Woe Is Me! “My Parents Keep Putting Me Down. How Do I Stand Up to Them?”


Sep 19, 2021


Image credit: Sajni (1956)

Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.

My parents keep on calling me mediocre all the time. As per them, I should be waking up at 4 a.m., studying 12-14 hours a day, reading, doing whatnot. Despite having topped my school in 12th, despite studying for 14 hours a day for the last 10 months, they keep telling me I’m not going to do anything and that I should stop making castles in the sky about what I’m going to do. They go on and on about how I’m just a mediocre person; that I’ve done “nothing” and achieved nothing, and they tell me to shut up every time I reply, telling me that I’m “answering back.” I’m severely depressed, but my parents refuse to get me help because they say that I’m just “reading too much on the internet.” I’m struggling with severe topical steroid withdrawal because of my eczema right now and am in pain all the time. I have wonderful and ambitious goals for my future, but my parents are shattering all of it day by day by calling me “low IQ“ (which is funny because I scored a 140 in the MENSA IQ test and learned how to read and spell at the age of 2!). I feel hopeless about my entire future, and my withdrawal side effects are making it worse. How should I deal with this?

— Enough is enough

RN: I’m so sorry that this is happening to you. I would say plan for work or education in another city and leave home, but I assume you wouldn’t be writing in if that’s an option. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be in your house all the time physically. Are there ways you can step out every day, on some pretext or the other? Can you perhaps “study” elsewhere — at a park, cafe, a friend’s house, anything? It seems like even if you are living in an oppressive atmosphere right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a few hours’ respites where you make time for yourself. If you’re earning yet, please try to access therapy online — your parents don’t need to know about it at all. If you’re still studying and don’t have your own money yet, can you try doing a few freelance gigs that will be just enough to cover therapy costs? Or else, you could discreetly start a fundraiser online. But whatever you do — please, please don’t set any store by what your parents say about you. They are likely projecting their insecurities and failed ambitions on you, and it is NOT your obligation to fulfill or satisfy them. It may sound trite to ask you to believe in yourself, but I would add that mediocrity as a concept is tarnished, and you should try not to set much store by that word either.

Why is mediocrity a bad thing? Instead of running away from it, why not run towards contentment, whatever that looks like? Our society has attached our self-worth and joy to “productivity” so much that we can’t imagine ourselves thriving without aspiring to whatever level of output or work that pushes us outside “mediocrity.” Right now, you seem to be working hard to reach your parents’ definition of success, but these things are meaningless. At your current pace, you are hurtling hard and fast towards burnout. If you can, please try to pause and introspect about what will make YOU happy. How can you work towards your hopes and dreams without worrying about being mediocre? There is something to be said for how liberating it can be to embrace mediocrity instead of fearing it — it would be unfortunate if one’s entire life is defined solely by their perceived success in terms of work. The sooner you detach yourself from the idea of mediocrity, the better the chances of you getting to blossom into whoever you were meant to be. Take care, good luck, and I hope you find a way out of your parents’ toxic orbit soon. You don’t deserve that one bit.

PB: Hey, seems like they’ve got some issues to work out that they’re taking out on you – and that’s unacceptable. I, of course, cannot presume your circumstances of living. Still, suppose you have the ability, the means, and the desire to leave this highly toxic situation behind. In that case, I urge you to find temporary accommodations with maybe a friend or a sympathetic relative. Since your parents don’t sound understanding or in any means empathetic, then reconciliation seems to be a thing of the future. Standing up to family is the most challenging thing of all – but I’d say it’s better to sever burnt ropes than try to douse them. If none of this is an option, which is understandable- then it seems your only option is to brave their idiocy until you can be independent of them. 

To paraphrase Phoebe Bridgers, “We’ll find a new place to be from.” Until then, good luck.

SS: If your parents hate the internet so much, weaponize it. Use this list of therapists who offer subsidized/free therapy for young adults to get yourself a counselor who will at least hear you as a human being. Do you have any relatives in your family you feel comfortable confiding in? Do you think you could reach out to them? If not relatives, are there any friends’ family members who you feel comfortable talking to? Abusive families usually are terrified of the “log kya kahenge” business. If they understand that people are noticing the way you are treated, they might withdraw a little. But make sure you have a safe space somewhere — say a friend’s or a relative’s that you could go to, if things get worse.

DR: I’m so, so sorry you’re going through this. It sucks when one’s very family treats them this way. Do you think they’ll understand if your try to sit them down and explain to them just how much their attitude is affecting you? If not, and also if you don’t want to do the emotional labor that would entail, I suggest you figure out a way to, well, RUN! Getting admission to a college far away from home might buy you a safe space away from their degrading opinions about you. I genuinely feel that the sooner you can get away the lesser damage you will deal with from being treated this way. But if creating a physical distance is difficult, I would strongly urge you to seek therapy — not through them, of course; clearly, you’ve tried that and failed. Several lists have been circulating online since the pandemic began, which mention mental health professionals providing therapy for free or at nominal costs. I think you must reach out to them so that the trauma of being in the situation you are in doesn’t affect your sense of self more than it has. 

SK: Can I just say: you’re not mediocre. There’s nothing wrong with being mediocre, too, but you just don’t fit the bill by the conventional sense of the word. Irrespective of how often and how brutally your parents may say this to you, your first act of resistance has to be not to believe them. It sounds like you’ve tried speaking to them, reiterating your mental and physical pain. I’m sorry that didn’t lead to much. I hope you find the courage to extend this resistance to looking after yourself and your health. People are offering accessible and free therapy — via text or call — to whom you can reach out (I hope you do!)

The future is a beautiful and hopeful thing. It may seem like it’s lightyears away, and the current toxicity only adds to that feeling. You deserve to fulfill your dreams and ambitions; if not achieve, then at least pursue them the way you like. Start with identifying the people in your life who can help you in your journey — distant relatives, friends. Please make a list, write down your dreams, create an action plan; it’s common to lose track and get discouraged with abuse hurled at you day after day. I hope this anchors you. It’s a long journey, but something about your resilience so far makes me believe you can tide through some years of living in a toxic household.


Written By The Swaddle Team

  1. NS

    I am sorry you have to go through this. If you can’t afford to leave the house start planning how to get yourself out as soon as possible. Start doing some summer jobs or volunteers work so you will stay away from these people as far as away. Focus on your goal and anything they try to ridicule you just stare at them don’t react don’t defend. Don’t give any reaction. They’re feeding on your reactions. Try to reach a therapist as soon as possible without letting anyone know and once you get on your feet both mentally and education wise. Leave and stay as far as possible. If someone means so much harm to you they are not worth of you. I did the same at ahe of 37 but till then they did horribl
    e things to me which left me scared for life. I am glad you seeked help. All the best and bless you

  2. Tamilarasee

    Hello..I understand how it feels when someone is belittling you. But, the thing is that particular thought cannot enter until you allow it inside yourself..
    Be confident about yourself. Never let anybody’s thought to disturb you. It is just that they did not understand you well. Of course, it is not our fault if someone has a different perception of us. It is their view. Just realize that you are not what they think..you are who you think you are.Dont believe in their thoughts about you.
    If you are speaking back to them or trying to explain them.. just be crisp and clear in your point..so that it reaches their mind.
    When they start talking like you are low..ignore them and you talk to yourself inside your mind..like “They are talking like this..because of their unawareness of who you really are or what your real strength is”.you should actually pity them for their unawareness.

    1. Talk to yourself confidently reiterating even the smallest of your achievements.
    2. Try to explain once or twice to them. If it still persists, Ignore those people and stop responding to their talk.Your silence will really be a very good weapon when someone keeps arguing the same thing.
    3.keep your mind calm and focus on what you want to be rather than thinking too much on how you should explain yourself to them.you need not explain yourself to anyone with so much effort.They will realize only when they open their mind.
    4.If you feel like..you don’t want to speak back or hurt them.. I would suggest write a letter explaining yourself to them and give it to them when they start arguing or place it somewhere where they can see and be calm.They may re-read it when they calm down and your view would get inside their brain for sure.
    5.They may be anxious because they are worried about your future.Tell them “Believe me ..I can take care of myself and you as well sooner..I just need sometime and your support”.
    6.If you really need some alone time..try reading book,listening to good music, teach/speak to a kid or even simply look at the sky from balcony.

    You are born to shine in your own way.Never lose hope.Find happiness in every single thing.


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