“Go within, every day and find the inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out.” ―Katherine Dunham
At some point in time, this light had vanished for me. I was a new mother battling post-partum depression, a wife and a daughter-in-law trying desperately to fit into those roles and demands that come with it, and also a student struggling to get a post-graduate degree. The resulting physical, mental, and emotional stress due to all these just aggravated my depression and made me feel inadequate, lonely and hopeless.
I am acutely aware that this is the story of so many Indian women. We are pushed to the brink and bogged down by responsibilities, and often our upbringing adds to this weight of unreasonable expectations.
Going through this struggle firsthand taught me that stress is directly dependent on our understanding of our mental make-up and our ability to handle our emotions. I realized that as Indian women, most of us go through similar journeys and face the same kind of roadblocks on our way towards emotional wellbeing. This write-up is my attempt to discuss common emotional hurdles and ways to tackle them. (Disclaimer: This is based on my journey and not on academic research)
Handling failure with maturity:
As children, we are taught to chase success, be it sports, academics or extracurricular activities. But I have realized that failures have been my greatest teachers. Because failures push one to think and work beyond limitations, test the endurance, sharpen the focus and plan for alternatives. In short, when faced with failure, we learn a lot more than any success can teach us. So, when one fails, it’s time to fasten the seatbelt and get ready to navigate that learning curve rather than feeling dejected or losing hope. I have understood that learning to handle failures in the right spirit can easily become the first step towards success.
Finding the right balance between giving and receiving:
In our society, women are taught to always give and expect nothing in return. But we are not limitless reservoirs of love, care, and patience. We are humans and want to receive as much as we give. Otherwise, we might end up feeling so empty someday that we are incapable of any further affection. So, it’s vital to maintain a healthy balance between both. But more crucially, we should learn to give ourselves as much time, attention and love we give to others to ensure that our cup of love is never empty. Being self-reliant is the best way to tackle the gap between expectation vs reality.
Not being emotionally too dependent on others:
Most women are deeply emotional, and we tend to get attached to our loved ones. Despite this, how many of us are fortunate enough to get support when needed? Haven’t most of us been in situations where we felt helpless or alone when faced with challenges?
To add to our woes, since childhood, many women are conditioned to seek help from others. It works at a subconscious level, so when most of us face emotional upheavals, we find ourselves under-prepared to handle them. But this is far from the truth. I have learnt that it is important to believe in oneself and reduce emotional dependency because no one understands our emotions better than us. Isn’t it obvious, no one can handle it better than us too? So, looking up at spouse, parents, children, or siblings for emotional support might not be the best option. Instead looking within is far more fruitful and productive.
Fighting negative emotions like shame or guilt:
Women are shamed for their body, appearance, clothes, actions, opinions and sometimes thoughts and emotions too!! For example, why is crying considered a weakness?
As if shaming wasn’t enough, we are made to feel guilty about everything. Especially as mothers, we are held responsible for everything from the eating habits of children to their tantrums.
If we internalize negative emotions like shame and guilt, after some years it will weigh heavily on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Instead, we must learn to fight it every day and re-affirm our faith in our strengths and try to focus on positive emotions to feel self-confident.
Learning to filter criticism:
This is an extension of the previous point but here the focus is more on vicious and vile comments. Women especially get a lot of it, often from their family members. But we need to develop internal filters to keep out destructive criticism and focus only on constructive criticism. Negative criticism can become a vicious cycle that can overpower all positive emotions, but constructive criticism helps in fueling change in a positive direction. When we focus on filtering criticism, we also start understanding ourselves better as we realize what words can trigger negative feelings and which ones can empower us. These internal filters also make us resilient and more forgiving because people cannot hurt us anymore.
Owning our feelings truly, even negative ones:
Negative criticism is best ignored but what about our negative feelings? Acknowledging our true feelings helps to develop self-awareness which is often the first step in treating mental illnesses or emotional distress. Until one knows the cause, how can one understand its effect? When we own our negative feelings instead of hiding, ignoring, or denying them, we take the first step towards healing, moving on, forgiving or making peace with our troublesome past.
Taking charge of one’s life:
I have met women blaming family, circumstances, or fate for shaping their life. But we need to understand that unless we take the driver’s seat, we will not reach the intended destination. If we let others decide for us, we allow them to control our lives. If we blame destiny, then circumstances are never going to change, nor will the results or the journey. And if we let our situation rule, we will never have power over it. Thus, the first rule of empowerment is to gain power over our own life. Take charge, be the boss of your life and don’t let anyone decide that for you. Don’t argue it is not in your hands; it will never be until you learn to take control…
Learning the art of generating happiness:
Most of us are unaware of the fact that happiness is not like a treasure to discover. It is more like a resource to be generated willfully with the help of our conscious mind. If we chase it or search for it desperately, it may elude us. Instead, we should learn to recognize all the things that generate the feeling of happiness within us and do them more often and regularly. It is important to make a habit out of happiness so that one never grows out of it.
Learning to look within than pointing out:
Maya Angelou, the famous writer/ poet said, “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within”.
As women, our strengths lie deep within our minds and hearts. I had phases in my life when I felt like I was falling into a bottomless well. But somewhere deep within me, I felt a fire burning. All I had to do was use this fire to fuel up my passions, reach my ambitions and find that purpose in my life because each one of us is born with a unique purpose. Unless we look within, we might never find it.
When we learn to navigate these emotional hurdles successfully, we take charge of our emotions, and we reach closer to our true selves.
This also takes us closer towards a life of meaning and purpose…
About the Author:
Soumya Bharathi is an author, blogger and poet based in Bangalore. An Oral Surgeon by training, she is currently pursuing her passion of writing, full-time. Her short stories have been selected for various anthologies. She is also a self-published author. Her first book is a collection of short stories titled “Life blooms in Myriad ways” and her second is a poetry book titled “From the heart of a homemaker”.
About A New You:
We all deserve to have everything in our life exactly the way we want it.The first step begins with believing that every moment is bringing an opportunity to be A New You. As a founder of A NEW YOU, I provide tools to elevate all dimensions of your life and I teach you the art of writing to reach to your true potential.
Vandana Sehgal | Founder – A New You