THE PRESSURE OF BEING NICE

 

So, this used to be my problem some time back. I was (hopefully) a people pleaser kind of a person who would go to any level of discomfort to make people happy. Who were these people? Family, friends, acquaintances and sometimes even strangers. Why did I do that? Was I seeking some sort of validation about me from these people? Or did doing so make me happy? Not really. I am not sure why this was the case – but the situation turned around for me a few months back. I hit the rock bottom at that time feeling worthless with complete lack of self-respect.

I cried, I threw things in anger, I kicked myself and I did a lot more for being such a jerk. I hated myself for not standing up for my own feelings. And then something happened. Something changed in me. I did something that I never did earlier – I replied back assertively (to my Mother in law). Then came a long period of a cold war which was torturous but I stood my ground. I decided that I will not go back to being who I was – if this relationship is important to her as well, she will have to initiate the talk this time. To my surprise, she did. She did that after a few weeks and things came back to normal. This made me realize that I just had to go through that period without giving in. Sometimes it is important to give an opportunity to others to be nice to you. This has always been difficult for me.

Something similar happened at work. In a meeting I was expected to say a “Yes” like I always do, but I stood my ground and said “No, I do not agree. With all my authority I will stay with my decision.” There was silence in the room for a few minutes and then people just looked at me and said ‘Ok’. And sky did not collapse that day. Work was as usual and this time thankfully nobody had to take a brunt of my decision.

Both these incidents were highly liberating for me. It was like the cap of the pressure cooker was released and my head became lighter and lighter with all steam rushing out of it. I realized that I just had so much time to be creative and think about myself when I do not have the pressure of being nice to all.

Another pressure that disturbs me a lot is the one of looking good. So, you see it is not just important for me to be good to others but also look good to others. Every time somebody would come and tell me that he/she lost a few kgs – the pressure would just double. It would triple itself when FB shows “see your memories” and I get to see the pics of myself from years ago. “Why the hell is it so difficult for me?” After climbing on that weighing machine for almost 5-6 times in a day – I would wonder what I am really doing wrong. And there was no answer ever. After trying out all known diets, workouts, supplements, homeopathy, Ayurveda meds – I was dejected.

Then one day I woke up and asked myself – what would change in my life if I would suddenly weigh about 15 kgs lesser than what I am now? I would be able to wear those jeans and skirts that are hiding inside the bed box. What else? People would come and compliment me. What else? That’s it. Really? That’s it. Just for these minute things I am taking so much pressure.

I am my own enemy when it comes to building pressure. I have done that since my school days. I always took hell lot of pressure of my studies when I could have just taken a chill pill – the world wouldn’t have fallen if I scored a few marks lesser.

Deadlines at work don’t make me feel pressurized. In fact it really excites me. Working without deadlines is rather boring. It is like swimming in an endless ocean of work. I like to swim and swim really fast when that finish line comes closer and closer. Working becomes really exciting when that release is on the horizon. And then the sense of achievement that follows the success. Nothing makes me more motivated at work.

I am learning to be nice to myself and not to take pressure of something that is unnecessary. I am trying not to take pressure and to speak my mind. I have learnt to respect myself before others. It is difficult, really difficult and many times I fall back to my old self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE STARRY HOSTS – MY INSPIRATION FOR DISCIPLINE

As a child, I remember spending many evenings on the terrace trying to count the stars in the sky. (I’m sure many of you would have tested yourselves with this as well!) It was always a challenge to keep a mental note of the stars that I’d already counted so that I didn’t end up counting them twice. The seven bright stars of Ursa Major or the Great Bear (also known as Saptarshi in India) were often the easiest to count. And what an achievement it was to be able to trace all the seven stars of that constellation!

School lessons of Science and Social Studies taught me that all planets in our galaxy revolve around the sun in their respective orbits. It was easy to draw elliptical orbits and mark the planets therein. But as my sense of understanding developed, I realized that orbits are simply imaginary lines and not real tracks as in case of rail or metro tracks. This realization simply amazed me and still continues to.

What if the stars and planets deviated from their paths? What if our own planet earth moved an inch away or nearer to the sun each day? A mega cosmic disaster would result out of it, for sure!

I draw the inspirational message of ‘discipline’ from these starry hosts. It is absolutely amazing each time I think about it all.

The rotation of planet earth on its axis causes day and night while, the revolution of the earth is one of the reasons for seasons. And how meticulously does summer follow spring and winter follows autumn! How amazingly does the dusk set in after every sunset and the crack of dawn announces the approaching day! That’s how the seasonal cycle occurs for most regions on the face of the earth.

The sun, moon, stars, in fact all of nature follows a certain discipline laid down by their Creator. The Bible says, “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.” Well, thats something which no finite human can ever do. But yes, you and I could learn the inspirational lesson of discipline from these celestial bodies.

How many times do we give excuses for being late for our appointments! How often do we deliberately laze around! How often do we thrust our responsibilities on others when we ourselves are well-equipped to carry them out! Each time I find myself guilty of all the above, I try to go back to my lesson from the heavenly hosts and tweak my life back to a disciplined routine.

CELEBRATING FAILURES

We all celebrate success. We throw a party, call up friends and family or go out for dinner or a date, or if we’re alone, we let our hair down and unwind with a drink or do something we have been wanting to do, that helps us relax. Some pious folks pray for their achievements and do poojas or make an offering to their Gods. While some lucky ones celebrate by going out on a vacation!

Celebrating success is a natural outcome of our happiness and achievement. It’s a way of rewarding ourselves for our hard work.  But what about celebrating failures though? Do we ever give a thought to that?

‘Why?’, you ask. ‘What’s to celebrate in failures?’

Good question! I’ll ask you a question in return, “What does failure teach us?”

It teaches us that we need to do better. It teaches us patience, humility. It teaches us the value of hard work and how to wait for the right opportunity. But most importantly, it teaches us not to give up!

With so many good lessons to teach us, how can failure be bad?

You may counter by pointing out that it feels bad when we fail. Sometimes the failure is a huge setback to our attempts. Yes, it does feel bad, specially if it’s happened to you more than once for the same thing. Most of us take failure very seriously. We become depressed, enraged, desolate, hopeless and withdraw into ourselves. It’s normal to feel that way when we fail.

But say, if you were to enjoy your failure, would it do you any harm? Say if you couldn’t pass an important test that you were preparing for, would it be so bad if, after failing, you throw away your sour mood and declare, ‘Oh, so what?! I’ll try again. Harder!’ And then you proceed to call out your friends for dinner, and your friends tell you the same thing, ‘You’ll do better next time”. And you will! Because you have already made up your mind to try harder again. That serves as positive reinforcement for your brain, the party and your own will to try again. It sends your brain the signal that you do not take defeat as a full stop to your attempts.

Positive reinforcement is a Psychology term that roughly means being awarded for a certain kind of behavior. We frequently use this in everyday life to motivate ourselves. Even organisations have long been using this to motivate their employees to aim higher and get better results. An example is how you tell yourself while slogging for your exams, “Just this one week and then I’ll have all the time in the world”, or how a dog is trained by giving it a treat for good behavior. The benefit of positive reinforcement is that we condition ourselves to perform better in order to get that reward, till it becomes our habit to perform better.

This is what celebrating failure does to you. When your brain looks at failure as a reason to celebrate, it conditions itself to not give in to depressing thoughts and instead looks for that rewarding incident/thing that reinforces its will to strive harder, while enjoying the process of trying again.

Celebrating failure need not come only in the form of a reward or a celebration. You could choose the way you want to celebrate differently than the usual connotations of ‘celebrating’. You could meditate, or try a new activity, or try another way of achieving the same goal. You could tell yourself, ‘Regardless of whether I succeed or fail in this attempt, I will do a certain thing to enjoy myself’. Remember, enjoying yourself while you strive to attain something is as important as making the effort itself. Otherwise the task will seem tedious, and you will be inclined to fail more because of mental tiredness than actual lack of capability.

The aim of celebrating failure is NOT the celebration itself;

It is to overcome the depression of failure and the fear of failing again. 

Do the following when you feel you’re becoming depressed over your failure – 

  1. Stop blaming yourself.
  2. Think of things to calm yourself down, like meditation, or a movie you like, or a hangout you like to go to.
  3. Surround yourself with people who support you; don’t drive them away.
  4. Look inwards and identify the reasons why you failed.
  5. After you have identified the causes, decide to either avoid those causes the next time, or try harder to overcome them, or plan another route.
  6. Now go ahead, have a blast. Chances are, by the time you come to this step, you will have already overcome your depression.

Our failures are our means to be a better person. They teach us to strive harder, be smarter about our choices and they teach us that success is not an easily earned thing. Think of all those achievers in history who have had successful lives – M.S. Dhoni, Rafael Nadal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Aishwarya Rai, Gita Phogat... Do you think they never faced failures, flops, being shunned by someone, being called ‘inadequate’? But they didn’t stop at their failures. They treated them as lessons and went on to the next project they had. They did not dwell on their past and their mistakes. If they had given up and succumbed to depression, we wouldn’t know their names today.

If you are still not convinced why celebrating failure is better than mourning them, click on this link and watch this inspirational video by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘, who talks about how she overcame the fear of writing a book that wouldn’t match up with the success of Eat, Pray, Love, while also discussing how she overcame recurring failures to become a successful writer. I love it when she says, “I love writing more than I hate failing at writing”. That is why she couldn’t give up on writing in spite of her failures, because writing was ‘home’ for her. That is real passion for your work!

Remember, the most difficult part of overcoming failure is the attempt to overcome it. Celebrating it helps in making it easier for you to overcome that fear.

Let not failure defeat you.

Let it be a stepping stone to your next success.

I’ll leave you with the words of the great leader Winston Churchill,

 

Success consists of going from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm.

 

Pradita Kapahi