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Nurture the Soul

What makes someone happy? What brings people joy? What makes people optimistic about anything?

Many things bring people joy. This simple emotion can be powerful enough to motivate us to accomplish goals, spread energy around, and most importantly, nurture the soul.

Nurturing the soul means taking good care of yourself. It’s not about maintaining your physical and emotional needs—you have to mentally enjoy what you are doing. The energy you nurture within shows the worth you have. It brings meaning to who you are.

It’s the smallest things that count. It’s almost like something you’re looking forward to. After a hard day at work, you want to do something fun. If you don’t take care of yourself, then the things you enjoy won’t be as enjoyable as before. It loses its meaning for you.

Being optimistic is a huge skill one must master to look on the positive side. And all it takes is acknowledging what makes you happy. How does this connect?

I was once an avid straight-A student back in high school. My mom asked if I could strive for straight As when she saw my progress report card with a high B in my Introduction to Business class. I didn’t want to be a perfectionist in school, but it was something worth giving a shot. I could feel that my grade could reach an A. I was close at that time.

You would expect me to study hard, read my textbook countless times, make flashcards, read more chapters, and attend after-school help. Yes. That’s true. Only half true. What I also did in my pastime was enjoy my hobbies. I’d play games on my iPad, go for a walk, and watch Let’s Play videos on YouTube. I followed the hour increment timeline, with each hour reserved for an important task and another for my self-care activity.

I was assigned a group project for my business class. My group and I had to come together and prepare a presentation for a mockup product to sell. The product was a “patented” pen called the “Alter-pen” that could shift into different stationery like a pencil, highlighter, erasers, and so much more (innovative, right?!). I had an idea to catch the audience’s attention, so I threw all my highlighters, pencils, and erasers off the table to give a good start. At the end of class, I received an average grade and my B went up to an A. I did it! Something that I thought couldn’t be achieved was possible.

Hard work is important, but so is your well-being. Taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally can amp up your optimistic skills and you’ll feel stronger than before.

However, the real challenge of being optimistic is keeping that energy in a negative setting.

The Reality

Thanks to my anxiety, my mind likes to go off to the pessimistic side of things. It affects different aspects of my well-being, such as enjoying my hobbies, doing my school work, and who I am. Because I am an observer, I often make my own beliefs about where I am with other classmates and social settings. I believed that everyone knew who to be with and that no one saw me. I was invisible to others. It was like I didn’t exist. If I didn’t conform to what people do, then I was an outcast.

Reality becomes conflicted the more I think about a situation too much.

An example of this was my struggle to make friends. I mentioned this in my previous blog, but I never had a friend clique or a group I enjoyed being with. Some of my acquaintances would give me tips and tell me to get out of my comfort zone. I made that statement into a huge goal I had to achieve, or else I would be stuck with my fixed self.

I was in a construction class with many students who would act like the cool kids, mess around, and do the hard work. The whole environment radiated this “masculine” energy, which involved using construction machinery, handling heavy wood planks, and constructing functional objects. I made a small taiko drum for a game to practice and a small tic tac toe game. It was fun during the process!

I used chopsticks as my "drumsticks" to practice!

Creating something was cool and all but what it meant for me was meeting those standards. I have to be like everyone in the class. I was still exhibiting a quiet persona, so I had to follow what my classmates were doing. I was assigned a project to make a small library book house for my high school with a group of four other students. During that time, my group didn’t take the project seriously and we were going with the flow throughout the day. Two guys would be in charge of working with the “big roles” such as cutting out certain wood planks, drilling in the nails, and most importantly, doing all the work.

I needed to contribute to the group; otherwise, I would fail as a student and I wouldn’t get a grade for participation. Everyone in my group knew what they were doing. I didn’t have the skills to perform anything attributable. I was pretty much on the sidelines spectating them.

I decided to use the optimism skill I once learned back from my business class and put it to work. I kept telling myself that everything would work fine for me—I just needed to know what I had to do to feel useful. After a couple of weeks, my group was making progress with the house and I was in charge of supporting the truss (the supportive wood under the roof) for my classmate to screw in, but I was not strong enough to hold it in place. I kept wiggling it to no end and I made my classmate annoyed. He yelled my name very loudly and I had to adjust both of my arms quickly. Eventually, I had the other guy do it for me.

It was at that moment when I lost confidence in myself. I couldn’t do anything right. I never met the expectations my whole class instilled. I failed to be optimistic. That moment weighed me down so heavily.

It took a big turn for me, and my mindset began to deteriorate. I was in therapy during high school so I had to practice not letting my intrusive thoughts get the better of me and reframe it differently.

How did the skill I once learned backfire on me? I thought I was doing good. Instead, I lied to myself again. This was where my inner battle began.

Positive vs. Negative

They’re like yin and yang. Both of these electrons are known to attract each other. It makes sense with thoughts. I have the power to disassociate them, but I don’t know if I can change myself.

My cruel thoughts are essentially an alter ego of mine. Because I was so used to having these thoughts, it was my way of coping. I became comfortable with them because I knew they were the absolute truths. However, being consumed by these degrading beliefs changed my persona. That sweet person I was before was only a front that revealed how much of a disappointment I was. Cruel as it was, I accepted that.

I had to look at things from a different angle to separate bad thoughts. That memory took a toll on me after class. I knew I wasn’t adequate for them, but I also needed to know my worth.

Negative thoughts are like vines that entangle every limb of your body. They root from within and they take control over you. You need to find a way to free yourself from those vines. To do this, introspection plays a role. Don’t worry about thinking how bad you were, how you could’ve changed, or how others are better than you. You are not seeing the reality or the actual truth of things. You’re only putting yourself down.

You have to give yourself a chance to nurture your soul.

Downplaying your strengths and weaknesses can spiral you into a degrading loophole. You’re stuck in an endless cycle of wondering whether you’re good for people or not. Acknowledge these thoughts and think about them for a second. What happened during that time? What did you feel? How did you recover after?

Once you answer these questions on your own, accept that it happened. Understandably, we have to strive to live a pure, perfect, mistake-free life, but we can’t change the past nor can we predict the future. But, we can also steer our lives in a good direction. It’s a small step that makes a difference to your growth and importantly, your optimistic spirit. In the case of my construction class, I had to evaluate my thoughts.

“I’m not good at doing these kinds of stuff.”

What can I do to improve and help myself? I’m not good, yes, but I would still like to know.

“I hate who I am.”

No, you don’t. 

“I’m not fit to do this kind of work.”

Look at you! You were able to use a miter saw, sand down the wood, and review the small house design! You still did good!

I could go on about how bad I was in construction class, but come on now, is it worth giving power to the thought if I can improve on myself? You deserve to grow, learn, and overcome your adversities. Optimism isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s knowing you have the chance to become better.

Taking care of yourself when you are at your lowest can be a struggle, but always keep in mind that in your journey of healing, things will get better no matter what.

The fact that you have the strength to fight against your thoughts shows how much of a resilient person you are.  

About the Author

Daniel Santiago is a blogger in the Love Yourself Foundation. He enjoys writing, playing piano, and exercising. His favorite activity is going out for walks and listening to lo-fi and serene music. A professional at being an introvert, he strives to find his place in the world and remind everyone they are not alone.

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