It’s Friday evening. You are absolutely thrilled to wear your shiny gold stilletos, paint your face with your favorite Nars make up (or any paint of that matter), and you’ve just worked tirelessly to re-stitch your favorite Sangeet (Indian wedding event) outfit with the local tailor who also happens to be your uncle’s fathers mother’s brother, who we endearingly call ‘Sam Uncle’ (his real name and DOB is a secret few are honored to know).
Upon arrival, you immediately and quite willingly head into judgment paradise, aka the bathroom where you and the aunties begin to seamlessly judge each others outfits while also helping each other fix pins for unruly duppatas (scarf for Indian outfits).
Hi beta (term of endearment), what is your name? What do you do? Are you married? In your mind, you begin to ask, she wore that outfit? Is that jewelry real gold? How much was it? Wait a second… are we both judging each other? Who wins? I’m still wearing the same stilletos and outfit I once, two hours earlier, was ecstatic to wear. How did my mind betray me so quickly?!
Our minds are like mini factories, perhaps a full time job. What makes us feel easily swayed or buy in to certain thoughts or emotions over others? As South Asians, we are traditionally collectivistic in our mindset for generations. What we choose to wear, eat, date, and career choice to name a few are influenced by family and friends in our immediate environment.
While a single blog post cannot cover years of cultural and familial traditions, perhaps we begin to explore the complex origins of such traditions. Could it be that the aunty in the bathroom is exploring her own experiences of wanting to pursue a career of choice and, for a number of reasons, was unable to? Could it be we are judging an aunty’s jewelry because we too have been in the exact position at an earlier wedding or felt the eyes on our garb?
Each of us is living in accordance with our subjective realities, which complicates things when we combine our individual realities with familial and societal beliefs about how we should think, feel, and behave.
The question remains – how we can we balance our sense of self while maintaining a close relationship with others without if feeling like a threat to our identity? The best of both worlds is not only possible but also considered psychologically optimal regardless of our age or life stage.