Love is unconditional, we quote this often in our conversations. But this sentence needs to be evaluated when it comes to our family. Family is nothing but an institution of blood-related individuals who are naturally expected to be the pillar of support for one another.
Concept of Family
The concept of family values takes a different perspective in the Indian setting. The role of individuals and personal freedom is reduced into a collectivistic perspective when it comes to an Indian family. In this article, we are concentrating on joint families in the state of Kerala who are called Malayalis.
This is high because most families in India are part of a larger joint family. With the moral values of respecting elders and giving importance to every relative, the Indian family system can be exhausting to one. Especially with the notion that everyone has the right to pass comments or judge a younger one even if that is gonna break them mentally one can feel alienated. With a lack of awareness on mental health, body shaming, bullying it is natural for one to feel depressed.
With a child being taught from their primary age to respect every single relative of theirs and their opinions it becomes difficult to get clarity on what he or she likes. Due to the collective opinions and judgments, most people lose their individuality and forget to love themselves. Ever felt lonely when surrounded by the people you love the most!!? Sadly, most of us feel like that inside. The importance of mental health is rarely discussed at the family dinner table, and it is not surprising when you see the bully in the people you thought would stay by your side through thick and thin.
Most Indian families have a ladder for success and the comparison and criticizing if one climbs it differently or if one decides to pursue their own interests are at times deeply disturbing. Especially when it comes from the one who looked up to since birth, it causes a significant amount of trauma. Furthermore, studies point out that when kids are mocked by their parents they tend to become bullies later on in their life.
Examples of Family Bullying
Here I would like to bring a few simple examples after speaking to a couple of teenagers and young adults to show how they are affected by the subtle bullying. One most important thing that every Indian family forgets is that not everyone has the same mental capacity and strength as theirs. A joke could be offensive to one even if it sounds okay to you. This realization can make every one of us kinder to one another.
Example 1: Speaking to an 18-year-old from a middle-class Indian family it can be understood that to what extent body shaming has taken a toll on her. The body changes that she underwent during puberty resulted in her attaining a height less than the average which forced her to be the topic of discussion at most family get-togethers. If one analyses in-depth, it is not just height, the weight to matters to most relatives. Without properly understanding what factors have resulted in the change most close-knit kins make jokes out of one’s body. This has caused serious insecurities about our own body and makes it difficult to embrace oneself. Finally, this has resulted in many teenagers trying to satisfy unreal beauty standards.
Example 2: A similar bullying situation is when one opts for the career that they want to explore, having scored above 90% and not opting for science stream for 11th and 12th grade is considered to be a huge failure in a Malayali family. With social status and a notion that engineers and doctors are better respected in society, parents push their children to opt for these careers even if their passion is different. If one decides to go for arts or media, they have to face heavy judgments and stereotyping from their family who they expected to support their endeavors.
Therefore to all the teenagers and young adults reading this, it's my humble request to embrace your mental and physical self. It is important to realize that those factors are what make us unique and special from one another. It is also crucial to distance yourself from people who are mentally hurting you. Practice saying NO and speaking your mind as that helps to clear your mind rather than bottling up the rage. This might result in losing people but it is important to understand that if you do not care for yourself nobody else will.
In a nutshell, not every one of us is blessed with a supporting and encouraging family, not all of us have the freedom to exercise our opinions and perspectives. In my opinion, love is not always unconditional, especially in most Indian families. If your family needs to support you, you need to abide by their rules and regulations. Otherwise, they would use the method of judgment and criticizing to make sure you are regretting every decision you have made.
It is hard to navigate through a situation like that hence it is important to practice self - care journey from a very early age, practice saying NO, and drawing boundaries with people who cause mental trauma and oppresses your perspectives or opinions. This includes practicing mindfulness through meditation, in case the surroundings push you into prolonged trauma, it is crucial to consult a therapist and get hold of your mental stability.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that each human has a different threshold and capacity to tolerate judgments and negative criticism. What we can do is not give any unsolicited opinions on one’s physical appearance, or personal issues. It is important to become aware of the power that our words hold, especially when we speak to someone who considers us very dear. A simple joke could trigger bottled-up anxiety or insecurities.
Furthermore, I request you to cherish your family if they are supportive of your endeavor and respect your feelings. Also, encourage them to speak to their friends and families about the importance of a supportive environment and the effects of bullying. Thereby, we can create more awareness, educate one another about the importance of mental health and reduce the bullying faced by one in families.