Being a school and university topper, I thought I was destined to lead a happy and content life. I did everything that society prescribes for a ‘good girl’. Study hard, be independent and then get married at the right age with the man your parents agreed on! While my parents worked really hard to raise me as a perfect woman, they forgot that it is not a perfect woman, but a strong woman that leads a happy life!
While they pushed me to follow all the laid down rules of our regressive society for women, I wish they could have taught me how to be my own person. They could have raised me into an independent woman who doesn’t shy away from leading a life on her own term. I wish they just wouldn’t raise me to please people and society, but to be a rebel who lives a life of dignity and not as a doormat!
After ensuring good marks and a job, I thought my life was sorted. I will marry into a family, who will feel happy and blessed to have me. And, I will leave no stone unturned in making them happy. Because isn’t that the purpose of good sanskaari bahu!
But, I was so wrong. My marriage opened my eyes to a completely new life. A life that was full of shame, blame, sadness, disappointment, depression, anxiety and so much more!
Neither my in-laws felt blessed to make me part of their family nor they ever tried to accept me who I was. While I tried hard to please them at the expense of myself, they just indulged in endless negativity, illogical complaints, and unfair comparisons.
My sister-in-law, whom I thought would be my champion, left no chance to embarrass or harass me. While I wanted to treat her like my sister and my friend, she would not treat me more than a servant. She would always order me, always complain, always compare.
She would always tell me how a good bahu needs to be obedient, how an ideal daughter-in-law needs to prioritize her in-laws over her parents; how sanskaari bahu need to be selfless, always adjusting and compromising and never complaining!
She would tell me how she is a great daughter-in-law who doesn’t keep her career or needs above her family. How she is a great wife, who understands her husband needs his mother first! She would leave no chance to manipulate my mother-in-law and my husband to make sure that I don’t get the love and care that any daughter or daughter-in-law should get.
But sadly, my mother-in-law made my life equally harder. I just wanted her to love and accept me. I wanted her to be proud of me! I was so wrong! Rather than being happy about how good I was at my work or how much I was in love with her son or how much I respected her, she left no chance to make me feel less, to insult me, to blame me for not being enough.
And, as my parents taught me, with every insult and shame, I tried even harder to please my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. In the end, I wanted to have a successful marriage. And how could you be a successful daughter-in-law, if you fail to please your in-laws.
Believe me, I tried really hard to please them. While my husband and parents encouraged me to seek my in-laws’ acceptance, with every harder attempt, I lost a part of me. In the quest to find their love, I was losing myself. And, I didn’t know when to stop because I was raised to please people. I was raised to serve people even if they were mean and selfish to me!
I was caught in this damaging cycle that I never signed up for. Was I wrong in seeking love and acceptance from my new family? Was I wrong in expecting that I can have both my professional and personal life just as I dreamt?
While I tried to answer these questions, I realized the only thing I was wrong at is trying hard to be in the good books of my in-laws, even if it was damaging me; even if it was making me hurt; even if it was leaving me tired, frustrated and angry!
Because that’s what my parents taught me; because that’s what society expected of me; that’s what my husband wished of me!
But, not anymore! It took me 3 years to come to the terms that I don’t want to lead a life of a people pleaser. I don’t want to live a life of a doormat! I don’t want to live a life of manipulation, anger, and hurt!
With time, I have realized that I had every right to keep my peace, my happiness. Every right to be me. I am not born to be someone’s slave. I am not born to be insulted and shamed for being me. With time, I learned to be unapologetically myself. I learned to be assertive, I learned to set boundaries, I learned to burn down the society’s rule book and follow my heart!
Dear Women (trying really hard to please other people in her marriage),
It’s not okay to destroy yourself for someone else. It’s not okay to burn yourself down to keep others warm! It’s not okay to seek acceptance from others at expense of your self-respect and pride. I am glad that I have learned it and I hope you learn it too! Because we definitely deserve a better life!