The Good, the Bad and the Grey

I’ve come a full circle and all of us do, don’t we? Went from being oblivious to the good and the bad in people, then became extremely aware of it to the extent of black and white and then that mellowed down to a grey. Now I’m at a place where I truly believe that no person can be classified as good or bad, they are just what situations make them. And to be honest “good” and “bad” might seem like absolute parameters but they are really not. They are so subjective. You might think you’re doing the right thing, the thing that’s good for you but might seem bad to another. We as millennials tend to look at it as absolutes and that’s where we fault. It’s not a yin and yang, it’s same all acrossthe circle, there’s some good and bad in all of us.

I was just listening to Radhi Devlukia’s reel and what she said really struck a chord with me. To think that “our weeds are in some way better than someone else’s weeds” is wrong. To think that the bad in us is not as bad as the bad in someone else is not right. Or to think that the good we do somehow outweigh the bad we do and for someone else it’s not that way is unfair. Some people have their dark side hidden beneath several layers and so they seem to be ALL good, like saints. While others don’t put any efforts to conceal their dark side and might come across evil the first time someone meets them. But are they all evil? “Don’t pass judgements” is probably the most cliché’d and widely used phrase ever but do we ever practice it? For all the times that I think of myself to be a better person than someone else, I curse myself to stop. I am not a saint and nor is he/she. We’re all a mix. Thrust this thought down your throat.

Repeat after Radhi, “My weeds are no better than someone else’s weeds”.

Passivity vs Cancel Culture

Passivity is the act of remaining calm and non-chalant or indifferent when active response or resistance is warranted. Cancel culture on the other hand is the modern form of ostracism where public figures and companies are boycotted from social media or in person for their unacceptable views or actions often ruining careers of many.

While Millennials and Genzs are accused of being the flag bearers of cancel culture, a rebuttal from the newer generations can also be that cancel culture is at least better than passivity. Not saying anything is worse than saying more than required, some might argue.

The millennial urge to fight the wrong and stand up for their ideologies is progressive and is reflective of western influence however, it would be fair to say that this resistance is sometimes followed without in-depth research of the cause of the problem. This impulsive reaction then leads to damage far greater than the good done. Generations before us considered remaining calm under upheavals a trait of the wise and mature. However, in recent years millennials and genzs are viewing this trait as passivity and indifference to the wrong in the world and a major blocker to change. It is fair to argue that most big changes were possible by civil rights movements and that democracy is all about speaking out. However, sometimes it is important to understand that a wrong action or step taken by someone might be a mere mistake and not completely reflective of their personality and speaking out against such an individual might bring about change but at the cost of ruining his/her life without too big of a fault of their own. Human error is bound to happen and exposed more so for public figures. As much as the responsibility lies with public figures to check their actions, the same responsibility lies with us to check our resistance and weigh the damage against the benefit.

Passivity and Cancel culture are two extremes of the same spectrum. It is our responsibility to check that are actions are not inclined more toward one of them and that we stand up for things that really need standing up for.

Imposter Syndrome

If you constantly discredit yourself of what you are actually worth, doubt your abilities even after being reminded of how great you are by those around you and sometimes feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve gotten because you think you haven’t worked hard enough to get it when you clearly have, welcome to the exclusive club of Imposter Syndrome. Now, if you really are feeling all these things, here are 3 things you should be doing to remind yourself of the beauty that you are:

1. Separate feelings from facts – understand that what you feel is not always the truth. List down the things you have achieved along your learning curve no matter how small they might seem and marvel at your growth

2. If you suffer from imposter syndrome, more often than notyou’re a perfectionist. Take it as a positive attribute but also don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, sometimes good enough is better than perfect

3. If you’ve been under the impression that you aren’t good enough because you think “you should always know the answer” and “you should never ask for help”, rewrite your rules and give yourself permission to not know things and ask for help.

For all the times that you feel like a fraud and that how you got here was sheer luck, remember that although being grounded and level-headed is a good trait, not acknowledging your capabilities can be toxic and needs to be dealt with.

Per the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70 percent of people will experience imposter syndrome at least once. Personality traits and childhood experiences being major contributors, self-worth is important to combat mental health issues and so imposter syndrome is hardly a matter to talk about in passing but something that needs to be introspected and worked on. Millennials, if you are even remotely feeling this or know of someone who is, act on it!

Social and Healthcare Advancements Affect Millennial Life Decisions

Millennial women are at a cusp of age when major life decisions are waiting to be made. Career, marriage, children whatever that might be. No matter how much we curse the burden that those dilemmas bring with them, a silver lining remains that at least we are better off than our predecessors, thanks to the ones who stood up for themselves and were eventually called feminists for having done so. Furthermore, thanks to the healthcare pioneers who have inadvertently reinforced the importance of “choice” in making life decisions.

Personal breakthroughs by women through feminist movements are joined by social, healthcare and technological advancements to further the interest of self-worth and absolve the customs of selfless love that women have been passing the baton for, for generations. I will discuss aspects of social and healthcare advancements that have made it easy for men and women (I speak more for women in this blog however that in no way undermines the breakthroughs by men) to make major life decisions such as career with self-importance in mind.

Career, that wasn’t a woman’s life decision before, is now a possibility for many and the women before us have made it happen through social reformations.

Social movements and western influence have moved the hand of equality’s clock further a little faster than it would have organically. With men agreeing and willing to share the load equally, at home and work, women can finally achieve financial independence. Before, the responsibility of the house, the in-laws and the children used to rule out the possibility of women achieving financial independence through a career outside of home, but now, the same women need not depend on their spouse financially which is a liberation not only monetarily but of the soul. 

Financial independence also brings with it the blessing of complete independence. The ties of money that used to bound women in unhappy and disloyal marriages before are now broken by the liberation offered by financial independence. The gradual removal of stigma associated with divorce plays a role too, the stigma that more often than not stuck on to women more than men, even though it takes two to break a marriage.Financial and personal independence go hand in hand, such is the world we live in.

Healthcare advancements have also furthered the interest of career as a life decision in women. The society has taken years to accept and adopt, not fully still, the advancements that healthcare offers to women in the scenario where they decide to delay having children to focus on their career. Due to biological complications that come along with having children after 35, women had no choice but to take a step back early in their career and provide the best upbringing to their children, a joint venture often disproportionately shared between the two parents, mother being the major shareholder.

Healthcare advancements have not only provided alternatives to organic birth but have also increased life expectancy in both men and women. How does this affect your life decision as a millennial you ask? Well, all that you aim to achieve can be planned out on a larger period than before. You want to start a company at 50? It is possible now, but it wasn’t before. We as millennials do have an upper hand and a longer timeline to plan our futures and that is a blessing in disguise.

Feminism, social and healthcare advancements have made it easier for us as millennials (even if it is a tiny bit) to make life decisions based on choice rather than “no choice”. Wouldn’t you agree?

Toxic Positivity – Keep It Real, Not Ideal

I am sure most of us have experienced toxic positivity at least once if not more in our lifetime. Toxic positivity is a “positive only” approach to life. The belief that we should maintain a positive mindset even in dire or difficult situations. While it may work for some people, the rest of us view it as gaslighting. Shutting down someone’s emotions by asking them to “look on the bright side” or “stay positive” can be toxic, quite the opposite to what the person perpetrating it might think. After all, the idea behind asking someone to cheer up is to help them relieve the pain. However, a very complex emotion, toxic positivity is real, often underrated and can have profound impact on a person’s mental health.

The idea of accepting and living the pain or disappointment or grief has better chances of alleviating someone’s suffering than neglecting the emotion altogether. Making someone realize that their suffering is real and not made up by their mind can lead the path to healing, and toxic positivity does the exact opposite. What’s important to note is that toxic positivity that used to be a problem only at a personal level, is now a pandemic in itself with the rise of social media and easy access to unwarranted and often glamorized information about our fellow being’s lifestyles. The motivational speakers and health enthusiasts and fitness experts of the world need to keep it real from time to time. I’m sure they have their days when they don’t have the strength or the energy to be motivated enough. Show that on social media too. Keep it real, not ideal.

Another common case of toxic positivity is sharing personal experiences when they are uncalled for. A lot of times we tend to interrupt a dejected person and try to detail our success story in a similar situation in the hopes that they will realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, in such instances the attempt to appease often comes back to bite. Firstly, something that worked for you might not work for them and secondly, by doing this you’re basically undermining the magnitude of their suffering. A simple statement such as “I understand” can also be viewed as gaslighting. Because then the question rises – do you really understand?

“Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us” – a statement very reassuring often said in high spirits can also be taken as toxic positivity. So how do we check our positivity? To be honest, empathy is the only way. While responding to someone’s plight, think of what you would want to hear if you were in the same or a similar position. Step in their shoes and really understand their pain and acknowledge it for what it is, and not for what you want it to be. Common statements to pacify someone can be – “Whenever you need to call, I am here to listen”, “It’s okay to not be okay, take your time”. Sometimes, you don’t even have to say anything, just listen. More often than not, all they want is someone to talk to and be heard or just someone to cry in front of. BE THAT PERSON!

The Value System

Sometimes, sticking by the value system you create for yourself can be hard. And that’s because you created that value system based on your perception of the ideal you, not the real you. The “you” you want to become. That value system was created in the hopes of getting closer to the person you aim to be. And sometimes you feel that the only way to achieve that is through following that value system to the T. In the process, you can be too hard on yourself without realizing it. It is okay to let go once in a while and let yourself breathe. While aiming for perfectionand righteousness (whatever that might mean to you because perfection and righteousness are both subjective) is the right thing to do, it is also important to realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day. When you fail to stick by what you believe is right, you will be disappointed in yourself. However, the important thing is to learn from the disappointment and put a finger on the reason why you took a step that so clearly didn’t align with your value system. What was your conscience’s rationale behind it? And the conclusion can go either way- either you modify yourself or you modify your value system. It’s an agile process and that’s how it is supposed to be. And that’s how, by process of elimination, and trial and error, you would have inadvertently become the ideal you.

Backhanded Compliments

All minority groups in a society go through the brunt of backhanded compliments. So, what are backhanded compliments? A backhanded compliment is a compliment that is not a compliment at all. The subtle oppression euphonized in the form of a compliment is far greater an insult than if somebody were to abuse someone in their face. Only the other day someone said to me, “Oh, you drive really well, didn’t expect that. Good for you!”. A lousy attempt at flattery, I am sure the person never expected me to lash out at them, let alone say thank you. It was not only a dig at my ability to drive but also a dig at the ability of all females to drive. Gaslighting is a common response to such aggression. For example, the person’s response to me in this situation was – “Oh, don’t be so sensitive”. GASLIGHTING. Well, maybe that’s a topic for another day.

Backhanded compliments at the workplace are the worst. For a person working in the U.S., a lot of times they coincide with racial microaggressions. For example, I was once asked by one of my colleagues, “Hey, how do you speak English so well?” and another time, “Hey, how is your skin so light?”. Was I flattered? No, quite the opposite. However, I gave the benefit of the doubt to the person asking the question and assumed that they are just an ill-informed individual who live in their own bubble and have no idea what goes on in the Universe outside of that bubble. And so, I decided to be the bigger person and inform them about my country and their ways instead. 

Backhanded compliments could be a result of a system engulfed with ill-informed individuals but a lot of times they are meant to subtly sting. Flattery camouflaged as insult. When it’s intentional, you really can’t do anything about it. However, when it is unintentional, you could be the person perpetrating ittoo without your knowledge and so it is highly important to check your compliments before giving them out how I give out fucks (working on it!).

Whiny Millennial

“Generation whine” as some call it, millennials are infamous for being cribby, especially in the workplace. I would say I was in that position too when I first started so there’s no denying the fact that we are an entitled generation who demand the greatest without having to work for it. Baby boomers often complain that most new hires show no signs of patience at workplace. They look for providing valuable impact in their first year itself without doing their time like their baby boomer counterparts did. They often whine about not having meaningful work as soon as they start, they are constantly looking for feedback and very easily get bored of slow ROI in the beginning of their career. The important thing to ponder is, is this a good or a bad trait? Are traits like patience, perseverance and consistency without expecting immediate return really lost on millennials?

A common sight amongst millennials is also the frequency with which they switch their jobs. Some say that’s the right way to do it however an opposing argument could be that we are creating jacks of all trades and masters of none. In a world growing at the speed of light, the skills that baby boomers used to gain over 10s of years, the millennials are fortunate enough to gain in a matter of only a few years. However, that still doesn’t stop millennials from hopping from one job to another, often in fields unrelated. Is it that they are following the money or is it that they lose interest in their jobs easily? Or is it a mix of both? As far as I am concerned, I view it as being shortsighted if it is just the money that you are chasing. Skills developed over time (even if that means staying in a job for only 4 years, that’s still 1000 years in millennial standard time) have a long lasting impact on your career. Call me old-school but that’s how I feel. Thoughts?  

Habituated to the Chaos

A common theme among Indians in the U.S. is the steep learning curve when it comes to adapting to the lack of hustle and bustle. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in a city like Chicago where hustle bustle on the streets reminded me of home and to have had good friends in the city who filled the void of not having close ones close. It still doesn’t compare to the kind of social life we as Indians are used to, wouldn’t you agree? To be honest, living in the U.S. for a few years does make you mentally stronger in that respect. Rather than deriving happiness from other people, you start looking for it in the things you do for yourself. You achieve mental independence. But what is the right way to live?

To answer that question, let’s look at some stats – rates of clinical depression and anxiety are higher by 4-10 times in the West as compared to the East? Have you considered why? Studies suggest that Westerners are more like free agents, they believe in being independent in their interactions with others and, act and think in binaries – good versus evil, happiness versus sadness. Whereas, people in the East tend to view the world holistically. They believe in the importance of interdependence of human beings in terms of relationships and social obligations. They also expect opposites to coexist – happiness with a hint of sadness, there’s some evil in all good.

Some people might look at the above description and think, well then Westerners should be happier. The less the interaction with fellow human beings, the less the drama and the happier you are. Hell, I used to think that way too until recently. However, I have slowly come to realize that money, comfort, living standards and independence do matter however are often confused with harbingers of happiness. Happiness, at least for me, is derived from the people around me, my close ones, the relationships I share with them, the laughter and joy, the fact that my kids will some day grow up the way I did – squished between 8 siblings running around the house chasing each other with the background noise of my grandma shouting at us for wreaking havoc.

We as millennials are slowly getting victimized by the western culture resulting in the rise of mental health cases. Chasing independence – both personally and financially, we lose sight of what matters at the end of the day – family. I am consciously making decisions that feel right to me rather than blindly following the propagandized version of happiness. Balance between ambition and happiness is key but all decisions have the right time to be made, find that sweet spot soon and act on it before the train leaves the station.

Personal Brand, the Influencer Generation, Self-Audit and Vanity

Humans have been building their personal brand to improve their social and work life for generations now. It is how they modify other people’s perception of them. Personal brand more or less includes your likes, dislikes, your personality, your beliefs and virtues and basically reflects who you are to the world. Some have the ability to evolve and metamorphose their personal brand into what they want people to perceive them as. But the important thing to note is that it was nothing a common man could make money off. Personal brand used to be a source of money exclusively for public figures and celebrities who would consciously make choices to not be perceived in the wrong light. However, the influencer generation is now showing us that personal brand is no longer a selling point just for celebrities, and that money can be made by ANYONE who knows how to sell their personal brand well.

It is kind of refreshing to take away the exclusivity or monopoly from celebrities and public figures of selling personal brand as a business, but it comes at a cost. A cost far greater than the money made.  The thing is, no one is selling their authentic self because your personal brand is yours to modify and sell with no audit controls. So, for the lack of a better word, you could be making money by “lying”. The aim of this blog is not to be critical toward the lifestyle influencer community, but it is to provoke thoughts so that we can at least audit them on a personal level. Unachievable lifestyle, fashion and beauty standards have been glorified by public figures for decades. But that never affected the mental health of the common people because that lifestyle was something they idolized and not envied. It is a whole different ball game when the same lifestyle is projected by your friend who you used to know from college way back when. Then, that becomes an issue of mental health. But is that person telling the truth? That is when personal audit comes into play.

When talking about a generation almost engulfed by the influencer revolution, it is hard not to talk about mental health. When business becomes personal and basically runs on validation from others (followers), the day that validation is not positive is a doomsday for your self-worth and confidence. Many go into the business attracted by the glitz and the glamour and some thinking it is some get rich quick scheme which works as long as you follow the trends, not realizing that all of this comes at a cost. The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we ready to be a part of this virtual almost unauthentic and fantasized world that only resides in the device in your hand?