Most Indian women of my era will remember an old Hindi movie called ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’, starring Hema Malini in a double role as a pair of twins with very different personalities – one who is literally a Devi (who caters to everyone else’s needs), and the other a diva.
To many Indian women of that time, the roles were metaphors for the women who reside inside all of us, Devi and Diva.
These are the roles we enact in different contexts of our lives; they dictate the behaviours that rule our relationships with the significant people in our life:
- The meek and ever-suffering Seeta – pandering to husband, in-laws and families.
- The feisty Geeta – the woman who knows how she wants to be treated and demands respect.
While these two are extremes, our true selves lie somewhere in between. We are often confused about the right way to act or assert ourselves, and give in resentfully when we should not and or assert ourselves aggressively when it is unnecessary.
Now, who am I to offer advice on this? Well, let me tell you my story.
I lost the love of my life – my husband of 12 years and companion of 18 – to a sudden, massive heart attack in 2005. My child was just 6 at the time.
Though I had started building a business because of the financial problems we suffered during a downturn, I depended on my husband for everything related to my life – my finances, my social life… everything.
When he passed away, I was left with the considerable task of managing as a widow in a rather unsupportive society.
For those not in the know, Indian society is notorious for its condescending attitude towards widows, and for treating them with little more than pity and disdain.
In my journey to regain my shattered self-confidence and rebuild my life, I attracted people and situations that told me I desperately needed to build stronger boundaries and set limits on what I was willing to tolerate in my life.
I got remarried and then I got divorced after 8 years, having realized that I don’t really care for the rules of society anyway and that marriage is not an empowering way of living for a woman like me who loves her freedom and independence.
If you want to know more about what I think about this, the podcast on the “Brules” (or bullshit rules) that I discarded to become a much happier person will tell you more.
The biggest lesson in my life, though, was the realization that people treat you the way you allow yourself to be treated, and that your relationships with others are a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself.
THE RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE WITH YOURSELF IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP IN YOUR LIFE.
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