To set the facts straight (and to begin on the right note), I am not the kind who looks for the wrong in everything! Yes, I like things to be done to perfection, but I also know how to accept criticism, face failure, and endure pain. I know life doesn’t come with a manual, one that you can refer to when the going gets tough, so sometimes you just have to take it on the chin. Your experiences make for a better blueprint to abide by. This is not a rant, and I genuinely am grateful to be born with what many might consider the perfect gene pool. I like the way I look, the career I have made for myself in beauty journalism, and love the compliments that come my way. In every way, I was considered the better child.
I am a 30-something beauty editor by the day and a serious napper over the weekends. The day I chose beauty writing for money, the discussion wasn’t about how I made it here, or curiosity about my career plans in this field. The first phrase of appreciation I heard from a relative was ‘Good, it suits you!’. I expected more than that. Perhaps a conversation about the magazine I had joined or how the process was. And this wasn’t the first time, I have heard the ‘better child’ trop since the day I was born.
Our society is known for its toxic obsession with a fair complexion, good looks and the idea of ‘beauty with brains’, and I am not proud to say that I fit the ‘bill’. It comes with its own sets of issues which at times are draining, to say the least. While I have the coolest set of parents, the concept of positive parenting in India is majorly automated – for instance, an introverted child is often protected whereas the extrovert one is considered confident and independent.
Pride And Prejudice
It was in high school that I realised that it wasn’t just the brazen male gaze that made me uncomfortable about my looks. The fact that my achievements were mostly undermined with the assumption that I had it easy because of my looks, it got to me. I started to detest the fact that I am pretty.
My father was often told that it would be easier for him to find potential matches for his daughters because they’ve got the looks. BTW, my sister is the first-ever engineer in the family and I hold a double degree in journalism! So, more than pretty; pretty intelligent I believe? FYI, we both got married way later than the so-called right age so no, my father didn’t have it easy there.
An intelligent one can get into the best college, a pretty girl can easily get hitched, an extrovert one can ace any debate, and the confident child can fight all odds – haven’t we all gone through this? I have always been my parents’ confident and brave child; I chose a demanding job over a 9 to 5 one; I started driving when I was 18, and I went alone for every exam and job interview. I did it all and still had uncountable meltdowns which often came as surprise to the people who know me. ‘We thought you can handle it well,’ I was often told.
The Better Child
I always questioned myself for my constant struggle with these so-called positive traits. The answer is that I didn’t want to be a better one if I wasn’t allowed to fail, break down, or ask for help. ‘It’s a fun problem to have! Since when did being pretty or intelligent become a problem?’ I was told and laughed at by some of my friends and relatives.
It took me a while to understand that the problem is with labels. We all are fighting labels – positive or negative – that often come with unrealistic expectations which are emotionally draining and demeaning. Labels pique me because my looks didn’t decide the path and success of my career, my hard work and skills did.
It did make me miserable but I found my venting partner in my sister. I was often compared to her, and I am glad that it didn’t impact our relationship. Instead, she supported me through my failures and I lauded her for her perfection. So, the takeaway here is to find your balance against these tags. There’s no better person than who you are and you’re enough!