When I wrote about some of the experiences I’ve faced in life, so many women connected with me, having had similar experiences. Most asked how I had the strength to overcome that. Well, let me put it this way. I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. I just felt the pain over and over and knew I had to break that cycle. There were dark periods when I started to believe that I somehow deserved all that pain and there was nothing I could do about it. I used to admire and envy women who had it all. How did I bring myself to take the first step? I’ll explain what I did and how I did it. But first, I’d like to explain how we become victims.
The first trauma or oppression we face in life sadly comes from family in most cases. People have a lot of reasons to control others. Especially the ones they love. They “think” it’s for the betterment of the one they love. When you’re a woman, the scales go higher. You must fit into their mould for them to approve and accept us. I’m not going to go into why they did it or whether it’s right or wrong. That’s another article. But I’m going to talk about "US". What it does to us and how we can overcome it.
Naturally, women have a stronger spirit than men. That’s why we have a higher level of pain tolerance. If you let a woman flourish, she will reach higher grounds in no time! But due to social views and norms, a strong spirited woman is not considered a woman at all. You must have heard the following a million times in your life:
“Act like a LADY!!!”
“Remember that you’re a lady. He can do that because he’s a man. But you can’t!”
“Don’t know how you’re going to survive after you get married. Your in-laws are going to think you’re a savage!”
“You’re going bring a lot of shame to this family!”
“Stop acting like a man. Stop competing with men. You’ll just hurt yourself!”
It may surprise you to learn I agree with all the above. You can’t act like a man. True! Each gender has their own characteristics and roles. That’s how nature creates a balance. But there’s something called Feminine strength. It’s so different than the Masculine strength. It’s so powerful and so graceful. It has the power to make or break. So terrifyingly beautiful to watch. People don't understand that. They get scared of the immense power a woman wields. So naturally, when someone’s scared, it’ll transform into something negative, like – jealousy/anger/hatred- to name a few. They decide the best is to put out that fire before it becomes uncontrollable by them.
What’s the best time to do it? When we are young and vulnerable. A sapling is easier to bend than a fully grown tree. The process of “shaping” you starts there. The human mind is so powerful. You’ll become what you believe.
You know how they break the spirit of a captive elephant, right? They capture it while it’s young and tie it up and torture it until it submits. This magnificent powerful creature is taught to fear. It doesn’t know how powerful it’s going to become. It starts to believe that it can’t break free of the chain or the man who controls it. It carries and drags heavier things, yet it doesn’t occur to the poor beast that it can use the same strength to break the chains and run for its freedom. So sad…
I was that beast. So many powerful, intelligent, and beautiful people are. Hearing you can't and you shouldn’t. We believe all that. We create a mental barrier. We start to live inside our own boundaries created by our mind. It becomes your comfort zone. Your mind is conditioned to believe what is outside the bubble is dangerous and wrong. There’s a famous saying. “The known devil is better than the unknown angel.”
Thus, we become enslaved to these socially accepted and approved views and standards. We think taking pain and not uttering a word about it is true strength. Sacrificing self is the best. We are encouraged to become martyrs. We are emotionally and physically trained to take pain. All the above is true when it’s applied to greater good. But, in most cases it is not. It is used for all the wrong/unfair/selfish reasons or intentions.
Coming back to me, I was one of those mind-conditioned people. I was taught all the good things for wrong reasons. I believed every single thing which was taught to me. And when I got married, these barriers became more solid. I took all the pain and suffered silently. When it got too hard to bear, I had no one to support me. I was told, Honey you must sacrifice. Now is not the time to think about yourself. You have a family; you have beautiful and talented daughters. You’re setting the wrong example. The moment you leave, society will devour you and your kids… Be patient. Men will be men. He will realize his mistakes when he’s older. Just bear with him.
As usual I believed that as well. And it didn’t stop there. They made sure that I wouldn’t get a single chance to think otherwise or try to bring about a change. I was made dependent. I didn’t have a career. I didn’t have many friends. I wasn’t allowed to go out alone. I wasn’t allowed to take a break from the kids. I had to be with them 24/7. Al my material needs were provided. Money, jewelry, clothes, house, car, servants – all at the cost of my freedom. I was like a fly trapped in honey.
But we all have something called a SURVIVAL INSTINCT. It kicks in at unexpected times. I came across an Arabic saying last week. It goes like:
“You want to die? Then throw yourself into the ocean and you’ll see yourself fighting to survive. You do not want to kill yourself, rather you want to kill something inside of you”
That happened to me. I started to realize that I was drowning in my comfort zone. I didn’t have an identity. I was so and so’s daughter, so and so’s sister, so and so’s wife and so and so’s mother. While I was somewhat proud to take all those roles, I realized the emptiness inside me. The price I had to pay to get all the privileges and praise – which could be taken away at any given moment - if I didn’t comply with what was expected from me.
That’s when I started stirring from sleep-induced, comatosed state. Slowly I woke up to the horror which was unfolding inside and all around me. The rebellious me, wanted to break free. That’s when I was hit with the hard truth. It’s not going to be easy. I was entangled in my own incapability, emotions, insecurities, and the strings which attached me to my superiors. I wouldn’t be able to cut myself loose without causing damage to both parties. It was a scary realization.
But we all have a warrior inside of us. I’ve heard about people losing a limb to survive from a horrific death. That’s your survival instinct. It’ll give you an immense amount of strength called “will power”. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do when I walked free. I didn’t know what will be in store for me and my kids. Same as a captive animal which is set free. It gets scared and confused in the beginning. All I knew was I couldn’t stay where I was. With blind trust and sheer will power, I took the first step. Did I succeed straight away? Hell, no. I was scolded, threatened, discouraged, emotionally threatened, laughed at, was called even a whore by my own family and friends. I took some bad decisions and fell so many times. But despite all the unpleasant struggles, I still had my fire burning steadily inside me. The yearning to better myself and show them I wouldn’t go down without a fight, to prove them wrong. It is sort of egoistic. But I used anything I could to fuel my fire.
Then after the long struggle somehow, I steadied myself. Then came the part where people would ask why I hadn’t achieved what I should have. So, I would tell them my story. And they would go ooh, ahh, poor you… You didn’t deserve all that. That’s when I realized portraying myself as a victim is the easiest way to get approval from the society. I’m not ashamed to admit that. So, I started relaying my story to anyone who would listen. It felt so good to bask in all the attention and sympathy. Again, my growth spurt slowed down. I was getting caught up in the tides again. People started using me again. By relating my story, I had shown them all my weaknesses. I had opened up a hole which leads to my “Achilles’ heel”.
I was wondering why I was facing the same kind of people and situations over and over in my life. I asked myself, I haven’t done anything wrong. Why is this happening? Why me? Then one day I was moaning about how mean people are. My friends, irritated, said, “Stop it! All I hear from you is complaints and complaints. Do you realize that you’re responsible for almost all the troubles you’ve faced in your life?” I was so shocked and offended. I was half crying and half screaming when I said “You don’t know anything about me. I thought you knew. But you don’t”. I was boiling over with anger and self-pity.
Later, when I calmed down enough to think rationally, I figured what was said is true. I had created another “comfort zone” here. All my life, I had given the steering wheel to the others. Trusting them or begging them to take me where I wanted to go. They all took me where they wanted to go or where they thought I should go. So, I complied. But now I finally have the steering wheel. I can go anywhere I wanted to go. But I was scared to drive. I didn’t know how to drive. If I didn’t know how to move forward, I’m going to be stuck there. What was I going to do? Wait for a savior?
Trust me, there are no saviors. Everyone and anyone who comes into your life has their own battles and demons to fight. No matter how pure their intentions are, if you don’t learn to move on your own, you’re going to become a burden sooner or later.
You have the strength to bear everything life throws at you. Your pain threshold is incomparable. Why don’t you use that leverage for your own betterment? It’s going to be painful. Even to lift a finger, you’ll have to use every ounce of strength you have. But once you take the first few steps, the pain is going to become a part of you. You’ll realize that the pain will get easier and easier to tolerate. It would fuel you. It will remind you why you’re moving forward. And that’s when the healing starts from within.
You’ll know that all these times you were just treating the symptoms without treating the root cause. And you’ll conclude that all the pain was worth it…
With that realization, the right kind of people will walk into your life. To push you forward, to nudge you to keep moving. But this time you decide where you want to go and how you want to get there. You might not have the resources you need, depending on your personal situation. However, when you tell yourself to get up and get moving, it will all fall into place. That’s how life works. Nothing is offered on a silver platter – even if it were - it won’t last long unless you work hard to keep it or develop it. All the help you need is waiting along the way. How are you going to reach it if you don’t move forward?
It’s a difficult path. You’ll get people cheering you along the way, giving you something to drink or eat, giving you a lift, giving you a place to rest for a while. You’ll also get people who jeer at you or discourage you. But always remember, nobody can walk the path FOR you. They can only walk with you. Only you can do it. Because it’s your journey. There will be ups and downs. If we move, we are getting closer and closer. Move at your own pace. Slow and steady is better than not moving or going so fast you can’t even see where you\re going. Once you get the hang of it, you can even fly if you want to.
You might feel helpless now. Because all the self-pity, insecurity and negativity is blurring your vision. Get rid of all that one by one. Clear your vision and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stop being a victim. That’s done and dusted. Start being your own savior. One day you’ll stand tall and be able to say, “I did it all by myself”. No one can take that away from me because it’s mine. You’ll even be helping others to walk their path. That day is not too far. You’ll see the world from a different perspective when you reach so high. Everything which looked larger than life would look so small and unimportant compared to the power you’ll hold within. The power to make or break… Use it wisely. Pain is temporary, but regret lasts forever. Keep moving, keep pushing, keep growing! She who laughs last…