Mentor Musing: Resilience
This month’s musing comes to you from Nritya Ramani ’08, an empowerment public speaker and writer, who has been a Bennie Mentor for the past 10 years. If you follow the CSB Alumnae and Friends Instagram page (@saintbensalums), you may have seen her posts about resilience. Here we are sharing the written version of Nritya’s series along with the links to the videos. We hope these inspire you and your match!
The ability to persevere in the face of adversity and bounce back from challenging life events. What makes someone more resilient than others? Have you ever wondered how does someone keep going despite the obstacles he or she faces? What is their secret and how can you become more resilient?
While I cannot speak for others, I can share resilience strategies that helped me survive my sister’s death to cancer, a violent psychopathic husband, an abusive narcissistic father, and the generational chains of patriarchy and misogyny that were normalized in my family.
In this series, I will be guiding you step-by-step using examples from my life to illustrate the powerful tools I use everyday. Brutally honest, no-nonsense, to-the-point truths. And in doing so, it is my vision that the lion inside you awakens and roars.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.
- Episode 1: Embrace Your Identity Unapologetically
View Episode 1: Embrace Your Identity Unapologetically
Believe in your identity. Love your identity. Be fiercely proud of your identity. Because a person who is not confident of who he or she is, will not be able to stand their ground when the storm comes.
Tough situations will force unsavory questions and doubts upon you.
“Who do you think you are?”
“Everyone is laughing at you.”
“You are a loser. You can only fail in life.”
“This is so stupid. Do you even think this will work?”
“Why can’t you be just like everyone else?”
When I first realized I was an Empath, I experienced mixed feelings. I understood why I felt overwhelmed and exhausted from all the incoming sensory information. And I was relieved that I was not “making it all up”.
But I also felt angry that my “being different” had made me a soft target for manipulative people and abusive relationships. I resented that I was a “freak” and couldn’t be “normal” like everyone else. That I could not bring myself to be as selfish or cruel as my tormentors. I became fearful and hid myself as I felt my identity would make me vulnerable to predators.
Eventually I realized that what makes us different makes us extraordinary. And that when God blesses us, it is for a greater purpose. I educated myself on the strengths and limitations of Empaths and HSPs. And when I embraced my gifts, I discovered that my lifelong passion for social justice, fearless motivation and courageous leadership aligned perfectly well with the calling of the Heyoka Empath. It was who I was all along. God just revealed to me a greater understanding of myself. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Accepting who you are is the fundamental rule of building resilience. That means acknowledging both your strengths and limitations. Practicing such self-awareness helps you work on beliefs that may not serve you well in difficult phases of your life. It also guides you to build on aspects that can further strengthen your emotional arsenal, which in turn boosts your mental health.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.
- Episode 2: Upgrade Your Social Circle
View Episode 2: Upgrade Your Social Circle
The people who you surround yourself with make a huge impact on your morale when the going gets tough. This is why over the years, I have used a heavy vetting system to really screen who I call my friends.
Level up and associate with lions. This doesn’t mean that other people are necessarily wicked or evil. But the majority of people in this world are followers. This is the truth, plain and simple. They are mentally slaves to concepts such as culture, trends, family, peer pressure, money and religious ideas. They will not and cannot support you in all spheres of life. On the contrary, they may discourage you, scare you, criticize you and make you feel inferior and disempowered.
When I decided to become a Muslim, I saw a shift in my social circle. When I decided to wear the hijab, I saw another shift in my social circle. And as I continue to talk on taboo topics such as sexuality, consent and dating, I see more shifts in my social circle.
What has this taught me? That the people who left preferred that I be a ghost of my true self. To be a mere clone of the ideologies of others. And to be chained to the wails of despair that would keep me up at night. And that the people who I have now in my life, both the old and the new, are on my side, regardless of anything. They are not petty, vicious or envious. These are the people who have and will always be with me through all the transitions I experience in my journey. They don’t care about my clothes, my religion, my dating preferences, my lifestyle choices, my opinions or anything else. Because all that matters to them is that I am happy, I am safe and I am myself.
Remember. The people who have a mindset of lions are your fiercest supporters in any situation. Because their fearlessness, out-of-the-box thinking and self-awareness have helped them face great odds in life, thus making them resilient. They will not hesitate to reach out and help you, even when you cannot help yourself. They will cheer for you and celebrate your individuality. When you are with them, you feel safe and free of judgment. And these are exactly the kind of people you need to be friends with. Because their encouragement empowers you to become resilient.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.
- Episode 3: Power your Emotional Intelligence
View Episode 3: Power your Emotional Intelligence
Throughout our battles in life, the least understood yet incredibly powerful weapon that we have at our immediate use is our subconscious mind. As humans, we are fixated on behaviors and place too much emphasis on outcomes. We attribute resilience to flimsy parameters such as genetic code, what race you are, which gender is superior, is your mother a single parent, etc. Such attributions are nothing but proof of the narrow lens of human discrimination, and only diminish the power of emotional intelligence.
Unlike IQ which is fixed throughout your life, EQ or emotional intelligence can be worked on and enhanced. The default mechanism of the brain is to look for problems, not possibilities. While this evolutionary survival system is useful in dangerous situations, it does nothing for our emotional intelligence. If you are always “on the alert” for something going wrong, that is a huge consumption of energy. And that in turn will drain your resilience.
The trick is to change your neural pathways, by replacing your default thought patterns with new ones. This will affect your emotions which in turn will affect your behavior. Every morning, the first thing I do when I wake up, is to read my affirmations out aloud. I was always a bit skeptical about how this could really be effective. But ever since I started doing this, I feel more positive and composed. I am also better at maintaining emotional boundaries and am less reactive to situations. This is especially tough for Empaths since we are sensory sponges and internalize a lot from our environment.
Another technique I am working on is creating a gratitude list. Even though I know I have my blessings and I am thankful for them, I still want to write them out so that they are visually in front of me. I also recommend readingthem out aloud so that it really sinks into your subconscious, and the positive thoughts become the default in your mind.
Spirituality is another big boost for emotional intelligence. People often get confused and defensive around what spirituality means. In reality, spirituality is your personal relationship with a higher ideal, a relationship that is free of social norms, family expectations and personal limitations. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or an atheist. It doesn’t matter the religion you choose to practice. What matters is that you have a sense of connection with the universe. It can be prayers, going to Sunday church, fasting, meditation, yoga, journaling your feelings to God, etc. Because it is this connection that has the power to pull you out psychologically and emotionally when you are on the brink of entering a dark place.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.
- Episode 4: Push your Boundaries
View Episode 4: Push your Boundaries
Make choices that you can be proud of. Not just choices that align with your morals, family values
and cultural identity. Yes, these are important. But it is also vital that you make choices that both
acknowledge and awaken the real you. And that means activating your beast mode and pushing
It is easy to sit back and expect others to do things for you.
It is easy to never try and to indulge in self-pity.
It is easy to close your eyes and delude yourself that nothing will ever happen.
It is time to stop cushioning yourself and step outside your comfort zone.
Growing up in the Arabian Peninsula, I was exposed to Arabic from a young age. While I studied the basics at school, it had always been my dream to be completely fluent in the language. So after I moved back here from the US, I enrolled myself in a higher certification course. My fluency improved. My reading and writing looks amazing. But my communication still needed improvement. And I wondered what could I do to take it to the next level?
I use my Instagram platform to challenge people, speak about tough topics, and empower them to embrace their uniqueness. Being located in Dubai, I noticed a sizable number of my followers were from the Arab world. So I decided to push my boundaries and create content in Arabic so that I could have greater reach among Arabic audiences. I knew it was a daring move considering I am neither Arab nor completely fluent in Arabic. But I decided to share my respect for the local Bedouin culture, my love of the language, as well as my efforts in mastering the language. My Arabic speaking followers not only responded enthusiastically, but have also increased in number. By creating content in both English and Arabic, my commitment toward social justice is now attracting fellow seekers, activists and inquisitive minds not only from the International community, but also from the Arab world.
Challenging yourself doesn’t mean that you will not make mistakes, experience discomfort or taste bitterness. But putting yourself out there and taking ownership of your life builds character, as opposed to a sheep mentality where we do things just to be safe, to please others or because everyone else is doing it. And when you do accomplish what you set out to do, the adrenaline rush that it brings is the fuel for your resilience.
Do not get confused between resilience and recklessness. Pushing your boundaries and acknowledging your limitations go hand-in-hand. Daring to attempt and dream is one thing. But to be blinded by ignorance and ego is another. Because that only makes one disgruntled and restless, and an easy target for anger, envy and despair. This lack of contentment is a complete waste of energy. And conserving your energy is key to building resilience, because you will need that energy when the going gets tough.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.
- Episode 5: Knowledge is Power
View Episode 5: Knowledge is Power
There is a difference between being educated and being literate. Just because you can read and write does not mean you are educated. Just because you have a college degree, it does not mean you are educated. I have seen plenty of “educated” people in my life whose belief systems are so steeped in ignorance, pettiness, arrogance and entitlement, that it is baffling for me that they call themselves “educated”. The gross lack of knowledge and pretending that is power is both disconcerting and nauseating.
For example, there are people that believe that men are better at handling finances. In some parts of the world, it is a way of asserting male dominance and showing that “the woman is being taken care of”. It is also a way of saying that a woman’s place is in the home and kitchen. And this can potentially lead to financial control and abuse. Let’s say there is an unfortunate accident or a divorce. How can a woman understand her rights or achieve stability if she has no idea about money?
Growing up “under the absolute rule” of a narcissistic father in a patriarchal family was suffocating on so many fronts. And every time I spoke up, I would be gaslighted by relatives who normalized all the abuse my mother, sister and I were going through. Instead, they accused me of being a troublemaker and breaking the peace. But the one thing I taught myself was that it was better to be a troublemaker and break the peace, than to be in trouble myself and lose my peace.
I observed how none of us were allowed to have bank accounts of our own, have credit cards under our name, and even go to work and have friends. To the point that my father used his influence to brief potential employers that I was “mentally abnormal”. By presenting the facade of a “worried parent”, he garnered sympathy while ensuring I would never be hired in any interview I went to. I understood very well that keeping the women financially illiterate was a way of having full control, and that money was the most powerful way of establishing my independence and my freedom. My advice for women. Understand how money works. Do not subscribe to gender norms and depend on men to explain it to you. There is no pride in saying “my husband handles all these
things.” Start taking your knowledge about finances seriously.
Educate yourself. In the true sense. Stop believing in rhetorical nonsense. Start fact checking what you hear and verify your sources. Listen to different sides of an argument and be open to all types of dialogue. Do not keep yourself ignorant of crucial life skills. What you put inside your brain matters. I cannot stress this enough. Because knowledge powers your resilience by arming you with the skill set and critical thinking needed to face any situation.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.
- Episode 6: Mother Nature is the Ultimate Healer
View Episode 6: Mother Nature is the Ultimate Healer
Most of us are conditioned to be dependent on things that are beyond our control. And that crushes resilience. Because our spirit becomes broken inside when those things do not help us when we need them the most.
On one hand, there are things like prescription medications, alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. I am not the morality police. This is a judgment free zone. However, developing a dependency on these will only make you an escapist and an addict.
On the other hand, there are relationships, family and friends. Now, I am not devaluing the importance of human bonds. Of course, these are valuable because humans are essentially social animals. However, expecting others to bail you out or rescue you will eventually diminish your ability to rely on yourself.
Hands down, without a doubt, there is no greater healer than Mother Nature. Let’s look at Brown Noise. Why does one feel so relaxed when they hear it? Because brown noise is drawn from natural sources like waterfalls, ocean waves and rainfall.
Despite the explosion of technology, the surplus of gadgets and the growing concrete jungle, our bodies have an intrinsic yearning for nature. Capturing every moment on Instagram. A quick romantic fix on Tinder. Developing a new software using Python. Meeting colleagues via Zoom. Our senses become so exhausted and jaded from all these sterile interactions, that they desperately need something that is free, pure and loving.
No matter how busy I am, I always prioritize time for nature everyday. It could be gardening. Walking a trail. Feeling the desert sand slip through my fingers. Or even sitting on a park bench and watching the birds quarrel in the trees. The more time I spend in nature, the more rejuvenated I feel from the inside. Old wounds heal faster. My soul feels uplifted and grounded at the same time. I feel energized, loved and wholesome.
Mother Nature empowers you to pause and make your senses one with the universe. Once you stop searching madly for solace in the world and find your peace within you, it is a powerful realization. And this power will define how resilient you truly can be.
Be Bold. Be You. Be Lions.