June 2015 By Suma Varughese Suma Varughese shows how the Sathe family solved the problem of insecurity and low self-esteem The final results had just been declared in Avijit’s college and he was rather mortified. He had done well, but not as well as his best friend and biggest rival, Kabir. His face was downcast as he sat down for dinner one Sunday night with the rest of the family. “How did he score so much more than me, Dad? he asked for the nth time. “We studied the same books for the same number of hours, we shared our notes. But he has got an average percentile of 85 and I have only got 75. It’s so unfair. ” Dad said, “There is such a thing as luck, you know. As the Bhagavad Gita rightly said, you can control nothing but your own efforts. You studied hard, you have come out with a decent score, we are happy with it, why don’t you also just accept it? ” But Avijit could not let it go. “ It’s made me feel really small. I have not even been able to congratulate him properly. And I have not gone to meet him these last two days.” “What happens at the thought that someone has done better than you?” asked Dad curiously. “I feel very threatened. As if I am not good enough. A kind of fear fills me up,” answered Avijit, after thinking deeply for a while. “So their being good makes you bad,” asked Mom. “Hmm, something like that.” “This happens to me all the time,” broke in Nisha. “When Usha (one of Nisha’s closest friends) writes a better essay than I do, I get so jealous. And when we go out to a party and Usha gets more attention than I do, I start feeling less.” She stopped, then added shamefacedly, “It happens around Alka too. She is so vivacious and talkative; when she is around I kind of fade into the background, and it makes me feel very small.” “What,” cried Alka, genuinely startled, “But everyone loves you, and you are so much more beautiful than I am.” Dad broke in here. “It’s okay,” he said in his strong, loving, Dad voice. “At this age your sense of self is bound to be fragile. Both of you are a little insecure about yourselves. That is where this is coming from.” “Well, how can we fix it?” asked Nisha anxiously. “It’s awful to feel this way. As if the earth itself were opening up from under my feet. I just don’t have a sense of being stable. I feel so threatened all the time.” “There is no magic solution, sweetie,” said Mom. “But as you get more and more confident about your capacity to cope with life, you will start trusting yourself more and valuing yourself more. And when you get an innate sense of being okay within, then you won’t mind someone scoring better marks than you, or attracting more attention. You will feel quite complete in yourself.” “Is that how you feel, Mom?” asked Nisha enviously. “Yes, I think so,” said Mom with a glad little smile. “It has taken me a while but I no longer compare myself with others, and gauge my worth from that. I have now separated who I am from who others are. They have their merits, I have mine. Their merits don’t extinguish mine, and vice versa.” “When I was in college and even during my early adult days, I used to be really insecure,” said Dad. “Hah, that is where we get it from,” said Avijit tartly. Dad ignored that. “But slowly my successes added up. I was good at academics. I was a good swimmer. I sang pretty well. They increased my confidence. Slowly, I built on my strengths and stopped worrying so much about my weaknesses, and that gave me the security I needed.” “I know someone whose daily prayer is: Lord, strengthen my strengths and weaken my weaknesses,” smiled Mom. “Nice prayer,” said Avijit. “Yes,” said Dad. “The thing is to focus on your strengths, and not on your weaknesses.” “Dad, that sounds just about right,” said Avijit. “All I do is obsess about my weaknesses. I feel so terrible about being shy around girls, and about not being great at sports, that I forget that I have many strengths too.” “Of course you do,” said Mom, comfortingly, “Here’s one thing both of you can start doing to keep your attention on your strengths. Every night before going to bed, write down five successes you have had.” “Five!” cried Nisha. “I’ll be lucky if I find one.” “Tiny successes,” said Dad. “Getting up on time will count, doing any of your assignments will count, helping out Mom in the kitchen, not losing your temper when someone says something provocative, doing something pro-active like giving up your seat in the bus for an older person, doing something for Aji, Ajoba and so on.” “Ok, I can do that,” said Nisha. “I would also advocate affirmations,” said Mom. “Affirmations seed new and positive thoughts in our subconscious and bring about changes in our being.” She added, “’I am whole, perfect and complete,’” is a great affirmation. Others are: “I love, trust and believe in myself’. ‘I respect myself and treat myself with kindness and love’. ‘I forgive myself unconditionally’. Louise Hay also suggested looking into the mirror every morning and saying, ‘I love you. I really, really do.’” Dad said, “As you do these things ongoingly, you will find that your idea about yourself will begin to change. You will see yourself as successful, as trustworthy, responsible, a good human being. You will relate to yourself differently and slowly, your insecurity will leave you. There may even come a time when you will rejoice at the good fortune of others, because the more good fortune there is, the greater your chance of getting some. You will have then come around full circle.” “I’m going to feel like an absolute idiot talking to myself in front of the mirror, but if it helps me become more confident, I am going to do it,” said Avijit. “Me, too,” said Nisha. “Me, three,” said Alka, putting up her hand. “It’s never too soon to begin.” Everyone laughed as they trooped out of the dining room. Sathe family fact file: The Sathe family lives in Mumbai and consists of Ashwin Sathe, a trainer and counsellor and Abha Sathe, a writer of children’s books. Ashwin’s parents, known as Aji and Ajoba, stay with them. Ajoba is a retired college professor turned Vedanta teacher. Ashwin and Abha have three children: Avijit (20) an engineering student, Nisha (19) in her second year in college studying Eng Lit and Alka (16) in her class 10. The family meets every Sunday over dinner, where problems are thrashed out and solutions offered.
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