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Arab Parents Need To Stop Comparing Their Kids to Others

enough is enough

If you grew up dealing with brown or Arab parents, you’ll know that nothing says pressure more than making your family proud of you.

To some extent, there’s virtually nothing that will ever make your elders be contemptuous of any of your achievements— unless they’re pitting you against your cousin or Mohamed down the street. 

Put it this way, if you do something good, you could’ve done better, and if you didn’t do well, you should have. We age and mature like start-ups rather than actual children, and although on paper it does indeed sound quite intense    (because it is), in practice, depending on the exact context you were in, and putting the trauma aside, this way of life toughened the skin of many us while teaching us how to be resilient amidst life’s ups and downs and unexpected disappointments. 

Call it toxic, unfair, or even unproductive, the perform-to-impress mindset does carry some benefits as we strive for better and more, and when this inner sense of competition is tamed, the sky is the limit. 

However, it also has some detrimental aspects, such as never feeling like you’re enough, compensating for a lack of acknowledgment by cutting corners, pretending to live a life that’s not yours, and trying to leave an impression of yourself that’s not based on any kind of reality. 

You may recognize this behavior in some of your friends, especially in front of your parents. But it also seems as if the perfect son-in-law vibe, or should we call it pick-me-behavior, has materialized into a trend online, with content creators trying to one-up each other, no matter how cynical or ridiculous it can feel.

The other day, while waiting for iftar I fell down a rabbit hole on Instagram, with teens aged anywhere between 12 and 17 vlogging their daily routines that seemed busier than any of ours— which made me quite sad as I’m almost 25 and barely as responsible as any of them seemed to be. 


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Garnering hundreds of thousands of views, the recipe to each video is quite simple: the given kid looks neat, speaks fluent Arabic, and shows bits and bobs of his day. But I can’t help but feel like they’re taking it too far. What do you mean you wake up at six for fajr, do extra homework in between, go to football practice, run an extra mile or two, read, and learn a chapter of the Quran before bedtime— all under five hours of sleep and while fasting? Either we don’t have the same 24 hours or I call cap.

When I was about that age, my only concern was making it back home in time for Captain Majid on TV and whether my five friends and I could afford some sweets from the closest shop to school. Now obviously, not all kids were like me— thank God— but to normalize the behavior of these seemingly flawless kids on social media feels a bit too much. Has the preoccupation of making ourselves look good in the eyes of our parents gone too far, or has the race for likes and views fiddled with the younger generation’s minds a little too much? 

In their defense, as well as ours, we’ve been brought up in a system where reaching a goal is prioritized over the journey towards it, leading to a generation of disillusioned individuals in constant search of validation rather than self-fulfillment. Perhaps these kids have no interest in the activities they undertake, but as long as it makes them feel seen and heard, a couple of quick videos here and there would indeed be enough to make the world think that they’re the ideal offspring. And the juice is apparently well worth the squeeze. 

As I sifted through their comments, I noticed that users of all ages and walks of life praise these content creators for their efforts and insist they keep it up, which undeniably must add more pressure than there already exists on their shoulders. Say they decide to take it easy, what would the reception of their community look like? Thinking about this makes me anxious and fidgety, so imagine how the first-concerned must feel like.

These kinds of videos where users film all the things they get up to on a “typical” day have sparked the rise of a number of online parodies, that see others poke fun at these unrealistic “day in a life” formats. Sure, their content might not please their parents who wish they were better, but for us viewers, it shows another version of reality that is both more genuine and reassuring as it serves as a reminder that no one’s life is actually easy nor perfect. 


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Une publication partagée par Dahmosh (@dahmossh)

Curated and almost scripted versions of life are not only not it but also misleading and promote unrealistic expectations to impressionable young followers. The only thing that matters is you, and if you’re trying your best at living but still struggle at making it, that’s fine. And to those kids who are fitting all of these achievements in one day to please viewers, take it easy, life isn’t a sprint but rather a marathon where stamina and perseverance is key. 

Don’t feel the need to conform to anyone else’s idea of what success looks like, because at the end of the day, it’s your life and your journey. Embrace the ups and downs, the failures and successes, because they all contribute to a unique story that is yours to author. Social media is just a highlight reel and not a true representation of someone’s entire life, so don’t compare your IRL to someone else’s Reel. Just focus on being the best version of yourself and living life to the fullest.

And between you and me, keep people’s expectations of you to the lowest (yes, even your parents), so that whatever you will do after will always be met with praise.

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