Opinion and Editorial

Why brickbats from people should not break us

Asha Iyer Kumar
Filed on September 12, 2021

For reasons I can’t specify, I felt hugely gratified with the way things had turned out for me, despite repeated tripping and falling, and then getting up and walking again.

Birthdays are time for deep reflection for me. As my life score ticked upwards by another digit this week, I looked back at the distance I have covered, taking note of the crests and troughs of the journey — of things I had accomplished and of things that had slipped away during the course.

For reasons I can’t specify, I felt hugely gratified with the way things had turned out for me, despite repeated tripping and falling, and then getting up and walking again. I had come a long way by my estimate, and for this, strange as it might sound, I give credit to the unlikeliest people in my life that I could mention — my detractors. The ones who gave me the impetus to grow by their rather unglorifying remarks on my prospects long before I had begun to thrive.

Every instance of castigation is clearly etched in my memory. While it must have led to a lot of heartburn and meltdowns then, I now recognise that those disparaging words had incensed me in a positive manner, to take up the cudgels on my behalf and climb the mountain, slowly.

Let me allow you to pause for a moment here and think what you have done with the letdowns and discouragements that have fallen on you from people who mattered and didn’t matter, as you set out on your quests.

Bring up all the people who had once summarily dismissed you and ask yourself where in your life they belong now. Have you trashed them to a forgotten corner or are you still keeping them alive with simmering spite? Have they, with their slurs, made you deeply conscious of your shortcomings and made you a cold hearth or have they helped you rage into a flare that invades all that comes on its path?

We are, by nature, creatures of vanity who find nourishment only in recognition and appreciation. It is the sound of applause that spurs our spirit, and we get buoyed when we get approvals from other people. We are acutely conscious of how we are viewed and evaluated, and what status we are accorded in the public eye.

Criticisms and unkind remarks, as they are wont to do, frustrate us. Understandably so. But it is not within our power to decide how others view us or what opinion they have of our capabilities. What is within our control is this — either deflect the darts that are thrown at us with our nonchalance or use them as tools to build our arsenal for future.

I have also realised that much of the condemnation that we receive are incidental and offhanded, given out by people who know very little about our true potential, or by people who revel in the trivial sport of belittling others. They call it gaslighting these days.

Judging others is a common trait that we are all prone to, but some are brutally articulate about their view of others. How seriously we must consider the inadvertent remarks and what to make of them is entirely up to us. And if their quips are intended to wound us, there is an easier way to tackle it — step out of their path. We cannot allow their views to alter our course or let them decide our efficacy in life.

Remember this. What others say about us are not we really are. It is not our truth; it is their perception, and the world has yet to find a panacea to faulty perceptions. To adopt a negative remark or a vilifying statement as the definition of our worth is a recipe for disaster.

From being told off as someone who would eventually ‘fall by the wayside’ to being categorically condemned as ‘a writer whose stories wouldn’t sell’, I have taken swipes of different kinds in the past. But time has disproved all of what I have been told to believe about myself.

In hindsight, I notice that every time people had cast aspersions or had given me scant regard, my resolve to do well only doubled. It hurt initially, but in the nagging pain it left behind, I found a purpose.

We grow by the pleasant things people speak about us. But we thrive when we take the adverse remarks in our stride, put a strong spin on it and turn it into a propellent. Praise is like rain, but slurs are like manure. They turn complacency to commitment. And when you have to acknowledge people who contributed to your success, you will find yourself naming your detractors first.

(Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based author, children’s life-writing coach, youth motivational speaker and founder of iBloom, FZE. She can be reached at ibloom@ashaiyerkumar.com)

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