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  • Writer's pictureLana Maher

What Would People Say?

I don’t know about the rest of y’all but this phrase rang in my ears in the voices of my parents growing up. And rang for many years after leaving the nest. Let me tell you a little about myself, maybe some of you will resonate with having the same upbringing. I grew up most of my life in Saudi Arabia. Yes, definitely a very, very, very conservative country to grow up in at the time. It is also a tight-knit community, where reputation is gold. Reputation is mostly around family-name, social status, and religion; and growing in a Palestinian household, education is added to the list of what makes you reputable. It was confusing growing up because there were many things I could not do because of the “family reputation” that would include making mistakes in any way, or failing. Failing seemed to be like a taboo there. “Lie about your grades to your, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, when they ask about how much percentile you got in your finals” Hahahaha, yes comparing grades was a thing in my family. All my smart cousins would get in the high 90s percentiles, whilst my true grades were in the low 90s percentiles or high 80s. “Don’t talk to boys! No one will marry an easy girl. Talking to boys is against our culture, what will people say about us”. Another laugh with all my school classmates. Yes, innocent dating as a teenager was not allowed. Not even having male friends, you can imagine that schools are segregated there. “No, that’s a lie.Your 13 years older than you relative could have never done such adult behaviors to you”. An ironic laugh with my warrior friends, who felt family reputation was more important than their mental and emotional wellbeing. In my adult healed mind and heart, I don’t blame my family for their upbringing. It was what they were taught to be safe and stay safe from being a social pariah because to them that seemed to be the worst in the world. My dad would say, ” Lana, we are part of society, so we have to follow the norm in our society” You can guess that I was a bit of a rebel in terms of breaking societal rules, to get such talks from him. I grew up not caring much about reputation on the outside. At school, I was called a slut, and I never kissed a guy. I was called a boyfriend stealer, and I never cared for those boys. In university dorms, I was thought to be on heroin; due to eczema I had which spread red rashes flaring up around my eyes, neck, and arms, and made me itch.

I knew in my heart people will talk no matter what. Not to say that I was free in mind to make decisions with ease. Even with all the little rebellious behaviour against “society”, I still wanted to be loved and accepted. I found myself in a loop of searching for external validation, not even knowing or realizing I was not accepting myself. I was brought up that acceptance is external, and not an internal thing, because of “What will people say?”. Yes, “What will people say?”. They will say everything and nothing. So my parents and all parents should not worry about what people will say. We are living in a world where people are shaming each other constantly, and we cannot protect ourselves and our children from shaming and rejection no matter what.

We can raise awareness about not judging others and anti-bullying campaigns. But what I want to raise awareness to is: Stop judging yourself! Accept yourself! Accept your humanity, and that you are allowed to make mistakes. And mistakes are one step closer to success. Even when people around you don’t want to accept their own humanity and yours. ACCEPT YOUR OWN HUMANITY! Live life on your own terms...

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