I didn’t realize it was time for finals until I read the Facebook status updates. My newsfeed was littered with posts discussing immense sleep deprivation; pictures of meals comprised of Hot Cheetos, Red Bulls, and 5-Hour Energy drinks; and extensive lists of extracurricular activities that needed to be accomplished, alongside finals, in a ridiculously short amount of time. I’m no longer in college, so I was able to look at this with an outsider’s lens and what I saw astounded me. It was ridiculous. I was bothered by how the practices, and consequences, of busyness were glorified. Students wrote about them as if they were embarking on a fruitful challenge: maxing out the total credits they could take, being involved in every club, not sleeping. They would reap the rewards of A’s today and impressive resumes later, the health of their bodies not even considered. Several months ago, I was doing the exact same thing.
In fact, I was probably the perfect illustration of the situation I am describing. By my senior year, I was managing student government, acting in a play, teaching a class, taking 20 credits, being in a research program, trying to bring about revolution…you get the idea. My mind was proud of my accomplishments, but my body suffered the consequences. It became so difficult to sleep that I required sleeping pills. I had panic attacks, which I never had before. My back and head were constantly hurting from tension. The food I was eating did not feel good in my body.
Maybe it was my overachieving self. Maybe it was my inferiority complex as a poor womyn of color who doubted whether she was good enough. Who was trying to ensure she was a good job candidate to help her family pay rent they couldn’t afford. Who dreamed of graduate school, but was unsure of what it looked like or how to get there. Who tried to shout, “Fuck you!” to stereotypes and barriers. Who was trying to bring change NOW because she was impatient and tired of experiencing oppression.
An inferiority complex is described as a lack of self-worth, a doubt and uncertainty, and feelings of not measuring up to society’s standards. It is often subconscious and is thought to drive afflicted individuals to overcompensate, resulting either in spectacular achievement or extreme asocial behavior.
I have an inferiority complex.
I believe my inferiority complex to be an effect of white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. I was driven to overachieve, to defy uncertainties brought on by the dominating standards of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, at the expense of my body’s wellbeing.
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As I keep trying to remind myself that self-preservation is an act of political warfare, I continue to see the mistreatment of bodies of color in my surroundings. I am in a culture that is trying to tear me apart. I don’t want to be the product of a machine that devours bodies of color, a machine that sees us as disposable objects that can produce its desired results. I refuse to participate in my own dehumanization. This machine has attempted to transform and damage our bodies for centuries. I think of early colonial times when indigenous peoples in the Americas bought coca-leafs instead of food, which shortened their lives but allowed them to endure deadly tasks imposed on them by the colonizers. To this day, people still chew coca to kill hunger.
I realize that not everyone has the privilege to practice the sort of self-care I am discussing. I think of those who have to work constantly and produce outstandingly. I think of my mother being exploited at a flower warehouse. She comes home exhausted, describing the ways in which her supervisors scream, “Faster! Faster!” to all the employees while demanding that they chop flowers at robot speeds. She can’t quit because jobs are scarce, so she continues, her hands trembling from lack of proper occupational gloves and from her “nervios.” The supervisors laugh in her face by providing pathetic paychecks, completely dismissing her efforts and pain because to them, she is just another disposable body of color, a source of income.
It can be easy to forget that the University still functions as a capitalistic machine, extracting all of our energy to the very last drop until we are dwindled bodies, robotically producing. In this sense, it does well in preparing us for the capitalist job market. I ask that we remind ourselves of this, and question whether we are willfully participating in, and internalizing, the ways capitalism associates our human worth with the amount of production they can extract from us.
When I recognized I was subconsciously embodying capitalistic values of extraction, I began to feel very depressed and ashamed. I did not want to, consciously or unconsciously, be an agent or tool of oppression. Eventually, I realized that I had to be patient and compassionate with myself – two traits I will forever be in the process of learning. In the process, I began to discover what self-love looked like for my unique body and spirit, and I used that understanding to counteract the oppressive values I internalized. I treated my body with the kind of love I felt it needed by actively looking for signs of stress. As I became more conscious of how the food I consumed impacted my mood and energy, my diet drastically changed and my health improved. Whether through exercise, painting, writing, or lying still for a few moments, I made sure to meditate frequently.
I left the University of California, Santa Cruz a few months ago and I have been restoring my body and reclaiming it from the white supremacist patriarchy ever since. It has been a difficult process, but the support of my family has been of incredible help. I’m working on maintaining my drive, but being careful not to place too many things on my plate. My family calls me out when they see that I am stressed or too busy. I take those moments as signs to evaluate how I am managing my time and priorities. I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time, and I stopped taking sleeping pills. My body is my temple and little by little I am providing it the respect it deserves.
This is my resistance.
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Chio is a free spirited queer xicana feminist. She is a fighter who laughs in the face of a world that tries to break her spirit. She believes that another world is possible and is eager to create it.