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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CORRUPTIBLE POWER

We’ve all heard Lord Acton’s oft repeated quote –

‘All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely’

Power is a tricky thing. We all covet it, yet very few of us know how to wield it and not let it get to our heads. How often have you come across examples of people in positions of power abusing their offices and exerting their influence when they should not? How many times have you come across a situation when you have exerted your power over someone inferior to you in some way, because you felt you had the power so you could do it?

Power is a word that has both positive and negative connotations. When it is exerted for a larger benefit, it becomes a tool for victory, like in the case of the public exerting it’s power over a government for certain reforms. Yet when the same government exerts its power to crush and demoralize the public, it becomes a tool for oppression. It’s in such instances when exerting your power wrongly and unfairly becomes a sin.

Consider these instances from everyday lives –

  • A boss exerting his power over his employees to push them into working harder or longer.
  • A teacher punishing her students for misbehaving.
  • A parent forcing a child to do their bidding.
  • A police officer exerting his power over a prisoner.
  • The owner of a gun threatening an intruder.

Some of you may say that exertion of power in such instances is justified. Aye, it is. But there is a very thin line between justified use and power abuse. In all of the above instances, one unwarranted step could lead to abuse of power.

But I won’t just give you random examples of how exertion of power in the wrong instances is a sin, I’ll give you an example from my own life.

I must have been 11-12 when this happened. My Grandmother owned a building where she used to rent out rooms. In one such room stayed a family of two boys, and their parents. The older boy was a couple of years older than me. He was an absolute tyrant and bully. He would go around the village terrorizing children of my age, beating them up, or calling them names or using them for catapult practice. I hated him because he used to pull my hair and call me ‘Pootna‘ (a mythological demon in India).

But I hated him most because he killed a bird with his catapult just to prove to me that his aim did not suck! And the worst part of it was, I goaded him into doing that because I wanted to prove him a failure. That incident is seared in my memory. I don’t know if the boy had any guilt over the sparrow’s death, but I did, heaps of it. And possibly that was why I was horribly sick for a few days afterwards.

But no sooner had I recovered than he was at it again, calling me names, making faces at me. My guilt and the anger I had for him was mounting. My 11 year old pride was taking a beating and I did not like any of it.

So while he was playing in my grandmother’s courtyard, I let loose my Alsatian dog on him. The dog bit into his forearm and left several painful scratches. It let go only when I told the dog to stop. I still remember feeling all mighty and powerful at the time. But when his parents came to take him to the doctor, that’s when it dawned on me that I had wronged him. His parents did not say a word to me, but the look on their faces told me just how unfair I had been. They could not have said anything to me because I was a child, and also because they were tenants of my grandmother and respected her. But now I find it reprehensible that I misused this bit of knowledge and my ferocious dog, to exert my power over someone, even if he was a tyrant and a bully.

This incident taught me that I abused the power I had, whatever little I had of it. It taught me that one could go quickly from using their power for good, to using it for being a bully. And that’s when it becomes a sin.

When a person gains power over others in some way, it is obvious that the subordinates will be in a disadvantageous position. It is also obvious that with the gain of power, a moral weakness develops in the power wielder, where they tend to veer towards using their power for personal benefits or self-aggrandisement. It manifests not just in the human realm, but in the animal realm as well. Like when the leader of a pride of lions exerts his authority over the females and the cubs in the pride. But this is when a power wielder must understand that they must maintain a balance between rightful use and abuse of power. Most positions of power occur over monetary reasons or in positions of trust. An abuse of power in such situations is not just a sin, it also breaks the faith of the subordinates who look to the power wielder for support, guidance and leadership.

This is also when the subordinates must realize that they have power over a power wielder. We must always have a foolproof system of checks and balances where any abuse of power brings serious repercussions for a leader. Most authority figures tend to keep misusing their positions because there is no check on their abuse of power. This is where the power of the masses comes into the picture, and the masses should not condone an unwarranted abuse of power. At some point, the sheep must turn on the wolf masquerading as their shepherd.

We all have relationships in our lives where we may be in an authoritative position over others. A parent, a father or mother in law, an older brother or sister, a boss, an employer, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a politician. There’s no end to such positions where one can wield power… and abuse it.

An authority figure must remember why he’s in power –

  • Because of the faith and trust reposed in him.
  • Because people look to him for leadership
  • Because he has the responsibility of protecting or providing for a group of persons

Breaking the trust of your followers and subordinates takes seconds, but good-will takes an age to earn, and regaining broken trust, takes even longer.

I think this quote from the Bible sums up what we must all remember when we exert our power, for good or bad:

1 Peter 5:2-3

“Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

 

Pradita Kapahi, 2017

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

When I am served with Lentils and Rice,
I think why can’t I have something Nice.

When I am given Rotis made of Wheat,
I wish if I could have a better Treat.

When my parents ask me to eat Spinach,
I think why can’t they let me have Pastries and Cake.

When I am forced to eat green Vegetables,
My mind dreams of Burgers or other such Eatables.

When elders tell me that Fruits should be eaten because they have Vitamin A, B, C, D & E,
I think of an excuse I could make for leaving the place and just flee.

When I’m told that Pizza and Chowmien are not worth eating,
I get frustrated, and it makes my mind start Heating.

When my parents ask me to drink vegetable Soup,
I feel like having a chocolate ice cream with three large Scoops.

When they want me to eat cereals like Cornflakes,
I want to eat five stars and other such Chocolates.

If somebody asks me about my favourite drinking Picks,
Coca-Cola and Sprite would be my answer instead of Horlicks.

These are the poetic thoughts that dwelt in my mind of eleven and twelve,

Today when I am of age, I very cautiously delve. 

Today Food is just not a Priority,
As meagre it gets as your Seniority,
Breakfast is skipped and lunch missed on Majority,
But for me, Dessert still, holds an Authority.

Medicines are the prefix and suffix to each Meal,
Nothing is delicious and yummylicious – I can’t Feel,
Choices are healthy, and calories are terrible to Deal,
I miss my childhood enthusiasm and that foodie’s Zeal.

Life has given us so much mess to Fix,
Kept aside my forks and all my Chopsticks,
Nauseous are my French Fries and those Cheesesticks,
Now I thrive on Ready to Cook meals and quick Fix.

Bon Apettite!