“How you treat yourself is how you are inviting the world to treat you.”

-          Anonymous

Some days ago, I was holding a training session in a reputed college in Mumbai. There were about 80 participants, all of them from S.Y. BMS. The subject was: ‘Self-confidence and Communication Skills.’ As I always do, I had shared with the young ones my own story. The reason why I do it is because, If I am expected to guide the in that area, then I need to tell them how I did it for myself… Was I self-confident and good in communication when I was their age or was I struggling with the same issues? If I have overcome my problems, then, there must be a road-map… I, always, share that with young kids, wherever and whenever I hold the programme on this subject.

During the Q & A time, a young boy had a question. “Sir, I could really relate to your story,” he said, “I, too, was innocent and carefree when I was small… I never wasn’t self-conscious or anxious as a little boy… But, as I became a teenager, I started becoming very self-conscious, nervous and anxious… Self-doubts have increased and the thought of speaking before an audience sends shivers through me, I tremble and even go blank… Is there a way I can stop it from happening and go back to my little-boy’s days?”

I had encouraged the boy to come on stage and say what he wanted to. So, after he asked this question from the stage, I held his hand, gently, and smiled. “Didn’t you speak to all of us from the stage?” I asked.

“Yes Sir,” the boy agreed, “but, I was feeling extremely self-conscious and nervous inside… Can I overcome that?”

“Yes, you can,” I said without even blinking.

“How, Sir?” the boy asked sincerely.

“By not resisting or denying what is happening inside you… What is happening inside is happening on its own subconsciously… It suddenly gets triggered and derails your train of thoughts… Your body responds… and you don’t like to see yourself in that state… You start worrying about your ‘image’… what others must be thinking about you… whether they will accept you, approve you etc. In the process, you become a bundle of mess… Don’t’ you?”

“Yes Sir,” the boy agreed.

“The best thing – perhaps the most sensible thing – you can do in such times is to be kind to yourself,” I held the boy’s hand and explained, “Simply stand aside mentally and watch the young boy with all his self-consciousness, nervousness, anxiety, fear, self-doubts and all the confusion… Just watch your thoughts… your body… Stand aside and do it without judging, denying or condemning… Without asking why it’s happening and how you can stop it from happening… Remember, you haven’t sinned. It is impossible to uproot it from your system… Being kind to yourself will help you accept the reality that it’s happening… and, with that acceptance will come inner peace… the end of conflict… You will feel authentic and strong… You will, now, speak from that space.”

The boy and the group were listening. I gave many examples, including that of Mahatma Gandhi. Young Gandhi had come back from England with a Barrister degree and, here he was, in the court-room, to argue for a client on a petty matter. But, when he stood up to speak, he says in his autobiography (My Experiments with the Truth), “My heart sank into my boots!” He sat down with embarrassment, returned the fee to his client… and never went back to courts to fight cases. It took the heart-wrenching experience during the train journey to Johannesburg… on that cold night, when he was thrown out of the train compartment for travelling in first class, despite possessing a valid ticket… He spent the cold night on the station platform… That night, he had resolved to fight a ‘bigger battle’… a bigger case, a bigger cause and against a bigger opponent… He fought for millions of his countrymen. And, how did the transformation happen? Was it not the same Gandhi who felt, “My heart sank into my boots”?

“If you have a story and dying to tell it,
If you have a cause and willing to fight for it,
Nobody needs to teach you how to speak in public.”

I had written this in one of my books many years ago. I, always, remind our young ones with these words…

That, they should not focus on their ‘petty cases’ – “Why am I feeling self-conscious and nervous?” Instead, they should focus on their ‘bigger cases’ - the stories they are dying to tell, and the causes they are willing to fight…

Self-confidence and communication skills are just the by-products of all this… When the Sun comes up above, the shadow disappears down below…

“Upar se gaya?” I teased the young man.

“Nahin Sir, neeche se gaya,” the boy smiled looking very peaceful.


Pic.: Uttam Ghosh


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