FEATURED WRITER : Shwetha Sivaraman's 'Love is Love' 

“I know I am not beautiful, but I make up for that with a little extra intellect.” I can remember countless occasions in my childhood, where I would repeat this statement proudly to friends and family. I did not realize until late that this was a coping mechanism I had designed as a kid to cover up my insecurities.
Could you blame the kid, though?

I was a brown-skinned girl with a tendency to go 5-6 more shades darker if I was out in the sun. Several years as a teenager, I was bordering on obesity. I was no dancer, singer, athlete, or sportsperson and had no tribe of my own. I was at best average if not below average as a student.
I have grown up to the fairy tales of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and multiple renditions of Disney shows and musicals. I was mesmerized by the stories of the tall, handsome knights in shining armours. The knights who always came to the rescue of the damsel in distress.

But I was under the impression that for this to happen, the damsel had to be a beautiful princess – because that’s what was displayed in books and movies, right? Fair-skinned, slender, dainty, gorgeous. Well, I was sure I checked none of the boxes. I was under no delusions that my life was a fairy tale waiting to happen.
I was raised to be independent in the most real sense. I was grateful to have parents who did not care about whether my sister and I were girls. We did not grow up being paired to boys our age saying, “The two of them will be perfect for each other when they grow up and get married.” My parents strived hard to give us the best of education and taught us the discretion to decide our future for ourselves.

I wanted to grow up to be my own knight in shining armour. I shut myself off from all the teenage drama of love and worked on building the intellect, for that was something in my control. I figured that is something I could do gradually and gain acumen. I focused all my energies on creating a future for myself.

I grew up wanting to be self-sufficient, and I did. I was reasonably good at what I did. I was gradually beginning to be recognized for it, too – by colleagues, superiors, and friends. But I could never take a compliment.

How could I? Surely, I could not be good enough. I convinced myself the world was lying to me. I was, after all, my harshest critic. I could physically cringe for mistakes I made 10-12 years ago. That is how fresh the memories of my mistakes were still in my head.
I never could allow for any mistakes. I had spent years of my childhood, convincing myself that my intellect was all I had to rely on. Not the street-smart intelligence but the bookish one. I assumed I had to work my up and build what I wanted from scratch with painstaking efforts. I was the girl who only had her logic and rationale to rely upon to make it happen in this world.

That was a lot of pressure on me, and it had started weighing down on me. I felt its nagging presence, heavy, dreary, holding me back. For every two steps, I moved forward, I could feel myself being pulled back by my own shackles and mistaken notions.
Until one day, I realized that my own words were limiting my freedom and path.

“Words are never ‘only words’; they matter because they define the contours of what we can do,” said Slavoj Zizek. Rightly so, I realized it was time for me to let go of these misplaced notions.

I am enough the way I am. I am enough, dark-skinned, or fair. I am enough, fat or thin. I am enough, and I did not need to make up for anything with something else. I was right about being my own knight in shining armour. But because I am enough and not because I do not deserve one.

You see, we have been learning it all wrong. Love is not about finding the perfect man. Love is not about being swept off your feet by prince charming. Love is not about beauty or anything skin-deep and superfluous. Love is not about being rescued.
Love is when you find it in yourself - in the boundless depths of self-acceptance, with no ifs and buts. Love is understanding without any judgment. Love is compassion for who you are. Love is acknowledging, being mindful of your limitations and to honour such boundaries. Love is to nurture yourself for all you could be. Love is the ability to forgive yourself for your mistakes.

Love begins with you. All of you.

((Photo by Thais Muniz))

About the writer : 

Shwetha Sivaraman is a corporate professional turned writer based in Mumbai. With a penchant for the written word, the journey has been nothing but adventurous to date. 

Shwetha is a compulsive reader, a travel enthusiast, and also a part-time blogger and podcaster under the pen name Being Meraklis. She is passionate about creating magic with words and believes in living life to the fullest.