Them: “You’re mixed right?”
Disclaimer: I am fully aware the thoughts I have surrounding my own race and culture are not positive and the reason as to why I am writing about them is because I want to show that I am aware that I have these negative limiting beliefs and am wanting to change them. I do not mean to offend anyone with my views; I’m just merely (as always) trying to be honest and start a dialogue.
Growing up in Medway was tough, for many reasons but for me being Indian made it harder. I have not yet vocalised how much of a battle I was having within myself regarding who I was or who I thought I should be. The crux of the matter is; I was a self loathing Indian. I didn’t enjoy being Indian and I did feel super embarrassed about my culture and ethnicity. As a teen I’d do everything I could to sort of distance myself from being Indian. I’d never wear any traditional Indian dresses any where other than when I was visiting older relatives and I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the house. I’d laugh along with people who couldn’t say my surname and even considered changing it. I would never let my mum cook anything traditional if I had a friend over. Long story short; I was embarrassed that I wasn’t white and in my head if I wasn’t white – I wasn’t right. I think growing up in a westernised environment but still having strong roots in a collectivist culture caused me to have conflicting ideologies. To this day; I still have a moment where I feel I need to try and hide my ethnicity as much as possible or to try and assimilate more.
As a teen, other Indian girls were not keen to befriend me. I think they saw me as the girl who didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the stereotypical Indian girl (they were right) who fought against her roots (again, they were right) so I never had much luck. I always felt, when I did make friends with other Indian girls, that there was some sort of underlying tension or competition between us. It may well have been just from my side; I don’t deny that but regardless something didn’t feel right.
Now I have come to realise that one of the reasons I may have felt like that was because I was insecure and jealous of other Indian women. I felt I couldn’t join them so I wanted to do everything I could to be separate from them.
I realised that I may have felt this way because growing up I was often pitted against my fellow counterparts this included family members and people I didn’t even know!! I was told that so and so was doing amazingly at school and I should be more like her and when I didn’t manage to be like her I was chastised which led me to hate HER. I had in my head that She (whoever She was) was the reason I was failing and getting shouted at left right and centre. This continued well into my early twenties and as a result I acted very negatively towards my cousins and other distant relatives and this irrevocably damaged my relationship with them.
I also shunned everything to do with my culture as much as I possibly could because in my eyes I wasn’t good enough to be a typical Indian girl. I was frequently told that even though I was pretty, I was fat and thick so no Indian man would want to marry me. As you can imagine that really hurt my feelings and negatively shaped my relationship with myself well into my late 20’s.
I had this belief that the better my counterparts did the worse I would do, so I never supported them. I didn’t go out of my way to bully or belittle them but I didn’t rejoice in their accomplishments, I instead met them with complete apathy. I didn’t see their success as something to aspire to or something I could celebrate, I saw it as being ostentatious and overly egotistical.
I’ve reached a point in my journey where I want to actively heal old wounds which have held me back in the past. I want to love and support my fellow Indian women. I don’t want to feel insecure or jealous just because someone who is similar to me -and is doing a similar thing to me, is getting notoriety quicker than me. There is no need to be fiercely competitive to our own detriment, there is plenty to go around for everyone.
I’ve decided in order to be that way I need to deal with these negative opinions and thoughts so I can move forward into a more positive, helpful space. I am hopeful that by being transparent and accountable I can work towards understanding these views and inevitably rid myself of them.
My future is mine and I can choose who I want to be going forward and I choose to embrace my ethnicity and culture on my own terms, in my own way.