Radhika Agarwal

My dreams have been changing ever since I was a little girl. First, it was to become a…

Adrenaline pumped through the children’s veins. They pushed their legs to their fullest potential, flexing their muscles to achieve a certain purpose. A purpose that was contrary to popular belief but had the power to change lives.

Now, you might be confused at my dramatic tendencies, so I will give you a little background. This incidence took place last year. I was chosen to train two students for an interschool race. These kids weren’t even my class. They were in kindergarten and so imagine my surprise and glee when suddenly one day, there they were, standing in front of me, two beautiful angels who had innocence written all over their faces and I was being bestowed the honor of being the wind beneath their running shoes.

So, we trained extremely hard for three weeks. The children gave it their all and I was doing my bit dutifully by being there to guide them and kiss their bruises. We felt pretty good about our preparation and were optimistic about the results. The day of the race started out just like any other ordinary day, I mean at that point I didn’t know that my way of looking at my job and other things would change so drastically.

Before the actual event, I prepped the children. Cheers of positivity with a dash of premeditated consolation is the ideal approach while dealing with unpredictable stress inducing events and so that is exactly what I did. I reassured them that it is okay if they lost but also tried my best to instill confidence in them.

The D-Day Arrives

The time for the race came and both my children were taken away from my protective bubble and placed under the spotlight. This is the time when my stress started to set in. Not because I was afraid of losing, but I was afraid of how the children might react to it and more importantly whether they will be physically safe or not.

It was a couple race so it was a tricky obstacle. They started out grand and mighty and what felt like light years ahead of the other contestants or maybe it was just my gaze of a teacher who was blinded by the great potential of her children. I howled and screamed hoping they would hear me. I knew I was deluding myself but I didn’t care as I was bewitched by their beauty and grandeur.

All was going great; they were right by the finish line so close that they could taste their victory, when suddenly my first nightmare became true. The boy accidentally tripped and they both fell. My main concern at that point was to ensure whether they were safe or not. I rushed towards them.

I checked them for bruises and repeatedly asked if they were alright. The boy had a blister on his knee and I tended to that while the girl was continuously crying. This confused me as I couldn’t see any bruises and was therefore curious about what was making her cry. I thought it was the losing of the race so I told both of them that I was proud and they gave it their best shot. But she didn’t stop crying. I was getting worried now, thinking that maybe it is some internal injury. Numerous scenarios danced in my head but my mind momentarily went blank when I heard the following words come out of her mouth.

‘I wanted to win for you, ma’am’.

These words changed my perspective about a lot of things. It felt like my life had a purpose and every day I taught these kids, I was a step closer to fulfilling that purpose. That moment made me appreciate what I did for a living more than anything.

I realized my impact on the shaping and nurturing of these young saplings. I wanted to have a part in making them the beautiful individuals they are destined to be. Individuals who were fundamentally good and had deeply rooted values and principles. It made me want to work harder to provide them the holistic education they deserved.

These simple words from this refreshingly unassuming kid rendered me speechless and almost made my eyes brim with similar salty tears that were currently flowing from her pure face. Tears which were similar in nature and structure but which were pouring for two vastly different reasons.

You see, she was crying because she thought she had failed her teacher while my tears were flowing because I felt like I had won everything.

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Imagine sitting on your couch on a pleasant Autumn afternoon. It is not too cold nor uncomfortably hot, it is just perfect. You have the television on and you are watching re runs of Friends. You have a nice cup of coffee by your side and overall you are feeling pretty good about yourself and your surroundings. Suddenly, you think about going through social media for a while, just a light scroll on the portal of your choice (let’s assume it’s Instagram), humbly hand out a few likes here and there, answer a couple of messages and then you put down your phone and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.

And The Old Inferiority Complex Seeps in!

The first picture you see as soon as you open Instagram is of a person posing on a beach. This person possesses the so called perfect body the society idealizes, smooth skin with not even an iota of fault and they are doing all of this while you are in your comfortable sweatpants and a loose T shirt with your acne medication applied over your pimples.

You start feeling a little less happy but you are fine. Then you see a story which showed you how a certain someone partied all night long with their best friends painting the town red. This certain someone is your friend’s friend’s uncle’s second cousin’s neighbor’s child, so obviously you are extremely invested in their lives.

Now this starts to concern you because you and your group are too busy with studies, jobs, and other stuff in your personal life so much so that you have neither the time nor the energy to do any of this. But lo and behold, this is just the beginning.

You encounter many other posts which give you an insight into a person’s picture perfect life. This is when the shamelessly notorious devil, called insecurity, crawls towards the forefront of your mind, escaping the barriers of a dark room you locked it in when you read all those self-help books. That cheeky brat escaped and is now trying to mess with the equilibrium of your entire well-being.

It’s All a Charade!

Now looking at the above example, would you say that social media is a catalyst that accelerated and enabled the phenomenon of making someone feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Well, I do believe so. By looking at such posts, impressionable people or even people who have extreme confidence in themselves tend to falter and hit the brakes on their path to self-confidence.

These virtual pictures on social picture make people question their own realities. They fail to realize that the perfect body is attained with the help of tools like Photoshop, editing and adding certain filters to the picture. The person who partied all night long just lost their job, they are upset and lonely as they can’t tell their friends any of this as they are afraid of being made the butt of their cruel jokes. 

When we go on social media, we don’t know what the actual scenario is with any of the people we follow or look up to. The married couple whose relationship you are envious of, have lost the spark in their marriage and have fallen out of love but they put up a façade in front of their followers so as to not lose their brand and image.

Can we blame these influencers and the other torch bearers of deceit? Only to a certain extent as I believe they too are a victim of social media. They are scared of being judged and ridiculed for revealing their flaws and the truth about themselves but one thing all of us who decide to put any piece of our lives on the internet need to be aware of is our responsibility towards thousands others who might get affected by our lies.

Celebrities who are just looking for a pay check when they get sponsored by diet supplements and other pills need to immediately stop and look at what they’re doing. They are advertising an unrealistic, untrue body image and lifestyle that cannot be achieved without a price. Their target audience are all the people who have been successfully converted into insecure beings who are looking for a way out of their so called mediocrity. A mediocrity that is normal and beautiful in its own way.

Let’s Usher in The ‘Change’

There is no denying the fact that social media has evolved over the years and has garnered its fair share of accolades and achievements with respect to the movements such as Me Too and body positivity where it has given people a chance and courage to come up and tell their story. It has also paved the way for dialogue about mental health issues and has proved itself extremely useful in spreading awareness about different aspects of the world.

But I still believe that there is scope for improvement and we as a society need to work together and make social media a safe haven for everyone so that they can speak their truth without fearing any rebuttal. From influencers to the common folk, everybody deserves to have a place where they can just relax, speak their truth and feel connected to one another. 

The focus needs to shift from conversations like how can I be like them to accepting ourselves and loving ourselves. And while the mental well-being of a person comes from within, it doesn’t give a clean chit to all the people out there who resort to dishonest means and affect the lives of others. People who have been portraying a false image on social media need to know that it’s okay, they will be accepted if they reveal their flaws, and the fact that all of us are in the same boat.