Kay's blog: Do You Have A Voice?
Since childhood, the two words “Koi Na” have been, metaphorically speaking, tattooed to my forehead.
The cultural phrase “Koi Na” translates to either “never mind”, “don’t worry” or “it doesn’t matter”. If someone hurts or abuses me emotionally, mentally or physically, says something derogatory towards me, treats my family or I unfairly, I get told “Koi Na”. I am told the issue will infect my brain or curse my family much like a witch’s spell, so it is best to brush it under the carpet. Regardless of the circumstances, I am always wrong and the “perpetrator” is always right. I am never allowed to talk about it. I am never allowed to talk about other people’s circumstances nor am I allowed to defend myself if someone mistreats me or speaks badly of me. I am not allowed to defend my family.
Growing up, the words “Koi Na” equated to no conflict and no confrontation but also no voice. I am silenced.
As children, we are conditioned to believe in a way of life or a way of being and when this pattern is repeated, over and over again, we start to believe it; it becomes a part of who we are. We accept it and we do not question it. Without us even knowing, it becomes one of our standards of behaviour. We fail to recognise that these are our parent’s values or values of our culture or community.
Putting a positive spin on the phrase, some may even loosely translate “Koi Na” to the act of forgiveness. Releasing that feeling or resentment of vengeance towards a person who has harmed us can have profound effects on our mental well-being and frees us from the shackles of constantly dwelling on past circumstances, disagreements and experiences. The everyday ritual of forgiveness can empower us, however the use of “Koi Na” in my upbringing did not come from a place of forgiving others; it came from a place of being silenced.
Growing up in a South Asian community, I never questioned or challenged the “Koi Na” way of life but it has had a detrimental effect on my life and its outcomes. Hence, I remain conflicted.
Now as a fully-fledged adult, when circumstances arise, whether it be a disagreement, a debate or an altercation either at home or in the workplace, the “Koi Na” way of life stops me in my tracks – I freeze, I cannot speak up, I cannot defend my position, I am subservient. Internally, I scream, shout and feel powerless. Everyone has a voice but me.
The “Koi Na” way of life has belittled me into an unworthy woman with no voice. It is somehow ok to let people walk all over you. This has broken my heart and I battle with this every day. It has slowly eaten into my internal understanding of being good enough and I struggle to feel worthy of love or even a sense of belonging from others most of the time. The words “Koi Na” have made me park my self-worth somewhere, if ever it existed.
I constantly search for my self-worth on my internal GPS. I get close sometimes, but on some days, it feels like it is stuck in a barren place full of weeds and no water.
To erase the conditioning that has been etched into our childhood is really tough. I urge you to look at what values, beliefs and conditioning you were bought up with. Do you agree with these standards of behaviour? Do you still follow them because you were told to as a child? Have you ever questioned them?
Do you have a voice?
Kay Kaur works in the financial services sector, is mum to a beautiful boy and is on a constant quest to understand the world and everything in it.