Do you remember the Where’s Wally? books?
In the US, they were called Where’s Waldo? but the books were the same.
This young boy in colourful attire, who was supposedly lost in a sea of people, that you had to find.
He was dressed to stand out, but managed to blend in. Encouraged to be visible but expertly did the opposite. Such talent.
Being different was celebrated. We weren’t appalled by him – we went searching for him. That ‘s the game we played together.
When my niece was a baby, we used to watch this show called Blue Cow. It was about …
… wait for it …
a blue cow. In a field of cows with black and white hide. Each episode brought a new adventure for Blue Cow. She’d ride rollercoasters, take the train, and partake in random shenanigans that cows aren’t typically known for.
At the end of each episode, Blue Cow would tell her friends of the adventure she’d had that day. The other cows in the field would listen, refuse to believe her, and then moan among themselves: Everybody knows cows don’t ride rollercoasters.
They were also the ones who remained stagnant in the field all day. Doing nothing but chewing on grass.
The truth was a secret between Blue Cow and the audience. They’d seen evidence of her adventures. But those closest to her showed her nothing but judgement.
The beauty of the message of this show lay in the fact that Blue Cow was blissfully unaware of the judgement. She did her thang, regardless of what any other cow said. She had unwavering self-belief.
Now, let’s imagine if she didn’t. What if she had low self-belief?
How’d she behave if she questioned herself, repeatedly hesitated, and judged herself before anyone else could?
She’d probably do what most insecure black sheep blue cows in the family do.
Turn up to family weddings, funerals or any other gathering anticipating judgemental looks from the aunty with the perfect daughters (who she’s suffocating with her control and pressurising).
Hear her uncle’s taunts in her ear every time she contemplated giving him a call. You should be married. You should start a family. What’s your life worth if all you do is work? The way you live just isn’t normal.
This is the same uncle whose son sleeps with anything with a pulse and he dismisses it, rationalising: boys will be boys.
She never shares her ‘real life’ with her relatives. When they ask her how things are, she glosses over the details by talking about how well her job’s going, or diverts attention to someone else in the room because it’s safer to do that than to tell the truth.
Lies keep her safe
They solidify her position and maintain the comfort zone. She knows the pattern. She’s reassured by it.
As long as I keep glossing over the details of my life, my relatives won’t ask any more questions. This means I won’t give them the opportunity to judge me. It also means they can’t hurt me.
But they do hurt me. Their negativity affects me every day. I’m constantly fighting it.
And then she turns to look at the impact it’s having on her parents.
How they, too, reluctantly listen to what her relatives say about her status as unmarried, disobedient, different … and how this is wrong.
How every other person in the family had an arranged marriage, so what’s wrong with your daughter? Why is it ok for everyone but not for her? Is she so special?
And her parents then blame themselves for her faults. They start judging themselves for how they’ve lost control of their daughter. We’re bad parents. Where did we go wrong?
They desperately want her to do the right thing. To prove to them that they’re good people.
The right thing then becomes whatever it takes to shut the relatives up.
And maybe she does get married.
Her relatives finally stop taunting her for being single. But they then comment on who she married. Question why she doesn’t have children and she clearly left it too late. Judge where she lives and how she dresses.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. They’re never happy. And neither are her parents.
Anybody who looks to another person to make them happy is forever miserable
It takes this particular blue cow one very long decade of trying to fit in to realise this.
Other things she realises are:
:: Responsibility’s on her
For her actions, feelings and behaviours. It’s under her control. She can choose to be hurt by the taunts of her relatives. She can choose the opposite, too.
:: Her parents are adults
Which means they too have responsibility for their actions and behaviours. It isn’t her duty to protect them. She can choose to defend them against her relatives because she cares … not because her parents will feel differently. That’s under their control, not hers.
:: Conversations are key
When her parents are hurting, they blame themselves for being bad parents. She sees that the more she talks to them and brings them into her life, the less they feel hurt. Because when they say: You need to change to stop being judged, what they mean is: We don’t feel close to you anymore. We don’t recognise the daughter we raised. Show us where she is.
Lies are relationship killers
Hiding who you are. Cowering. White-lying to keep the peace. Assuming they won’t understand. Saving them the embarrassment. Protecting them. Feeling validated when they approve, and being cut to the core when they don’t. Keeping them at arm’s length.
Every little lie you tell – yourself, them – digs you deeper into the end of your relationship.
Whereas you started off as close parent-and-child, you eventually become two people that co-exist.
You likely want the same things, but since you stopped communicating, you’ve lost this common ground.
And the biggest realisation this blue cow had?
The judgement stops with her.
The more she approves of herself, the more strength her parents get from it.
The more she accepts herself, the less the taunts of her relatives matter.
They’re the black and white cows in the field.
Happy to taunt her achievements because they’re too afraid to try any of their own.