“Your brother is really serious about this girl and plans to get engaged very soon,” boasted my mother on the phone. “Of course, he is,” I thought, more sadly then I had expected. Two hours later, I was crying in my bed. This development and my consequent reaction felt like déjà vu. My brother had defeated me, yet again, by being the way he was; self-confident, assertive and secure in his body and mind. I sifted through the times that had gotten me here while grieving at my failure at becoming a functional adult.
I was always that ‘hardworking daughter’ and he was the ‘genius but careless’ son who was mildly appreciated for being that way by everyone – ‘that’s how boys are’, ‘that’s his personality’ were phrases thrown around me while growing up. His shortcomings were shrugged off as if everyone could already see him as a mature successful man. I was gushed over, appreciated and praised throughout childhood and adolescence, for being more responsible and obedient than my brother. But somewhere deep down I wanted to be like him. Being told that I was a perfect daughter was becoming boring and more of a burden than a compliment. But before I could delve deeper and forge some semblance of my true identity, these thoughts took a backseat. Puberty had hit and as with any girl becoming a woman, the society took me under its scathing microscope.
My evolving facial features and ‘womanly’ mannerisms were judged and given verdict every single day. I learnt from a PT teacher at school that overweight girls shouldn’t run as they don’t look good doing that. My mother remarked that girls should wear a serious expression in front of boys because ‘boys like that’. Our neighbour’s daughter was deemed ‘bad mannered’ because she talked too loudly. My aunt once lectured her daughter that she shouldn’t talk too much in front of ‘rishta seeking’ guests as; it scares them away. But I noticed that my brother was precisely the opposite of these things, but praised for it. I was confused over what and how I should be to get that praise. All I knew was that scoring top marks didn’t make me feel as happy as looking thin in my uniform did. Once, both these things happened on the same day and I felt had discovered the key to my locked up sense of self-worth and-confidence. That was it. I had to have it all to feel confident enough to face this world. The world nodded in agreement.
Did I set myself up for the toughest exam possible? Or was the exam set up for me? I was only sure of one thing at that point: I was very scared by that gaze that asked me to be a certain way. Not because I didn’t want to be that way. All girls at 16 want to be pretty, tall, thin and fair. It was just that I couldn’t be all these things; I couldn’t be ‘perfect’, I couldn’t possibly pass this exam. The failure was inevitable, humiliating and instrumental in shattering my confidence and my sense of self-worth.
This is how my brother and I parted ways in our supposedly identical upbringing. We both went through that teenage angst, early twenties’ introspection into ‘purpose of life’ questions, but our ‘coming of age’ was defined by precisely what we had unconsciously absorbed and were still soaking from our surroundings. Consequently, he skidded through his twenties with various failures and successes like any normal human would and grew into this young man who would, one day, get into a beautiful relationship with a girl he met at university, never doubting himself for not being good enough for that girl. His sense of self-worth was a firm ground he could fall back on in case failure hit and he would jump back to face the next obstacle, to take that risk without crumbling. He would never let his weaknesses define him.
Meanwhile I was greeted by my insecurities at every setback and failure that I encountered as an adult. The pursuit to ‘impress by perfection’ in this harsh bleak world outside the colourful classrooms I had left behind, led to anorexia, social anxiety and depression. The trauma of knowing that I will never be good enough for that other person led me to shy away from forming meaningful relationships. I didn’t know if I was hiding from the world or from myself. Maybe from both, I realise now. I didn’t want to face the world with my imperfect self. So I didn’t.
I hardly made friends, got settled with a mediocre job that demanded little of my UK degree or brain cells, and never even tried to get married. This was the safest way to be or else I would have crumbled at each failure had I challenged myself because I don’t possess the firm ground to fall back on, because my base was formed on a marshmallow called perfection, because I lack the steel-like self-worth that my brother has.
Most girls in our part of the world grow up scanning themselves through the lens of the ‘others’. We go from impressing teachers to impressing potential suitors (or worse, their moms), from nailing that math problem to perfecting our eyebrows, from being caring and compassionate daughters to our mothers to being emotionally supportive companions for our spouses. We are told from cradle that we will never be good enough for this world if we aren’t perfect like that. Therefore, we should be mentally prepared to constantly impress to feel worthy of drawing breath in this society and to spend our whole lives pursuing this unachievable goal.
So yes, I cried hearing about my brother’s impending marriage. For here I am, still struggling to accept and love myself the way I am and there he is, my beloved brother, who is brave enough to share his existence with another soul. It just hurts, you know.
Perfection was created
to make us feel imperfect,
but imperfect, of course,
is the perfect thing to be.
We spend every hour of every day,
every day of every week,
trying to be different,
trying to be unique.
Our nature is to search
for answers to life's questions,
concepts we don't understand,
like "What is perfection?"
You strive to be "perfect,"
a term you don't understand.
You should be yourself
before it gets out of hand.
Surely happiness is of priority
over a word like "perfection,"
so ask yourself this,
Who looks back in your reflection?
There comes a point when you have to realize that you'll never be good enough for some people. The question is, is that your problem or theirs?
“I love, but I am not entirely sure how to be loved: how to be seen and known for the utterly flawed woman I am. It demands surrender. It demands acknowledging that I am not perfect, but perhaps I deserve affection anyway.
Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect -and I don't live to be- but before you start pointing fingers... make sure you hands are clean!
After all those years as a woman hearing 'not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,' almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, 'I'm enough.'
I said to my teacher, 'I can't be a singer because I'm not pretty enough, and I'm fat.' And she looked at me and said, 'Tell that to Nell Carter, babe.' That changed my life forever!
You may never be good enough for some people, but you will always be the best for those who deserve you.
There's not one human being on the planet earth who has never felt, at some point, unaccepted. At some point in our lives, we feel like we're not good enough, but we have to step back and realize that we are.