Getting rid of cultural guilt

"[We] weren’t raised on frilly words of wisdom or encouraging talks about what the future could hold."

"[We] weren’t raised on frilly words of wisdom or encouraging talks about what the future could hold." Photo: Getty Images

A strange thing happened to me recently. I got positive. Almost overnight, I went from being a cynical RPEB (Realist Person of Ethnic Background) who questions everything, to someone who’s unashamedly, no one-get-in-my-way-I’m-a-manifesting-machine optimistic. I even started using the word “universe” and it wasn’t preceded by “Masters of the”. I’d been to a few Mind Body Spirit festivals, but this was different.


In fact, I put it down to one simple thing, and it’s not the “happy pills” my acupuncturist put me on for my PMS. I simply changed the way I think. I became an optimistic fatalist and stopped expecting the worst possible scenario to occur in any situation -- whether it be tepid coffee or actual significant things like broken hearts, natural disasters, and so on. 



Being a garden variety RPEB, the change was noticeable. RPEBs of my generation weren’t raised on frilly words of wisdom or encouraging talks about what the future could hold; nor were we offered the reassurance that we could achieve anything. We could achieve degrees, spouses and children, preferably in that order. Anything else was a bonus.


In my family, it was survival of the fittest, none of that “you can do it” BS. Forget road trips and sports on weekends. It was Arabic school, followed by scripture. While we had fun torturing our teachers, it was vastly different to my non-Muslim friends’ experiences. No group-hugs or Brady Bunch dénouement. If something happened to you, you were in the wrong place, because questions were thrown up as to whether you really needed to be in that place at all. Your wallet got stolen? It was your fault, and not that of the douche who stole it. (Cultural guilt in all its glory.)


That stuff is bound to mess with your head, especially when your life doesn’t follow the RPEB Life Plan (me being Exhibit A). No wonder I was a “train wreck” as one fellow RPEB put it. Unlike me, she had a take-no-prisoners attitude when it came to everything in life, not just her coffee order. I was my own worst enemy, she warned me. Her language at the time was a lot more colourful and involved some Spanish words I couldn't quite translate. Still, while I thought she was being a bit dramatic, I couldn't write her off completely.


So I decided to shed the cynicism (temporarily at least) and read a… a… self-help book. And to my eternal shame it had words like “heal” and “life” in the title. I couldn’t completely embrace all its concepts – some were a bit rubbish. And I could never say half the crap stuff this writer advocated reciting because there’s a limit to my sugar intake and diabetes runs in my family. But some of it just made common sense. All that talk about metaphorically cleaning out your closet? Totally useful. I suddenly understood why certain parts of my life were always getting off track, and why I attracted certain types of crappy crap into my life.


Mind you, I had to be careful about my newfound path. I dared not venture too far into saccharine new ageyness, or I’d end up saying things like “I dare not!”. But I got so rational and non-crazy that the aforementioned friend finally signalled her concern. “I’m giving it two more weeks, to make sure it sticks.” She mentioned the train wreck thing again.


Uplifting as her words were, I assured her it was very real and that projecting some positive vibes every day can do wonders for your outlook on life.


While old Me would have been circling the expiry date on my newfound sense of non-crappiness and heightened self-worth, New Me tells Old Me to shut the hell up. But she holds back on the profanities because it’s still impolite to swear, especially at an old friend. 

1 comment so far

  • I love love LOVE this piece.
    Having written a memoir of living with anxiety, I know all too well how everything - EVERYTHING - boils down to your thought patterns.
    You essentially just decided to flick a switch in your mind, and change your life, and I love that.
    This entire piece is going in my quote book. Thank you.

    Kerri Sackville
    Date and time
    May 31, 2012, 8:10AM

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