Friday, July 03, 2015

Notes from a self conscious soul 2 - Beating the monster

It's been a while since 'Notes from a self conscious soul -1' happened and I'm beginning to feel a bit guilty about not doing the part 2. Anyway I finally managed to get it down.

Let me begin by saying you probably know all of this. But sometimes it just helps hearing it from someone else or hearing it over and over again.

We begin with the thought that we're in good company, heck, great company. Take a look: 

I'm one of the world's most self-conscious people. I really have to struggle. - Marilyn Monroe 

Yeah that's an original Marilyn Monroe quote, Marilyn of the billowing dress fame. Oh she well and truly decimated the monster.

Speaking from personal experience two things that worked for me were -

One - Growing older: There's some serious magic in the way age puts things in perspective. I find myself trying new things and enjoying them. Don't we often call old people eccentric? In all probability they are simply doing exactly as they please. I'm so looking forward to turning into an eccentric old woman.

and Two - Having kids: Seriously, the little monsters can scare the s**t out of the big one. Since they came along, the twins found so many different ways to embarrass me at so many different levels that by the time they had figured out what the word 'embarrassment' means I had attained nirvana. I mean where's the space for the e-word after being publicly subjected to raging tantrums, being made to fish out tiny transformer parts from public dustbins and I don't even want to think about what happened in lingerie section of the mall. Yeah they pretty much did it for me.

Unfortunately all of that is not quite in our hand. Some friends swear by the good effects of the 'spirit' if you know what I mean - a drink or two and you're good to go. The results however can be a tad unpredictable and if that's not your style you need to try other ways. Here's how:

Take on the monster full blast: 

The more often you trounce it the easier it becomes, a minuscule degree at a time - but better it does get. I well remember how utterly embarrassed I was when my first byline appeared in the newspaper. Happy yes, most definitely, but embarrassed as hell too. Yet I wrote and wrote and wrote. It helped that it was part of my job and that I had little choice. But on I went and here I am writing about the monster himself. Ah progress!!!

Know your stuff: 

Knowledge and practice is another way to go after it. Practice, practice and more practice. 

Relive your successes:

.. and store them away in your head. The next time the monster comes by you know you've kicked it once you can do it again. And remember that wonderful after-the-kick moment? Bliss, isn't it? Savour it.

Focus on others: 

If you haven't realised this already there are many people like us out there. It makes sense then to have each other's backs. Watch out for that new girl in your class, say a Hello. See someone struggling with a machine in the gym - lend a hand. The friendlier you make the atmosphere around you the more comfortable you feel, as does your friend and that makes both your monsters decidedly uncomfortable. Two birds one stone :-).

Talk to yourself:

Remind yourself that others are human - just like you - and that nobody is the best at everything. Remind yourself of the things you're reasonably good at. You might not be the best conversation maker but you may rule the research lab, you may not set the dance floor on fire but you may light up a classroom. It takes courage to do something you know you're not good at, so if you've put yourself in that uncomfortable situation, you're one brave person. Remind yourself.

Lighten up:

Don't take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself, admit your slip-up and ask for help if you need to.

Lastly, it really doesn't matter: 

It helps to tell yourself that. IT DOES NOT MATTER. It really doesn't. Your fashion faux pas, your clumsy dance, your tongue tied appearance at the party - it will all be forgotten. People do forget. Sooner than you think.

The other option of course, is to go through life, playing it safe, avoiding judgement, keeping away from situations that require you to put yourself out there. You can do it. I've done that, for a long long time. But life's just that much more fun if you put up a fight and win, right?

Do give it a shot. Kick that monster (and keep kicking it) then watch how free, spontaneous and wonderfully happy you feel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Notes from a self conscious soul - 1

It strikes early - this monster called self-consciousness - and it never does leave one alone. We’re fairly easy to spot - that lady who can string a decent enough tune yet is unable to sing in company, that man at the party with a formal smile on his face, the young girl fiddling with her phone as she waits for her friends - yeah they're the ones.

I've been there, done all of that. I'm still there, in part at least.

If you're one of the other lot - that self-assured breed - you cannot even begin to imagine what we have to put up with. When you're pushing us to do that dance, or sing that song and we're standing tongue-tied and helpless we're not being drama queens, or kings for that matter. It's almost a physical thing - the nasty nit picking in born self critic - that's holding us back. Our brains stop functioning, our throats dry up and our limbs refuse to obey us, deferring instead, to the monster.

We're hating the attention, yet can do nothing except wish the earth opens up and swallows us, which it consistently refuses to do.

And there's more. 

1. We get labelled snobbish/moody because we rarely initiate conversations. The truth is we are often dying for someone to talk to us first.

2. Obviously then, we don’t make friends easily. When we do make friends, we're the best kind since we are never presumptuous and tend to be very thoughtful. 

3. Our jokes are continuously hijacked by the more vocal members of the group. And we're not even sure we mind.

4. Standing up for our own birthday song is excruciatingly painful so we'll often hide away all of that day.

5. As for photographs, it's always a "No, Thank You". Over time, we perfect the art of skillfully avoiding them or looking carefully casual when the camera does come on but we can never really be casual. And we often hate our snaps.

6. A haircut is an embarrassment. A bad one is a catastrophe.

7. We never believe compliments. Nope we're not being modest, we really don't. We do love them though, who doesn't? But we still don't believe them.

8. Everyone's opinion matters to us - from the nosey neighbour's to a perfect stranger's. Not a great place to be in, I tell you.

9. We dress to fit in, never to stand out. Oh we can be chic and stylish but never flamboyant. 'Understated' is our thing.

10. We stick with the rules simply because that makes it easier to hide away.

A lot of my tribe are great in their chosen fields once they learn to camouflage the monster, which most of us do. We might even trump it for a while, only until we try something new or get into an unfamiliar situation and there it is in all its mocking glory, laughing at us for thinking it gone.

If you're still with me, chances are you are one of my kind. Stick around for my next post where we'll figure out a monster-bashing strategy.

Meanwhile the rest of you self-assured people just be gentle with us, will you? We mean no disrespect but we take time and a HUGE amount of effort to step out of our comfort zones. Don't hurry us, don't harass us. Be patient, we're getting there.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In defense of Hitler

Before I am lynched for supporting Genocide let me clarify what brought on this epiphany.

It was a lazy Sunday morning and I was happily immersed in the Express Eye. Trying to put away the moment when I would have to relinquish the newspaper I asked:

“What do you all want for breakfast?” 

“French Toast”

The chorus snapped me out of my Sunday mood right away. Oh how I regretted my large-hearted gesture! Kicking myself mentally I began the uphill task of brokering a consensus. 

Democracy is hard work.

I was brought up in, what I would describe as, a quasi-democratic home. It was democratic in the sense that we had complete freedom to speak our minds resulting in long and very heated dinner-table conversations (arguments) but the rules were pretty much made for us. Even as we raged and argued and dubbed our parents the worst kind of Hitlers, we were quite aware of this fact and stuck with the rules – well mostly we did. (PS: I did more than my sister, that’s an aside I need to add!)

Coming back to us - ours, I feel, is a way more democratic household than my parents’. And I am not sure that’s a good thing. I have to confess sometimes I invite the children’s views simply to avoid a showdown later on or because I am caught up with something and don’t have the mindspace to make a choice on my own.

As parents/teachers we do need to ask ourselves:

1.     Is the child capable of making the right choice at his level of maturity?
2.     As the adult in charge, am I prepared to accept his/her choice, whatever that may be?

Having the freedom to make choices is a wonderful feeling for anyone, especially for children and they are quick to exercise and defend it once they have it. Yet too much freedom can not just result in bad choices, it might end up confusing the child. Try taking your young one to the toy store and ask him to choose one toy and you’ll know what I mean.

Democracy certainly doesn't work all the time, definitely not in a parent-child (or a teacher-taught) relationship.

I would like to remember that as a parent/teacher:

1.     I do know best. I might actually know the child better than he knows himself or what’s best for him.
2.     I make the rules.
3.     I will invite suggestions but I will have the final word.
4.     I will disregard the rebellions and will be prepared to be dubbed the ‘evil one’.
5.     I will not forget that despite the complaints the children will never stop loving me because deep down they know I love them too.

Do I sound like a Tiger Mom ? Well sometimes Moms do need to get out the Tiger/Tigress in them, even if it is only in the best interest of their cubs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

At the Residency - a bit of history for kids

It's been over two decades since I moved out of my hometown, Lucknow. Each summer I come back here with the kids to renew my bonds with the city. I am extremely proud of its rich culture and history, the language of its people, their subtle sense of humour and of course its culinary treats. That's not to say I haven't bonded with all the cities I've lived in but nothing really does compare with home.

To the kids, it often doesn't quite compare with the city of their birth, being smaller and more laid-back. For this one month I try to show them my city through my eyes, to share with them what I find special about it. 

This week we decided on a historical tryst with the Residency. It dates back to the time of British rule in India and was witness to the first war of Indian Independence way back in 1857. This is where some British families were held under siege while the Indian rebels waged war against them. It's a majestic building, even in its ruins and has stood steadfast for over 200 years.

H and N wanted to know why we played cricket with the 'British' despite having been at war with them. They asked whether there were women and children in the British homes who were hurt in the fight. It was a great time to reinforce how History evolves and how things change over time, how we forget enmity and learn to live in peace. As also the sad effects of war - how innocents are always hurt no matter who is in the right.

Once there, they were too excited running around in the ruins with their cousins to really worry about the history. Sharing some pictures here.

The ruins stand amidst lots of greenery

Signs of the struggle - musket and cannon marks

That, in the backdrop, is a British banquet hall - we had a great time imagining what it would have been like before the place was destroyed.

Doors within doors - amazing symmetry


Linking to ABC Wednesday for the letter R with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt for coming up with this wonderful concept. 


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