Love me and not your expectations of me

Last night was a great win for Egypt against Ghana in the Cup of African Nations 2010.

Cairo celebrations Photo credit: Nadia El-Awady

After the win, I went out to Pyramids Street, near my home, to watch the street celebrations and take some photos. The celebrations felt so anti-climactic to those only two nights before when Egypt won against Algeria. I didn’t stay long on the streets and walked home. At home I continued to watch the celebrations on TV. I couldn’t help but notice how silly Egyptians get when they are happy; especially after winning a football match. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty much the same myself. The masses were dancing foolishly, chanting silly chants, and saying the most ridiculous things in front of television cameras. It was all quite funny.

So this is what I posted on Twitter while I watched:

NadiaE: for a country where the majority doesnt drink alcohol, we certainly celebrate like a bunch of drunkards when we win a soccer match!

NadiaE: im watching coverage of egyptians celebrating all over the world and laughing my head off. Ppl not even talking straight!

NadiaE: sha3b genetically m7ashish sa7ee7 (rough translation: we’re a people who are genetically stoned)

Before I come to the reaction I got from one of my followers, I must admit that I have always been thankful that I do not drink alcohol because it is prohibited in my religion. The main reason I’m thankful is that I can quite easily get into a “drunken mood” all on my own. So this thought about us being “genetically stoned” is not a new one and has mainly been a thought I reflect on myself until yesterday. Yesterday, I discovered that it seems this applies to many Egyptians when they are happy as well.

I have absolutely no interest in pointing fingers, so I’m not going to include the Twitter name of the person that reacted negatively to my last statement. And for the record, I’m pretty sure this person had absolutely no bad intention in what he said. It just pushed a very sensitive button of mine:

“I am not expecting this statement specially from u Nadia, please note that people r inspired by your writings & blogs. Take care pls”

This statement from a Twitter follower elicited a tirade of comments from me, the last being this morning. They summarize in short 140 character tweets what I feel about the whole role model concept and our high expectations from them:

Tweets from me:

@x not sure what u read into what i wrote, but i have no intention of being a role model becuz im not 1

@x I tweet what I think and won’t stop because of others’ expectations of me. I wont be careful. Ill be me

I say NO to self-censorship because of others’ expectations! That makes me so angry!

I have no wish at all to be a role model. And I will not self-censor myself becuz some want me to act like one

question to my tweeps: if some ppl think of u as a role model, does that mean u have to start acting like one?

even more importantly, does it mean u have to act like the role model THEY want u to be?

and wasnt it you being genuinely you that made you their role model to begin with?

These are some of the responses I got to that question from different tweople:

No, not acting like one as in changing ur characteristics and who you are to who they want you to be. But taking the responsibility. That your actions & behavior might influence some other people, so giving more emphasis on being a better YOU with less mistakes.

Nope, if you change then فيه عقد نقص (rough translation: you have an inferiority complex if you change for that reason)

i guess wn u r a role model then it pushes u to be better even for urself !!

i think it’s the other way around..

I really hate the “exposure” I get, scares the hell out of me.

dear no body like it, but sometimes u r 🙂 so act based on that..

Right, but it’s natural for everyone to search for someone who practically resemble what he/she is seeking to be, it’s natural.

If someone thinks of u as role model, so its for who u r.. not anything else. So be urself.. don’t try to idolize urself.. 🙂

wat u r is wat make u role model 4 them so dont react differently when u know. B wat u r but carefully manage their expectations

What is it with people’s eternal urge for censorship??? It’s you as you are that inspired them and nothing should change that.

When you get that comment it’s more like what they would want you to be, not who you are. It’s an equation in their brains.

And I continued to rant…
this whole concept of taking role models worries me to begin with. Its idolizing ppl. Putting them on a pedestal

no one should have to be put on a pedestal and idolized because no one is that perfect. Do u realize the burden that is?

let me be very clear b4 i end my rant: i dont want to be anyones role model, do not have high expectations of me or u will be disappointed..

and i will not practice self-censorship and i will continue to be just ME

and ppl shouldnt be “as me”. They should simply be themselves. Thats what will make them unique

And my last tweets on this the following morning…

if coming into the public eye more often means I must put up an act of being an angel for people, I don’t want to be in the public eye

I’d much rather just be myself wherever i am; with all my beautiful imperfections and slips. and if that isn’t enough for ppl it’s their loss

Why is this a sensitive subject for me?

Being a Muslim woman who wears the veil (hijab), makes me the object of peoples’ scrutiny all the time.

For those who have reservations against it, if I don’t act like an angel 100% of the time I’ll hear comments like, “See what women in hijab do?”

And from those who fully support it I hear comments like, “You can’t do that because you represent women in hijab.” Or “You are such a good representative of women in hijab.” Or “How could you do that as a woman wearing hijab? Doesn’t it mean anything to you?”

I’ve heard all of this and more. And for some odd reason, most of those people do not realize that I’m just a normal, imperfect person who chose to wear the hijab. I do not and cannot represent every single woman who wears it. And I cannot – nor do I wish to – represent the whole of the Islamic nation because I have chosen to wear the hijab.

It’s just a head cover for goodness sake. That’s all it is. It does not mean that I have managed to become the “perfect Muslim”, whatever that might mean. It does not mean that I have even chosen to act like the “perfect Muslim.”

The same applies for any person who happens to come into the public eye for any reason. Perhaps someone has managed to achieve great professional accomplishments: reached greatness as an actor, an artist, an athlete, etc. They have achieved greatness in these areas. That does not mean they have achieved greatness in all aspects of their lives. They might be complete flops in their personal lives, for example. Does this diminish their level of greatness in what they’ve achieved? It doesn’t. Should they be required to be great in all other aspects of their lives simply because people suddenly have high expectations of them? No.

Part of the beauty of the human being is his imperfections; the fact that one can be great in one area and a failure in another.

There are people in my life I have always looked up to. But the knowledge that these people are imperfect is a relief to me. It allows me to push myself to be a better me on the one hand, but to accept my own imperfections on the other. It’s human nature.

So, I will end by summarizing my earlier tweets:

I will continue to be me in all my beautiful imperfectness. Do not take me as your role model. I do not wish to be in that position. If I have ever done something or said something you have learned from, well and good. I’ve learned a lot from you as well. Do not expect me to be perfect because of a few things you’ve seen in me and liked. Your perfect is not my perfect is not our neighbor’s perfect. Love me and not your expectations of me. Just let me be me. And I sure as heck hope you continue to be you.


  1. What was so shocking about your tweets anyway???? This also makes me angry. I hate it when people tell you that “this wasn’t expected of you”. I NEVER say that to anyone except when I mean it positively – that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by someone. I HATE it when someone comments on my “behavior” or “language” or whatever – who appointed them my mother??? It’s difficult enough to have to deal with it from family, so we don’t need the rest of the world to step in and join the party. You aren’t setting yourself up as a role-model and never claimed to be one, so just forget about it. Whoever has put you up as one will just have to learn to deal with you as you are – whether you fit on his/her pedestal or not.

  2. I second Marwa. Nadia, I know it’s cliché, but there’s a price for fame! I don’t think you should crawl back into the private sphere. You are wonderful just the way you are and people will still continue to criticize you under all kinds of claims, good or bad.

  3. Dear Nadia,

    I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing you personally, but I very gladly follow your tweets and find you a source of inspiration, as a human being, as a woman, as an Egyptian, as an adventurer, and as the endless things that you are, and that everyone of us is.

    I reckon we’re quite different in many things: for one thing, I consider myself a systematic atheist, or even an anti-religious and an anti-theist, and that’s a very important constituent of who I am. We also may have numerous political differences. However, this does not in anyway prevent me from appreciating the radiant person that you are, and does not dissuade me from learning from you and valuing your human experience.

    Does this make you a role model for me? No, it doesn’t. Since my very early childhood, I found in myself a strong rejection of the idea of role models, because I’ve realized from a very young age that no one is perfect, or more importantly, that no one is meant to be perfect, but that everyone has got something to offer, and that I should learn to be attentive enough to learn from each and every person I encounter in my life, even from what I take to be their ‘wrongs’, because these ‘wrongs’ make me realize what I want to avoid, and what I don’t want to become.

    I read your comments about last night’s celebrations and I thought they were funny, witty, harmless and cute, like many things you say. What is great about you is that you are a person who, in her very own makeup, begs to not be classified or pigeonholed in any manner. From what I saw from your writings, your activities and your tweets, you are a person who evades our pathetic human inclination to categorize and label. And maybe that’s one thing that magically draws me to your personality, because I share this same resistance to, and maybe the same visceral fear of, categorization, labeling and pigeonholing.

    Dear Nadia, you know that no one will ever be able to please everyone, so you might as well just please yourself. Our self-respect is intrinsically determined. Our moral gratification comes from living up to our own standards and principles. Of course, when others are pleased and satisfied with what we do, we feel good. But feeling good is extra-moral. It’s psychological. You might as well feel good if you take a nice hot bath. That’s why I understand why you felt bad, but you have to know that, in the end, this is not what counts.

    You need to be in the public eye. People like you need to be and stay in the public eye, not because you’re a ‘good example’, or what have you, but because, ideally, everyone deserves to, and should, be in the public sphere. The public sphere, as it stands, is full of destructive, negative and manipulative people. Positive, energetic and open-minded people like you should be out there to balance this. And, I, for one, if I had to take you as a role model it would be precisely because you are a person who knows how to be herself. You cannot trim yourself to suit everyone’s likes and dislikes, because if you do you’ll just wear your beautiful self away.

    One great poet, E. E. Cummings, once wrote: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting”. So go one fighting, Nadia, and know that there are people out there who would look up to you, if not for any particular trait you have, then for just fighting this battle.

    All my respect and love to you,

    1. Soha, your comment is so beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for your support. It’s taken me a very long time to reach the stage where I’m adamant that I just be me and not what a multitude of others want me to be. It’s also taken me a very long time to come to the decision that I don’t need to please everyone and that my own self-worth does not depend on how others’ see me. Now that I’m here it is so important to me to hold on. I agree with you that we do not need to have role models. That concept frightens the bejeebers out of me! But we should all definitely learn from each other. Every single human being on this beautiful Earth has something to teach us. And as you said, we should even learn from each others’ – and our own – mistakes. And when we do make mistakes, we shouldn’t beat each other down for them.

      Thank you so much, Soha. You have no idea how much your comment means to me, especially since it comes from someone I do not know.

      And Arwa and Marwa, I love you two for always being there for me, no matter how whacky I get sometimes!

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