Wake Up, Young Women! Don’t Give In If You’re Told To Sacrifice Your Dreams To Be ‘Accepted’!

I am not saying you should disrespect your parents. But blindly following oppressive norms set by society and ingrained in families through generations is completely wrong.

I had always been the girl who got fascinated by fairy tales. My teenage years were filled with fairy tales, Bollywood movies, and daily soap operas. And so was the case with all my friends.

Needless to say, we dreamt of a prince charming who would come and save us. I had unrealistic expectations that a prince charming with a castle was all that was needed for a happy ever after. Thankfully, my family fed me with other progressive stories to nurture my feminist side too. Those stories ignited the voice in me and enlightened me to be my own prince charming.

Don’t get me started on soap operas. We all remember the renowned characters – Tulsi, Parvati, Prerna – the naive, submissive, victimised, and malleable protagonists of Indian TV shows. Plagued by gender stereotypes, illogical rituals, and domestic violence, these TV shows invigorated regressive ideologies. And regrettably, the shows were watched by kids nationwide. Even as a kid, I wondered why it was that these women never ran from the family drama and questioned what was thrown at them. Fortunately, the power of questioning everything gave me the idea that there is no rulebook to life, you can be whoever you want to be!

How can you expect women to give up their right to their dreams?

This is one bit of the story. The story evolves by blindly following society, parents, extended family, and friends who plant the seeds of archaic beliefs. This is further supported by the toxic glorification of sacrifices and compromises made in the name of womanhood.

On one hand, parents purposefully bombard their daughters with their dreams of becoming doctors, professors, on the other, they set up ‘mandaps’ to give them away and expect them to immediately start a family at the stake of their ambitions. Their goals go from making their daughters doctors to housewives real quick. And this is all because ‘becoming a housewife and starting a family is their ultimate goal’. Women go from absolute dependency on their parents, then on their husbands, and then sons.

Isn’t this synonymous with the bafflement surrounding us today? I see my friends getting confused between fulfilling parental desires of them starting a family and their desires of living a carefree life and carving their own identity. It burns my heart to see the people I know capitulating to outrageous demands of parents/society, to see women happily sacrifice everything in the name of family, kids, future for their kids. How difficult is it to fathom that sacrifice is not proportional to goodness?

And then there are women who happily hold that they “belong in the kitchen”, that they are the primary caregivers to their family/kids. The saddest part is they would never be able to grasp how society has conditioned them to believe that their happiness lies not in carving their own identity but in creating a family who would follow the same path in two decades.

Sometimes I wonder whether they espouse this path because it’s easy. Well, obviously it’s easy to not have to convince their parents, raise their voice, answer any questions raised by society (not that they are answerable to society anyway), gullibly agree to whatever everyone says! It becomes incredibly easy when you don’t question anything. Besides, it’s effortless to stay in one’s comfort zone and never worry about the outside world. But you know what else comes with it? No self-esteem, no identity, no individuality!!

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Such an easy life, right?

Parents are not all-knowing gods

Below is a snippet of a conversation with a friend who is a fervent believer of the guidelines set by her parents:

“I’ll have to get married this year”

“What do you mean you ‘have to’? Do you want to?”

“I have to get married because my parents want me to. People have started raising questions now.”

“Why do you care about society?”

“I don’t care about society, I care about my parents who care about their prestige in the society”

If this isn’t a toxic need to fulfil obligations towards parents then I don’t know what is! It’s a blind sacrifice in the name of love. It took numerous conversations for my friend to see how society has shaped her views and what she truly wants from life.

Please do not perceive this as advice to disrespect your parents. I am not at all against loving/respecting your parents – in fact, loving them right is the best thing you can do to them. What I mean is blindly following the norms set by society and ingrained in families through generations is erroneous.

It’s also important to understand and accept that parents are not all-knowing gods, that they are not perfect – they are humans and are constantly learning. Please stop doing unloving things for the sake of gratuitous obligations.

We, women, are stuck in this loop

So, a big part of the problem also lies with the women who are not willing to change. We are too focused on making our men feminist, we have failed to realise that we also need to make our girl friends feminist. How did the sole purpose of their lives become to bear children and be good wives? Why do they place familial interests over their own well-being? Why is their career still secondary? What’s the point of the sacrifice when their kids would do the same? When does it stop?

How did we become a society that keeps us stuck in a never-ending loop?

This loop looks somewhat like this to me:

Where does this stop?

Are you being a role model to your daughter? Would you want your daughters to learn that if they become mothers, they would have to sacrifice too? Would you want your daughters to become a martyr in the name of love? If not, stop passing down the legacy of sacrifice.

It’s painful to change the values you believe in, especially as you have identified with these for years. Giving up your identity does seem like a grim thought. But with effort, thoughtful decision making, questioning the norms set by society, doing what is right and not what is easy, and questioning our own beliefs, we can unlearn a few things, take charge of our lives, design a new identity for ourselves and change our story.

Understand and appreciate that you are complete by yourselves. And then decide for yourself why you want to get married and start a family – not because society wants you to, but because you want to. Remember, husbands are not financial security plans and kids are not your retirement plans.

My mind wonders if there would ever be a time when fairy tales would mean being your own Princess Charming, designing your own home, and making your own financial plan until then, one step at a time, one woman at a time!

Published here first.

Image source: a still from Tutak Tutak Tutiya

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About the Author

Chahat Chugh

My name is Chahat. I am passionate about personal finance, women empowerment, education, lifestyle, and books and usually, I pen down my thoughts about these. I have also recently started writing about these on my read more...

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