According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, its meaning includes a mark of shame or discredit.
The Indian community takes stigma very seriously. If you do something that isn’t part of the community’s definition of acceptable, there will be some sort of stigma attached to you. If you don’t get married until you are older, if you don’t have kids by a certain age or at all, if you have a degree, if you don’t have a degree, if you have too many relationships, if you don’t have relationships with the right people, if you don’t speak your parents’ language, if you can’t cook and clean, and the list goes on and on, you probably have some sort of stigma attached to you.
There isn’t a specific definition of what is acceptable and what isn’t. It varies with each community.
Here’s my take on it: Who the f*** cares?
Why do so many people care about what someone else is doing? Why does it matter as long as the person is a good person and not harming anyone else? Why should it matter to me at all who is dating who or making how much money? It makes absolutely no difference in my life.
I didn’t think this way in my teens and 20s. Then, I wanted to fit the mold of what I should be doing. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy it made me to do what everyone else wanted that I stopped. It did break some of my friendships and relationships. It did wreak some havoc on my life as I reoriented myself to put my feelings and desires first.
It sometimes still does affect me. I’m Indian so my programming is definitely towards the “what I’m supposed to do”mentality instead of the “what I want to do” mentality. And then I have to sit and really think and ask myself if what I’m doing is making me happy. I’m raising children now and I don’t want them to feel like they have to fit some predetermined mold. I want them to be able to make choices throughout their lives without feeling like they are doing something “bad”.
I’m glad I’ve at least gotten to a point where the stigma attached to me bothers other people more than it bothers me. I am who I am.