I believe I have a personality that belongs on network television.
As you all should know by now, I am my favorite person. I simply adore myself. Not in like a narcissistic, can’t-see-my-faults way. But, more like a damn-I-am-proud-of-myself way. As Demi Lovato sings, “what’s wrong with being confident,” I too find myself asking this same question. My confidence is often humorous to those who don’t understand why I am confident. I think I should be confident. I donate to charity, I am a social justice warrior, and I am occasionally honest about my whereabouts when parents ask. In a nutshell, I know I have nice looks, cool personality, and some emotional intelligence. So, why shouldn’t I be confident? Rather, why is my confidence funny to some? I find myself on the other end of people’s laughter when they notice my confidence, as though someone who looks like me shouldn’t be.
Let me back up a bit. I’ve been living at my parents’ house for too long now. I used to have independence and freedom to be myself in my own space, but now I am forced to tip-toe around my parents’ feelings and expectations hidden in every corner of their home. (Basically, it sucks moving back in with your parents.) However, this time made my mind go through memory lane. I went through old photos, journals, and re-connected with people I haven’t spoken to in years. More importantly, I discovered a young Nikki who I didn’t recognize at first.
It should not come as a surprise that I was bullied a lot as a kid. (You don’t become this glamorous without some haters.) Both public school and private school kids found a way to bring me down. It was like they had a secret student council meeting where they all voted to hate on “that tiny underweight Indian girl with big teeth and frizzy hair.” (At least, that’s how I pictured it in my head. I am very creative.)
Anyways, from the way I spoke, sang, dressed and even walked, I had to be brought down throughout my K-12 education. It also didn’t help that I was already a very socially awkward kid. I later learned that this bullying came from unresolved insecurities within my bullies. Instead of working on those and addressing those insecurities, it was easier for them to bring me down because I looked weak. However, my defense mechanism for handling these situations became humor. I would recount some encounters with my sister and shared my “what I should have said,” witty comebacks. Her laughter would make my heart melt and made me feel good about myself.
I turned to the comfort of comedy sitcoms and films when I felt lonely. I found characters who had similar wit and humor to mine then felt somewhat represented. Eventually, I found my voice. However, socially-awkward and extremely-anxious Nikki didn’t have the pussy of steel to speak her mind out loud. I look back at my old writings and I see glimpses of the woman I am today. For the record, I didn’t change my personality. I simply got rid of the parts that weren’t me. I got rid of my shyness, my weakness, and my low self-esteem. I started seeing the uniqueness of my physical features, my style, and my vocal capabilities. (Granted, I am not a great singer. But, that doesn’t stop me from belting Beyoncé.)
There she is.
The first time I spoke my mind was with my former headmaster of the private school I attended since I was in the 3rd grade. I was 17 years old, and I recently learned that Gilmore Girls ended without its original show-runner. It was an emotional time for me. Also, it was a time where my school decided to implement one of the most sexist dress codes ever. At the time, I didn’t know what feminism was or what it meant to objectify women. I grew up in a time where homophobic jokes and slut-shaming were comedy gold. However, when I heard this new dress code something inside me ignited.
The girls’ dress coded stated that we could not wear leggings unless they were under shorts. We also could not wear tank-tops, thin straps, sweatpants, and shorts that didn’t pass the “finger test,” (which sounds filthy but was a legit form of measurement). Also, girls couldn’t wear ripped jeans. Basically, everything they sold at Target was off-limits.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: boys had restrictions too! And, they did. Boys could not wear sports jerseys, sweatpants, and ripped- jeans. However, it wasn’t the actual restrictions that bothered me as much as the reasoning behind them.
During the presentation of the new dress code, our headmaster continuously talked about how our clothing, particularly young women’s fashion, can be…distracting. Simply put, a young girl’s body was distracting to not only male students but the male faculty. First of all, ew. The faculty should not be staring at my ass, tiny breasts, or any other part of my body that can be sexualized (so, all of it). Second of all, why was the concern limited to males? I approached the headmaster after this presentation, and asked him,
“Why are you concerned about the attention of only the male students?” He gave this round-about answer which claimed that the girls’ clothing restriction made us look more professional as a school. (I don’t know what that fucking means.)
“Okay, but,” I continued, “you didn’t answer my question. You gave me the old-Bush administration run around here.” He was silent. (I thought that was a good political joke for someone who got a B- in government class.)
“Well,” I said after a couple of seconds of silence, “I hope this encounter with me wearing my tank-top and ripped jeans doesn’t distract you.” He scoffed at me, then walked away. I am pretty sure he thought it was cute that I dared to stand up and speak my mind. He scoffed in a way that made it sound like he was assumed by the whole encounter with a confident young woman.
Confidence is everything.
Fortunately for me, but maybe not for you, my quick wit and sharp tongue became a tool in my social justice quest. Although I go to therapy to deal with several issues surrounding me, I often turn to my humor to cope with the everyday microaggressions. I refuse to let those bring down my self-esteem. In fact, my humor is an expression of my confidence.
Often, in law school, which was composed of a predominately privileged class of people, I would end any explanation I gave with a, “but, I am a brown woman so… what do I know?” (Que the cricket noises.) One time, a co-worker decided to make herself feel better about her nervous performance by making fun of how I handled the same task. I simply replied, “you’re right, but, then again, I am not the type of person who brings others down to make themselves feel better because this isn’t high school.” One person laughed! But, my co-worker didn’t respond.
By calling out privilege, racism, or sexism at the moment in a way that isn’t heated or emotional, I can deal with life. I am not affected by the bullies of the past, present, and future. I am not discouraged from standing up for myself and the rights of others. Moreover, I am not afraid to create change. My confidence comes through my sense of humor. Also, my confidence gives me strength. Instead of laughing at it, I found some who actually admire my confidence. So, I ask again: why is my confidence funny to some?
That’s all for now. Stay tuned.