Mirror Trolls

SelfLove1

While a majority of us turn tail at the first sign of adversity, there are a few courageous souls that like to take life’s challenges head-on (And end up with a swollen head from all those head butts. Some swollen heads are also born out of arrogance on successfully taming these challenges). In fact, unlike the majority of us who use these hardships (such as acquired muscle pulls during the first few minutes at the gym, a bad performance during a group presentation in college, being rejected the very first time when asking someone out, falling off a bicycle while learning how to ride, heading into Andheri (a suburb of Mumbai, which is a populous city in itself) traffic, which I admit requires bravado, vacationing with overzealous relatives, finding a fly in the soup at a particular restaurant (like it’s never happened at home) and even being chased by a horde of dogs while walking your own) as an excuse to completely avoid these responsibilities along with a zillion others, the determined few tell themselves that they have had enough coming second to their problems, and intend to address them with enthusiasm, guts, and purpose.

Adopting a mindset that is positive in its outlook and perceives challenges as fun puzzles, is already a massive step in the direction towards success and fulfillment. Mastering our mind is key to mastering our lives.

I’m a big fan of the Rocky movie series (It ain’t over till it’s over), and in its sixth edition, ‘Rocky Balboa’, I was very moved by the spiel Rocky gives his son about life. It’s not about how hard you can hit, but about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward (If you’ve been reading my articles regularly, you will notice I find inspiration from anywhere; sports, movies, superheroes, toys, strangers, traffic, perpetual selfie-takers, Chihuahuas, and even my shadow (only at the ‘right’ angles)).

Until my mid-twenties I had a pretty meek demeanor towards everything and I was easily overwhelmed by situations, and more specifically people. As a kid, I have been scolded a couple of times by passers-by aunties in my locality for playing in the sun, while my parents were totally fine with it. I would disappear at top speed if I saw any middle-aged woman henceforth. I would blindly follow certain boys that I perceived as cool in school and take up classes and extracurricular activities, even if I had little interest, just because they had. Despite my talent as a cricketer during high school, I silently played victim to political gambles within our team and ended up with raw deals on multiple occasions. I was crazy about my first girlfriend in my teens and her wish became my command. This attitude of mine ensured that a relationship of equals had become lopsided, as I spent years at the bottom end of the see-saw. I can speak of various instances where I was easily bullied by people. Bosses, colleagues, family, taxi drivers, home delivery personnel, and now that I think of it, even my dogs and three-year-old may have pulled a few fast ones on me. And in defense of all these people, I was a willing accomplice. My demeanor sent a message loud and clear that it was okay to treat me this way. I thought I was being nice, and I cared enough to not fight back. I was just being a scared jackass.

SelfLove2

And then one day, after spending a quarter century or more hiding in the shadows, I decided to step out, stand up for myself, and work hard on my confidence and self-belief. In my quest to improve regularly and hone my mental strength and other skills, I became a tougher critic of myself over time. In my quest to prove my mettle, I began to set harder goals for myself and decided to not settle for anything less than absolute success. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t have my fair share of failures, but with every single one of them, I took a bitter turn towards myself. I set expectations of myself, which were perceptibly greater than anyone else’s of me. And in this pursuit, I probably set goals for myself that were unreasonable (By which I mean that they had to be devoid of mistakes or failures). Despite my diligence, commitment, hard work, integrity, and blatant honesty (fans of which I can count on the fingers of one hand), I didn’t always succeed, and that didn’t go down too well with me. The shortcomings could be very small (like minor errors in my Excel sheet workings, a less than perfectly composed email, or completing my 7-kilometer daily walk 2 minutes slower) or larger ones (like trouble in managing personal relationships, failing to convert every sales lead, and trailing my long term goals), I came down hard on myself.

In my quest to earn self-respect and not be allow myself to be ill-treated by others, I started meting out some really bad treatment to myself. I was no better than the many people I had encountered thus far. My lack of empathy for myself (despite a lot of empathy towards others), was adding to my bitterness, and subsequently showed in my environment, and results in my performances in every aspect of my life. There was a point where I didn’t even smile much or stopped altogether.  My behavior was the equivalent of punishing myself for overeating by ordering one more banana split sundae. I lost focus on a basic fact of life that empathy, care and kindness, and not brashness and rigidity, lead to improved confidence, achievement, and true happiness.

SelfLove3

I’m learning to not be too harsh (no pun intended) on myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t give everything my best and behave like a bum. It just means that even though the best efforts don’t always result in positive or desired outcomes, I pick myself up with care, and have another go. While, I truly believe that consistency in our effort tends to attract positivity in our environment, and things tend to manifest in our favor, it is a long process and comes without a 100 percent guarantee. The nicer we are to ourselves, and the more we love ourselves, the closer we get to that figure (assuming we do all the other necessary things as well)

Guess who paid the price for being meek and letting go of dreams and goals easily? You’re right, I did. And guess who bore the brunt of a negative mindset by being an overachiever and too hard on himself? Correct again, me. If taking things too easily is detrimental, being too hard on ourselves and not offering any reprieve is equally damaging.

Give yourself credit, time, attention and love, and only then will you truly empower yourself. Stop trolling the person in the mirror (unless your wife is checking her self out while trying on her forty-sixth dress as you look on in exasperation).

Take a break, have a Kit Kat.

SelfLove_points

Sporting Revelations

I have always believed there are two activities that each and every one of us must participate in on a regular basis: playing a sport, and learning and practicing the art of self-defense. I like to refer to these as lifetime activities (Not only because I believe we should incorporate them as a critical part of our lives, but also because they are likely to add more time to our lives).

Apart from the joy of playing the sport itself, the level of self-development that occurs by engaging in a sport is invaluable. Sport isn’t just for people that are sport oriented, but for anyone that is keen on developing valuable life skills (And yet there are people that would much rather while their time away watching prank videos on YouTube all day, staring at the ceiling, raising their blood pressure as the vixen in the TV soap executes her hideous plan, and studying oneself in the mirror to figure out which part of their face is the good side, so they know how to pose for the gazillion pictures they will take in their lifetime).

Sports1

We have people who would rather learn the art of self defense at Indian railway stations and malls (where you get to shove one another, wrestle, pull each other’s hair out, gouge people’s eyes, have a fragrant basket of fish fall on your head, and occasionally push someone on the train tracks, or even onto an escalator headed in the direction opposite to their destination), as opposed to in a specialised class by a qualified instructor. Then there are people, mostly women, who have the optimum self-defense weapon, ‘the pepper spray’ (Wow!! I’m surprised most of the elite armed squads around the world opt for modern firearms when they can easily use pepper spray more effectively). And while these pepper spray touting geniuses are at it, they may as well carry a salt shaker and some cutlery, since they are already offering themselves up for sacrifice. In today’s world (and tomorrow’s world too), there is no alternative to knowing self-defense. You might strut around confidently, armed with your pepper spray, but when real danger arrives, ‘spray’ turns into ‘pray’.

Sports3

The benefits of sport and self-defense knowledge are innumerable. Not only do they produce a fit body, but they also

  • improve concentration (even in Math class)
  • increase confidence (you may even be able to give that speech in public speaking class without playing the duck in the shooting alley)
  • make us competitive in a dog-eat-dog world (or doggy dog world, the way I heard it for a good part of my life, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what that was supposed to mean)
  • improve blood circulation and enhance immunity (unless you visit McDonald’s after every session of play)
  • help develop a positive attitude (even towards your boss’ tongue lashings and indifference)
  • indoctrinate discipline (which seems to be a fading trait these days)
  • establish commitment (which also seems to be an alien word nowadays)
  • allow us to maintain a calmer state in pressure situations (unless the bathroom at the badminton court is suddenly out of service)
  • improve reflexes and awareness (you will be fully aware of the brick hurled at you when you ask your professor’s daughter out and be quick enough to evade it)
  • help build mutual respect (and help keep our ‘I know it all’ cocky selves in check)
  • allow us to set goals (and bolder ones than we are used to, like jumping off a plane with a human attached to our back as opposed to a parachute)
  • boost self-esteem (unless you consider Candy Crush to be a sport and have failed to make it past the first stage since 2015)
  • ingrain the art of teamwork in our self-righteous beings (including planning a holiday with the wife’s side of the family)
  • offer self-protection (now at least you will punch your attacker a few times before threatening him/her with pepper spray)

I speak with experience, having played multiple team and individual sports, as well as having learned and practiced Karate. I was enrolled in a Karate class at age 8 and continued for four years before I thought I was too cool for this daily boring regime. I regret quitting, but during those years, my confidence, self-awareness, concentration, performance, health, and fitness were at their peak. And the training has stayed with me and helps me feel safer physically (I can handle an attack by three 6-year olds without a fuss). Fortunately, I played sport for a lot longer, and jog regularly even today (I only call it running if you run for more than a kilometer at a stretch, before collapsing on the pavement). My daily runs (I’ve reduced the distance criteria to 50 meters now) allow me to de-stress, unwind, realign my mind and body, stay focused, stay committed, and stay strong against all odds. As a result, I am more prepared to handle all the punches life throws at me (Except the ones thrown at me by some ferocious homo sapiens, when I accompany my wife to a Zara sale).

I gave up on sport and exercising for a few years because I got so caught up in battling life’s challenges. I decided I was too busy firefighting and didn’t have time for sports and games (I always had time for video games apparently). And yet, I always seemed to struggle in the face of adversity. At the end of each round, I seemed to be down with the referee in my face, counting aggressively. In my quest to address situations that arose in my personal and professional lives, I discarded the very tools that were likely to help me keep up, and even excel.

Sports2

Now that I’m back to some of my old sporting ways, I find I’m better equipped to deal with circumstances physically and mentally. And the peace of mind, composure, and the sheer joy of accomplishing small daily goals it brings is priceless. Game, set, match, pepper spray!!

Sports4

 

Keep Your Inner Child Alive And Kicking

“Why?” “Because this is the way it’s done” “Why?” “Because this is how it’s meant to be” “Why?” “Because it makes perfect sense” “Why?” And then you lose your shirt and say “Because I said so, and if you ask any more questions I will put you up for sale on eBay” And how does your child respond to that? Yes, you got it, “Why?” (They never seem to sense real danger when it’s staring them in the face).

That’s the beauty of being a child. They are as curious as the human genes allow them to be and will get their questions answered under any circumstances, without the slightest apprehension (I think it’s their lack of wisdom really. I mean they have no idea what it feels like to have their head bashed in with a sledgehammer, or being locked in with the rest of your collectible action figures in the display case, or when you come home after a tiring day at work and your sister-in-law is there to surprise you (even the toughest navy seals will go into cardiac arrest upon meeting mine), or to go sari shopping where the average purchase rate is zero saris for every twenty-three stores visited, and even when your wife asks “Who’s that?”).

I have been involved in more verbal jousting with my three-year-old daughter compared to anyone else in my life (Jousting is meant to be a fair competition and therefore debates with the wife don’t count). She asks what comes to mind, as soon as it pops into her head. She doesn’t care about what I or anyone else will think. She has no semblance of self-image to an extent that will prevent her from addressing her insatiable hunger to learn and grow, every minute of her life (They are not completely devoid of self-image. She most certainly expects a reaction from us after she has managed to embellish her face with the prohibited ‘mama’s lipstick’, that she has somehow managed to lay her hands on. And even when she manages to operate 5 applications at once, again on the prohibited mobile phone, while at age three, I was still trying to tell my right hand from my left). And this is the pattern I have seen with every child of her age that I have had the privilege (this association also deflates my ego, considering these children grasp things with precision, at the speed of light, while I’m still trying to tell the front of my daughter’s diapers from the back) of spending time with during playdates, which are specifically designed to allow parents to gossip and crib.

Inner child2

Somehow, when we get past single digits, we seem to become hypersensitive towards anything, anyone might think about us. And these need not be just our relatives, friends, or acquaintances, but also, strangers, we commute with while using public transportation, passers-by while we walk about our town or city (evidently some of us do not experience this dilemma when we decide to litter the streets), street dogs going about their business as usual, and even our mobile phone camera. We’re our innate bumbling and boisterous selves during childhood, and at some stage in early adolescence we lose our ability to speak openly, and instead choose to hide in the crowd. As many questions as we ask in our kindergarten years, the numbers dwindle towards negligible as we approach high school, before disappearing completely. Our fear of potentially making a fool of ourselves completely overpowers our instinctive curiosity. We rarely ask questions as students (I have had a couple of experiences where I was mocked for asking certain questions as a student and it did put me in my shell for some time. However, I figured that it may not have been a case of stupid questions as much a case of the teacher not knowing the answers, based on their reactions at the time), we refuse to put forth our thoughts at the workplace that might be contrary to what our seniors believe, we shy away from giving our opinion on fashion to the so-called ‘fashionista’ in our friend circle (fearing an open backlash and humiliation), and we even conceal our true feelings from the people that really matter.

The more we worry about what people might think, the more opportunities to learn, pass us by. We curb our inner child in the fear that we might be labeled as childish (Now I’m not saying that we throw a fit when a bar of chocolate is taken away from us, or that we walk around wearing diapers, or even pinch the neighbor lady to see how she reacts). However, what would you think of yourself if you spent years of your life worrying about others’ opinions about you? What if this obsession prevented you from doing the things that really mattered to you and you never allowed yourself to reach your potential?

No matter what we do, or don’t do, some people will always think well of us and some won’t. We can’t keep everyone happy and it is this quest that puts us on a downward spiral towards misery. Only when we question, learn, and grow, do we realize our true passions and our true potential. And upon obtaining both, we will be able to serve ourselves and the world to the best of our abilities. This is the mindset that has created word leaders (Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t worried about people commenting on his less than impressive physique as he walked around bare-chested with steel in his eyes and a fiery resolve. Steve Jobs didn’t care about public opinion on his dressing, as he wore a black sweatshirt and blue denims, tirelessly, day in and day out. Donald J. Duck cares a hoot about people’s opinions on his speeches, as long as he gets to open his mouth often and provide the world plenty of fodder for mockery).

I too have fallen victim to this ridiculous, self-created mind game of public opinion several times in my life. In my late thirties now, I’m playing catch up on a lot of things I could have, and should have done during the earlier stages of my life. However, I feel at peace that I have empowered myself to get out of this rigmarole. So for those of you in your teens and twenties, it’s a good time to reflect upon the choices you make (or don’t make) because of your concern about the public eye. And for my fellow oldies, it’s never too late to start.

Honor yourself by being true to your curiosity and growth. Else you’ll have to face tough situations like I do from some of my aunts who never cease to say “Oh my God, you’ve grown so much since the last time I saw you”. And I respond with “Only in the middle aunty, only in the middle”.

Inner child