Let’s Put that Balance to Work

You can never succeed if you are exhausted and can’t get your priorities right.

I can remember how difficult it was to show up at work. The place I loved had become my worst enemy. Every passing day was a struggle. If you’ve experienced a stressful period at work, you could relate to this feeling.

My to-do list was mounting and there was absolutely no appreciation from the management’s side. In fact, it was only unjust criticism. I was forced to feel incapable of rising to meet expectations. Soon I was sacrificing my personal time to keep up with my own goals and someone else’s ‘not so logical’ expectations.

There was a phase when I was struggling with ‘the professional syndrome.’ I couldn’t figure out what more should be done to come across as a professional employee. I wasn’t a procrastinator, but I was forced to feel like one. I tried everything to keep up with the rising unrealistic hopes and soon I found myself burned out.

No amount of work or meeting deadlines improved my situation. Unproductive thoughts took up most of my energy and I was working 6 days a week long after my regular shift which eventually prevented me from enjoying life.

What I didn’t realize was at a deeper level, my problem was the lack of ‘boundaries.’ Yes, I had been fooled to become a workaholic! Sadly, we overlook our personal boundaries to meet our professional performance indicators. Trouble begins when we push our boundaries and turn to the ruthless corporate world for approval whether in the form of appreciation or chasing someone else’s version of success. Each time I said yes to impossible deadlines when I really should have said No! And this perhaps was my biggest mistake.

Later I realized it’s not just important to set limits on spending money or having junk food. You must have boundaries to protect your sanity at work. Yes, your bosses, friends, and co-workers are important, but your peace of mind comes first.

There are two types of boundaries – internal and external. External boundaries are pretty clear which include setting work hours, and of course, personal space. That’s right. Your co-workers have no right to be nosey and pokey. Understanding internal boundaries, however, is tricky.

I had failed to set clear internal boundaries. In fact, I kept pushing myself to achieve unrealistic standards of excellence which were never achievable in the first place. I wasted time trying to explain myself to people who loved jumping to ‘premature’ conclusions. But thankfully, I took control of my life.

When I said goodbye to toxic people and situations.

One day I made a promise to myself. I will remain consistent with my goals and more importantly, will detach myself from worries, negativity and unrealistic pressure.

Whenever I received criticism at work, instead of looking at it as a sign of failure (which I was doing – remember professional syndrome I mentioned earlier), I acted more rationally. Are there any possible (hidden) opportunities of growth? Do I really need to get emotionally carried away? Am I respecting my boundaries?

Well, honestly defining internal boundaries wasn’t easy. Being a ‘highly sensitive’ person, I always took other people’s reactions way too seriously. I foolishly did everything possible to fix their problems as my own. The desire to meet deadlines was great, but it drained me to an extent where I could no longer function.

Figure out where limits need to be set.

Trying to keep up with fake success standards can lead you to compromise your boundaries to the point where your physical and emotional health is at risk. While pushing through the ‘burnout’ process personally, I learned a rule that served me well:

If you are not happy even after giving your 100%, it’s a sign that a boundary must be redefined. A strong feeling of hopelessness and constant stress is a sign you’ve probably let an issue go on for too long without addressing it.

If you want a good relationship with yourself, you need to practice kindness. Talk to yourself as you rewire your brain to set new emotional boundaries. Remember, putting yourself first will be new and uncomfortable, but remind yourself that it’s okay to preserve your emotional energy.

As long as you give your 100% at work and are dedicated, you’re doing a good job. Don’t try to please everyone and never feel sad, guilty or upset when you think about yourself.

Never weaken your boundaries

Every time we take on too much responsibility at work or fail to speak up when we should, we only put ourselves under pressure.

Ask yourself: What’s my responsibility in this situation?

While you can never control what your bosses and colleagues will think about you and how they will react, just deliver your best. Also, never let negative people suck your energy.

Last, always trust your gut. Your intuition – even though it sounds cheesy – is an important part of rational decision making. Learn how and when to set physical and emotional limits at work and respect them.

30 is the New 18

The idea of turning 30 and becoming old seems a thing of the past. Let life begin at 30!

A lady once told me girls grow up quickly and this both intrigued and baffled me. At 9, I thought adults have everything figured out – but I was wrong.

Bye, Bye Teens!
When I turned 20, it felt like stepping into a different world. Twenty was just a number, but the curtain closed on my teens – a period where I was totally carefree. Now that I’m thirty, it’s a good time to reflect upon the ‘past decade.’

My 20’s were full of interesting ups and downs. According to Ann Brashares, it’s supposed to be the prime of your life, the most vital, the most beautiful. But you’re making your critical decisions and sometimes your most critical mistakes. So what happened?

I completed my degree and got my first job in a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. I had a lot of friends and now I’m left with a few good ones. Most friends faded away into their careers and relationships and I learned valuable lessons at work. There was joy, happiness, sadness, and fear.
Overall, it was a good decade. Finding my own way in the corporate world for the first time was scary, but I managed to get a hang of it. I have the strongest support system and I’ve learned to find my own happiness. The only thing left to learn now is to let go!
The 30s has been a bumpy ride so far. I travelled and got my nose pierced (yes, that’s a little late). Two-faced people exist is something I learned the hard way. The fact is we all get hurt at some stage. Life’s too short to stress about negative people and negativity, but there seems to be too much of it. Often we have to make unwanted decisions, swallow our pride and even apologize for being right and it is definitely not the most pleasant thing.
My late 20s taught me to love my own self first and take that leap of faith. I’ve made some amazing friends – people who don’t judge me for who I am.

The 30s and the New Perspective

It’s okay to feel sad at times. It’s kind of hard to unwrap negative thoughts but imagine all the amazing things you can accomplish if you stop worrying about failure. So what has changed the most in me? I have accepted that people change. And if you want to retain your sanity, don’t crave the drama life offers you.

My 20-year-self was emotional and sensitive and the difference between the 20-year-old and the 30-year-old me is my perspective. My eyes know not everything is black and white. My heart knows people are not just good or bad. Life is full of surprises and you just can’t predict what will be thrown at you.
My heart is still 18, but somewhere I know I’ll never be the same ‘carefree’ teenager again. The sooner we learn to identify and tackle the grey areas in life, the better it will be.
Do I have new targets for my 30s? Absolutely!
I never had ‘goals’ in my 20s but I did pretty well. I learned new things, discovered life is exciting; not as scary as I once thought. I know who I am, what I want and what I dislike. It feels good to be empowered. And now I am getting older, I feel a lot wiser.

It sounds clichéd, but for me, 30 is the new 18. So here’s to another eventful decade of learning and personal development. Let’s just hope the world is a little kind.

Dastaan e Rishta Tea Trolley

You make plans, but then life gets in the way. Does rishta parade sound familiar? Here’s what happens.

It’s not easy being a woman especially if you stand at the heavier side of the weighing scale and the darker side of the fairness meter. Women in our society haven’t had much choice in relationships. Marriage, of course, is a beautiful institution and often parents resort to Rishta aunties to gain insight into the buzzing ‘dulha mandi.’ Well most of us laugh that ‘tea trolley conversation’ off as some ancient tradition not to be taken seriously, but it is still growing strong and is happening even today.

The tea trolley encounters are kinda hard to digest. Guess what – you’ll receive about 20 judgments about your weight, height and skin tone from random strangers. Somewhere in between the eye-rolls and looks of disgust, you’ll get to hear how being fair and skinny immediately doubles your chances for finding a husband.

During my rishta hunting years, I was reminded to take care of my “skin” which isn’t fair in the first place and my “weight.” “Dhoop mein jati ho. Rang jal jaaye ga – sandal lagao!” “Haaye Allah, itni moti aur kaali larki!” An awkward silence would follow every time someone would define my skin tone or body proportions. What were you expecting aunty? A hilal for your supposedly chaudween ka chand! Over time I learned the correct answer that could put those ‘unwanted advice’ to rest. Oh thank you for the suggestion aunty – I never paid attention to what you were saying in the first place.

The glorification of lighter skin tone and a narrow waist goes far beyond implications of beauty. If you have fair skin and weigh less than 80 pounds, you are intelligent and the perfect bahu material. We’re told that GIRLS RUN THE WORLD but then rishta aunties would insist how working women are lazy, arrogant, undisciplined and just not capable of ‘running the household.’

Often the whole process of presenting the girl with a fancy cup of tea in her hands, all dressed up is the biggest reason women in our society have lower confidence and self-esteem. It might not be true in all cases but if there is one thing that most people can’t stand, and gets an intense, emotional response is rejection.

We can’t stand rejections, and some aunties reject girls left and right and continue the search for their ideal bahu as if nothing happened. They manage to visit three families every day trying to close a favorable marriage deal.

Sadly, not all of us are so impervious to rejection. Even if you are a strong independent woman, you find yourself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I’m not worthy.” “What did I do wrong?” Honestly, it’s not you who is wrong. Women are not a commodity that needs to get off the clearance rack ASAP the day they turn 20!

I know this might be hard to accept but think about it. All too often we let this senseless society norms dictate every move you make. Majority of our girls literally are not taught anything but to cook food and manage the household.

These rishta tea trolley adventures can be quite awkward and even appalling at times. There is so much I could write, but some incidents are just too ‘share-worthy.’ Please note that this is NOT a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely deliberate.

Scene One:
A chirpy aunty looking for the perfect bahu for her nephew because she is really close to him: “Beta job karti ho? Waisay job wali larkiyon ke liye ghar ka kaam mushkil hota hai. Un se manage nahi hota” (This was followed by a long discussion about how girls should stay at home if they don’t need to work).”

Me: Trying to act as composed and as calm as I possibly can (she did know I just came back from office) – jee, aunty.

Chirpy aunty: “Beta phir larkay bhi dost honge, koi special dost hai?”
“Jee aunty, woh bhi hain.” *Aunty speechless! She couldn’t do anything but try to smile

Scene Two:
Let me say that being judgmental is an essential desi survival trait. And in case of rishta hunting, our minds naturally scan for the negative. These random aunties never find something good about the other person. I’ll say let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, that’s the best they could do with limited ‘common sense’ they have at the moment.

Nand to be along with her dear friend sitting in the living room.
“Aap apni beti ko bula den!” *5 minutes after careful scanning. “Acha hum chaltay hain.” She later told my khala that her brother is really skinny and I’m too obese. Well, if I had known that earlier I could have recommended Nestle Bunyaad.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong in looking for specific physical traits while searching for your life partner, but you just can’t ridicule people who do not live up to your self-assigned standards. Whether these rules are based on looks, education, body proportions, language, or any other ridiculous attribute, they are no reason to demean another individual.

She is fat, so she can’t produce babies. She is dark, so she is not pretty and intelligent. She has a 9 to 5 job, haaye ghar kaisay chalae gi … so I cannot accept her as my bahu.

Here’s a message to all sisters, bhabhis, mamis, chachis, mommies, and friends out on a rishta hunt. Please don’t judge the girl by her clothing, career, ambition, appearance or skin tone. Because you might dismiss even the best of people through these unreasonable microscopic judgments.

Don’t restrict your thinking to a pigeonhole. There’s so much more to the other person than what meets the eye. Keeping an open mind about people is important; otherwise, there is no point in education.

The Journey Begins

Being Single at 30 – the Bad and the Ugly

If your first thought after reading what’s coming up next is “Wow, this woman has serious ‘hate’ issues” You probably are correct. #Wedding at least is not my ultimate goal – and I’m not jealous when half my friends post absolutely adorable pictures with their families.

Here’s a little recap – being in the rishta market probably is not the best experience. You always feel as if you are on display and you need to be taken off the shelf before the expiry date. And if you are little chubby and dark – all hell would break loose. You’ll be forced to feel that you will always be less than happy and perfect. After all, 99% aunties want a‘milky white’ daughter in law.

I wonder – Is it normal to feel this pressure,i.e. to be in a relationship along with the most hated question “beta, when will you get married!” Sometimes I believe that every woman above 30 in Pakistan is either married or in a relationship, but me – at least rishta aunties and not so caring distant relatives make it seem that way.

So here’s what I’ve learned being a chubby and dark single woman over 30.

1. Rishta Aunties and Potential ‘SaaS to be’ are more judgemental than they look. And that’s just awful.

If those tea trolley adventures weren’t enough, rishta aunties are often looking for girls at social events. So it is not surprising that you’ll notice a few stares, awkward eye rolls, toxic smirks and fake smiles everywhere you go. I just don’t understand why a bunch of women would scrutinize your every move– Aunty ….. I am pretty much like everyone else.

2. Every random uncle and aunty would tell you that being single for too long is‘dangerous’ and you have to get married ASAP – Achayrishtaynahiaayege!

Let’s set these judgmental aunties aside for a second. We’ll talk about them later – apparently, they’re already getting plenty of attention. (Maybe even all of the attention – I’m sure all the single ladies would agree with this!)

Let’s talk about you – and me. Because no matter how hard we try, there’s a battle going on in our heads. I mean why I have to answer the same question every day or explain why I am single or I am not in any kind of a healthy relationship.

Until now – all I have done is to bottle up all of my feelings, problems, and anger – because,in our society, these questions are not valid. More importantly, you would be rude, arrogant to question these norms. How can I allow a bunch of uncles and aunties to decide the fate of one of the most intimate relationships – a relationship where I should be free to be myself? I want to be with someone who can accept me for who I am – not because of my skin tone, my height, my body proportions or my ‘age’ for that matter. This society willbecome a nicer place if we become a little considerate towards single women. Yes, we are humans too!

3. Your career has no importance

This kind of dynamic is rarely just in someone’s head – you’ll be given constant reminders. In fact, you will have to believe that the corporate world is a horrible place and if something goes wrong, it’s always your fault. Yes, if you are single ‘working’ woman, there will be character issues. Some peeps would even believe that you’ll become a different sort of a person!
Well, I don’t believe in giving explanations. But a working woman is perfectly capable of handling her household and her office responsibilities at the same time. Why do people assume that I can’t control my home and that I shall make my future husband’s life miserable because I don’t know how to cook!

If you suspect that I might blow up and head “out the door,” the next time I hear this absurd statement, your instincts are right. I try not to answer back because some people just don’t get smarter or wiser or better at life even after doing something for years.

At 30 —when everyone on this planet seems to be asking you exactly what you want—it’s okay to say “peace of mind.”

Yes, it’s okay to say ‘let me live’ to the annoying rishta aunties, to your negative friends and even your rishtaydaar. It’s okay to admit you don’t want to get into a relationship just because everyone else is getting married.

Being single might be an unusual situation, but aren’t we unusual in some way? Remember that marriage is a deeply personal decision. And the right time is whenever you feel it is right. You don’t have to rush – there are plenty of beautiful, intelligent and strong single ladies your age. Also, your skin tone, your height or your body proportions don’t define you. Love yourself – because you’re worth it!