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I Always Thought Trophies Decided My Worth. Not Anymore

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“I may get knocked down but I will never give up.” 

“The beginning is always the hardest, never give up.” 

“Miracles happen, wait for the right time.”

My wall is full of these posts and the very message to clear its meaning is what motivates me to write.

What makes me write is not the unidentified passion for it, but a strong sense of self-observation and untimely pent-up frustrations. My first attempt at writing was at identifying failures and making a living out of it. A huge chunk of this effort goes to motivating the undeniable procrastination of people to openly talk about failures due to the unthinkable stigma attached to it. However, this one is slightly different as it talks about the journey and some observations on how to keep your chin up when everything seems falling by the standards of our desires.

Well, first of all whenever I feel low, I always pick up my phone and start watching documentaries of people like Sadhguru or Oprah Winfrey who massively demystify the concepts and nuances of success and key to happiness. The irony is, since my childhood I have imagined myself giving interviews on big platforms talking confidently about the timeline of my future life, the supposed mistakes and hits and misses with a total and clean evaluation of the lessons one learns.

When Aristotle was asked, “What is needed for success?” he held the student’s hair in his hand and dunked him in water till his face turned blue. He remarked, “This is the urge required to be successful.”

This definition entered my mind at a tender age and didn’t affect me in a very positive manner. However, now if I may call myself mature, I agree with the version given by another philosopher who says, “Only working hard and living up to your potential doesn’t bring success, its imperative to enjoy rather than to bleed unnecessarily.” Well, all this might come with an exception but hold on to the thought of comparing success and failures.

When I say self-doubt, I start with a doubt which originated from my comparison of myself with others. At the very end of my school life, I came to know of the beauty of public speaking. However, when I saw people having carved a niche for themselves bringing laurels for the school, my decisions of refusing to be active at that time haunted me.

The more I compared myself to others, not just in public speaking, but in other aspects as well, the more I developed the conditioned psychic of how important it is to win every time. When I saw teachers being proud of students winning I used to think – “When will that moment come, when I can prove myself to others?”

I did try by putting my legs everywhere but did not get a way through. I always thought that “You are only important if you are successful and your study table is full of trophies and accolades.”

I had my moments of redemption wherein I had an opportunity to showcase my confidence and the tiny pool of knowledge I owned, but could never relish it with a trophy. That foolish competitive streak continued and still bugs me even today.

I developed a tendency of comparing timelines and situations leading to victories, calculating and twisting it result in pointing towards my incompetency. I never realised that I narrowed down my level of thinking and severely hampered my peace of mind. But I would not rest till I got my answers.

I took to new endeavours and challenges in college. In college, our baskets are never empty of prestigious opportunities to shine. I try to avail many of them desperately, waiting for my ‘trophy moment’.

I have had those moments wherein I apologised to my seniors when I didn’t get the desired results. Even my being thankful for the opportunities I got, like mooting and closely observing the nuances of the law, cannot satiate the lust for winning and being at the top.

With the idea of winning miles away, what is it that still keeps my eyes on the golden shine of trophies? Is it patience or rather the hope and slow reformative policies of enhancement of oneself in order to reach somewhere?

With as many people I interact, I am always praised and complimented,“Hey you must be debater!, You have such potential ya!” or when a competition is going on, the usual question that comes up is, “How was it, till where did you reach?”

I can only scratch my head and wonder how and when this will end through one victory. The attainment of a participation certificate only decreases my hope.

A slight reference to the high level of debate and method of argumentation often traces its birth to the amount of hard work one puts in for preparation. Often when I decide to compete somewhere, I start preparing. When everyone sees me with a huge pile of books rushing in and out of the library, they declare, “She will win man, look at the way she studies.”

This does not create a condition wherein I stop working but alters my way of looking at things which either leads to me imagining myself in hypothetical situations or creating blocks in my mind. I have had an opportunity of competing with a low-level team. Now when I say low level, it sounds like something very derogatory and demeaning, but that is how someone collectively or individually is labelled as when you do not match up to the set level. I have been labelled as one, so I can very well understand the kind of pressure which one has to deal with.

An equally similar level of jolt comes when I get knocked down by high-level teams only to realise that I need to work harder a push myself. Taking a big jump at the pile of observations, people considering my staunch and visible seriousness on my face, unexpectedly told me that I am depressed. I lost a close friend because of the confrontation on the same matter. People think that they are way too mature and aren’t bound by their own words.

Well, apart from the self-created problems, I faced an external manifestation of constant labelling. Aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding the attainment of success are extremely uncertain and in all probabilities are not attached and neither a measure of your capabilities.

What goes in the fat tummy of success is luck, efforts, God’s grace and several other things. Luck is something that I strongly believe in. It is that condition which works as a force, irrespective of hard work and convictions. It is a combination of favourable and unfavourable circumstances and situations which work directionlessly and not necessarily in favour of the people who genuinely work hard.

Giving your best does not always necessitate the existence of desired results, for we do not know what the best, or what qualifies as best is. There are millions of people who claim to give their best and yet do not reach the level they deserve. We do not know these people for they are least significant. Success stories surround us, and we sometimes forget the bitter reality of life. I would not say that I hate people who always win, but I do value people who have the unreachable level of competence, integrity, perception and rock solid attitude. Those who have not stood up to materialistic victory or won anything, yet stand tall and immovable.

For me winning trophies is a materialistic victory, for true victory lies within. If the onus of winning is on you, prove it to yourself, if the underlying onus lies on you to make your institution or someone proud then too, prove it yourself, because you can never fulfil someone’s expectations. I am not seeking revenge by calling those who have been winning trophies or any tags materialistic and neither am I reiterating my incompetence to win it, but the simple fact that it is not necessary.

One will anyways earn respect and worth if you have genuine passion and zeal, trophies do not stand as a testimony of this, a number of times you get up after being thrown is what makes you a force to be reckoned with. If we move in the right direction for the right purpose that is success.

Realising the moment when we can give our versions of success is the highest form of success one can enjoy. This version does not take away the happiness and satisfaction of winning and picking up a trophy for no one can realise the value of it except those who don’t get it. It merely advocates to develop an understandable and acceptable attitude towards people who do not manage to win despite possessing unmatchable capabilities. Trophy or no trophy, it shall be a comfortable situation if not win-win even after so much persuasion!

To do this, we need to follow one simple step – “Take the right next move.” Every time I get knocked down, I emphasise on this point. Although when I am demotivated, I straight away make plans to hide from as many people I can, make notes, study, read books and write.

Writing can compensate a lot. One should take up new things and never sulk. Learn and develop new techniques so that you can improve your mistakes. One does not have to make painstaking efforts to change situations, just small and concerted efforts to improve, learn more and following the motto “Relax, its all going to be okay.”

The beauty of self-doubt lies in its dictate value of putting one in a right place so that one can think appropriately of what you can do with your abilities. No one owns your capabilities, neither they have any idea of the extent, so its best to have a sense of time and discipline.

Have the thirst to answer every question yourself and not reiterate someone’s opinions. It’s always easy and okay to lose to the wandering and crazy world but never succumb to the pressure of winning. Do not let your definition of success be limited to reaching the top – let it be at the core of your self-realisation when you feel you are growing as a person.

Doubt is a medicine imperative for flowing rivers and an unstoppable person.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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