The Dark Side Of Being Nice

Harry eases into his couch with a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans after a long day of Quidditch practice. He opens his diary and starts to scribble to himself.

What does it mean to be nice and likable? Have you really thought about where these concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ came from? “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on” Sirius Black, told Harry once. But what does that mean really… Umbridge never thought he was any good. The Dursleys never thought he was any good. Cho probably didn’t think too much about him either. He was always too skinny, too peaky, too demanding. It can be very limiting to belong to these labels and be expected to live up to them every now time. It can make people feel very caged inside. Dykstra_20160228_5514-2

Has anybody ever thought about the dark side of being nice though? Cause nice people also lie. They tell you things about you that aren’t true because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  They don’t say things to you that they should because they don’t want to rock the boat. Many of their actions are guided by their self-interest.  By that, I mean that their niceness has more to do with what others think about them – primarily their concern that other people like them. Not very nice though, is it? I myself have been guilty on many occasions of being nice to avoid conflict.

Let’s think long and hard here for a little while… Would you really want to be nice and miss out on the chance to have a more fulfilling experience of life? Would you really want the course of your life to be defined by other people because you were too sweet to say no to them? Would you really want to experience resentment in your relationships because you’re exhausted people-pleasing and now you have no energy left for yourself? Would you really want to forfeit your own uniqueness because you want to conform to set images, and in the process feel like you’re losing yourself?

If that’s the case then hell yes, I’m not nice! No way.

Very recently, I’ve felt my good girl mask slowly chip away. I’ve found myself saying no to people more often, setting boundaries for myself, and being a lot more respectful of my own time and energy. I was nice, but I want to be good. I want to be strong. I want to be kind and empathetic. I want to work towards my relationships and see myself grow. I want to handle fights, pain, and uncertainty instead of avoiding them. 2465f7bbde456ed134e1e5dc244aa0abI want to feel like an equal in the relationship and have my emotional needs met. And I’m starting too. It’s like tasting a flavor of ice cream you never knew existed. Like standing in your balcony, during the drizzling rain. There’s so much relief in being seen, heard, understood and loved. “It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to not want to listen to other people talking about themselves. It’s okay to not be there for someone if you can’t”. The first time I heard my therapist say things like that to me, I was quite spellbound. “But… nobody told me it was okay to cry or look sad… Mom and Dad would get sadder if I was sad. And then I felt like I shouldn’t be sad… So I’d just hop around and play instead” I whispered. She inhaled sharply and we both looked at each other with this fondness we’ve had.

“Good is hard,” Clark Kent said. That’s because being good means facing the harsh reality of things. It means standing up for yourself. It means sitting through difficult conversations and working towards forging stronger relationships. Being good takes strength and courage.

Loving yourself. Caring for yourself. Understanding yourself. These are the most underrated teachings that we’ve all had in life. People with deeper relationships have known what they need from their loved ones and have not shied away from asking for it. But the rest of us who are learning as we grow, do need to consistently invest in ourselves. It can be immensely fulfilling to be in strong, healthy relationships. People love to make others feel deeply loved. They love to make others feel cared for. They love to understand each other and support each other. As a community, that’s how we exist. And promoting healthier relationships is our moral prerogative.

Which is why, it’s OKAY to not be nice, and choose to be good instead.
It’s okay to be strong.
It’s okay to let yourself feel those uncomfortable feelings.
It’s okay to be vulnerable.
It’s okay to desire love and care.
You’re feelings don’t make you weaker.
They make you stronger instead.

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Because You Left!

Baby, come-a back-a, come a-back, come-a back
To the lips a wanna kiss you!
Baby, come-a back-a, come a-back, come-a back
To the heart that learned to miss you!
You never shoulda gone away,
You never shoulda gone away.

– ‘Baby Come-A Back-A’ by The Chordettes.

Have any of you seen Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

The girl can talk and cause a road rash.

I wanna be like her.
I AM like her!
Only, in my life, there’s no half-wit secretary to steal my dumbass husband away.
My Joel, or Benjamin, or whoever is too busy wiling away aimlessly on tinder, cribbing about smart sexy funny girls being non-existential while swiping on half-wits with big tits himself.

Too much trash talk? Yeah, I’m gonna detour from the classy for a little bit.

My life completely fell apart today… When my prince charming told me he wasn’t interested in seeing me anymore.

Am I angry? Hell yes! Am I sad? of course (a little bit). But most of all, I’m hell confused!

As I re-watch Mrs. Maisel and type away angrily in my pajamas, I remember each date I’ve been through. The good, the bad and the ugly. Some boys were charming, some seemed a little sleazy, but most of them looked like they had NO IDEA what they were doing. The men I’ve met seemed to have this innate drive to chase me till I’m interested or spin the cobwebs of my brain manipulatively, hoping that I’d fall for them. If only was that dumb, maybe I’d be happier! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The issue with me, of course, is that I don’t understand today’s dating culture. Not that I understand any other age’s dating culture. In what seemed like biblical times, people used to trade cattle and land and property for support and survival through relationships. Love was a transaction. An act of convenience and financial security. I’m sure it’s still the same for a lot of people. But today’s day and age of dating is absolutely absurd. All the chummy rom-com movies have filled every young adult’s mind with a distorted version of what relationships are supposed to be. ‘Happiness is not a gem tucked under a mountain somewhere, left for you to find’, I’d told a friend once, wisely. I don’t know if he still remembers it, but I certainly seemed to have forgotten my own musings. What frustrates me most though, is that after the chase is over and their ego is validated, their interest in me seems to simmer down significantly.

I have heard all kinds of excuses such as ‘you’re too much’, ‘If only I wasn’t still hung up on my ex’, ‘If only I didn’t have a girlfriend’ (I obviously didn’t have any idea about the last one until I was told so). I’ve even heard ridiculous stuff like ‘You’re charming and amazing, but I think you’re too good for me!’. What?! Just. What?? If I’m so pretty and funny and smart and sexy and everything extraordinary under the sun, then what is the fucking problem? Is that intimidating? Does it put pressure of high standards on the other person? Is it too good to be true? But clearly, I exist. I’m not a unicorn now, am I? When two strangers meet, people seem to think that they’re supposed to magically click while cupid sticks them with heart-shaped arrows and sings love songs. But nobody thinks about what this seemingly perfect precious person is going through every time they’re turned down.

Rejection may not be my fault, but it brings out in me a deep-rooted feeling of being unloved and unaccepted. I’ve always felt like the loving and adorable person I am. I truly have. But due to certain environments, I did not receive the love and affection I deserved. And that left me feeling quite hurt and alone. It sucks to feel like the one who is more expressive in a relationship. It sucks to be so passionate and empathetic and loving, that you want to be nurturing towards everyone you love in your life. And it sucks to not receive that nurturing back. Love is not easy… I understand! But does it have to be so damn hard?!

So when prince charming told me he wasn’t interested anymore, I went into a spiral of anguish and rage. Why? I did EVERYTHING right!
I looked pretty on the date.
I cracked jokes that were funny.
We talked about intimate things that were close and personal.
I empathized with his hardships while he empathized with mine.
Not to mention, he made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
I liked him. And I SHOWED him I liked him!
There were scriptwriters from rom-com movies gushing over the adorableness of our first date. And yet, he left…

So, I demand to know! Where would silly men like these find a spectacular girl like me?

Mum’s The Problem.

All of us know the impact our parents have on us. More often than not, their needs become our needs, their insecurities become our insecurities and their baggage becomes our baggage. In this whirlwind of emotions, it is easy to forget that parents themselves have learned these behaviors and are empathic human beings who may be willing to unlearn it for the sake of their children.

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Recently I have met a Professor of Psychotherapy, a Consultant Psychiatrist and a GP – all parents of children lost to mental illnesses. Here’s what one mum says:

“Whenever I have seen a therapist, they have gone straight to my childhood, my up-bringing, my parents and their parents. All my behaviours and feelings seem to be explained and understood based on their behaviours, however ‘normal’, for their times. I am encouraged to think of all the ways in which they could have directly or indirectly damaged me.

By that principle, all of my child’s behaviours and feelings should be explained and understood based on the behaviours of his parents. Half of them is me. I agree. I must be part of the problem. My profession is perceived as a bigger problem. ‘High achieving Asian’ parents are assumed to put a lot of pressure on their children. So much so, the…

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I Think I Want To Be A Therapist

I think I want to be a therapist. Because:

  1. I want to work with people, but in a way that I feel involved with their lives.giphy
  2. I want to have a personal relationship with my clients.
  3. I want to work with them in a way that touches their lives.

I remember when I was a really small kid, one of my aunts(Bebo Mausi) got diagnosed with schizophrenia. I had gone to Delhi for my internship and was staying with my aunt and uncle for the summer. They dropped me off at my relatives as they were going out of town for the weekend. Bebo Mausi was visiting these relatives at the time. I had seen a lot of her when I was younger, and schizophrenia-CARTOON-301863I remember what she was like before she got diagnosed. I was excited to see her and the others but I didn’t really know how to be around her. As we approached the house and kept ringing at the doorbell, we felt annoyed that no one was opening the door. After a couple of knocks, I see Bebo Mausi opening the wooden door on the inside but she wouldn’t open the front door. She kept peeking at us horrified. “Hi Mausi!” I said. “Kaise Ho?” (How are you? In Hindi). “Kaun hai?!” (Who is it?) she says. I look at her amused. She knows me. She’s met me. MULTIPLE times! I say “Shruti!”, she says “Chale jao! Mujhe nahi pata!” (“I don’t know you! Just leave.”)

Now, this was getting ridiculous. After a decade of playing Uno and chit chat, that is NOT the way to treat someone :/ “Are Kya hua! Darwaza Kholo Na!” (What happened? Open the door!). “Nahi! woh log mujhe chor ke chale jaye. Tum jao. Mujhe nahi kholna.” (I don’t want to open the door! They left me alone. Please leave!) Again, I looked a her annoyed at the absurdness. I hung around some more but my uncle had to leave. “Usko bolo jane ko!”(Ask him to leave) she kept yelling at him- which I found really rude and annoying because she’s known him practically all her life! “I think I should go,” sweet uncle says. “It’s okay, I’ll be fine” I reassured him.

Apparently, my relatives had to head out for a family event and had left my aunt behind because she gets angsty around a lot of people. group-therapy_o_4093561As I hung around, kicked at my suitcase and hummed songs, waiting for my relatives to come back and let me in, dear aunt and I got to chatting. It was funny to talk through the netted outer door to her, but I thought it was kinda fun. I started asking her what she was up to and she told me she had been watching her favorite series and making some coffee when the lights tripped temporarily. Now, given her condition, worry for us is full-blown paranoia for her. She was alone and scared and panicked really bad. She tried calling them multiple times but as they were in a function, they did not hear her frantic cries. She was thus really scared and annoyed and couldn’t bear to let anyone in. In that moment of manic, it was hard for her to recognize people and think. I melted slowly inside.

“What other series do you like?” I asked. She named a string of Hindi series that I had no idea about but I smiled and laughed at her descriptions and kept egging her on to talk about things she likes anyway. After a couple of minutes, she says, “you must be hungry right??”. “I kind of am…” I say. “Do you want to come in? I can make you a sandwich.” “Only if you’re okay with that! I would love to eat some sandwich”. She opens the door to let me in as I strut towards the living room with my luggage. She makes a dash to the kitchen, prepares a really nice cheese and vegetable sandwich and makes some of her famous coffee as well! We sit down at the dining table and chat like we used to while I eat. I smile at her fondly as she animatedly tells me about her life, wishing that she wouldn’t have to live with moments of terror and pain like she did. Even though so much has changed, I still love her I guess. She’s my aunt! You know? ❤ And she’s a wonderful person!

Two days later, when my uncle came to pick me up, he asked me how I’d managed to get in that day. Impressed, he says “you’re really good at this. you should do this for a living”. “Be a therapist?” I smirk, amused. “Think of all the people you’d help,” he says. I breathe slowly, wondering how I seem to be talented at everything apart from my engineering degree :/  ALthough, xdownload-3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.7hLXEWUJXbI have been in therapy for almost three years now, in the past few months I’ve experienced some shifts that have felt truly powerful. And for that, I’m grateful. It’s like a change in my lense, and now I can see better! 🙂 Having had some immensely vulnerable sessions with my therapist, I have been grateful to experience the growth I did. People think you need to be ill to go to therapy. Cliche as it sounds, do you need to fall ill to go to the gym? No, right? They why wait for your emotional muscles to wither and strain before you decide that its time to take care of yourself? The mind and body are connected, more than we’d like to admit. In fact, emotional pain often hurts much more than physical pain. It’s a fact! Your psychological health alters your brain chemistry, which in turn is bound to impact your energy levels, sleep cycle, temperament, and much more.

It’s so sad to see that something so basic as emotional hygiene is not taught to us in school. We can learn integral and differential calculus, but nobody wants to help us to understand our emotions better.  They’re there for a reason so that they can guide you towards being true to yourself. Dismissing them or suppressing them does not help. It only makes matters worse. In today’s day and age, there are so many engineers, doctors, writers, artists. But not enough mental health professionals. It makes me sad sometimes. The power of therapy is phenomenal. anigif_enhanced-11293-1449608655-9The healing power of our minds is commendable. Trust me, I know. I’m one of those people who was blessed with guidance and help at the right time. I love working on myself. I’m obsessed with it. My therapist calls me a ‘good student’, cause I study and make notes and hang on to every word of professional advice she shares. It has changed my life entirely. I feel a sense of health and vitality that I haven’t in years. And often in the light of day, when I’m writing or working on a mental health workbook or trying to convince a friend to go to therapy, I quietly wonder to my self: Could this really be my ‘calling’?

Who knows ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We’ll find out I guess. All ‘I’ know is…

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