What the Positive Thinking movement gets wrong

I was the first in my family to attend higher education, and was very proud of that, but after starting university, I used to feel like maybe I wasn’t good/smart/hard working/lucky enough (depending on mood and situation) to achieve my dreams compared to all my fellow students, and at various points I figured that those 5 years were all for nothing, and I might as well drop out right away. Especially during my ERASMUS year in Krakow I for the first time felt that my degree wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and I even started applying for apprenticeships in some related fields! But to be honest, my heart wasn’t fully into that either so I just continued with my Bachelor’s and eventually my Master’s after returning back to Germany. I was a lot more happy after deciding that I wanted to pursue American Studies, which was previously only my minor, but after applying for studying abroad in that field and not being accepted I felt down and discouraged again.

At some point during my Master’s though, things started to change. I was continually unhappy with myself, and I knew I just had to make a change somehow. The most obvious sign of this that I had gained an awful lot of weight, I was only eating junk food and drinking sodas and I just wasn’t happy with the way I looked or felt. So I knew I had nothing to loose and somehow stumbled upon the Blogilates Youtube channel. I started doing Cassey’s workouts, and after a while also started eating more healthy, and for the first time in a really long time I felt like I was back on track and had my life under control. For most part of my life, I used to blame all my disappointments and rejections on things beyond my control, but now I finally realized that I could control my own life and the results were really amazing. I became a lot more confident, and via Cassey’s workouts and positive attitude I learned more about Positive Thinking and Laws of Attraction philopsophy. I started to believe I could achieve anything if I just put my mind to it (and if something didn’t work out, it just wasn’t meant to be). When my studies where coming to an end, it became time to start writing job applications and receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, but still my faith in the future was basically unwavering.

Then more or less out of nowhere I got invited to the Assessment Center which led to my internship in India (I had applied months earlier and completely forgotten about it, since I wasn’t actually positive enough to believe I could get such a great opportunity ;)), and everything was indeed coming together. But as I already mentioned in some of my previous posts, India definitely managed to knock me down 😀 Don’t get me wrong, I love this country and having the opportunity to live and work here, but moving across the globe to a completely foreign country will knock anyone down. And as much as India is an amazingly diverse, rich and breathtakingly beautiful country, it can also be overwhelming and terrifying. I think the IncredibleIndia slogan from the Indian tourism board fits perfectly, since for better or worse India is indeed incredible.

And while I was struggling with my new life in India, I also noticed where the idea of Positive Thinking has its limits. The basic idea is that to succeed in life, you first need to believe that you can. As simple as that sounds, that’s certainly one of the most important lessons I have learned in the last few years. Another important pillar of the movement is the idea that nothing can really influence you, unless you choose to let it influence you. Basically, unless you let something make you angry, it has no power over you to make you angry. And while that also has often helped me, I recently noticed just how limited that point of view is. I still love all those cheesy inspirational quotes on Instagramm, Facebook and Tumblr, but being positive won’t solve all your problems (in fact, it won’t solve any unless you go and solve them).

Being able to shrug off rejection letters and telling yourself “it just wasn’t meant to be” is nice and easy when you don’t need to worry about paying the bills or even buying groceries. Loosing your job can be a mind-opening opportunity to find your true passion, but it can also mean not being able to pay your bills or put food on the table. When you’re walking outside and get caught in a rainstorm, sure you can decide to be positive about it and have a dance in the rain, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get wet and catch a cold. Often enough, the things that happen to us really are bad, and they do have very real and negative effects on our lives, no matter how much we would like to think of them as “challenges” or “opportunities to grow”.

More often than not, I now get more annoyed with people trying to cheer me up, to tell me to distract myself, enjoy myself, and be happy regardless of all the things that bother me. It feels like I need to go through life pretending to be perfectly happy about it, and never getting a chance to truly be myself. And sometimes my true self is angry or sad or frustrated. Sometimes, things just suck and they will continue to suck and there is nothing you can do about it. No thinking or visualization or mantra can change that. And then, the best thing you can do is just accept that. No need for Positive Thinking. Be sad, angry, frustrated. And then know that while yes, everything sucks now, you will get through this. Because you have to, and do whatever it takes to make it. But you don’t need to do it happily and cheerily and smiley. You just need to do it.

Matrimandir, Auroville

Home is behind, the world ahead ….

By now, I’ve been in Chennai for about six months, and I have another six to go before going back to Germany. Time for a half-time recap I think!

To be honest, there’s been a lot of ups and many downs, and the past six months have been very trying and challenging, even more so than my time in Pune. Remember when I said that my goal for 2016 was to be more balanced and connected to myself? Well, so far, that hasn’t really worked out the way I wanted to 😀 But before getting into that too much, here’s some updates on what’s actually been going on so far.

I have moved here in late January, and have taken over the German Book production for the company I am working for. While I was only a small Project Management intern in Pune, I am now responsible for the whole production and have team of 4 cells and ~60 people working under me. In addition, I also have to coordinate with several other teams to make sure everything goes smoothly (or as smoothly as possible here in India ;)) and according to our German client’s needs. Talk about being thrown into cold water! Mostly I need to make sure we meet our deadlines and quality standards, but overall I am the point of contact for anything related to production, from German language related questions, to quality checks, client communication, workflow and process optimization, while also mediating between my team, the supporting teams, our local management at SPS, another supporting vendor in India, and the client in Germany whenever necessary. Sometimes I feel like I’m being torn into a million different directions with all those people expecting different things from me. I could probably work 12 hours a day and still have more left to do!

And while that would probably be enough to stress anyone out, I’m doing all of this in a country as foreign and faraway as India, also meaning that all the usual support I would get from family and friends is just not there. Sure, we can talk on Skype, but how do you explain India to a person that’s never been here, let alone worked here? Which is why I was so happy to finally speak to my friend Marina again last week, who was also an intern with me in Pune and is now working for Springer Nature in Berlin. Sometimes all you need during difficult times is someone who simple understands what you’re dealing with.

Of course, having lived and worked in Pune for 9 months before, many of the challenges I have been facing weren’t out of the blue. But it does make a huge difference whether you’re facing them alone or in a group. One of the most amazing things about the internship was that we we’re all in it together, as a family, and when thing were tough or just annoying, at least you always had someone to rant to who completely understood what was going on. And to be honest, most things aren’t really all that big of a deal, but sometimes India can really drive you crazy, and then it’s nice to have someone who agrees that everything is terrible and horrible. And the next day you just go out and buy a fresh coconut off the streets, and suddenly India is the most amazing place on earth again.

The other big difference is of course the job. It’s thankfully the same line of work I’ve done before and I really love it, but now it suddenly really matters what I do. As in intern you can try out a lt of things and learn as you go, and if you make a mistake it’s no big deal because worst case scenario, you only screw up your own tiny little project, but now the pressure is really on for me. I am responsible that my team can do their jobs properly and to our client’s satisfaction, but of course I can not control them or their work. So basically, If I screw up, everyone else has to suffer the consequences as well, and if any of them screw up, I’m also responsible for that. Thankfully, things are going well so far and my team is really great, talented, and motivated, so I do have a lot of trust in them. But my work-life balance is continually over the tipping point, because if I leave work early or even on time just to get home or meet some friends, it will backfire on me if anything doesn’t get finished on time or in good quality. And of course, since this is my first real job, I don’t want this to be my last one as well 😀
Then of course, Chennai really isn’t comparable to Pune. While Pune was very young, modern, and cosmopolitan, Chennai is very conservative and traditional. That does certainly have it’s own charms (I love that all the woman in our office were traditional clothes and flowers in their hair daily!), but is also more difficult to adjust to. Going out to party with your squad on the weekend certainly isn’t going to happen for a while now! People also tend to stare at foreigners a lot more than in Pune, at least in the area where I live, because they are simply not used to it. Obviously they mean no harm, but if you’re stared at on a daily basis just because of the way you look, it does pull on your nerves. People also start talking to you and try to take pictures with/of you (without even asking for permission sometimes), and after a few times that just gets incredibly annoying. Even if an individual instance isn’t that bad, my tolerance for this has definitely dropped a lot by now. In Pune I mostly still thought this was quite funny and nice to be treated like something special, but by now I just find it disrespectful to be honest.

To be fair though, in Pune I also wasn’t living a 15 minute walk away from the beach, so it wasn’t all perfect there either 😉

Sometimes I do wonder if I should have stayed in Germany, or taken that job offer in London, but I had my reasons for not doing that and sometimes I just need to remind myself of them. I know that Germany would have bored me, and even after being there for just a few weeks between Pune and Chennai, I couldn’t wait to get away again as quickly as possible. I have always loved London and it is still one of my dream cities to live in, but the salary simply wasn’t meeting my expectations, and while I don’t need to be rich, being able to pay rent and groceries and still having some money left to spend on fun things is kinda something I don’t want to compromise on anymore.

Most importantly maybe, the professional experience I am getting here in Chennai is beyond anything that would have been possible for me in Europe. I am only starting out my professional work life, so I want to take every chance I get to learn new things, gain more experience, and take on as much responsibility as I can handle until I arrive exactly where I want to be, even though I am still not sure where that is. I never wanted to limit myself for the sake of comfort, and I feel like my real adventure has only just begun.

Before I go off, I wanted to share some of the pictures I took here in the last six months (you know how bad I am at taking pictures!)