This Mental Switch That Helps You Deal With a Judgmental Society

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Imagine going through life feeling like a foreigner among your own people. Imagine locking yourself in your room crying because you feel like nobody understands you. Imagine not only getting angry at others, but mostly at yourself because you want to conform as you understand your life would be easier, yet you just can’t….

A lot of people identify that as how it feels like to be a teenager.

Maybe at some level they understand the period will pass and things would be fine.

Unless you grow up in a society where conforming is the rule of the game, and you’re expected to always live your life in line with what people expect of you. So when you grow up different, you hear so many words, a lot of them hurtful…

A friend of a friend is single at 30 in a South Asian community, and she’s really fed up with people pressuring her to settle down and get married.

Another one refused a proposal — or rishta — and had her aunties call so much she broke down.

Another one gets compared with a cousin her own age who has three kids. It doesn’t matter that she has three degrees.

Everytime I hear such a story , whether it’s from South Asia or the Middle East or China, I wish I can ask those aunties, “Why are you saying this? What’s the purpose? You want the girl to be happy? Then she was happy before your comments…Like, seriously…why? Do you feed off other’s misery? Are you dementors?”

But lately I experienced a mental switch.

Instead of getting so angry, the feelings I started to feel were empathy and compassion. Before they judge me for all the ‘wrong’ things I’m doing in my life, I show interest in their lives.

I look at them and ask, What’s your story?

Tell me more…

And they open up.

One woman told me of how she was a tomboy as a kid until the day her mother hit her with a rolling pin and she conformed.

Another told me of how she was forced to marry someone at 14, and she wasn’t even told that the party she was putting henna for was her own wedding.

And as I listened to the stories of these society-rule-enforcers, it just dawned on me, they say those things out of habit, because it was what society told them before. Half the time, their own lives were actually miserable, and they live such rich fantasy lives in their minds, that the disconnect between the lives they wish they’d had and the lives they’re actually living is eroding them from the inside…

Yet they don’t know what the alternative is.

So maybe, as they tell their own stories, they’ll recognize the pain they’re putting other women who’re single in their 30 and 40’s through, making them feel inadequate just because they’re nobody’s wives and nobody’s mothers.

Or maybe not.

It’s really hard to build the fortitude to overcome these comments. Especially in our societies. They just keep on coming and coming and coming. No matter how many times you hit them, they keep on coming, like tennis balls out of a machine.

At some point, you just want to throw your racket away and run.

I personally try to remind myself.

“The world is a place.”

I first saw the comment in Obama’s book, Dreams From My Father. The context in which the phrase appears is not important, because it’s such a simple statement and yet can be powerful and profound if you interpret it that way. Whenever someone says something hurtful and judgmental to me, I just remind myself that the world is a place.

It’s a huge place that houses 7 billion human beings other than the one who was hurting me at the moment. The world is a place; an expansive and abundant place, and this person is making judgments based on their very limited view of it.

Because the world is a beautiful place and instead of engaging with all its beautiful glory, this person chooses to waste time picking on people, bullying them, judging them and hurting them.

They don’t realize that the world is a place, and they’re missing out on it.

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