Coming from a patriarchal country like India, one would expect that I was also raised with the ingrained belief that the female gender is worthless for everything except nurturing the family.
But thankfully, I was raised in a progressive household, where women had an equal say in all the important decisions.
My family, instead of moulding me into an ideal bhartiya naari, brought me up to be driven about whatever I do and stand up for my beliefs, no matter what the detractors said.
My role models weren’t the stereotypical bahus in the Indian soap operas, who would be perpetually wearing ten coatings of makeup, heavy clothes and jazzy jewellery and still managed to devote their entire day to the kitchen in a palatial house that ideally should have dozens of maids.
Instead, they were strong women, who lead their lives successfully, regardless of the problems they had. Some were young mothers facing the challenges of raising many kids on their own in an unknown area, some were working mothers who were called ‘bad mothers’ for not being the moulded kitty-party-organizing airheads and some were single women, who didn’t need a man for achieving whatever they could.
What augmented my ideals were books with strong female protagonists. Since my childhood, I always admired Hermione Granger for her drive to succeed, been in awe of Elizabeth Bennet for sticking to her guns no matter how many times the higher class tried to mortify her pride and cheered for Mia Thermopolis when she transformed from a gawky teen to a classy, kind-hearted monarch of a principality.
But don’t think that because of these admirable women, I have become an iron-hearted hustler.
The truth is, even I have been a victim of my own insecurities and the horrible voices in my head, telling me that I’m a pathetic waste of space.
Oh dear reader, you wouldn’t even believe the number of times I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and picked at each and every single flaw on my face – be it a zit or my stubby nose. There have been so many times when I’ve cried myself to sleep in my teens just because someone told me something hurtful. Oh God, there have been many times when I kept beating myself up for not being worth it.
And you know what the worst bit is?
I'm not the only one who gets clouded by this negativity.
There are many, many, many young girls who go through this internal trauma every single freaking day.
When I hear my friends’ experiences, it saddens me to say many of them have gone through some heart-wrenching anxieties and bullying.
There has been fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, too-much-acne-shaming, body-hair-shaming and in fact, some have been shamed for being dark-skinned!
You know what the result of this is?
The friends who have been called fat stopped eating altogether to look slim, friends with acne started covering up their faces and those who had a lot of body-hair compensated by wearing fully covered clothes. Those who were criticized for their skin colour started applying around ten coats of makeup and fifty codes of lightening filters on their photos.
They want to be ‘presentable’ in the society.
They want to fit in, mould into the norms set by the society through airbrushed fashion magazines, tailored-to-look-more-perfect-than-perfect public figures and nit-picky people around them.
As a result of this, depression rates amongst young girls have arisen. Many go through disorders like anorexia and body dysmorphia. In fact, there has also been an increasing trend of self-harming because that pain apparently reduces their inner turmoil.
Some people might just dismiss the anguish of young girls as silliness. They will think, “Oh but the female gender is supposed to look presentable! How else will they get married and bear children?”
But what’s the point of looking presentable when girls don’t feel happy being themselves and are chasing perfection that is actually a sham?
So on this Women’s Day (which is practically over, but ah well), I would like to tell all the young girls that it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be imperfect and not look like a Victoria Secret Model. It’s all right. Your looks keep changing over time and they are not the only parameters of your success as an individual.
Moreover, what I’d like to add is, if you guys know any girl looking down and depressed, do pay keen attention to her. Don’t wait for her to do something that could lead to drastic, devastating consequences.
This world needs more Hannah Montanas (aka Miley Cyrus) who keep hustling and stay positive no matter what happens, not Hannah Bakers, who have no choice but to embrace death when there’s no one around to lead away from the darkness they are drowning in.