Focus on one Interaction at a time

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Growing up, we had dishes for guests. They were new, shiny, and of high quality. To qualify as a guest, you visited once or twice a year. Our neighbors — the ones who showed up every other day — did not pass the guest test. Our cousins and relatives from the city did.

Parents would say, “A visitor is a river” — they come and go, treat them well. And we did. We were on our best behavior when they were around. They brought presents and mum cooked delicious food. Everyone was happy.

Once they left, we went back to…

Watch out for emotional baits.

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My 11-year-old daughter recently made an interesting observation,

“You have changed. Before, you wanted people to shush. Now you want them to want to shush.”

I had successfully ignored a tantrum from her four-year-old brother — who had put up quite a show in an attempt to get himself out of a fix. I spoke in a monotone, then continued to munch on my mixed nuts without looking again in his direction. The screaming died down, and he got on with his work (coloring). Soon, we were back to speaking in normal human tone and volume.

Truth be told, my…

Start with not trying to earn respect

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We are all deserving of love and respect for being alive. To be accorded respect and treated with dignity is a right. But there are people we have deep regard for — way beyond the basic we give to everyone.

We can be feared, obeyed, or even loved based on our age or position of power. But deep respect? That we have got to earn.

“You will do it because I say so.”

Children will follow our instructions without question if we command them. So will employees or anyone under our care. They have no other choice for now. …

Allow yourself to be imperfect

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Pride gets passed as a strength most of the time. We idolize overly self-reliant people, those who pursue their goals with abandon and are always giving of themselves. They not only seem to need no one, but everyone seems to need them. We want to be those people.

But on a closer look, we realize that way of life is no paradise. The imbalance of such a lifestyle leads to burnout and loneliness.

Pride on the surface is not easy to detect. Except for bragging, it is subtle, sometimes unconscious. …

And what to do about it

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My colleague was always busy. On her desk were piles of files and paper. She got along well with service providers and clients. Every day, there was one hanging around her desk, chatting, and following up on one thing or the other.

I knew I would find her responses to my emails when I got to work in the morning. They would have been sent at 6.30 pm the previous day, one and a half hours after I had left the office.

Watching her, I was amazed at the sheer amount of work she had to do.

At one point…

Jealousy is not harmful, nor does it make us horrible people

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We all experience feelings of jealousy and envy- but few of us will admit it. Because it is embarrassing to acknowledge jealousy, even to ourselves, we suppress it. We become angry instead. Anger is a more socially acceptable emotion than jealousy or envy.

We become critical and judgemental. We talk with an air of righteous indignation in an attempt to hide how we feel. We force ourselves to smile and give exaggerated compliments. Our faces end up looking like a case of botox gone wrong.

Sometimes, when we experience bouts of jealousy, we berate ourselves for not feeling happy as…

Poverty, of any kind, is unattractive

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I don’t wear ripped jeans. They remind me too much of the kids who came to school with pants that barely covered their bottoms. And it had nothing to do with their sense of fashion.

Too poor to afford better, they wore ripped clothes — regardless of the weather.

Wearing torn clothes feels like mockery to them. Logically, that is not true. I have nothing against ripped jeans. But I have no desire and am under no pressure to dispute this feeling. Besides, there are many other options when it comes to choosing what to wear.

When I think of…

Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion

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Many of us live based on a template. For each area of our lives, there are unwritten, unspoken, but clear enough guidelines.

These rules dictate how we should act and carry ourselves. There is a checklist for how a good daughter/son, sibling, friend, parent, spouse, daughter-in-law, employee — ought to behave. We switch them depending on which role we are playing at the moment — without consulting our inner guide.

We assume meeting all these set standards will lead to a perfect life. Along the way, the pressure to live up to the facade increases. Trying to hold everything together…

Combine the two

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My dislike for math landed me in trouble more times than I care to remember. Unfinished homework. I gave the dog-eating-homework excuse, or “my textbook book was missing a page” — many times. I still got punished. Duh.

I was poor at math and looked for any way to avoid the subject. I celebrated when the math teacher took a sick off — which was rarely.

But, in 8th grade, we had to sit a national exam. It was a highly valued high school entry exam. …

Emotional energy is a depleting resource

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If I leave the lights or the air conditioning on for too long, the power bill will run high. Paying it will not be fun. It’ll be a painful reminder to watch my power usage. If I spend money as I wish — without a budget — I will end up broke and financially compromised.

These are not hard to understand concepts. They have visible consequences, almost immediate.

But nobody told me emotional energy was a depleting resource too. …

Eunice Gikonyo, Msc Psychology

I write about what I think and observe.

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