Awaken the Durga Within by Usha Narayanan is a handy, easy-to-follow guide to help every woman assert themselves at home and work and reclaim their life. An Excerpt:
You Are Not Alone
Every woman has her own fears, her own inhibitions that are holding her back from what she wants to achieve. The woman sitting next to you in the theatre, the neighbour in the adjacent flat, the girl with the laptop who runs to catch the bus each morning—each of them has a tale to tell. One is afraid that her needs will not be met; another, that she is being exploited. Yet another woman wishes she could speak her mind at least once, instead of putting up with the problems in her life. Many women are battered mentally and physically because they continue to tolerate abuse, thereby compromising their peace of mind or self-respect. Then they beat themselves up, wishing that they had been proactive and not merely reactive—that they had stood up for what they believed in.
As a woman, you not only face hurdles imposed by others, you also face conflict from within yourself. As mentioned earlier, this is often due to culture and upbringing, lack of self-confidence, or pulling back when you should be pushing ahead. You have made it a habit to demand less from yourself and from others, prioritizing everyone’s needs before your own. Though you need to counter both external and internal obstacles, it may be easier to confront your inner demons first. Why? Because they are under your control and you can start the process today—right now, in fact!
As a woman, you not only face hurdles imposed by others, you also face conflict from within yourself.
Well, you have already made a beginning by reading this book. As Estée Lauder, one of the richest self-made women in the world put it, ‘I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.’ Your fears are real; the emotions that overwhelm you when you think of making a change are real. At times, fear is healthy, for it keeps you safe. Your senses or intuition warn you that there is something suspicious or dangerous about a person or a situation. Heed the warning! Ensure that you are not taking unnecessary risks, perhaps to prove a point to someone else. You are initiating a change for your own well-being, not for others. Do not give yourself a hard time as there are others already doing that. But when you have really decided to do something about it, you can change. The solution may be different for you and for another woman with different needs. But you need to address your fears and aim for a meaningful life even if it means disappointing or upsetting someone else. Remember: Whatever you do, there will always be some people who will never accept or appreciate you. You just need to keep going until you are at peace with yourself.
Remember: Whatever you do, there will always be some people who will never accept or appreciate you. You just need to keep going until you are at peace with yourself.
To do this, you should start with small steps—perhaps slide into the water instead of diving in. You need to motivate yourself sufficiently as well. One way to do this is to visualize how you will feel when you speak up against someone who is being unfair to you. Imagine your colleague’s shocked face when you tell him that you will appreciate it if he acknowledges your contribution to the project the next time. Or visualize your mother-in-law’s expression when you stop her from criticizing you in front of relatives, by saying: ‘I’m sure we don’t want to bore them with stories of my shortcomings. I have so many stories to share too!’ Well, you may never say this, but the idea will bring a smile to your face and make it seem worthwhile.
Motivate yourself by thinking of the times you succeeded, instead of dwelling on failures. Failure is no big deal. You learned something, didn’t you? And you will not be making the same mistake again. At least you tried something that not many others can boast of. Remind yourself of your talents—in singing, maths, chess. Do not let anyone make you feel that you are worthless. Also, do not overthink and come up with all sorts of ways in which things can go wrong. This will merely increase your fears and immobilize you. Instead, equip yourself to face challenges and use situations to make a change in your own character. You are not a rock that is meant to merely exist or endure. You are flesh and blood, and the world must honour your feelings and desires.
You are not a rock that is meant to merely exist or endure. You are flesh and blood, and the world must honour your feelings and desires.
To summarize, there are many reasons why you are the way you are. Stop blaming yourself. Analyse your fears and know that there is a solution for every problem. You don’t have to be the nice woman, the whiner, the clinging vine or the doormat. It’s your life and you have a right to your opinions and your happiness.
And here’s a tip to encourage and reward you for coming this far!
Tip: The first rule for you to remember is to say ‘no’ when someone asks you to do something you do not wish to do. Remember that you have a right to choose. You often forget that, don’t you? Saying ‘no’ can simplify your life so much—just try it! I will elaborate more about this later.
Now, let’s move on to a story that shows how Sati and her incarnation, Parvati, are models for a powerful woman, not for one who is subordinate to men and whose very existence hinges on her husband’s. Let us see how Shiva acknowledges that he and Shakti are the same. In fact, Shivaa is the first of the 1,008 names by which the world worships her.
Who is Sati? According to popular belief, she is the model of the ideal wife who serves her husband faithfully while he lives, and burns herself on his pyre when he dies! This is not true, but merely a distorted belief. As Ravana’s wife Mandodari puts it: ‘A sati is one who follows dharma; not one who worships at her husband’s feet and kills herself on his death.’ Shall we revisit Sati’s story then, looking at it from a different viewpoint, as written in our very own puranas?
Excerpted with permission from Awaken the Durga Within by Usha Narayanan published by Rupa Publications. Rs 195, 235 pp.
Picture Credit: Rupa Publications
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