Last weekend I was deciding whether I should take a fellowship that pays a meager stipend in the next year. It was one of those “what the hell am I doing with my life” moments that have colored my year after graduating college. I had been bottling a lot of insecurities and questions for a long time, and finally I broke down in my car. I had a good cry, but then collected myself before I went inside my house.
My mom took one look at me, and asked what was wrong, and I finally let go and had a good cry with her.
It felt great; it was a necessary catharsis that I had been denying myself for so long. I’m just not good at accepting and showing my vulnerabilities. As a society we might be very quick to point out our physical flaws, but character flaws and personality issues are a bit harder to be honest about.
I’m very afraid of showing my vulnerability, letting others (even those closest to me) see the moments of self-doubt, sadness, and self-questioning I have.
I’m not the only one either. It seems that particularly as women, and additionally as Middle-Eastern women, we feel the need to always look like we are in control, independent, and capable. We are all of these things, but we are also humans that go through healthy amounts of self-doubt, self-questioning, and self-consciousness.
Part of this may come from pressures from our family, and fighting against their expectations of having the perfect “career, marriage, children, family” path. We have to show them that we know what we are doing, and that we don’t need to follow their set expectations. The other aspect of it is the pressure of further proving to Western society that we are not meek, incapable, and dependent women, but smart and in control of our lives. I’ve seen this amongst my Iranian and Arab friends so often that it is the norm.
To make it worse, any instance of vulnerability has a backlash of opinions on the Internet and in society.