I was just talking to a colleague and she mentioned having a fear of confrontation. She presumed that this fear stems from some kind of self-esteem issue. I agree. I think the very notion that only like-minded opinions will please me stems from an esteem problem. I feel encouraged when people share my opinion, I feel discouraged when they don’t. If someone tells me that a particular task is not up my alley, or that I don’t have certain strengths, I would not discuss this further. It wouldn’t occur to me to ask the person, “Why do you think so?” Although there may be instances to the contrary, I think that people do not criticize to hurt. Most times, they are critical because they don’t understand. Not understanding another human being irritates us, and so we criticize.
In recent times, I was very critical of people who disliked celebrities or good-looking people or any category that attracted reverse discrimination. It’s not that I particularly adore Aishwarya Rai, but I used to find the backlash against her to be pretty disproportionate. Now, I think everyone who thinks she is cold and calculating, just tried to understand her and couldn’t. How could someone so beautiful get abused? How can someone so stupid as to get abused act with celebrated filmmakers? How can someone who worked with such filmmakers deliver such duds and get married to a tree? And despite it all, how can this woman have the audacity to just keep her mouth shut, get on with life, and continue her flirtation with stardom? How, possibly and conceivably and unnervingly, can this person get away with it?
Ditto with Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears or mothers who stay at home or parents who go to conferences leaving their children behind or men who decide leave women who have changed their minds regarding children or parents who push their kids at math camps….I think we get exasperated because we, at a fundamental level, believe that we really can’t get very different from one another. And when we see a person make life choices very divergent from our own – take up paths we chose to avoid, we struggle to comprehend it. We try to see if we could’ve done something like that and not have to pay for these choices dearly. If we fail to find common ground, we despair. It’s like trying to open a familiar-looking box. You know that there’s a twist in the procedure – you probably have to press a button or unhook a clasp or rotate it in such and such manner – but you can’t do it and the box remains closed.
So, you try to understand someone else’s life but you can’t find the way. That person’s life does not fit in your scope of comprehension and the box remains closed. Damn the box! Throw it out!
Getting back to that fear of confrontation – I definitely have it. I don’t like being criticized and I unfortunately perceive several things as criticism. Like if someone says I have broad hips. I feel bad. But it’s not a criticism. An observation. It may have been put across with the intention of making me feel bad, but most often it’s not. I’m seen with a cropped t-shirt over fitted pants, and that’s an observation someone will make. I feel bad because I believe that broad hips are undesirable. So, the value judgment is what I’m making in my head. Not someone else. As with Aishwarya’s case (and I do not arrogate myself to her position), maybe someone looks at my body type and sifts through his or her files of personal aesthete. Upon not finding a match, the person genuinely tries to understand why I choose to wear what I wear and ‘get away with it’. The summative response of all this sifting, analyzing, rejecting, and understanding is, “You have broad hips.” This statement need not mean anything more unless I ascribe any further sense to it.
So, one area of what I would like to study is maybe we are the only ones who judge ourselves. Everyone else is just trying to make sense.
With the amount I ramble, I wonder how I will ever be able to come up with a coherent research question. But I think, right now, what I’m really interesting in asking is, ‘Who really judges us?’ or no… ‘Are we more similar to each other or different from each other?’