Our Sense of Belonging

In social psychology, the need to belong is linked to being socially accepted. The need for love and belonging even lie at the center of the Maslow’s Hierarchy as part of social needs. This is why many psychologists today curiously study the concept of “groups”.

All of us enjoy being a part of something – a community of people who understand us, include us, and accept us. And it’s interesting because nearly all human activities like working, playing, and learning occur in groups.

I know whenever I was a new kid at school, I loved connecting with other new kids joining in that year. At my most recent high school, we formed a lovely group sharing that one thing in common. Being a new kid can be an isolating and lonely endeavour. “Am I the only one who feels this way?” Finding myself in the company of others wrestling through pools of similar questions I remember felt extremely relieving. Groups in this sense remind us that we aren’t alone.

The WordPress community also brings together people who express emotions, have stories to tell, or insights to share. I feel motivated when I know there are others who care about my progress as a writer. Every time I publish a post, it is generally a gratifying experience because of the comments and feedback I receive that help me improve. Networking within communities hence guides us towards achieving our goals, and the more we socialise and participate in activities with others, the more we gain confidence in our abilities.

Sometimes however, we naturally become a part of certain groups. For instance, in the larger world, socially constructed identities form – race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious groups, etc. In these cases, they can often form the basis of discrimination, comparisons, and conflicts with other groups. A group that an individual identifies with becomes an in-group, and everyone outside the in-group becomes the out-group. I watched the movie “Get Out” one day which reinforces the psychological struggles of a black man, Chris, as the white family of his girlfriend forms an in-group bias.

But let’s say a football team, a baking club, a work group, a yoga class. Which such groups have you joined by choice? And in what ways have you benefited from belonging to this certain social group? Let me know in the comments!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

The Beauty of Trying New Things

As someone who loves to explore and travel, trying new things is something I’ve been encouraged to do. I often wondered: what do I know about life outside my immediate circle? It turned out: so very little…

When I was in Slovenia, my family and I stayed at a student hostel for a day since all city hotels were fully booked and it was only a matter of a day. We later learnt that despite the tiny space and shared bathrooms, it was a fun, cheap, and more sensible choice which in fact gave me a peek into what life will look like for me in a couple of weeks time at university. When we surround ourselves with the same people, ideas, routines, and conversations, we are unexposed. But by being open and adventurous, we come back with expanded perspectives.

The sleeping capsule in the hostel – how cute is this?

In Singapore, my sister, my mom and I struggled to find food we normally eat. As an island surrounded by water it is no wonder seafood is a big part of Singapore’s cuisine. My mom is a picky eater, but my sister and I are more open to trying different foods so we went to a (very!) local market and ate a whole chilly king crab. And Wowzers it was divine…

So, trying new things also helps us figure out our likes and dislikes.

Me trying a king crab 🦀

In Mumbai, my sister and I were stranded in the rain late at night after a good dinner of sushi and ramen. None of the Ubers were around our area, so we took an auto rickshaw by ourselves for the first time. The cool breeze on our faces and the extremely bumpy roads made the journey feel like a roller coaster. Sometimes, it’s good to try new things simply because it’s…fun!

India’s autos 🛺

Above all, I believe trying new things makes us interesting people. I know my travel experiences have left me with exciting stories to tell, and there is always a way to build conversations with people. Life is too short not to try something new. After all, better an Oops than a What if, right?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Finally 18!

It is that time of the year where I get to be the centre of attention for a day. Where another 365 days lay ahead of me to make a wonderful difference to this world. But this day, unlike others, is extra special – well at least that’s what people say. Turning Eighteen. A magical milestone into adulthood…

Looking back, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt (with 100s others yet to come) is that in the depths of pain and confusion, we learn some of life’s most important lessons. For example, moving around schools and countries has been a pain for me. Making new friends meant leaving special ones behind. But it also enabled me to become my own best friend – not having to depend on anybody for my happiness. I have learnt that people come and go, but what’s more important is to build a solid foundation within myself, something I’ve only been able to do because of this pain.

I’ve also learnt that not everyone wants what you want. And that’s okay. Co-living with a twin for 18 years has taught me that in the time of certain types of conflicts, mutual respect leaves everyone better off. As my dad keeps reminding me, strengthening a priceless relationship is more important than winning a minor argument. I’ve also realised that we either try to change people who are different to us, or we avoid or ignore them completely. But there is actually a lot we can learn from them. My sister, for instance, taught me to empathise with others even though I may feel like I’m logically correct. Like it’s said, empathy doesn’t require a solution, only understanding.

I look forward to entering this stage where I’ll meet with many changes – some good and some bad, both with countless lessons to learn, as well as build beautiful relationships with the ones around me. Ready. Steady. Go. It’s time to adult!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Travelling to the US – first solo trip!

Last week, my sister and I travelled around the US. This was our first ever travel trip without our parents, so it was a fulfilling journey of independence and learning (along with ridiculously crazy instances).

Here’s what we did in a nutshell:

We organised this trip primarily to tour around campuses of the universities we may be joining this fall. So our first stop was Illinois, as we wanted to see the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was located at a serene location complete with squirrels, rain drops, fresh trees, and lots and lots of greenery.

Me on your left, my twin sister Diza on your right
My sister and I in front of the UIUC campus

We also stayed in Chicago for a day and something really scary happened. We were filling the gas of our (rented) car and in America, as I learnt, we have to do everything by ourselves. How very convenient… not. So when we were adjusting the gas, the petrol splurted all over my clothes 😱. Luckily there was a gas station convenience store, and the guy let me change to a fresh set of clothes in the bathroom since we had our luggage! I used to love the smell of petrol. Now I’m traumatised…

Downtown Chicago
Also downtown Chicago

Our next stop was Seattle where we saw the University of Washington (where I’m most inclined to go). A soft pink campus complimented with a touch of blue – perfect for the princess I like to pretend I am!

The University of Washington

We also stopped at the Starbucks Headquarters. It was a luxurious private reserve where we treated ourselves with a scrumptious skillet chicken with white wine sauce and an aromatic latté.

Our last stop was New York where we saw NYU 👩‍🎓, and there are no words to describe the vibrant, buzzy lives people live over there. We were walking all day to get from place to place and that was what I loved the most about this city (Psst…I didn’t workout for a whole entire week otherwise🤫). Also, here, and in fact in all the other cities, it was lovely to encounter a lot of Mexicans from Latin America, so we got to practice our Spanish! ¿Que guay, no? (How cool, no?). The people were also incredibly kind and in general we felt safe (considering this city can get pretty unsafe if one isn’t careful).

Times Square, New York

All in all, we had the time of our lives and travelling without our parents was a not-so-bad-as-I-thought experience. I love my parents to the moon and back, but a bird must eventually leave the nest of her family, right?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Birthday Poem for a Friend

I wrote this poem for one of my loveliest friends, Gabriella. A little bit of background: it is also our last few days of high school before we all head off to universities and start new chapters of our lives 🤧

Happy Birthday Gabriella!

I want to thank you 
For everything you’ve done
From always being there 
To all the laughter and fun 

I’ve moved around countries 
To worlds that were new
It was indeed very rare 
To have found a friend like you 

You’re smart and selfless
Exceptional the way you are 
I revere all that you do 
And know you’ll go far 

I’ll miss you immensely 
These coming days 
But our friendship will hold 
Even in parting ways

Because friends are blessings 
That change our life 
I’ll never forget the difference 
You’ve made to mine 

- SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Comment down below – do you think she will like it? 🥳

Healthy Life

I remember how, a couple of years ago, I used to eat one Cadbury dairy milk bubbly and drink one sugary mixed berry Lipton iced tea every single day at my school’s tuck shop. Every lunch break, the comforting sweet aroma of the tuck shop would cave me in. I didn’t care. It was my way to feel good and get momentary pleasure.

However, now that I’m more aware, even though I indulge in a delicious chocolate Oreo milkshake every once in a while, in the long-term I realise the importance of living healthy. Just like we can keep our minds healthy by positive thinking, our bodies need the same amount of respect, and when we let ourselves go, we are not respecting ourselves. Recently, I have been taking care of my health and I see the difference it has made to my body and my mind. I no longer hit the gym feeling like it is a “task”. Instead, when I exercise, I feel happy, confident, capable. And when I eat healthy, I feel clean, refreshed, and so so good about myself.

I also figured it out from direct experience, how beneficial stretching, yoga, and meditation are for living a healthy life. They help our bodies as well as our minds (something we all need help with 😅). Each time, I feel a little more grounded, a little more spacious.

What we choose to feed our bodies, whether it’s food or thoughts, determine how our bodies respond. And I think our bodies deserve the best and it’s always on our hands to take the first step of healthy habits. After all, a healthy outside can only begin from a healthy inside, no?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Is Ego our Enemy?

I translate ego to literally be “the self”. And I can say I have definitely been a victim of my ego in the past. For me, my ego was what made a lot of my time in high school bitter. As I now look back, it created an unhealthy belief in my own importance. It was that pettish child inside me that always wanted to get my way over anything or anyone else. The person inside me that absolutely needed to be better than, greater than, more than, anybody else in the room. Here’s why I think that was a bad thing…

When we have ego, we take every feedback, even feedback coming from people’s best interests, as an “attack”. As a result, we are never able to collect necessary feedback to grow. And what happens then? Can we really work with people if we put up walls? Can we really move ahead if we’re always uninterested in hearing from external sources? In a way, ego causes us to exaggerate our strengths while underestimating the amount of effort and skill required to achieve our goals. That’s almost losing touch with reality, no?

Ego also makes us assume that we “deserve” some outcome – always. For instance, I bought a gift for my friend and hence she should always be loyal to me. Sadly, we don’t always get what we deserve. It can be frustrating, but ego often creates entitlement and ridiculous expectations that the world won’t always fulfill for us.

The last, yet most important thing. Ego made me depend on external validation – a little too often and a little too much. It’s ironic how our sense of self, AKA ego, resents to hear and take in criticism from others, yet when it comes to external validation, it craves it in order to feel satisfied. An example would be: If I achieve a good score, I need to be recognized and praised for it.

All in all, I feel like ego definitely helps us build our confidence. However, it can also reach a point of completely destroying us. Having said that, imagine how much more open to new ideas and how much more fulfilling and wholesome our relationships with others can be if we learn to balance and manage our ego?

– SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

You have nothing to prove to anyone

Today’s world is difficult. And crazy. It is hard enough to find true happiness. What happens when we add in another person’s ideals about how we should live our lives or what defines our success? We feel exhausted, no?

The good news is that it is in our hands to break out of this nasty cycle. If there is one thing I’ve learnt, it is that our values are not determined based on external validation (other people’s approval of us).

I was once travelling to a different country and wanted to buy all my friends back home some souvenirs. I remember trying to search for a special gift for one of my special friends. I went from shop to shop looking for something they’d like with the temperature around me being 1°C. I was cold! And aching. But yet I never stopped looking until I eventually found a perfect present I knew would bring a smile to my friend’s face. When it came to giving the gift, however, my friend never appreciated it. For the next few days, I felt disheartened. That is until I realised that our value is inherent and not determined based on the way people treat us. I got the gifts with love and kindness in my heart – only I know that. Can I really control what happens after?

At the end of the day, we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. If you are someone who went out of their way to do something good for someone, but they didn’t notice it, you haven’t lost anything. You know why? Because no matter how the universe treats us, our values are what make us who we are. And values are what define our purpose. This is when we develop our own “personal truth”, after which the opinions of others stop mattering.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Why being imperfect is a good thing

Voltaire, the extraordinary French writer, once claimed: “Perfect is the enemy of good”. Strange, huh?

I agree with him. When I reflect on my life so far, I notice how perfection has never been as interesting as imperfection. My flaws, rough edges, weaknesses, on the other hand, have been… memorable.

I used to think that I could change the entire world if I wanted to, let alone people and their feelings towards me. I wanted to be the best at everything and at every time. For me, 2 + 2 always had to equal 4. I lived my life like a rule book, and anything that went another way would frustrate me to the core. However, overtime I realised that I, nor the world, can ever be perfect. Sometimes others let us down, sometimes we let others down. And that is okay. That is perfectly normal. Leaving the idea of perfection behind makes us adaptable to live in this world which is often as unfair to us as it is fair.

Imperfections also make us accept our human frailty. When I was writing my book during the 2020 pandemic, I found it incredibly freeing to tell myself at the end of a chapter, “This is fine. I think I’m done with that part.” Once we realise that perfection is a destination where we’ll never truly arrive, we begin to accept that our work will never be a 100%, and we learn to find peace with the best we can do.

High standards are fine, but unrealistically high standards make us miserable. You, like me, may therefore find that the motto, “Aim for excellence, not perfection,” can remind us to do our best without the anxiety and frustration that accompanies a perfectionist mindset. We don’t always have to “deal” with our imperfections, but rather look at them through a different light. At the end of the day, imperfections make life beautiful. So beautiful.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️