If you are into Bollywood films, you must have read about the untimely end of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. At age 34, he committed suicide in his Mumbai apartment. I have stayed silent because neither am I a therapist nor did I know Rajput personally. I can’t speak to his inner conflict; I don’t suffer from depression or anxiety. Speculating and gossiping about what I don’t have experience with seems both immature and inhuman.
Am I sad that Rajput decided to take his life? Absolutely! Honestly, I am devastated about any loss of human life, including Sushant Singh Rajput’s. I have lost quite a few friends, classmates, and colleagues to suicide. Mental health awareness and struggles are personal for me.
What we hear or read now is what the media chooses to share with us. People have written vile posts about Rajput—suggesting that as a young, scholarly individual, he should have sought help instead of acting weak and comitting suicide. Then there are others who are suggesting boycotting film stars and directors who perpetuate nepotism, made Rajput feel small, and stole opportunities from under his nose.
We don’t know if Rajput reached out for help; if he had a safe space to talk about his challenges; or, if he tried everything else before resorting to ending his suffering. Imagine the desperation where you see no hope or light and choose suicide as a path instead of anything else.
What I have been wondering about is Sushant Singh Rajput’s relationship with self-acceptance. As a writer with a corporate and entrepreneurial background, I can attest to the challenges of being an outsider, not belonging to any camps, carving my own path, staying true to my lifestyle, and forging forward despite the setbacks. What helped me stay the course of sanity was self-acceptance. Knowing and understanding that my choices (like anyone else’s) will have repercussions and accepting them with open arms. When you stop giving power to others over you, life becomes a lot less complicated.
As a mindset and Ayurveda coach, my guiding principle is around self-acceptance. It helps anchor us in this unstable world and develop a strong voice. That’s what I practice; that is what I preach to my clients as well. I remind them that unless we learn to embrace ourselves completely (for all the positives and negatives)—we cannot accept others in all honesty. Mindfulness and meditation help with self-acceptance.
Research shows us that exploration of self-acceptance is critical to understanding the development and maintenance of mental health. I am not suggesting that clinical depression has a cure in self-acceptance. But I do believe that self-acceptance (or lack thereof) has overwhelming effects on our physical, psychological, and emotional health.
There are different aspects to self-acceptance. Rajput was considered good-looking, fit, and intelligent…did he feel positively about his physical body? Self-acceptance also means not relying on outside validation and protecting oneself from negative judgement of others. Did it matter to him what other actors, directors, producers, critics, and fans thought of him/his performance? Self-acceptance also reiterates believing in one’s own capabilities. What did he think of his talents? Did not winning many awards crumple his confidence? As an outsider from a small town in India, was his self-esteem attached to not being a part of any directorial-camps?
Was Rajput able to embrace all facets of himself—not just the positive parts? What about his own self did he not accept? How did that impact his mental health and relationship with self?
I am bringing up self-acceptance in relation to mental health because, especially as South Asians, we are trained to pay attention to what others think of us. Our self-esteem is tied into external validation and materialism. Our success is measured by accumulation of awards, accolades, and fat paychecks. We are taught to seek stronger affirmations from the outside world than our own selves. I have been reading reports about Rajput feeling like a misfit in Bollywood and not being able to establish his place.
I wonder if we are able to teach the power of self-acceptance to people, would we save more lives? Self-acceptance leads to self-compassion. I can’t help but ponder: If Rajput had accepted the alienation he received from Bollywood, would he still be with us today?
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 12 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach is a wellness columnist for SEEMA and committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries. Sweta is a trained yogi and certified Ayurveda health coach and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in NYC with her husband.
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