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Equity & Identity
May 9, 2023
Dealing with Comparison in South Asian Cultures

Fatima Noorali

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How to Manage Appearance and Social Comparison in South Asian Communities

If you’re an identifying South Asian woman, you’ve probably experienced some form of comparison in your life. Being fair, thin, having sharp features, or having straight hair is automatically seen as more acceptable. Along with this comparison, there are the questions every elder is ready to ask you at every family event: when are you getting married? If not marriage, when will you get a job? I heard your uncle’s son got a really good job right after graduation. You should lose weight, you will look good or have you tried lemon honey tea yet? 

Sound familiar? Here are some effective ways to manage:

1. Set boundaries

When you hear “set boundaries” your first thought might be “easier said than done”, and I absolutely understand! Culturally, it is taught to respect your elders, be polite and accept the way things are. Doing so, however, can immensely affect your self-esteem. The good news is, boundaries can be flexible. Try changing the topic of the conversation and voice that you are uncomfortable talking about their proposed subject and recommend another topic you are happy to chat about with them. 

2. Seek support through therapy

Yes, you read that right! The amount of things you have been told repeatedly has likely settled in, and has made you believe everything you’ve been told. Through therapy, you can work with a professional to help remove those negative labels, and instead turn them into positive affirmations. Therapy can also offer support on boundary setting and how to navigate challenges with family members. 

3. Express your inner-confidence

When a negative comment is thrown at you, don’t be afraid to speak up confidently. Let them know who/what YOU chose to believe! Also remember, building confidence and an increase in self-esteem takes time. Explore your strengths, abilities and talents so that you can bring them to the table of discussion.

4. Be self-compassionate

Self-care plays a huge role when trying to manage all the criticisms and opinions that come your way. Try going for a walk to clear your mind, have a healthy meal, do mindfulness exercises, or even try having a hobby that sparks joy and excitement for you. 

All in all, be YOU. What really and truly matters is how you feel in your skin and what you bring to the table. Just as Rihanna says “shine bright like a diamond”! 


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