“It’s not what you are that’s holding you back. It’s what you think you are not”
– Denis Waitley
Choudhary seems to be your regular cheerful, 19 year old, with his whole life ahead of him. A BTech student in one of India’s premier institute’s in the country’s Northeast, His exterior gives no sign of the incredibly tough turmoil he has been experiencing within.
From the time I was a kid, one single thought that dominated my personality and my actions. That I must do everything that my parents tell me to do.
Choudhary had but one fear, that of disappointing his parents. In his mind, he needed to be the version of himself which they wanted him to be. He always performed well academically because that was expected of him and even ended up in a premier engineering institute. Right now, you might be asking yourself, “what’s the harm in that?” Well, in the process of always being someone else’s version of himself, Choudhary never did explore who he was, what were his likes and dislikes and what made him happy.
Once he joined his college, he started to experience the adverse effects of this mindset.
“I continued to perform well academically. But I didn’t know what happiness was. Also I was always second guessing myself which was exhausting”
Every step he took, every decision he made, every new experience he went for, all of it was governed by one overarching question, “what will my parents think about it?” He also found himself feeling very lonely as he faced difficulty in making friends. In his own words he was a ‘people pleaser’.
“I wasn’t my genuine self around my peers either. Just like at home, I was trying to be the version of myself that I thought they would like. But it didn’t really work.”
Needless to say, Choudhary’s self-esteem and self-confidence took a major hit. In his mind, he was doing everything right and yet nothing seemed to be working.
One question would keep bothering me. Will I ever experience true happiness?
Sad, lonely, and frustrated, Choudhary decided to give online counseling a shot and connected with an Expert on YourDOST. They gelled from the get go. For what felt like the first time in his life, Choudhary felt he could truly be himself and say what he wanted to, not what he thought the other person would like.”
“I just burst open. I didn’t even realise how much baggage I had been carrying all this time. My Expert just listened. For the first time, someone listened to me patiently”
Just being able to empty his heart out in itself proved tremendously relieving. He felt like a major weight had been lifted off his head. Over the next few weeks, they discussed everything from Choudhary’s childhood, what his school days were like, to the difficulties he was facing in college.
She told me something that no one else had ever told me, that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of me. What matters is what I think of myself
This gave him a perspective in life that he had never experienced before. Slowly but surely, together they started to unravel the layers behind which the real Choudhary was hidden.
“I started recognizing my own likes and dislikes and I finally believed that they too mattered. That to be happy, I need to keep my likes and dislikes in mind, not others”
Choudhary is definitely a different person today. That doesn’t mean he has defeated all his demons. After all, 19 years of conditioning can’t be overcome in just a few weeks. But he is confident that he can overcome them on his own now.
“Counseling helped me realise that I have all the answers within me. I just need to do some inward searching and I will be able to overcome all my problems.”
What Choudhary went through is surprisingly common in India. In a country where college is the first time when people move out of the shadow of their parents, many find themselves ill-equipped to deal with this major life transition. Loneliness sets in and self-esteem takes a major hit. In fact, according to a 2016 study, 52.5% of Indian college students suffer from low self-esteem.
Choudhary has a word of advice for all the people undergoing the same emotional struggle that he did,
“Try counseling. You get a friend, who listens, doesn’t judge, and guides you to finding the solution. It really works.”
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