My worst nightmares were coming true.
Everything I had worked for.
And everything that gave me my worth.
Everything from where I derived value and meaning.
Everything…was falling apart.
Because I was too exhausted to pick up the telephone at 11.30 pm – after a full day at the office and with a 5-month-old preemie baby at home.
It all started with a Facebook photo.
My brother went to visit his in-laws and shared a picture of the gathering on his Facebook.
Pretty mundane, right?
But somehow it triggered my Mom, who felt she didn’t see enough of him.
And she wrote a biting comment under that photo.
My brother and her wife took felt insulted and took it personally. They called my mom and pulled me into a conference.
Things got heated quickly and I was soon playing the mediator.
But things kept escalating with accusations flying from both ends.
But I was out of patience for these shenanigans and I dropped off.
They called me a few more times after that, but I declined the calls.
In the morning, I came to know that they had created a Facebook group, included all of the extended family – uncles, aunts, cousins – and then they went ballistic.
Some of it was angst and hurt, some of it was righteous indignation, and some of it was accusations and exaggerations.
A huge family drama ensued.
Bruised egos and hurt feelings all around.
The uncles and cousins took my mom’s side – as the accusations came as a surprise to them.
Tempers flared and there were more accusations, name-callings, and insults.
And what was I doing when all of this happened?
I was looking at all of this with stunned disbelief – at a loss for words.
Since I was a little boy, I was always told that as the elder child, it was my responsibility to be the mediator during the fights.
But what was I supposed to do now?
In the end, I decided to throw some platitudes on how insulting the elders is never acceptable. And hoped that would do the trick.
When the dust settled – guess what the conclusion was?
That all of that could have been avoided – if only I was there playing the peacekeeper.
As I was supposed to do.
And if I can’t even do that – what’s the point of my existence?
I was cast out by my family like a used rag.
My brother and his wife had stopped talking to me.
My mother blamed me for everything that was going wrong.
For someone whose worth and value came from being the glue that holds the family together – it felt like death.
As I thought I have failed as a son.
I thought I have failed as a brother.
And I was pretty sure I was going to fail as a husband and a father as well.
I was seething with rage and resentment.
How dare they do this to me? After all that I have done for them? How can they be so ungrateful?
I was trapped playing the victim.
A part of me wanted to burn all bridges and walk away.
But they are my family nonetheless – and I wanted to connect with them again.
I wanted to stop feeling like a loser and a failure.
I wanted to understand why I’m in such pain – even though I had done nothing but try to be a “good person” the way I had been taught.
But, there was one teeny tiny problem.
I was lost.
I had no clue where to start and where to go from here.
Throughout my life, my MO was to asses others’ moods and try to please them.
I used to give more than I can afford to, even while tolerating disrespect and insults, and never asking for anything in return.
After all, that was what a “good person” was supposed to do, right?
Yet, here I was, on the brink of the abyss.
I knew I needed to change.
But I didn’t know what that change looked like.
I was scouring Google for answers – praying, grasping at any straw that would pull me out of this swamp.
And my prayers were answered.
I found “Not Nice” by Dr. Aziz Gazipura and “No more Mr. Nice Guy” By Dr. Robert Glover – from a book recommendation thread on Reddit.
These books are, as Tyler Cowen calls them, my “quake books”.
They gave me the harsh wake-up call that I needed.
And finally, I realized that I was responsible for the condition I was in.
Also, I was addicted to approval.
I didn’t have enough self-respect. In addition to this, I was too clingy and needy.
I allowed them to treat me like that.
However, I realized that I need to learn how to be more assertive.
And I needed better boundaries.
And I needed to learn how to process my emotions better.
So I started devouring books and courses on these topics and started applying them in my life.
At first, it was awkward as hell.
I was like a new child learning to walk.
And I stumbled a lot.
Sometimes there was a backlash. Sometimes I acted like a jerk.
Then I had to process the guilt and anxieties.
I also had to process the immense anger that I had bottled up in my subconscious.
But slowly, things started to get better.
I started believing in my right to look out for myself first.
Eventually, I stopped giving in to requests that didn’t serve my interests.
I began to win my own approval.
I thought that my newfound self-respect and boundaries would push my family even further.
But I was past caring at that point.
Then, something strange happened.
Instead of pushing them further, I started to receive those things I always craved.
Respect and appreciation.
Today, I am once again grown close to my family.
From not being on speaking terms with them to going on vacations together with them – I’ve come a long way.
My relationship with my wife feels more satisfying and fulfilling than ever.
At work, I always used to keep my head down, never asking for a raise or a promotion.
Today I’m in a leadership role, running a team of 18, and appreciated by my bosses and clients.
Socially I used to be a recluse with only a few friends.
Today, my life feels fulfilling with friends and connections all over the world.
I feel respected and appreciated in my own local community where I’m the treasurer of our residential complex of 184 apartments.
I’m at complete peace with myself and comfortable in my skin.
I’m no longer afraid to speak up and I can be my authentic self in any company.
I’ve built audacious dreams for myself and I’m working towards them every day.
My life feels rich and thriving.
The nightmare has ended.