Lately, as I’ve been working with some of my Asian clients, some of their pain hit a deep chord within me.
“I feel like my mom won’t love and accept me unless and until I get married.”
“I don’t want to be a burden on my parents any longer. They are constantly worried about when I’m going to get married.”
“I constantly feel a sense of shame and guilt for being single. My parents don’t even know what to say to their friends about me. It seems like my work success isn’t enough!”
Ugh!! I’ve been there.
For nearly 14 years, during my 20s and 30s, I struggled with my parents about my dating life. Even though I was trying to get a hold on my career, and date in a confident, healthy way, I would find myself falling apart, trying to manage everyone’s expectations.
I really love my parents and have so much compassion for them. After all, it couldn’t have been easy to see their little girl, growing up so fast, and possibly dating and marrying outside the Indian culture! Moreover, in India, most people have an arranged marriage, and my parents were trying to do their best, given their duty, to make sure I was settled with a kind, decent man who could provide. They were perturbed by the dating scene (who isn’t!). Also, dating many partners (and of course, not knowing if it’s going to end in marriage) is a big taboo in our culture – something that brings shame to a family.
In a way, they were mirroring my own desires – to find the man of my dreams (I was, and continue to be, a die-hard romantic inside), and of course – not experience the pain of heartbreak… something no parent wants for their child.
I know this now – but I still feel the pang in my heart when I think of how tumultuous our relationship was.
There was a hidden gift to all of this… It was because of the focus on marriage that I learned how to become a proficient dater, and also became a relationship and dating coach!
But it was also because of the pressure, that I kept getting into painful relationships with men and even got engaged to an Indian man who was dangerously wrong for me.
I was a toxic mess inside while I was dating. I had no idea that my low self worth, shame, guilt, resentment and lack of self esteem were shaping my identity and creating drama in my love life.
… Why I would keep dating men, even if they were distant, unavailable, or even slightly abusive.
… Why I would push men away who were actually kind and sweet, but not on my ‘checklist’.
… Why I would make men jump through hoops to prove their love for me, and create drama and fights if things didn’t go my way.
… Why I would feel jealous and insecure easily, and kept working hard to be a ‘trophy woman’ to attract and keep a man.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew I could get any guy I wanted. But, I would keep subconsciously attracting men who would exacerbate my shame-based patterns. And I had no idea how to make a relationship last!
There were many times when I was single that I wanted to die. I know this sounds drastic, but I had the internal messaging that unless a man validates and wants me, I am nothing. Plus, the pain of heartbreak and loneliness was excruciating.
My self worth as a woman was tied to my marital and dating status. I also had a belief that if I wanted to be as powerful as a man was (and be respected by him), I needed to be smart and successful.
Now, looking back, I realize that shame, guilt, low self worth and wounded patriarchy runs deep in my Indian heritage.
Until my generation (or maybe my mom’s), women had no say about whom they could marry, and when. My grandmother got married at the ripe age of 14, and had her first child at 17. In India, women whose husbands died became outcastes and beggars as they were never given economic independence. If a woman wanted to leave her abusive relationship, she had nowhere to go. Many women in aren’t allowed to work or go to an office – they are all housewives.
Additionally, sexual shaming starts the moment a girl gets her period. She isn’t told anything about it, and once she gets her period, she is taught that it is dirty. She is kept at home and not allowed to date, so as to not get pregnant and bring shame to the family. Women in India are not allowed to sleep with their families, go to the kitchen or the temple when they have their periods. You are taught that menstrual blood is foul, and I remember tossing my used pad disgustingly in a gutter (ironic, given that the menstrual cycle is the utmost sacred part of a woman’s unbelievable power to create life!).
As soon as a girl becomes a teen, she is teased and sexually harassed by men, and is reminded by her family not to bring shame by becoming pregnant (or being ‘slutty’ in any way).
One of the saddest things is that, when a girl is young (especially in poorer families) she is told that she doesn’t belong to her own family – and she is constantly domesticated and trained to be a good daughter-in-law for her future husband and family. Parents have to begin saving for their daughters’ dowries from the day a girl is born (usually huge sums of money that leaves family in debt) – truly making the girl child a burden on the family. This is the cause of sexism and female infanticide in India.
I know you’re thinking – how nuts is that!! I, too, think so.
I was a rebel when I lived in India during my teenage years. I would constantly question all the norms, and I hated the ‘rules’ that I had to follow during my period when visiting my traditional family. When I was in 11th grade, I took it on myself to go to the 6th grade classroom and teach the girls about their period and self care. They were SO grateful to me – they even created Thank You cards for me 🙂 I wanted to create a new path for Indian (and other ethnic) women. One that was empowered and self loving. One that elevated a woman to her true Goddess status – the great creator and nurturer of life, the true bodhisattva – the one without whom nothing else could exist!
Even though my parents instilled so much confidence in me, empowered me in every single way, and never, once, made me feel ‘less than’ a boy (for which I am infinitely grateful), the suffering of the collective culture did seep into my psyche.
Each time a man broke up with me, or I got laid off from my job, my self esteem dropped, which happened many times. And the final blow occurred when my fiancé dumped me. I had no self worth left.
Looking back, I realized that my low self esteem was affecting every part of my life. What career choices I made, what friends I hung out with, my avoidance and lack of commitment, and of course, my painful relationship patterns. I really had trouble feeling like I deserved greatness in my life, and constantly settled for ‘good enough’. And I was judgmental of others – feeling like other people weren’t measuring up to my standards and weren’t worthy either.
Dear one, does any of this resonate for you? Do you wonder if your lineage has affected your self worth and dating life?
Whether it’s Indian, or any other lineage, I know that it’s been a difficult ride for women. And it affects how we, as modern women, date today and our relationship patterns.
Well, I want to share that it is POSSIBLE to turn these patterns around.
I was able to learn how to love myself and undergo a TRANSFORMATION in my love life and career, and also end the cycle of low self worth. I met and married the man of my dreams – he’s truly the answer to all my prayers, and I’m infinitely grateful to my path. We’re creating the foundation for a partnership on our terms – of healthy communication, respect, trust and healing.
I now know that my ancestors and parents are well-meaning, and were limited by their own capacities at the time – but they’ve also endowed me with incredible gifts of my Indian heritage, such as my values, my ideas around faith and spirituality, the sacred role of women in a society (yes, I have to acknowledge it’s true true!), seeking wisdom, respecting our elders in our society, and so much more.
If you are reading this, I believe that YOU must end this generational wounding that women in your family face – and that you are worthy and capable of creating a life on your terms – a life that brings you happiness and fulfillment.
How did I heal and find love?
Through a really tough period of healing after my broken engagement, I had to go through catharsis – and stop running away from my darkness – my shadows, my shame and anger, my unworthiness.
I needed to…
… practice a ton of self love, self compassion and self empathy and release my toxic thinking.
… heal my relationship with my parents and my ancestors, and come to a place of compassion and understanding.
… empower and integrate my hidden, divine feminine side
… create a new mental model about femininity, sexuality and relationships.
… release old subconscious beliefs about my self worth and deserving.
… Reconnect with my omni-potent, loving, courageous, wise higher self through meditation, mindfulness and self awareness.
I know this is possible for you. There are many teachers, programs, books out there. Pick one up, and begin the process!
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Is it time you partnered with a Love & Relationship expert to take control of your life? Apply for a complimentary discovery session with Sarika Jain to discover how you can:
- Practice Self Love
- Clear your spiritual blocks and increase your vibration & magnetism
- Date and attract your soulmate in a healthy, joyful way