There once was a girl. There was a moment in her life when her voice went unheard. She felt bound by the pressures and prejudices of society. It tried to hold her by her feet and glue her lips. Its myriad howling voices – those that told her to dress one way and behave another – attempted to mask her own. Bewildered and weary, she stopped dead in her tracks and sought to retreat. But, she did not for she knew her message, her voice was far greater than she had consciously known.
Last year was an incredibly challenging year for me. However, it also was a great year for learning. Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned last year.
- “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald
Throughout the course of last year, I had the great pleasure of working with people from all walks of life. Through this experience, one of the things I learned about is trust. If you want people to listen to, and furthermore understand, your message likeability and trust are really important. If I don’t like or trust someone and likewise if someone doesn’t like or trust me, we won’t be able to work with each other in a cordial and efficient manner; thus, affecting not only our relationship with each other, but also our quality of work.
Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It dictates how we choose to interact with each other. One thing you should know about trust is that it is very difficult to earn and is very easily broken. Having to regain trust in any relationship is almost akin to tying a knot using the two ends of a broken rubber band. It, the rubber band and the relationship, never work the same afterwards.
- “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
My experiences and observations throughout last year made me realize that we have become a society that is very quick to judge and criticize other people. You can learn a lot about a person by the way they choose to treat others. Hurt and insecure people are going to find ways to hurt others. This, in turn, ends up becoming a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle. The best way to combat this is to treat people the way you want to be treated – with compassion, kindness and respect. I know, this is very easy to say and (depending on the situation) very hard to do, but only the brave hearted can (and will) do it.
Respect is NOT conditional. It doesn’t (or rather shouldn’t) come with one’s social stature, but should be granted to each and every individual.
I realized in the months leading up to the end of the year that a lot of the time people tend to do the best they can with what they know. The reality is: When you know better, you are supposed to do better.
- “Only if you give up… It’s your choice, not your fate.” – Plio, Dinosaur (2000)
Over the course of the year, I was presented with the opportunity to work on many projects. Unfortunately, a number of these projects either faded away completely or didn’t come to full fruition due to lack of funding. It was during this time that a very close friend – who knew of the finer details of my struggles behind the scenes – imparted some very valuable advice. She said, “be honest with yourself.” It is okay to feel low when things don’t work out the way you envisioned it to. But the real question is this: what are you going to do now? It is very easy to give in to defeat and difficult to keep going, especially when it feels like you have no support. Ultimately, accepting defeat/failure is a choice. Regard every challenge as an opportunity for change. I regard the Candid Chat blog posts as a testament of me putting this advice into action.
4. “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson
“We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein
During this time, individuals define themselves by their successes (or lack thereof). Note: it is the effort one should laud more than the result. Sometimes an individual will put in more than a 1000% effort, but still not receive the result they wish to attain. That doesn’t mean that the individual hasn’t tried hard enough.
In times like that, especially, remember that one isn’t defined by her failures, nor is she defined by her successes. She is defined by how she chooses to be defined this current moment.
- Passion will move men [and women] beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures. – Joseph Campbell, American Mythologist, Writer, and Lecturer
Last year, I realized the importance of having passion for your work. It is when you love your work that every challenge will seem like an opportunity to learn and grow, which will, in turn, improve your quality of work.
I learned that with passion it is equally important to be disciplined and have a sense of direction. When you have these three things – passion, discipline, and direction – you can never go wrong.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?“
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.“
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.“
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.“
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.“
On 14th August, The Peace Foundation, an organization here in New Zealand, invited me to share some Words of Wisdom with students and teachers from 10 different schools based all over Auckland. Here is the guidance I shared with the students and teachers on the day:
A few days ago, I was asked to deliver a speech for the Words of Wisdom segment of today’s event. So, on Tuesday afternoon, I sat in front of a blank piece of paper, all pumped up, in the hope of writing something exceptional. Minutes turned into hours and hours turned into days, but that piece of paper remained blank. It was precisely 2 am this morning when I cursed myself for having accepted this offer for it had made me think – What could I, a 21-year-old, share that would make me sound wise? Then it occurred to me – why not talk about being a teenager. I don’t know if it will make me sound wise, but at least, I will have something to say.
Adolescence is one heck of a wacky ride. Trust me, I know. I have been there. During this phase of life, there will be times where your fear of failure will drive you more than your desire to succeed. There will be times when you feel the need to become someone else – someone perhaps of superior intellect, or an exquisite figure, or in my case someone who talks a little less – in order to feel accepted and appreciated. There will also be times when you feel lost, confused and maybe even hopeless.
As you grow older, you will find that the boundary between right and wrong is becoming relatively more transparent. What appears to be right is not always right and what appears to be wrong is not always wrong given the situation, of course. You will also notice that change is the only constant. But with change comes a certain degree of resistance. If you are a night bird like me, the act of waking up in the morning comes with a certain degree of resistance.
Know that no matter what kind of twists and turns your life takes, you always have a choice. You have a choice when it comes to what you think, what you say and what you do. You have a choice to react in a constructive manner or react in a destructive manner. YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE. And those choices will shape your reality. Sometimes it is important to hear that, even if it is from a 21-year-old.
After participating in today’s event, you may (or may not) feel compelled to ignore the stereotypes and/or avoid trying to fit within the walls that society creates for you. Living your life authentically – so as to match your infinite potential – is most probably the only way to live a life without regret because it guarantees a degree of inner peace. Peace is not what exists on the outside; it is what radiates from within. It is empowering and, for some of you, perhaps even daunting to know that you are able to impact people’s lives simply by existing.
I would now like to end my not-so-short speech with a quote by a Greek philosopher named Plutarch – “What we achieve inwardly will change outward reality.”
I normally upload these types of posts at the end of every year. But this year I have learnt so much that I feel the need to upload one now, before this blog post turns into a novel.
- “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” – Aristotle
This year started off on a very bad note for me. The details of that account I shall keep to myself. Honestly, life felt like a series of (unwanted) things happening to me. I wasn’t in control and I most definitely wasn’t happy about it. Happiness is such a crucial part of our lives. I feel like a lot of the things we do in life is to ensure the happiness of oneself, and at times, others even. If we are not happy in our current job, we would seek another one. If one is not happy in a relationship, he/she either tries to restores it to its former glory or lets it go. Everyone, without exception, strives to be happy. But, we tend to forget one thing as we intertwine ourselves with life’s daily grind – Happiness is not a destination. Happiness was once just a state of being, however, now a lot of us (myself included) equate it with commodities, situations and/or people. And that is the same with other emotions such as anger and frustration. As Brene Brown states, ‘blame is a way to discharge pain.’ To that I would like to add, blaming others for the misery that has besieged our lives is the easiest way to escape taking accountability for our own actions. Taking accountability for our own actions is the best way to regain control in and of our lives. (Side note: What happens is when we are stuck in certain circumstances we expect the other person to change – he/she to take the first step. The reality is: we would be waiting all our lives for that person to change and there is no guarantee whether he/she will or not.) Happiness should come from within. When you are truly happy with who you are and what you have become are you able to radiate that feeling of absolute happiness to others.
- “Take the highroad, there is less traffic there.” – Dr Phil
Throughout the course of this year, I found myself in absolutely undesirable situations; consulting people whom I otherwise would not have wanted to have any interaction with. We all, at some point in our lives, will find ourselves in situations like that where we feel unheard, disrespected and at times even humiliated. And at times like those, I have learnt (correction: am learning) to take the highroad. In an ideal situation, I would love to control what others think, say and do, especially if I am on the receiving end of it all. But I know well enough that I cannot do that. What I can do, however, is stay in control of my thoughts, words and actions. How the other person behaves is a reflection of him/her, on the other hand, how I respond to that behaviour is a reflection of me. This is not to say that you should not address the issue. By all means, please do. Address the issue, with the person concerned, in the most appropriate manner where both individuals come out as winners.
- “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw, Leadership Skills for Managers
Sometimes, we underestimate the power of effective communication (and effective listening). Firstly, it is really important for us to understand that while we all have a right to freedom of speech, we also have a responsibility to freedom of speech. Every right comes with a responsibility. We have to realize that our thoughts, speech and actions have an impact (be it positive or negative) on not only ourselves, but also others. In the last few days, I have really understood how situations can take a turn for the worse if it has not been addressed in an appropriate manner with the person or people concerned.
To be honest, I have had those days where I am not able to confront the individual and let him/her know how his/her words and/or actions has inconvenienced me/caused me a great deal of pain. And that, to be frank, has landed me into a lot of trouble. I had found myself internalizing a lot of those emotions that later strained not only the relationships that I had with others, but also the relationship that I had with myself. I also found myself painting everyone with the same brush. Person X hurt me in the past, I am sure Person Y will do the same.
I found myself in a situation not too long ago that made me realize that the delivery (how you communicate or method of communication) of the message is important if not MORE important than the actual message (what you communicate) itself. If you want people to hear you, furthermore, if you want people to understand you, you have to deliver your message in a manner that is respectful and polite, yet firm and clear. Respect, after all, is a two way street. Ultimately, we all want to feel accepted and appreciated (for who we are) and that is not possible if our individual needs are not met or if we feel unheard, disrespected or even humiliated.
In a case where you feel disrespected, it is good to just have a chat with that person to let him/her know about what you are feeling/thinking. Simply assuming that he/she knows already and does not want to rectify his/her mistake is most definitely a big problem.
- “Chang-an writes, “If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, one is in fact his enemy.” The consequences of a grave offense are extremely difficult to erase. The most important thing is to continually strengthen our wish to benefit others.” – Nichiren Daishonin
I have no issues with people correcting me in a constructive manner. I really do not. In fact, I would expect my family and friends to point me in the right direction if I have gone astray. And I sincerely appreciate all those who do because it takes an immense amount of courage speak out.
- “Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” – Heath L. Buckmaster, Box of Hair: A Fairy Tale
I am by nature a talkative and opinionated young woman. And unfortunately, these characteristics are not always widely appreciated in the society I live in (even more so if these qualities exist in a young woman). In my teenage years, I was severely picked on for having these qualities. So much so that I absolutely hated having to talk to people or voice my opinions. But these are the same qualities that helped me change my life around. Today, I am not only invited by individuals/organizations/schools and universities to talk about issues such as bullying and gender inequality, but also called to host events. Through my speeches and because of my opinions I am not only able to form strong connections with people from all walks of life, but also actively change a situation that is often times seen as vexatious. This would have never happened if I had not embraced who I am. Hence why, today, I am unfazed by comments that seemingly attack those qualities of mine. Furthermore, I learnt never to be apologetic for being you. You can apologize for unintentionally inconveniencing someone or doing something inappropriate, but you should never have to apologize for being who you are.
- “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”– Phil Collins
Yesterday, I was invited to a primary school here in Auckland, New Zealand to conduct a workshop with the students. Mind you, these students are between the ages of 8 to 10. There is so much you can learn from having a one-on-one interaction with them. What an awe-inspiring experience! I am always told that I should become a teacher because I work well with kids. Personally, I believe that to be able to teach (and likewise, to be able to learn) is such an important skill to have. Teaching, in my opinion, is not just a name of a profession; in a way, it is a way of life. When you are in a situation where you do not know something and want to learn it, you become the student. When you are in a situation where you know something and need to teach it, you become the teacher.
I have been to a few schools this year and unfortunately I almost always hear at least one student say: “I am bad at this” or “I am dumb.” It breaks my heart to know that these kids have so much potential and they do not even know it. Unfortunately, our society and education system programs children to avoid, and furthermore be afraid of making mistakes and/or failing. What these kids (and adults) do not know is that when you stop making mistakes, you stop learning. We all make mistakes and learn from them. That is the beauty of making mistakes. People carry this false idea of success being a straight road. It is only when you truly embrace failure and rejection that you are able to create a springboard to success.
Well, that is all for now. Have a great rest of the year, everyone!
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
I have been incredibly fortunate to be invited to speak at two talks/lectures in the last two weeks. One of them was at Unitec Henderson Campus, where I spoke in front of a bunch of incredible 1st year students studying Social Practice and the other at The Problem Gambling Foundation on behalf of The Peace Foundation and The Mental Health Foundation (organizer of Pink Shirt Day in New Zealand), which was in front of people from all walks of life; both these talks were in celebration of Pink Shirt Day 2015. I have been a part of the Pink Shirt Day Event for the past two years now. It feels great to be able to contribute to an initiative that I feel incredibly passionate about. Here is the information that I shared at the event:
The information on these slides was researched by Chikita Kodikal. The photos used for these slides were retrieved from Google Images. The experiences that have been shared in this presentation have been done so purely for educational purposes. If you would like to seek permission to use this powerpoint presentation you can send a message by clicking on the contact Messages to Mumbai tab. Messages to Mumbai logo designed by Vidyut and Chikita Kodikal.