There’s a steady pressure in today’s world to keep moving and keep giving. We’re asked to produce, to sacrifice, and to deny ourselves as a matter of virtue and worth. While the reasons may be different for why we deny ourselves, from the need to get to the top of the corporate ladder to an ascetic sense of morality passed down from our community, the outcome tends to be the same.
Let me introduce you to a figure from the folklore of Japan called the Futakuchi-onna. Her name means “two-mouthed woman,” and she comes from a country facing a crisis of self-care. In fact, at the end of last year, the youth suicide rate in Japan had reached its highest in thirty years.
The stress of a work-centric culture along with a strong stigma against reaching out for mental health care are thought to be major factors for the suicide rates in Japan. Most of us can relate on some level to the fear of those stigmas and the need to appear industrious and ambitious enough. Perhaps then, it is somehow appropriate that we can learn about the dangers and effects of neglecting ourselves through the story of the Futakuchi-onna.