Those who are familiar with the Bengali culture will probably be aware of the notion of showing-off, or pretending that we’re doing better than we actually are. It’s something I’ve seen happen in my own family as well as others, from the beginning of time. In fact, you see it in your day-to-day life outside of this culture as well. Some good examples would be where a mum exaggerates her child’s success and achievements, just to make it out as if her child is a genuis and better than other people’s kids. Or when people get into crippling debt whilst throwing the most lavish wedding, just to show off to their family and friends that they can ‘afford’ the finer things in life.
Unfortunately, this has just become the norm, but it has lead to my distaste of this behaviour, which has been building up inside of me for a while. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this in my posts. But it’s only recently that I realised just how tired I am of keeping up appearances. I didn’t even realise how much this behaviour was ingrained in me. People pretend to be okay when they’re not, pretty much every single day. Some people feel like there’s no point in sharing the truth with others because they ‘won’t get it’, or it’s just the sheer energy that’s needed to explain your feelings. Or it can even be the fear of being judged once you reveal this.
I’m probably making this into a bigger deal than it actually is, but truthfully, I’m exhausted. Just to give you a mini life update, career-wise I wasn’t very happy at the beginning of last year. Then in the middle, things started to look up… and now we’re back to square one again. It’s the nature of the type of work I do, which isn’t something out of the ordinary or difficult, but it’s not something the older generation of Bengali’s understand. So I ‘dumb it down’ into terms they should understand, but they still don’t really get it. Basically, they’re not impressed by it or vaguely even interested. The younger generation on the other hand, think that I have the most awesome job… so go figure!
Whilst I was (and still am) going through my ups and downs, I had to always put on the brave, positive face. People are like ‘wow, she’s got a cool job and is always doing amazing things’, but what they don’t see is what is happening behind the scenes. Stress, long days, unclear career path/prospects/progression, and then me in general being a ball of mess. I’ve mentioned before how lucky I am to have such incredible friends; they are like my little supporters cheering me on from the sidelines. They are also the ones who have had a stern word or two with me to tell me to stop going overly above and beyond with little return. But they don’t entirely understand… it’s just the expectation of the field I work in. My friends have secure jobs in industries that people are more familiar with; the general 9 to 5. And I know they want the best for me, but they don’t understand why I ‘choose’ to sacrifice sleep, especially for those who may not appreciate my hard work.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, it got to a stage where I felt like I couldn’t complain or have a moan about my situation anymore. People think the answer is to find a way out. They’ll say things like ‘why don’t you look for another job that’s more 9 to 5 and less stressful?’. Again, I know they mean well, but if that’s their answer, I’m not interested. This is when the mask comes on. Unfortunately, this has meant I’ve had to do this in front of a few friends too. Overtime, I naturally started to put the mask on in front of everyone. People ask me how I’m doing, and I only talk about the good and exciting stuff because I don’t want to go into it.
However, I’m just tired now. I’ve always had to be like this with my family since the day I moved out, because if my parents got a whiff of struggle or weakness, it could be used against me at a later date. They may even see this as an opportunity to take back some control of my life, and there’s no way I’m letting that happen. But when you do this in front of friends, they understandably think that everything is okay.
I’ve always been the listener and advice giver in my friendship circle. I had to mature very fast growing up, so I’ve always observed everyone around me and learnt from their life choices; even if I hadn’t been through those situations myself. People tell me that they feel comforted by my words and advice, and show real appreciation, which felt pretty damn good… until it didn’t.
A handful of my good friends, those who happen to be a few years younger than me, are going through things that I’ve been through myself or have a good understanding of. They turn to me for advice, which brings them comfort. When they said they felt happier after talking to me, or felt enlightened in some way (sorry, I’m not trying to sound big headed here – these are literally their words), I used to thrive off this. And after a while, I realised it was happening more and more. And then I was going through all of my own crap, but I didn’t feel like I could talk to them about it, especially as they looked up to me. It lead to me pretending that everything is great with me and I am always here for them. But the truth was, I was getting more and more stressed out.
It was the same group of ‘repeat offenders’, and in a way, I felt a sense of responsibility towards them. Overtime, I became their mother-like figure (again, their words) and so I went above and beyond to hear them out, work with them to find solutions, and put an action plan together, with me doing the final checks and prepping them to tackle the issues they faced. I have invested a lot of time and effort into them, at the expense of my own happiness and wellbeing. I get this from my mum; she puts peoples wants and needs before hers. Sometimes we couldn’t understand why she would go out of her way to do something for someone who’s not even close to her, but she loves it. And I realised it’s the same thrill that I get from helping others.
But the truth is, it started to effect me negatively. I ended up taking on other people’s stress, on top of my own, and that’s really not healthy. It also lead to me not looking forward to catching up with certain individuals, and in the end, feeling a sense of resentment. And I hate myself for feeling this way, because it’s not their fault. They have no idea what’s going on with me, because I’m the one that kept it to myself. But I found that I started to dislike talking to people in general, and just didn’t keep in touch with my friends as often, and then slowly started to pull away from being the usual me. Some people noticed and checked in on me, whilst others were busy with their own lives. It’s only when my best friend told me that I need to stop prioritising other people’s problem over mine, that’s when I realised this was a problem. Up until that point, I was a ball of mess on the inside and couldn’t understand why.
I don’t know how I ended up like this, it just happened gradually until it became all consuming. Just having that one conversation where I confessed how I’d truly been feeling, changed everything. She made me see what I was doing to myself and how other people’s problems aren’t my problems. I know it seems obvious, but when you’re in it, you can’t see it. It just made me wonder why I had done this for so long and pretended to be okay? I personally feel like it’s slightly a cultural thing… pride. You only show your best side. But what has this cost me?
In my last post, I spoke about how much pressure I felt after being called a role model. I wasn’t doing that well, so I didn’t feel like I deserved that title. So now I understand why I felt this way.
This has unintentionally turned into a long post, but my question to you is, why do we (or you) pretend that everything is okay? Why do we show-off even when we don’t have the means to? I’m curious to know if you relate to this topic.