But I’m Supposed To…


The other day I was having a conversation with my daughter and she was feeling bad that she forgot to do something related to her school. I tried to cheer her up and she kept saying “Ya, but I’m supposed to have done that.” She was into this self blaming phase for a little while which got me thinking about how much I as a woman get into this. How many of such instances have occurred in my life that left me questioning myself. One of the things we women do is ruminating, because of our biological brain build. We stick to a past shortcoming and make a mountain out of nothing. We are equipped with this capability to work through the problem and find a long term solution but most of the time, we just stick to the working through the problem part and never get to the solution and move on. This keeps us at a disadvantage in a professional race when we compete with men who think differently. Failure for them is an instance that they shrug off quickly. Their emotional part shuts down and quickly move to solution finding mode. If we have to give our girls and ourselves more confidence, we need to become aware of this and work on it.

Coming to the actual title of this post, “I’m supposed to”, this is a never ending list of expectations, some stated and some understated, that hangs in front of our eyes every time, everywhere from our parents, teachers, friends, relations, society as a whole and then from ourselves. Of course, one can not satisfy everyone every time, and this is when priorities come into play. If we are in touch with our self, we will be in a better position to prioritize what we want to do in life at that moment and life will be by choice, instead of trying to live a life to be worthy in eyes of others. As a daughter, I’m supposed to be obedient, helpful and understanding. As a student, I’m supposed to pay attention at class, get good grades. As a professional, I’m supposed to be reliable at work and constantly improve my capabilities. As a mother, I’m supposed to give the best nourishment and care to my baby. As a parent, I’m supposed to instill good values and conduct in their character. As a sister, as a wife, as a friend, as a xx relative… as a woman in a society… it goes on. Many times, there will be a clash and what you pick will have to be in line with your own values. This will give a feeling of deep contentment even if it is not viewed favorably by others involved.

As a stay at home mom, I was told that I’m wasting all my education and experience by sitting at home. I’m supposed to be at work earning money, respect and advancing my career. First, value of education is not the money you get by working a job that you get based on your education. Learning is life long and does not matter what you learn. As long as you add something new that expands your mind, it is enriching. In fact, after quitting, I could learn about religion, spirituality, science, parenting, cooking, health, people dynamics, self help and it felt like I hit a highway from an narrow inroad suddenly. Second, I stayed with my baby for not just baby’s need but my own need. I wanted to be with my kids during their foundation years, which enriches me deeply. If someone wants to work and finds fulfillment in that, then definitely they should go for it. Again, the choice should be of the person and not other’s around. That is true empowerment. True, women before us fought to get to where we are in terms of equal rights to work. But I think taking a break when a woman needs is an organic extension to this and not a setback to this fight. I mean, 3 months maternity leave, really? I dream of a way better situation for our daughters. Third, I have used my education and experience in serving what I am doing currently. When we get the knowledge, we should be able to apply it to our life situation so that it helps us do our job better, more efficiently. That, I think, is the purpose of education. It is not just what you do that decides your capability, but how you do whatever you are aiming for. If I go to work when I am not ready and give a half-baked result, that is not OK. But if I succeed in giving my 100% to my nurturing during the break, then that still is a time well spent. Fourth, there is no “supposed to”. Other’s expectations are other’s problems. I should be more in tune with my needs. As women, we push ourselves behind easily. We are the “giving” type, even when no one is asking for it! We need to learn to “take” control of our lives.

Finally, our heroes in epics, Rama was a prince. He was “supposed to” rule Ayodhya but Ramayan was not about his ruling but the 14 years spent in jungle. Pandavas were so capable and they were “supposed to” rule for the people’s good. But their story was that of the struggles they faced before they could establish that rule. Siddhartha was supposed to be a Emperor. But he became Emperor of hearts. There is no real “supposed to”. It is time to write our own stories, take our own decisions and give our heart and soul to what we do and make this world a little better one day at a time.


Ruminating from The Confidence Code


Nature and Nurture


Many of our character traits are identified as gene strands in our DNA. These are either inherited or formed during conception and over the 10 month pregnancy period. By week 26, scientists were able to identify the formation of the genes that relate to how confident the person is. This is called the predisposition of that individual. The tendency of that person to act in a certain way to a certain situation. This is their nature.

But our DNA itself is malleable. The experiences we undergo and the situations we are put through affect our tendencies to a great extent. This effect is studied by Stephen J Suomi not on humans but on monkeys that share 94% of our DNA. Monkeys that have a specific variation of the confidence gene are naturally resilient to outside pressures. They have greater tendency to be more assertive and have leadership qualities. Monkeys that are born with the other variation of the same genes are naturally more anxious and timid. They are followers and workers in the group.

But the story does not end here. This is where the nurture part comes in. The monkeys that have mothers that are not caring or supportive have their natural tendencies deepen and play out. Babies with confident gene variation grow up to become leaders and babies with the other variant become more and more anxious and submissive. But when the mothers are caring and very supportive, give a good environment for the baby to thrive, these babies that do not have the resilience built in when they were born, not just become good, but they excel and develop to even surpass the natural born leaders. The absence of natural resilience in the DNA does not mean it is bad, it just means that the individual is more responsive to the environment. When given the right environment, they bloom beautifully to their potential. That breakthrough provides us with tremendous opportunity.

When we directly correlate this to our species, the care and support we give to our children in their foundation years seem crucial. The earlier years are when the experiences are ingrained into one’s subconscious mind. By year 6 this is mostly set. It is like designing a highway that handles most of the traffic. As one grows older, there are options to build roads to connect to different points but the highway is something we have to deal with the rest of our lives.

To hold a baby, hug and kiss them drenches them and us in oxytocin, giving them a meaningful, peaceful routine in a space they trust most bathes them with serotonin, encouraging them when they achieve tiny milestones gives them dopamine – all the feel good hormones that promote physical, mental and emotional growth as opposed to a rushed lifestyle where caring for kids are just treated as a liability, an additional workload which makes cortisol course through their veins. It is important not just for the family but for the society as a whole to provide for a nurturing environment because it is these babies and kids who will be the society, 10 to 20 years down the line! We as a society should build a strong support system for every mother during her pregnancy and a couple of years after, so that she can peacefully concentrate on the most important task of nurturing her baby with the best food and best environment that nature has designed for that new life.



The Confidence Code – by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman