Ramya Ghatti is very much the easy-going, friendly person that most love to have around. Her energy and vibe could possibly lift the spirits of the dullest of people. It’s no surprise that the Dubai resident from Chennai, India, who has made a career out of her passion for languages, has a large network of friends and acquaintances. It’s a live and let live approach that helps her thrive.
‘But there are times when I get hurt by somebody’s remark,’ says the mother of one. ‘I tend to take things personally as well… which I am trying not to. Around 10-15 years ago, it used to be pretty bad. I used to sulk a lot. Now I don’t do that.’
The endless mulling over what someone else said or did is exhausting, Ramya says. But there are times when she does ‘give it back to them’, adding: ‘I may not be confrontational; I may make a sarcastic remark, or I might make a joke out of it. Sometimes I even tell them that the comment hurt me. Because if you don’t, it’s going to sit on your mind.’
Another of those calm and collected people is Shantesh Row from Mumbai, India. Twenty-five years and counting in advertising – seven of them as advertising creative director of his own agency in Dubai, Shantesh admits rather cheerfully that ‘it’s a pressure cooker all the time’.
The profession by nature leaves very little room for objectivity. Egos can be easily dented when what may seem like superb ideas are trashed, entire campaigns reworked because they don’t align with the client’s vision, and creative juices curdle in the face of whimsy and criticism.
‘I don’t get bogged down by the subjectivity that comes with the whole field,’ says Shantesh. ‘Which is why I’ve survived for so long. Otherwise, I think I would have been doing something else.’
His wife, a banker, is in an equally stressful industry. In their 22 years of married life, both have learnt to give each other the time and space so they can function at their best. The couple have a daughter, 12.
One thing that worries Shantesh is the increasingly digital lives we all lead, particularly our children. Online comments and criticism ‘come to them cold’, says Shantesh. ‘In face-to-face criticism, I can see the person’s body language, and react. Online the reactions are not natural. It’s a little worrying. How do you put that demarcation between virtual and reality?’
As humans we love contact with fellow humans. We bask in appreciation and praise, and having our opinions and views validated. But humans can also be pesky and irritating– ehen our painstakingly acquired stores of self-worth are depleted with a single thoughtless or snide remark; when in the midst of a busy morning, our energy levels dip to the whiny notes of another’s oft-repeated gripe; or a perfectly upbeat day takes a nosedive when cornered by someone giving vent to their ire!
‘We are all energy beings,’ says Urmila Rao, Dubai-based emotional wellness counseller and forgiveness coach, and author of Meditative Musings. ‘We are constantly receiving and transmitting energy. Whatever thought you are resonating with, that’s the one you are emitting.’
Haven’t we felt uneasy in the presence of someone bristling with anger? On the other hand, someone radiating good humour and warmth makes us instantly happier. ‘If we are happy and vibrant, then that is what we are spreading,’ says Urmila.
For just a moment, imagine a world where every person, irrespective of all their problems, emitted positive vibes? The result? Certainly not an end to all suffering. But the world would definitely be a happier place.
Is it possible to be positive through suffering? Is it possible to change the negative vibe you might be giving off to a positive one? And how do we shield ourselves from negativity? As the simple Gospel song that found fame as an anthem during the American Civil Rights Movement goes:
‘This Little Light of Mine,
I’m going to Let it Shine …’
Just how? Read on:
A word of warning: It involves working on oneself!
‘It’s important to learn how to sit quietly in silence with oneself,’ says Dr Diana Maatouk, clinical psychologist and founder of The Hummingbird Clinic. ‘In a world that pushes us constantly to do things, we owe it to ourselves to learn how to simply be.’
Comments — casual, snide, hurtful
One person’s thoughtless remark, real or virtual, might set you off, causing a chain reaction within. Before you know it, your confidence is punctured and now all you can think of is that one hurtful comment.
Not everyone internalizes a one-off remark. Some are able to move on. ‘The more you care about what others think will determine how much their comments hurt or bother you,’ says Zeta Yarwood, executive career coach and founder of Dubai-based Zeta Yarwood Coaching. ‘It means we are dependent on other people’s validation for our self-worth and when we don’t get it – particularly from the people we care about the most – it can really bother us. Everything feels like criticism.’
As an antidote Zeta suggests that we learn to self-validate by first acknowledging that the world at large ‘might never accept or validate us in the way we would like them to.
‘We need to remind ourselves that not every comment from the outside world is a personal attack.’
Urmila offers a quick fix: ‘Rather than react to the remark, change the topic. This way you are not feeding it, and neither are you getting pulled in by that person’s thoughtless remark. You have the power to say no and not accept the other person’s energy.’
Later, you might want to introspect on why the comment hurt you. It could be an invitation to uncover underlying issues.
‘Do I accept myself the way I am? Or is it something else eating me? When these things get out of our consciousness, then we will stop emitting that vibration … we no longer get upset by what others say,’ Urmila says.
Keeping one’s vibe up
It’s next to impossible to cover each and every issue that could throw us off-kilter. And few find it possible to be cheery and vibrant 24/7. In fact, as Urmila explains, most of us are very unconscious about our personal vibe. ‘We therefore get swamped by emotions, and we feel that emotions are driving us and our day.’
This is why it’s imperative that we are aware of our thoughts, she says, setting intentions to extricate ourselves from negative ones through conscious effort and practice. ‘Set an intention that you will give yourself 5 minutes or say one hour to work through the [negative] emotion,’ she adds. ‘Then move on with your day.’
Zeta suggests we protect our vibe by imagining a protective shield around us that we can zip up any time something or someone is bothering us. ‘Keeping up a positive vibe is choosing who you spend time with, for how long and learning how to manage your triggers by reminding yourself that ‘yes it would be nice if they would behave in the way I want them to behave but that’s not something we can, nor should, control, and the only person’s validation we need is our own.’
Learning to set healthy boundaries is part of self-care, says Dr Diana Maatouk. She urges us to learn to say no to people and things that don’t make us feel good. ‘Respect how you really feel, allowing yourself to assertively express it, without the need to over justify yourself,’ she adds. ‘Surround yourself with people who lift you up while avoiding those who put you down.’
There is common good in working on oneself, so much so that we could make it our new year’s resolution.
‘We are a project unto ourselves,’ says Urmila. ‘Our energy travels. So, if you are in a happy place, then you can make the world a better place.’
Sounds like a win-win deal!
For Zeta Yarwood, it’s been a particularly tough few months since October, with her mother in and out of hospital. ‘Trying to take care of my mum’s physical, mental and emotional needs while trying to run a business, support my clients, relocate, buy a property and all of the other admin that comes with ‘life’ was challenging,’ says Zeta.
The solution in such situations lies in asking for help and in delegation, she says. And for it to work, you will have to let go of any ‘patterns of control, people-pleasing and perfection’ that you labour under. ‘These three patterns will rob you of your boundaries and leave you completely exhausted. Learning to be OK with getting help and that help possibly not being perfect, as well as giving yourself permission to stop/pause projects and say ‘no’ while you’re managing — this will be key.’
These are all ways in which you’re making space for the emergency that has popped up. And from the time you carve out, make sure you use some for your own mental and physical health, says Zeta. ‘This might mean 10 minutes meditating in the morning, going for a walk, getting outside and taking 5 minutes to take some long, slow deep breaths in the fresh air. You can’t serve others from an empty cup.’
So, what if your cup IS full and brimming over, when someone chooses to give vent to their frustrations. Before you know it, they’ve eaten into your time, and in trying to offer them solutions, you feel like you are banging your head against concrete.
This could be an indication of poor boundaries. On a given day, says Urmila Rao you might not have the ‘energy bandwidth to handle it’. Or this is happening too frequently, either because the other person is going through a lot or as Zeta puts it: ‘they are taking advantage of your people-pleasing tendencies’ to come pour out their problems to you.
Both Urmila and Zeta suggest that at these times, it’s better to make it clear that although you would like to talk to them, it just cannot be right then. ‘You can say something like ‘I do want to hear you out .. how about if we talk later over a coffee when I can give you 100 per cent of my attention?’’ Urmila suggests.
Not only have you drawn a boundary, by not allowing another person’s emotional state hijack your priorities for the day, but you have indicated your willingness to be there for them.
If this doesn’t sit well with them, then you might want to question ‘the value of the friendship’ says Zeta. ‘Keep checking in with yourself about your friendships — is it a reciprocal relationship of love and care, or is it one-sided? Do they drain you of your energy but when you need them they disappear?’
One other point to remember is to desist from offering solutions unless they specifically ask for it. ‘At a conscious level the energy is to give up,’ says Urmila. ‘The mind is actually shut down to being receptive; so, it’s better not to say anything. They just want you to listen that’s all.’