For years and years, I was desperately afraid to stand out.
We all try to fit in. We try to fit in the life which social media portrays to be ‘idealistic’. Not only life but also how we are ‘supposed’ to look and what we are ‘supposed’ to wear.
The sole culprit is not just social media but our own underlying need for acceptance.
We do good things and bad things to feel accepted. I remember a time when I was in 9th grade during the lunch break a friend of mine very suddenly pointed out, “Yukti, you have a big nose, its like a pakoda.” (naturally like every teenager I had acne and oily skin back then) Everyone started looking at my nose, I felt very conscious, was it this way when I left for school in the morning? I wanted to look in a mirror, but none of the washrooms had mirrors.
On the way home I tried to look in every reflective material to check, I have a big nose? It was fine in the morning? What is even a big nose? Is it a bad thing? What should I do? I came home and scrutinized myself in the mirror, suddenly in a few hours, I didn’t like what I saw.
I went to pappa and just mentioned pappa my nose is too big, I want to get a nose job. He didn’t argue because everyone in his family has a big nose. He said I don’t think you need it, but if you insist you can do it once you’re a little older. After that, I had innumerable people, including family, telling me I should get the surgery done to make myself look pretty.
I decided when I was 14, I will get nose surgery. I was counting down birthdays till I was 19 to get that surgery. However. And when I turned 19 I didn’t bring it up, I just kept saying one day I will get surgery done. Partly, I was scared of the surgery and partly because I liked how it became a part of my personality over time.
Recently someone pointed out something about my pores. I had never noticed my pores were big before this. I started thinking why haven’t I noticed this, why was I so oblivious. I kept beating myself up for not noticing this and taking steps to make me look a little more likable. I was desperate to fit in.
Until I started thinking, maybe it was just pointed it because people are not used to seeing big noses or big pores? But I shouldn’t be changing myself because having a big nose is not a bad thing. It will never be a bad thing unless it’s hurting someone else. I started to accept and embrace my nose more than ever.
This is not my letter of complaint, it’s a proposal to understand. I have also criticized people at some point and now that I reflect on those moments I realize I only criticized when I was unhappy and unconfident.
Naturally, when we wake up we don’t think, “I am going to criticize someone today”. It’s not something we put down on our to-do list. It happens due to underlying frustration or insecurity. We project what we feel on others. Those few moments when we put others down we feel empowered. We earn everyone’s laugh and think we got it, but what good does it do?
So many times someone says something rude to me, I type a mean message and delete it. They probably have their own issues they are dealing with. It is going to do no benefit to me to respond to them.
If someone starts to wear a wig due to cancer, and you notice that their hair doesn’t seem real, and you call them out? Will you feel good about what you did? Do you think you would be in a position of power? It will make absolutely no difference to you, would it? But imagine being on the receiving end? It would crumple your spirits.
Don’t criticize someone unless they ask for your advice. I am in no position to tell someone what’s wrong or right with them. Naturally, I can’t control what I hear, but I can regulate how I react to it. I make sure the validation I need, comes from within. I hug myself before going to sleep and tell myself, “you did really well”. This doesn’t shield me from criticism it shields me from that having an adverse effect on my confidence.
Criticism is not wrong.
There are two types of criticism: one when you can change things like your eating habits.
Second, there is nothing you can do about it like your nose or eyes.
When you know someone can not change things about themselves, what’s the point of bringing it up? If they can change, bring it up, but only if asked for.
We should lift others, and not tear them down with our words. We might forget about it, but the receiver can’t let it go.
Live and let Live
First appeared on Enterprise India Fellowship