Thursday, 22 August 2013

It is all in the Mind ... Stupid !

A few days back, I bumped into an old school friend of mine. 

After a few minutes of exchanging pleasantries, she asked  me “ Ananya, do you remember Vidya? “  

I said  “Of course I do. She was the head girl of the school when we were in class 10th.  A very bright, sweet, mild and intelligent girl.  I really liked the way she used to enact Shakespeare in school and she was very humble and friendly with everybody . What about her ? Did you meet her? How is she ?” 

Well, it is really sad…. She is in a mess.  I met her last month. She is suffering from severe depression. You know , she was studying medicine, but quit when she was in her last semester. She feels she is not capable of anything. In fact, I was really upset to see that she could not even operate her cell phone properly… really sad ….!”

Vidya was the brightest student in our batch. She was good in academics, extra curricular activities and was friendly with everybody. All of us loved her.  We used to imitate the way she talked,  her dressing sense, her haircut et al.  I remember, one day , Vidya and I had stayed back in school for a drama practice.  She told me a strange thing on that day.  When I recall that now,  I get a glimpse of what must have gone wrong. She had told me “ Ananya, do you think I will be able to become a doctor ?  You know , my mother keeps on telling me that I am too soft to handle tough situations” .

This is what I think must have gone wrong.

When you constantly hear negative things about yourself, somehow, you start believing in them.  After sometime, she must have started believing it and in her mind, the constant conversation and conflict of these negative thoughts must have been hard on her. 

 Patterns of positive or negative self talk starts mostly in our childhood.  It is very important to curb the negative self talk and replace it with positive ones.

 Though it should start early, but any time is a good time. 

  • Notice Your Patterns - The first step toward change is to become more aware of the problem. You probably don’t realize how often you say negative things in your head, or how much it affects your experience. An effective method to know is Journaling . At the end of the day, write all the negative thoughts which have crossed your mind. Once you do this for a few days, you will be able to identify what you need to curb.  As soon as some negative thoughts come to your mind,  say “Stop !”. Better if you can say it aloud.

  • Replace Negative statements :   Words , which we say in our minds as well as aloud , have a huge impact on us. Replace powerful negative words with milder ones. Example, “Impossible” with “difficult", “Pain” with “discomfort”,  “hate” with “anger”.  It works. Believe me.  Also,when faced with adversity, we should proactively see how we can change the adversity with advantage. For example, when we have to cancel a trip at the last moment , after the rush of disappointment, can we feel that maybe the time that we have in our hands now can be fruitfully used, and anyways we can always go for the trip later.  Many a times, when I feel really down, I think of one of my visits to the hospital. Seeing all the ailing people made me think how lucky I was to be able to do simple things like breathe, walk and smile. I know it is difficult, but when we try proactively, it can be done. This is the way to build resilience. 

  •  Develop The Right Attitude : Resilient people tend to view life’s difficulties as challenges and respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, blame or a "victim mentality.". Part of resilience is emotional awareness.  it’s important to understand what you’re feeling and why. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions, and this frightens and immobilizes them. Knowing why you feel upset can provide valuable information about what needs to change in your life.

  • Feel that you are in control : Resilient people believe that they’re in control of their lives, and it’s true. While we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that makes a big difference in our attitudes and in the course our lives   Be optimistic.

  • Visualize A Better Life : Building and maintaining a visual image of what you want in your life (instead of focusing on what you don’t want) can be a powerful way to attain positive change and opportunity. Make a detailed list of what you’d like in your life. Sit down daily and visualize what your new life would look like and how it would feel to have these changes. (Click and read my blog post on  Positive Visualization)
I am a great believer in the " Law of Attraction”.  I plan to write a separate blog post on this.  

It is a real pity that unknowingly we do damage to our children and people whom we mentor,  in a way that it becomes self deprecating for them. In workplaces,we should motivate people and  bring out the best in them by praising and giving constructive feedback rather than criticizing .

 As leaders we have to understand that each person is a unique individual and everybody is a mix of good and bad. As parents, leaders, mentors, we have to bring out the best in them. We have to motivate them to make them shine.

If we do, then the Vidyas of the world will be able to realize their dreams and the world will be a happier place. 

Note : The name has been changed for anonymity


  1. Ananya,

    Another awesome post from you!

    I believe, everyone at some point of time in their life face this issue. And I totally agree with the fact that hearing negative things about oneself makes that person very low in confidence. They start believing in the things that people say.
    So,we need to control our minds from accepting negative comments and start believing in ourselves. Also, as individuals, we need to be really careful while saying negative things about someone. Constructive feedback works!

  2. Hi Ananya. Excellent and thought provoking post. I have seen two personalities emerging out of same/ similar situations. Once as you stated above where the repeated words got imprinted on mind and heart thereby thrashing the person's capabilities.

    On a reverse note another personality can emerge out of such situations where it says - Ok, let me do and show it to you and prove that I am not what you are saying.

    Probably it is the balance of negative and positive in oneself that drives it...

    1. Jaideep, yes, it does take a lot of grit and persistence as well as perseverence to emerge out of such situations !

  3. It's really good reading. Thanks.

  4. One should simply take a print out and read it every time till one start practicing it... !!