Growing up I always felt my parents were strict and conservative. But right now, at the age of 36, having gone through experiences, places, meeting people, interacting with them and simply watching how the world and the people in different cultures function… I look back and realise, I have had such amazing childhood and forward-thinking parents. There was never a moment when my parents discussed/gossiped/spoke ill about anyone. Neither did they ever compare us with others nor did they ever pressurise us to behave/act a certain way for the sake of others!
From the moment I left my parents house for college, without my knowledge or awareness, I, very slowly began getting under the influence of being a certain way due to the expectations set around me. Later when I got married and moved to a newer community (our church, to be more specific), I found the dynamics there was completely different. The expectations and pressure from others around were even higher!
Believe it or not, I did not even realise it was the society’s pressure until recently. I was blind and I simply assumed that’s the way of life. I thought that’s simply how a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother is supposed to live to earn herself a good name! I am not sure how an Indian male feels. As for me being a woman, I realised I was burdening myself with the manifold pressure of society upon me!
‘Society’ could be anything from family, relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc!
Two years in Sweden, shook me back to my senses. Watching women, kids and families going about their lives unaffected by other’s opinions was quite an enlightening sight. The freedom with which they embraced themselves and their lives, opened my eyes to see what deceit I have been living my life up until then!
All that seemed like a norm until then, now began to seem ridiculous and unfair! It then occurred to me how from a very tender age our society begins programming kids to live under the pressure of other’s opinions!
“Stop crying! Everyone is watching you!”
“Behave properly. Everyone is watching you!”
“Tidy up the house because guests are coming!”
“Being a girl, dress properly. What will other’s think of you!”
“See how the other child is eating/studying/playing/being successful!”
“You need to become a doctor or an engineer because everyone else is becoming one!”
“You are ___ years old and still not married. What will others think?”
“You have been married for __ years and still do not have a child. What will others think?”
“We need to put ___Kg jewels (by begging or borrowing!!!) for the wedding. So others will know we are a well to do family!”
“We need to have a pompous birthday party, puberty ceremony, wedding, etc. Just so everyone will be aware of our status quo!”
“What will others think of you if you dress/behave/do this being a wife and mother?”
“DO NOT share your success, achievement, promotion, good news, etc! Keep it a secret. Others may get jealous and cast an evil eye!”
If you are an Indian, I am sure you are no stranger to statements like these! Being in a society that is extremely intrusive and overly concerned, sometimes even obsessed, with other people’s lives and businesses, we cannot escape from such statements being made over and over again. Overtime, subconsciously, we begin to modify ourselves to suit these situations… rather ‘escape’ such situations!
In this post, I would like to point out the Dangers of Being Conditioned by Other’s Opinions!
#1 We Cease to Function Out of Our Core Belief System
When we are so concerned about other’s opinions, our actions and decisions no longer stem from what we believe.
Example – I do not want my kids to tidy up the house for the sake of guests to assume ours is a clean tidy house. I would like tidying up to become their habit simply because of the peace and ambience it creates for a happy home for not just others who step in briefly, but us who do life here!
I would like my kids to dress up the way they believe is modest and comfortable for them, NOT for other’s validation.
Be it academics, sports or anything for that matter, I DO NOT pressurise them to excel in it. I personally encourage them to enjoy whatever they do and do it from their heart out of passion.
Parents, let your kids get married for the right reasons, when they find the right person and when they fall in love. PLEASE DO NOT get them into a marriage ‘agreement/arrangement’ simply because of the pressure from the people around you who nag you about you child’s wedding!
And remember you need not break your bank or your lifelong savings for a dowry a seemingly ‘good family/groom’ demands. Neither do you have to conduct the wedding in the most expensive halls and host the most expensive banquets simply because that’s what you think is expected!
#2 Split Personalities
I discovered people who are so conscious about what others think display split personalities – they act a certain way in front of others and a different way in their absence! Which leads to…
#3 Loss of Identity
When a person’s behaviour is modified simply to please others or to be validated by others, they gradually, without their knowledge, loose their unique identity! They stop being themselves. It’s quite alarming how almost everyone walks out of their homes wearing a mask on! It’s even more alarming to think what double standards we are setting in front of our young, innocent kids! I cannot imagine what confusion goes on in their minds when they see their parent behaving a certain way inside the house and contrarily outside!
#4 Being in a State of Delusion
I discovered that 80% of what we think that others will think exists only in our thoughts! Life is so busy and fast moving. Each person has their own set of worries and problems to fix. I am sure most of them don’t even have the time to think about us. But since we have been so conditioned to constantly act based on what others will think, we enter a world of delusion which doesn’t (in most cases) exist in reality!
#5 Stress & Lack of Peace
Trust me, we cannot be in peace if our validation and approval has to come from others. I find many being in unwarranted problems out of their own will simply because of their craving to please everyone around them. A lot of our problems and tensions can be avoided if we could simply do what we believe is right in our heart!
Having mentioned a few dangers that came to my mind, I feel compelled to share what it takes to learn the ART OF NOT BEING CONDITIONED/CONTROLLED BY OTHER’S OPINIONS,
One of the important lessons that I have learnt in life is – If we do not stand up for ourselves or what we believe, no one else will! People who are going to talk, will keep talking. People who are going to hate, will keep hating. People who are going to be jealous, are going to burn in jealousy. BUT all it takes is a little courage to be yourself!
#2 DECIDE TO LIVE LIFE ON YOUR TERMS
Ever since this realisation dawned on me, I try my best to live life on my terms. It is one of the best decisions I ever made and I cannot express how liberating it is. We have been gifted one beautiful life. DO NOT waste it by living under the pressure of living to please other’s expectations or constantly seeking others approval and validation.
#3 BE AUTHENTIC! BE YOU!
You are the most free and true when you are you! Show the world who you really are! Be fearless! Let the world know why you are the way you are! Show them what you believe! Follow your heart and do what is right. Let your actions and decisions stem from what you believe!
#4 BE RESPECTFUL BUT DISCERNING
I am in no way propagating a rebellious, don’t-care, I-know-it-all attitude! I value relationships. I value people. I value their opinions. I respect them. I listen to people. I constantly enjoy watching and learning lessons of value from those around me. I want my children to do the same.
I would like to have my head on my shoulders. I would like to have the power to choose right from wrong. I would like make my own decisions based on what I believe. As a woman, a wife, a mother… I DO NOT want to be confined in a box that society has virtually created for a woman to be imprisoned in!
I would like to impart the knowledge of what is good and what we believe to my daughters (just as my parents did!). I will not impose rules, regulations and curfews on them (just as my parents did!). I would like to empower them with wisdom to behave and make their own decisions in a fearless, just manner! Above and beyond everything… I want to be me and my daughters, their own unique and beautiful individuals!
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman (the same is applicable for a man as well!) being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” ― Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience