Empower

(c) photo taken by Anila Dhami

(c) photo taken by Anila Dhami

Last night I had the immense privilege of appearing on Zee Companion, with my mentor Mandy Sanghera and presenter Anila Dhami, to talk about International Women’s Day, Feminism and general girl power.

The topics discussed ranged from domestic violence, forced marriages, empowerment and Feminism to the women who inspired us on a daily basis. It led me to think about empowerment; what does it mean and how can we go empowering ourselves?

~ (a) To give authority or power to (b) to give strength and confidence to

Empowerment has become a bit of a buzzword which many of us talk about and use on a daily basis. We use this word whenever we speak about the problems that women face, yet it all becomes incredibly vague when it comes to creating solutions for these problems.

I usually hate those Instagram pictures with a philosophical quote, but I came across one which said: “Happiness is an inside job” and made me think. Empowerment, in a nutshell, is directly linked to self confidence and self-worth which increases self esteem. So on an individual basis, empowerment is rooted in the way that we view ourselves. The issue with this is that many of us are quite cruel and hard on ourselves (including me). It ranges from obvious things like: comparing yourself to others and fat talk to having chronic low levels of confidence. It could also be linked to your family and the atmosphere that you were raised in. After all, we are products of our environment and the effect that this has upon us is profound.

There’s many reasons why the vast majority of women find it hard to be kind to themselves and feel better about themselves which makes it difficult for us to feel empowered. It took me a long time to feel good about myself and comfortable with who I am; it started with changing the way that I viewed myself. It began with baby steps: writing a list of five things I liked about myself (physical and non-physical), saying something nice about myself and I’m aware that this all sounds very cheesy, but you know what? It worked and has been a good platform to continue to empower myself.

Another way that we can begin to feel empowered is to be mindful of ourselves and others. Practising mindfulness often results in us becoming very self aware of our words and actions to ourselves and those around us. It makes us more intuitive, kinder and compassionate as well. These are tools that we can apply to ourselves in helping us to become more empowered. Mindfulness is basically taking a few minutes to really appreciate and savour the present moment for what it really is. For example: enjoying the feeling of the sun on your face or how good a morning cup of tea tastes. It’s a rare opportunity to unplug from a fast world and connect with ourselves.

Finally, having a good support system and network is also a great way to begin feeling empowered. Think about how good you feel when you’re around a good friend or your favourite cousins. Amplify that feeling by 100 and that’s the closest I get to describing what empowerment feels like.

“But how do I find these networks?” Social media and technology has made this part slightly easier. It’s easier to connect with people in cyberspace and build up friendships than to meet new people in real life. The best bit of advice I could give to anyone feeling apprehensive about networking is this. When meeting a new person (or someone whose work inspires you) say this to yourself: “They have two eyes, a stomach and a bum” and then go speak to them. There’s a variety of professional networks that you can join – online and offline – as well as various websites like Meetup where you decide what kinds of events you want to attend.

One of the best mantras I tell myself is this: “Just show up and meet five new people” which has been a building block into creating a network. After all, if you don’t show up you ultimately miss out and the world does not see you for the wonderful person that you are.

 

 

2014

This is my last post for 2014 and I’m not usually a fan of the whole “New Year, New Me” rigmarole unless there’s a degree of seriousness attached to it. What I do take seriously are the gifts of hindsight, expressing gratitude and methods that individuals (and groups) have taken steps to try and better themselves and their communities.

This year was particularly trying; I started 2014 in not a great way and for the first half of the year it felt like being in between a rock and a hard place. I was very on edge almost all of the time, burnt out, uninspired and fed up of life when I’ve not even started living! It wasn’t until I went out to East Africa for three weeks and left my phone, laptop, social media etc in London.  I remember the night before I left, feeling like a complete failure because I wasn’t on a high salary, wearing designer clobber, out travelling the world or living in a Chelsea flat and “living it up” like many people I knew. I remember my dad telling me not to worry, but how could I not worry? Life is so fast and I felt like I wasn’t in control of it in comparison to my fellow peers.

Those three weeks were the best of my life so far; it was a much needed break and out there I saw a different way of life and members of my family who gave me some great life advice. I met people who were successful in their own right simply by being persistent, working hard and staying focused. I also severely embarrassed myself on several occasions – which I won’t reveal here but on Twitter (@c_syal). I came back to London feeling rested, energised, full of ideas and fabulous.

I still felt like rubbish but started to see things in a very different light. I stopped following what others did and feeling inadequate which is hard because we’re bombarded by it 24/7.  I stopped blaming myself for not being rich or owning a flat in Zone 2; we’re all at different paces in life and should be focusing on the next step instead of the next 200 steps. Since then, I’ve been a lot more relaxed and at peace with myself which has made a big difference with regards to my general outlook. There’s nothing wrong with any of us or our lives.

There have been many highlights, experiences and opportunities that overshadowed negative experiences and I honestly wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the good unless I’d experienced the bad stuff. Even with unscrupulous individuals – we all learn something from each other and it is so important to not take things personally nor depend on anyone too much. I’ve been very blessed to have collaborated with and work with some incredible people who have each taught me something new about myself, themselves, the world and the work we are involved in. And I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for supporting Avid Scribbler and what it stands for.

I am also truly touched and so thankful for everyone’s support; especially after last week’s post which you can read here.

 

 

Tick Tock: Time to Change

(c) Virgin Unite & Ashoka UK

(c) Virgin Unite & Ashoka UK

There’s been a lot of changes both for myself and Avid Scribbler as a blog. It all began a month ago when I received a rejection from a company I really really wanted to work for. It was quite hard to stomach because I’d set my heart on it. Usually I would have just told myself: “It’s ok Chayya, you did your best” but for some reason I decided that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. After a few emails stating my case, I now find myself in the position of blogging for one of the UK’s biggest companies and en route to a new venture.

From a young age, I’ve refused to give up and have always done whatever I can to be the best, this ranged from the trivial such as being the first to finish breakfast to getting As at school. When I was younger I used to refer to this streak as my Inner Lion – and it used to really drive me (believe me: there are MANY entertaining tales from my childhood to be told).

For the past two years, it felt like my inner lion had curled up into a little ball and  lost its luscious mane. However, things got really bad following the death of my great-uncle earlier this year and a steady flow of job rejections didn’t help. I unusually went in myself, became very quiet, thoughtful and disinterested in life. Gradually I came to terms with things, began to build myself up, eased myself into the swing of things and eventually got my fire and confidence back.

When you change, the world around you changes.

Last week (October 16) I attended an event called “Makers of More” in Bethnal Green. It’s easily been one of the highlights of my life so far. You can read my article on the event here. All of the speakers were incredible, but one particularly stood out for me.

Her name is Pamela Chng and she’s the founder of Bettr Barista in Singapore. She spoke about fear and how it had driven her as a social entrepreneur. Chng’s speech itself had a physical influence; when she spoke the audience was shrouded in darkness. The feelings of fear that she spoke about were ones that I had (and have) felt for many years and it was very emotional for me to hear a successful business woman say them aloud. What Chng said has stayed with me and inspired me, so much so, that I’ve shared the quote of the night:

We often have to imagine how to get beyond your fears to make the impossible happen. I’ve realised that imagination actually starts in your heart. Your heart needs to soar into the clouds to imagine a world that’s different. And the only way for your heart to be unbridled in its existence is it to fear less.