ASK THE QUESTION

Today I was very lucky to listen to cross-cultural consultant and Australian Muslim of the Year 2013, Tasneem Chopra, deliver a speech on how to drive social change within our communities. While I was inspired by her words, what I really wanted was to have a conversation with her, maybe even ask her to mentor me. So I (nervously) walked up to her, tapped her on her shoulder and introduced myself. I wanted to interview someone as empowering as her for my blog and while I was afraid of her saying no, in my boldness I asked anyway. Next thing I know, she hands me her business card and tells me that she should would love to be apart of my work.

If there is anything you want from life, personally or professionally, you have to ask for it. The worst thing that could happen is someone will tell you no, in which case you’ll dust yourself off, better your game plan for next time and try again.

Be brave, ask the question and put yourself out there for the sake of achieving whatever it is you want.

AMAA4 Chopra

Image: Tasneem Chopra
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10 THINGS TO REMEMBER IN 2015: A RECIPE FOR GROWTH AND SELF-EMPOWERMENT

  1. Kids in third world countries don’t have the opportunity to live as long as you because they have no access to food, clothing, shelter or water.  Have gratitude for the life you are capable of living.
  1. Challenge yourself. Run on the treadmill a little longer. Give up a bad habit. Strive to do good every day. Whatever it is, set a goal, stick to it & achieve it or at least try to. Even if you are unsuccessful, just remember that success is built on failure.
  1. Let go of anger. If you stay in that inferno too long you will be left with third degree burns.
  1. Don’t mock pain you haven’t endured.
  1. Stop being so fucking pessimistic. It’s draining.  Your shitty attitude does not encourage anyone, especially yourself.
  1. You’re not a doormat so don’t let anyone treat you like you are. It is self-destructive.
  1. Wear red. Because you’re a pioneering spirit who is powerful & strong.
  1. Stop being so afraid. Negative life events are unavoidable but don’t let that keep you from life experiences. Don’t let your past taint who you are, and who you could be.
  1. Stop carrying your emotional baggage. Off-load and travel lighter.
  1. Live out your fantasies every day.

MEN-TAL HEALTH

While I was doing my counselling placement, majority of my clients were males, a clientèle I was scared to work with because I was not sure if I could empathise or relate to them as much as I did females.

Now, after having worked with them on a consistent basis I have realised that the emotional disparity between men and women is very little, that men experience similar emotional reactions and thoughts as women.

The major difference concerning mental health between the sexes is the stigma men experience about seeking help for their emotional and mental needs and the lacking of a critical social support system where they can speak openly and honestly about their emotional concerns.

It’s so easy to dehumanise people because of our own experiences or because of what we perceive them to be like. However, the struggle of anxiety and depression is real for men and it’s one that needs to be addressed and overcome by society.

THE METAMORPHOSIS OF A FORMER ROMANTIC

 My punch line when my girlfriends tell me about men treating them poorly: “You deserve better”.
             I am the guru of self-empowerment when it comes to giving other women advice on how they should be treated by the men in their lives.Literally, I can hear myself say “Gurl, you need to give him the flip because he ain’t good for you”.  But you know what they say, right? Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Well, I am the embodiment of that saying when it comes to a particular man in my life. You know that initial moment in romantic comedies where girl meets boy? Like when Matthew McConaughey rescues Jennifer Lopez from being hit by a wayward bin in The Wedding Planner. I thought I had one of those magical moments at the start of last year.
            This is why being an eternal romantic sucks, because a simple hello becomes a sign of ‘Oh, it’s meant to be’, when in actuality, it really is just a‘hello’. I don’t know what it was he did or said but I tripped and fell, dare I say, head over heels. Normally, being captivated by a seriously handsome guy isn’t something I would complain about.  However, my captor did not know how to treat me with the respect that I deserved: dates were planned an hour in advance, cancellations occurred last minute, there was no appreciation of my efforts and having a conversation was like solving a riddle. Regardless, I put up with it.  I was convinced that underneath this ‘asshole’ façade was a good man with a good heart. Needless to say, I eventually came to the realisation that even doormats were treated better than I was, and that tears were frequently spilled for a guy who, at every opportunity, made me feel pathetic.
            Dating him took a toll on me psychologically. Being someone who is semi-confident in myself I started travelling backwards, with his behaviour defeating and diminishing my self-worth. Obviously, he was treating me poorly because I wasn’t good enough, right?
            Here I was, an attractive, kind and successful 24 year old aspiring for greatness, allowing someone to make me feel exactly the opposite: small and insignificantHis inability to see my worth did not mean that I had none. I wasn’t the problem. But I had a solution.  And the solution involved me walking away.
            The end of that experience allowed me to regain my sense of my self-confidence and self-worth.  But it wouldn’t be exciting if he didn’t reappear again would it?
            Six months later he was back wanting see me because “it had been too long…”.  I was a sucker for giving people second chances and it just so happened I had a soft spot for him…so we went out for dinner.  That date was so convincingly good that it easily fell in my top three (yes, I do keep records). I was hopeful, PRAYING, that this time around things would be different, that he wouldn’t be fickle and reckless with my heart. Truth is, most people don’t change.  They make small adjustments. That was what had happened in this situation; he had made minor adjustments thinking that it was going to be enough to get me across the finish line.  But, when you care about someone, when you sincerely harbor feelings for them, minor just doesn’t cut it.
            We dismiss men who behave like him as being stereotypical ‘assholes’.  In such situations it’s only fair to assume such sentiments, however, if you were to dig beyond the surface you would learn there is more than meets the eye. Upon reflection what I observed was that, behind the last minute cancellations, the inability to communicate and the constant use of “maybe” and “hopefully” was a man imbedded with fear and insecurity. His insecurities were so ingrained within his sense of self that he feared being vulnerable to someone else.  By abusing my sincere feelings towards him, it allowed him to feel temporarily dominant, powerful.  In reality, it seems that what he struggled with most was power within himself.
            Louise Hay wrote “I love myself, therefore, I behave in a loving way to all people”.  What I took from this quote was that when one does not cherish, love and respect themselves they simply cannot reciprocate these feelings to others. Often, these individuals are absorbed by the negativity of their past and caged by regret.  Their inability to let go of the past keeps them from moving forward.
            As a woman, I believed it was a demonstration of commitment and love to tolerate his disparaging behaviour and to give him the opportunity to redeem himself by forgiving and forgetting his prior faults.  In the course of this relationship, I neglected the fact that caring for someone else did not mean that I should also stop caring for myself, and that if I wanted to care for myself, I needed remove myself from future harm or hurt.
            Although it is ingrained in me to do good and help others, what this experience has taught me is that I cannot help those that do not want to be helped. I cannot fix someone or teach them to love themselves. And I most certainly cannot fall victim to their emotional release when they’re going through their own process of self-discovery OR self-destruction.
            I am a person and I too deserve to be treated with love and respect. Just like everyone else I am worthy of that and if not more.

DEFINITIONS

People often ask me to define feminism and I sit with a blank expression uming and uhing because how can I define something that is so personal to me?

I never liked definitions, I felt like they confined and constricted concepts, hindering them from ever being considered outside the box. When I tell people I am a feminist I receive a strange reaction, where if I were to read between the lines it would say something like “But you don’t look like the angry-lesbian-bra-burning type”.  Here lies the problem with definitions, especially when infused with stereotypes; they give society a reason to not consider other possibilities.  It is precisely this lack open-mindedness which causes society to be indolent and intransigent with their ideologies, imagination and introspection.

Feminism within the Western world began in the 19th century. While it can be referred to as a new movement, the relevance of feminism can be applied to as far back to when men and women first walked the earth.  On the surface feminism aims to calibrate and correct issues which relate to domestic violence, equal pay, maternity leave, reproductive rights, sexual harassment and women’s suffering.  But if you take a look below it, what you will find is that feminism allows personal experiences of women to be shared ones.  These spoken and shared stories rid us of carrying weight that burdens us.

I grew up in an Islamic household with traditional Bangladeshi values, a lethal combination to say the least.  The resentment I developed from the pressure of adhering to such a robust, reserved and retrograde view of women often left me feeling like volcano that could erupt bringing with it avalanches and mudslides. I had the displeasure of experiencing the men of the household dominate women, women who submissively suffered in silence.

For me the most critical moment in my transition into feminism was when my father pointed out “You’re different from your sister, you’re much more timid and tolerant”.  That statement sent me into a mental rage, was my tolerance of his occasional bad behaviour the reason I had suffered through his mistreatment of me? If so, this was a notion I could easily extend to men I have dated in the past, majority of who were narcissistic in nature with little regard for treating women with an ounce of respect. It was that recognition along with my need to go against the tides of social standards that bought me to travel the road of feminism.  It is a road which has lead me to discovering some beautiful destinations within myself, within other women and within humanity.

Every Google search on feminism will give you numerous definitions of feminism. However, don’t let that fool you.  Feminism is much more than a definition, it is a journey.  Feminism has healed me, like the experience of running and yoga, it has been cathartic.  Feminism has allowed me to release emotions, ideas, knowledge and potential that I never dreamed possible.

I thank feminism for teaching me the infiniteness of possibilities within myself and within every other being with a XX chromosome and raise a toast in celebration of the fact.