January 12, 2012

­­­­­ I was having a coffee at Café Magnet when this young lad walked up and asked me if I owned a Belair Health Club.  “I am Regi’s (not real name) friend.  Did he talk to you about me?”  Yes, he had.   This boy needed counseling on how to build up a little more confidence, but wouldn’t come to the gym to get started.  He wished to know if there was anything he could do at home that would transform his self.  It seemed a bit odd that he should choose me to give him lessons on this subject, but I thought I would find out what the boy’s problem was and refer him to a psychologist, if he so needed it.   As it turned out,  the boy’s problem was more of his parent’s making than his and with a little bit of prodding from me, his over protective parents let him free, allowing the lad’s personality to develop along the line that was best for him.   Over the years, I have come to see and have been able to help out many who needed a few lessons on how to build self confidence.  You might want to know how did I get to know so much about this subject or how could I have been able to help build self respect and confidence.  I know because this was the story of my life when I was a teenager and I see so many around with abnormal behavioral patterns that can be corrected if only they would build a bit more self respect.

Everything from the way you smile to your mannerisms and social status depend very much upon your personality.  I remember when I was about 14 years old; when girls start to dominate every part of your mind; I met this lad who was about five or six years elder to me.  If ever there was a cool dude on this planet, it was this guy.  Nothing seemed to shake him or bother him.  And girls fell all over him, which was the chief attraction to me.   He was anything but good looking, not muscular or heavily built but an average looking guy, not immensely rich nor had anything remotely connected with flashy, ostentatious life style.  But when he talked, everyone listened, hung on to his words and girls seemed ready to kill for him.  I treated him with great respect and found to my surprise that even his parents treated him with a lot of respect.  At home, I was supposed to be someone with above average intelligence, but never seemed to be able to win any respect, no matter however hard I tried.

I was so fascinated with this guy that one day I asked him bluntly what his secret of success was.  He laughed and said, “I guess I like myself so much that I force others to like me too.”  His answer was so confusing that it took me about ten years to decipher it.

There is something I ask everyone who joins my health club.  “What do you hope to get out of weight training?”.  I have had answers varying from “to build a great body” to “shape up before marriage”.  Sometimes I think I ask this question in the hope that someone will give me an answer which I always wanted to hear, which is “to build my personality”.  I could name a few other exercise and life style regimens to fit the bill, but weight training does play a key role in building your personality, i.e., if you know how to use weight training to your advantage.   People are so obsessed with their outward looks that they forget they have something in them that is more attractive and that which holds others to them for life.   And as I mentioned earlier, you have to like and respect yourself before you can expect others to do the same for you.

I got my first job in 1984, as an overseer at a building construction site and the building contractor Sri Ratnam Ramaswamy was the one who helped me unlock the key to the mysterious puzzle my friend had given me about ten years earlier.   Being a fresher, I was too friendly with the staff and workers which irked Mr. Ramaswamy a lot.  “Teach your workers, children and dogs to respect you and not love you.  Love will come later.”  So he would tell me.   And exactly as he prophesied I ended up having a big fight with some of the workers.  I had asked them to complete a certain job and given them a dead line too.  Not only did they not meet the dead line, they seemed not the least bit bothered that they would have to answer to me about it.  I complained to Mr. Ramaswamy to which he replied thus. “If you cannot control your workers, you will never be able to control anyone.  Workers are supposed to be doing what you ask them to do and they get paid for it.  If they do not treat you with respect, no one else is going to, either”.

I did not know how to face the workers the next day.  They knew that I had complained and that it fell of deaf ears.  I was sure they would break into a smirk when I asked them to do anything.  I spent a sleepless night thinking about the loss of face that I would have to suffer at the workers’ hands.  I remembered the time when I first got into the boxing ring.  I was so terrified of getting hit that I was running away from the opponent half the time, until the first ever blow landed on my face.   It lifted me off the ground and threw me down so hard that it changed my attitude altogether.  I was consumed with a savage rage to rip the guy who hit me, apart.  My change did not go unnoticed by the opponent and now it was his turn to run around.  He knew I was no longer afraid of him and was possessed by a murderous rage.  Needless to say, I won that fight.  This was exactly how I felt the next day, when I reached the site, to beat the living daylights out of anyone who dared to disobey me.  Of course, I was not going to use my fist, but a different weapon which I have not used so far; a different attitude.

When I woke up that morning, I had also solved the puzzle and came up with the answer.  Many a thought had crossed my mind, including my father’s words that he used to prompt me to study well.  It was “you are all you got”.   I realized that I was always alone when something like this happened and looking around for comfort and solace was what that made me a weak man.  The moment I turned around to face the problem, the problem disappeared, ever so magically, as it did with my first ever boxing show.  I was going to confront my worst fear and attack it head on.


Four or five of the workers were at the entrance of the work site, all of them had the air of defiance that came to the working class when their employer had to go down on knees before them.  I stopped my bike a few feet away from them, took off my sun glasses and stared at them with all the pent up anger I had.  I couldn’t care less if they stared back or anything.  But the moment I took off my sun glasses and stared at them, something about their demeanour changed.  Something about me stiffened them to attention as I hissed, “What the hell is everyone doing at the entrance?  Are you not working today?”  They almost ran inside and from where I stood, I could see that the other workers had noticed it.   Something about this new found energy of mine was spreading rapidly and as I walked inside, workers scrambled away from my front and were acting like they were doing their best out at the site.   I did not feel elated, but a cold rage swept all over me as walked into the office.  The office clerk who hardly ever acknowledged me,  almost stood up before putting one hand to his heart and say “good morning, sir”.   I ignored him and walked towards my table.  My mind was in turmoil.  All these months, I would buy tea for this guy everytime I ordered one, buy all the workers tea or something to drink, if they were near me and always expressed my concern at their welfare.  Never did any of these guys showed me gratitude, but only treated me with a little less respect than what I thought I deserved.  Everytime I felt ignored by any of the workers, I would show more interest in them; a little shamelessly.   Now, I just took charge and became their superior officer, threw about my weight as all superiors did; they took notice and paid heed.    They were mere workers and I was the boss.  I never really did act my part till then.  It was only because I did not really see myself as the boss.

Yes, until then, I never believed in myself and so, nobody else did.

Now when I think back, I realize how much it had transformed my life.  The key to winning attention and respect, as I see it, is answering one single question.  “Do you respect yourself?”  Yes, that is what I asked you.  Can you honestly answer that question?  What do you think of yourself?  You will find that it is the same opinion others have about you.  Haven’t you had moments of very serious self doubts when you were about to meet a beautiful woman?  Have you ever been very sure that you will be received warmly?  If you were a much adored movie star and had to walk upto a beautiful girl to make friends with her, wouldn’t you be very confident of winning her attention?  Yes, the difference is in your attitude.

You and everyone in this country are treated as equals and guaranteed equal rights under the Indian Constitution, but in a society, you are never anybody’s equal.  You are either one up or one down, but never equal, when it comes to a relationship.  Your best friend and you may share every secret, may die for each other, but if you observe closely, you will find that one of you is slightly more dominant than the other.  It is not that one can assault the other’s ego and hope to get away with it, but that, one is more willing than the other to adjust or cooperate in all matters of dispute.  It is the same with any man-woman relationship.  Most men dominate in a relationship and women, slightly submissive.  He may never ever get away with it if he pushes her too far, but she may be willing to compromise more easily than him in anything not so agreeable.   Again, this equation is more so because one believes deeply that he/she can dominate the other.   It is all about believing in yourself and what you can do.

More important than anything is knowing where you fit in, in a relationship.  Your cousin may be younger, but a millionaire and a successful businessman, which will give him a higher ranking in the family hierarchy.   But if you have dominated over him since the time you were children and never given him more respect than that you give a younger sibling, he will always show respect and fall in line.  It is all about attitude.   But then there are times when it pays to know where your true place is.  In your office, your boss may respect you for the person that you are, but he will never treat you on equal terms.  You will always have to accept that there are others who may hold a higher ranking and who will have to be given their share of respect.   But your attitude, demeanour and conduct can simply make him understand that you are to be treated well, cannot be taken for granted and win you your share of respect.

It is so in the animal world too.  Dogs have a clearly defined hierarchy which is very strictly observed.  Any dog falling out of line is immediately taken to task.   And so it is with a lion pride or a herd of elephants or any animal family.   Rising in position will always involve a show of strength or fight and once the new positions are established, it stays put until another challenge arises.   We are not any different from other animals and we fight amongst each other which involve a show of strength, for a better position.  We buy luxury cars, build bigger houses, throw ostentatious parties, buy atrociously priced clothes and play every trick in the book to let the society know how important we are.   Do we ever feel bad that we are one up on anyone?  Do we ever feel bad that our spouses do not enjoy the same importance as we do?   We do not and the moment we show such sympathy, we stand to lose ground too.  It is the law of nature.  You have to realize that you are selfish to the bone marrow.  You care only about yourself and others have only entertainment value.  We use words that hide our latent intentions when we express our professed love.

In real life, which is far removed from what you see in movies or read in books, you are really all alone.  Your wife will cease to love you or show you respect the moment you become a pauper or a good for nothing.  It is all about what she can get out of you.  You may provide the security that she needs or rich enough to pamper her or a famous person or possess whatever quality that has attracted her.  And remember there is nothing wrong with that.   Every living thing in the world is built that way.  If you want her attention, you will have to earn it.  If you want her respect, you will have to earn it and so it is with everyone else.  If you want to be respected, you will have to earn it the hard way.  There is no replacement for hard work.  There are no mantras or tantrik formulas or tricks to stimulate your inner self into becoming a magnet that wins all hearts.   Yes, you are respected if you are a rich man and you worked hard to become a rich man.  You are respected if you are a top sportsperson and yes, you worked hard to get to the top.  If you became rich by winning a lottery, people who know about it will not treat you with any more respect than what they used to give you and those who pretend to show more respect are definitely inclined to steal your money somehow.

Now that you have let the hard facts of life sink in, how do you feel?  The moment you accept and understand what you have and how much you can achieve, you will have sealed your position in a particular slot in the society and from where you will have to work hard to come up.   When you understand your potential and limitations, your mind will have evolved into something that will seek only what it should.  It is such a smooth transition that you will hardly ever notice it.  A certain inner contentment will replace the gnawing craving for more attention.   The desire for approval and applause will be replaced by a feeling of fulfillment that comes from doing what you have to do.  Needless to say, that is exactly what brings you all the respect.  It is never what you project or try to project that wins the credit, but what lies within you or simply what that contributes to making you, you.   Come to think about it, even a mad man like Hitler could win the respect of almost the entire German people and they did his bidding by engaging in a carnage of Jews.  All so because Hitler thought Germany was meant for the Aryan race.  Imagine the power he wielded over so many people, his wish being their command and a desire to be shamelessly submissive and all because, he believed in himself and just that.

So, how do you go about building a good image of yourself?  Write down all the good things about you, however trivial it may seem.   It does not matter how silly it may seem.  Also, note every good thing down in your mind, which happens to you everyday.  It may be something as silly as this pretty woman glancing at you just once in the morning or it could be that a young person got up from his seat to give you his, in the bus.   Now try to be grateful to God for giving you whatever little you have.    Ever so slowly, but steadily work up a respect for you, in your mind.  It may seem like a slow, tedious job, but then as I have mentioned earlier in this article, there is no replacement for hard work.  Whatever happens, never let any negative thought stay in your mind longer than necessary.  For eg.  you may have noticed that this girl you are interested in, pretended not to see you, at the bus stop or it could be as silly as someone forgetting to say thanks to you for something you did for him or it may that you have to pay back a debt and do not have a clue how to go about it.     These negative thoughts serve only to bring down your zest for life and nothing else.  Try to encourage and coax the mind to remain in a positive state.   Deal with all the negative things that happen to you as they have to be and the moment that job is done, encourage your mind to dwell in something more interesting.   For eg.  if you owe someone some money and do not have the wherewithal to repay it on the due date, do not run away from it.  Face this problem, deal with it by having to go the money lender with the best possible apology, brave yourself to face his whiplash of a tongue and once it is done with, do not let the mind linger on all the terrible things he said to you, but immediately focus your attention to something that soothes your hurt pride with a cool breeze, like thinking about a cute child or something good that happened to you the previous day.

How does this help you?  It is unbelievable but true that you actually invite troubled times to dwell in you by thinking about them.  Do you realize that you could think about meeting with an accident and simply hurt yourself in one?  Do you realize that you could think about a friend you have not seen in a long time and simply get him to call you?  Has that happened to you?  Do you realize that if you and your wife  are really in love with each other and vibe well,  you could be humming the exact song she is singing, even though both of you are in two different rooms and cannot hear each other?   Do you realize that Mother Nature always  favours the well prepared.  If you thought you got lucky, nothing could be further from truth.  You actually invited the good fortune by creating a favourable ground.

Start today and not tomorrow, your work to cultivate self respect.  For the first few days, do not even be tempted to contemplate how long it will take, but focus on the work at hand.  The more you start to like yourself, the less you will seek affirmation of any kind from anyone.  You will start to be content with whatever little you have and yes, you will find that people do respect you more for what you really have become than what you try to project yourself out to be.



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