When I unleashed the inner black beauty..
The story of Rashmi Singh (Name changed)
Based in India
Written by Mallika Bhatia
I am the youngest and the fifth amongst my siblings; four sisters and a brother and yet I was always the happiest when I was alone. People always confused me, Neighbours, friends and even my family members made fun of the way I looked, I was too dark for them and hence not beautiful. They often said 'badi hogi toh theek ho jayegi” (She might start looking better/acceptable when she grows up). My sisters were fair skinned and conventionally beautiful. People, including my own father, a well respected, high ranking police officer, would discriminate against me based on my complexion. I remember my father's behaviour towards me always had underlying anger or he simply ignored me. When he paid attention, he would comment on my features and say "at least she has beautiful eyes.” My mother tried to make it easier for me. She would sympathetically tell me “Always remember that beauty lies in simplicity and you are my Black Beauty.”
Somehow my parents spoke to me almost only about the errors of my siblings. I was always told about their mistakes and warned against repeating them. Their pattern of communication actually pushed me further into the shell that I already lived in. I never asked for anything, never shared my feelings with anyone and started believing that I had to earn things only with hard-work. Unfortunately the lack of emotional support was also a given. I was still an ambitious child with a clear head. I enjoyed school, as I could be who I was amongst my friends. My school was my world.
One fine day though, that was snatched away from me. When I was in the eighth grade I was told by my parents that I couldn't go back to my school. No explanations given, no reasons shared, I was just supposed to be at home. I didn't go to school for a whole month, missing my studies and friends while searching for reasons for this punishment. My mother later told me that there were some issues in the family and there were threats to kidnap me, hence they couldn't risk sending me to school. I did not understand why I was being targeted yet Maa refused to give me any explanations. I did not have the courage to ask them about my friends, my studies and everything that I had left behind. I couldn't tell them that I wanted to meet my friends again or that my world was snatched from me.
|Picture by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash|
Sometime later I was shifted to a school in another smaller town where nothing made sense. Neither did my mental capabilities match to where I was now, nor the social rules. I was too shocked with everything around me. My life had completely changed without my involvement or consent. I wasn't even aware of what had caused the uprooting. All I knew was that someone else was responsible but I was suffering. I felt abandoned and unloved.
My mother, my only partial support in our family had not moved to this new town with me. It was just me, one older sister and my brother. I missed Maa terribly and kept asking myself what my fault was in all this, why did I have to suffer? I wanted my mom and I needed answers. I wanted to know why was I abandoned. I got none of that. I was just told by my extremely strict father that I had to fulfil my responsibility towards the family and do what was good for everyone. Hence I had to adjust in this new setup.
At 13, none of this made sense to me. Why was I abandoned and was still expected to fulfil my roles? What had I done to deserve no love or attention? Did I not deserve any answers? What good of the family were they talking about? Everything about my life had changed overnight. I did not know this town, I did not know the people nor the rules. I felt as if I did not fit-in in the scheme of things of my family so I was just tossed away. I realised that I wasn't loved or valued hence it was OK for everyone to abandon me.
Back then I could have never imagined that this incident would define how I would live my life for a few decades to come. School finished and college began in another town. I lived in a hostel and could slowly breathe again. I could look for my tribe, make friends and find out who I had become. With college came a new sort of excitement in life, I fell in love with a batchmate who cared for me so deeply that he wanted to protect me from the world. Only that the 19 year old me did not realise that defining what I could or could not wear, whom I could talk to and how I could conduct myself wasn't truly protection. I was looking to be loved finally so I did everything he wanted me to, believing that this was what love was all about.
He was overprotective and said that it wasn't me but the world that he didn't trust. I believed him, ignoring all my instincts, which clearly told me not be get into the trap that I had already experienced with my overprotective father and brother. I still did everything he told me to, everything that would make me 'lovable' in his eyes. I made sure everything he said was done the way he liked it. I was there for him all the time, the way he wanted me. Though whenever I really needed him, he went absconding. Later he would come back and blame me for forcing him to go away. I loved him too deeply and truly felt that I had driven him away. He was also,forced to abandon me because of who I was, just like my family.
I finished my graduation and wanted to be independent for once. I was soon told by my father that women in our household don't work. If I decided to work, then I was never welcome at home again. It was an easy decision for me to make. Even though I deeply craved their love and approval, I knew that I had to pave my own path.
I found a job and started sharing a flat with a few friends from my graduation days. My work slowly helped me get back some of my self-esteem. I had started seeing some value in who I was and what I deserved in life but the journey had just about began when my boyfriend came back yet again. He obviously attacked me emotionally rather than apologising for vanishing. He said that I had put him in a tight spot by asking him to marry me and he had no choice but to run away. I went back to him, after all I believed that he loved me enough to come back for me.
By now he knew that he could make me do anything. The otherwise emotionally abusive relationship now moved to the next level of being physically abusive as well. Somedays I would go to work black and blue. His habit of vanishing had not gone. He would be untraceable for weeks at a time. Slowly the abuse wasn't just behind doors, he would come to my work place and create a scene. He wanted me to leave my job and not interact with other men. He would tell me about the other women he slept with while he was away. He said had to sleep with others to see if it felt wrong to him. According to him coming back to me after every sexual encounter showed how much he loved me. This went on for about two more years before which I decided that enough was enough.
|Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash|
I changed jobs, changed my address and moved on. I was in a new place but my patterns were following me. In the next few years I had a series of relationships with men who seemed very decent and calm initially but would abuse me every which way once I was committed to them. Often I would get hit by them which would be followed by them apologizing profusely and adding that they were insecure and didn't want to lose me hence they couldn't control themselves. This mental abuse was something that had started feeling normal to me, like something I had to endure to be loved. Yet there were days when it seemed truly scary and I knew I had to do something about it.
A big city seemed to be the solution in my head. I started looking for work opportunities in other cities and soon moved to a metropolitan. IN this bigger city, I had great professional exposure and truly wanted to improve my overall life. I decided to study while working. I did an MBA. I kept moving up the career ladder yet unfortunately my luck with men hadn't changed. I continued to be in relationships where I had no respect. I would support my men emotionally and financially. I would try to be 'good' and in return I always was left, abused and told that I deserved nothing. I was in my 30s by now and realised that something had to change.
I decided to seek the help of a psychotherapist. That changed my life, she urged me to understand my patterns and change them. The process of therapy truly helped me explore a new side of my life. I started seeing my role in all that was happening around me. Now I knew that I was the common factor in all the relationships. I was making sure that my internal beliefs about being unloved were simply being manifested through all the relationships I had. I had let the men do to me what I believed my family had done to me in my childhood. I was allowing it to happen I had to had to stop it. I had to stop expecting everyone around me to change. I had to change internally, the onus was completely mine. I started recognising the strength within me that I always had but never saw as everyone made me feel small throughout my life.
I started giving myself credit for always being independent, right from the start of my career. This gave me strength, I had never liked a male dominant environment that unfortunately all the girls in my family had faced. How much we craved for things and activities but were curbed, hence I had decided not to wait for anyone's approval, another decision I was proud of. Even as a child I had made up my mind to be independent, no matter what. I knew I had to always move forward and no job was too small. I knew it was OK to ask for work when there was none openly available. I kept seeking work and kept growing with it. These were some of the best decisions in my life and acknowledging them really helped my self-esteem.
|Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash|
I started seeing myself in a brand new light. It was not easy yet I knew this was my chance to turn my life around. I decided no more relationships for me. I had always looked for someone to complete me. It was time that I started to figure out how to feel complete within myself.
I slowly started filling the deep void that existed within me, focussing on learning to love my own self. I explored hobbies which were forbidden in my growing up years. I started doing things for myself, things I had expected the men to do for me. I began to forgive myself for my past, for not standing up for myself enough. I could never say 'no' earlier, which is something I had to learn to change. I stopped punishing myself for being abandoned and realised that in all these years, I too had abandoned myself. Since my childhood I had stopped myself at so many levels. I had avoided doing so many things because I did not want to be a bad example, like my older siblings. There was an ignored and neglected child in me which I had to heal.
Slowly but steadily I kept working on my beliefs and was learning to be happy and content in my life. It had taken years but I was finally happy being me. I was falling in love with who I was everyday. There were struggles and difficult days as well but I had decided to focus on only moving forward. I was now more confident than ever and had figured out that if the center of control lies within us, everything else will fall in its place. My profession was going well. I was exploring as much as I could in all the other aspects too. I enrolled in a variety of courses, decided to get a photo shoot for myself and celebrate how I looked, and even explored the option of starting a parallel profession using my talents. In one such course, I happened to gel with the trainer, who was years younger than me. My rule of no relationships was still intact, which truly helped me explore a deep friendship with him without any romantic expectations. I would talk to him about any and everything.
|Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash|
Even though I had started feeling for him too, I wanted to test him before I changed my rules for anyone. I do realise that this is not the way but I was still a work in progress. Getting into a relationship again was giving me the jitters, maybe I wanted to find a reason to not start this relationship at all. I had had no experience of a functional relationship before this.
He was all that a partner should be but I was not sure that I wanted a partner anymore. He had seen who I really was. I had never sugar-coated things, I showed him my anger as and when I felt it. I did not hide my insecurities and he never used them against me. I had slowly let my fear of rejection go and had learnt to say NO. Over the years I had started respecting my journey and what it had made me and finally met a man who respected me for that. It wasn't long before I finally fell deeply in love with him and changed the rule. This time not because a man wanted me to but because I wanted to.
We have been married for six years now. We are each other's best friends and my family members respect him too. My father is no more but when he was alive, he had more conversations with him than he ever had with me, he is clearly a family favorite even though he is a black beauty too. I very proudly give myself the credit for finding such a gem. After all, all my life, I had manifested relationships that fulfilled my patterns and fit my insecurities. Only when I changed internally, did my reality outside change. Today too, I do realise that I am still a work in progress as every human being is, however I realise that we need to recognise our strengths even when we aren't perfect. We need to respect ourselves and transition to the newer versions of us to eventually unleash most of our capabilities.
* If you found this story inspiring then don't forget to share, comment, like and subscribe to The Hope Tribe. You can be the instrument of Hope for someone by spreading these inspirational tales. Thanks for reading, Mallika Bhatia, Founder- The Hope Tribe