities is concentrated in the urban cities and the private sectors. That makes them financially inaccessible for the people below the poverty line, which is a big number in itself.  A conclusion drawn from a report by WHO states that India has only 3 psychiatrists per million people.

For someone with anxiety like mine-who needs professional help but is held back by the fear of being judged-having mobile applications that provide help at the touch of a button is something to be grateful for.

There is a dire need for convenient, affordable and professional provisions of mental health support in India and there are startups catering to just that. While we work on getting rid of the stigma and make the discussion on mental health in India more practicable, having helpful technology like this can save a lot of lives.

1. YourDOST

(Image Description: Screenshot of a conversation between Shruti Singhal and the user (Shri). Shruti Singhal: Hi Shri. Good evening. Shri: Hello. Please help me. Shruti Singhal: Yes sure, how may I help you Shri. Would you like to tell me what’s on your mind? Shri: I’m feeling blue these days.) Via Google
(Image Description: The logo for YourDOST- a yellow circle with a black border around it. The word ‘YourDOST’ is written under a graphic of two faces facing away from each other.) Via Google

(‘Dost’ means friend in Hindi)

Founded by IIT  alumnus, Richa Singh, YourDOST is a platform that provides online counseling and cultivates emotional wellness. It connects people in need to experts like psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, life coaches and career guides. It offers anonymity and confidentiality both of which are good encouragements for getting people to share.

YourDOST has counselors that prioritized my issues and helped me find the root cause of my problems. The help provided at YourDOST is the perfect combination of professional, mixed with friendly and comforting.

2. Wysa

(Image Description: The logo of the app- a graphic of a penguin over the word Wysa.) Via Wysa
(Image Description: A photo of a mobile with a conversation on Wysa in the screen. There is a graphic of the penguin peeking from above the phone and says “Organise your thoughts”. The conversation reads- Wysa: Let’s try the ‘thoughtpad’. It’ll help organize your thoughts and find your focus. User: I’ll try it. Wysa: Great. Breathe deeply ,and watch your thoughts as they appear for a minute or two. Write each thought down in the text box as it comes to you. We’ll organize them later. ) Via Wysa

An adorable chatbot penguin that empathizes with you and listens to your rants while keeping all conversations anonymous. Wysa is an AI-based chatbot that uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT). Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati founded the app to help people manage their thoughts and emotions. It tracks the user’s sleep and other activities by proactively engaging with the user.

I love ranting to this little guy. By linking to the health app on my phone, it tracked my workout and sleep activities and analyzed my behavior. The guided mindfulness meditations really got me through the tough days.

3. Happy Being

(Image Description: This is the opening screen of the app- graphics of a meadow under two mountains with snow tops, the sun and clouds. The words “Happy Being” are written in the centre.)
(Image Description: A screenshot from the app that says- 50+ Relaxation techniques, involving body and mind. When you feel jittery or low, use the techniques in relax and relieve to learn to relax instantly. Try the techniques to discover which technique works best for you.)

Happy Being is a self-improvement app by nSmiles that offers personalized guided meditations, assessments, and activities. It caters to students, job seekers, working professionals, healthcare staff, homemakers, and senior citizens. By means of a tracker, the app helps people set, prioritize and achieve goals. One of its many features, ‘Relax and relieve’, contains Relax Audio, a De-stress journal, and my favorite: Affirmations.

I love how this app personalizes everything to suit my specific needs. The writing prompts along with the daily journal entries helped me put my emotions to the forefront and tackle them. I couldn’t help going back to the affirmations over and over again for boosts of confidence throughout the day.

There are many more upcoming online counseling platforms like Trijog, Seraniti, HealthEminds, and ePsyclinic that are making professional help as accessible as possible with the help of technology and digital media. These startups are a great step forward in the process of change and don’t make the future world where mental health care is a top priority, seem so far away.