Friday, July 11, 2008

Creating a bolder generation

A few months ago, back in Kerala, I was on a visit to a certain school for some social work. It was lunch time, and kids generally play around for a while, before getting back for afternoon sessions. I walked around through the school grounds, watching the kids play, and kinda reliving the moments of my own childhood.

It was a muffled cry which drew my attention to near a tree, where three kids were standing around. They seemed around eleven or twelve; there was a girl, and two boys. It was the girl who was crying, and the expressions / body language of the boys did look a bit nasty for their age. It seemed that the boys had said something, and the girl had started crying. I looked around if any of the staff were around; upon seeing none, started towards the trio, intending to solve the issue. But hardly had I reached there, when another little girl came running towards the three. The new girl came to the crying girl, wrapped one of her arms around her, and looked furiously at the two bullies. She was probably of the same age, but smaller than the boys. Without uttering another word, she pulled the crying girl by the arm, and walked towards the school building. She gave a 'warning stare' back at the two, as she marched ahead. The bullies in turn, looked at each other, and walked away to join another group of playing kids.

Now, what got me interested was the phenomenon that just occurred. What was not in the first girl, which the second girl had? They were of the same age, same tiny size; the first girl cried, but the second girl came for rescue, and stood against two boys who were in fact bigger than her. Yes, I know, that its 'bravery' the word, but I'm looking beyond that word or the obvious - I'm tying to find out what lead to the bravery in the second girl and its lack in the first.

Fear creeps on to a human being only after he/she is five months old. Till then, no fear, none at all! From then on, social conditioning plays the major role in feeding a person with all the fears he/she has to live with in life. Starting with ghosts, it moves on to robbers, policemen (yeah, its so in India!), gundas, beggars etc etc etc, and a good percentage of the parents advice their kids not to indulge in many things, lest they get 'hurt'! Now, fear creeps in from each of these quarters, and the growing child develops a sense of insecurity against any hostile, unfriendly, or even just strange situations. The repetition of "be careful", "you are weak", and its acceptance as "fact" (as the child might not have had an experience yet to prove it wrong to himself/herself) leads to a feeble psyche, and the resultant levels of low self-confidence. The amount of this conditioning varies based on the socio-economic-religious backgrounds of a child, and specifically, the nature of immediate family. Children, by the time they reach school, would have already started exhibiting traits of this confidence or its lack, which gets further reinforced over the next few years; school adds to the social conditioning, from one more angle.

The concept I want discuss here is not just about the psychology of this lack of confidence, but how to instill back in a child, the self-confidence he/she has lost due to the above mentioned social conditioning. The basis of this lack of confidence is a 'knowledge' that 'I am weak', that 'I shall perish if I defend myself'. Once we remove this belief, its easier to win back in the child, his/her self-confidence. And to reach the mind to perform this re-programming, the easiest way is to take the route via body.

How do you get to the mind via body? Physical training, of course! And, what's the best form here..? I'll say, 'martial arts'! Various forms of martial arts have been practiced in various lands, each evolving over centuries. Martial arts can be used to fight, to train physically, to cure ailments, to improve concentration, to meditate, and a large number of other benefits. But, the most important aspect we discuss here, is the effect of a trained body on the mind. Once the feeling comes that, "hey, I can defend myself", or "hey, I can fight decently well", the fear that had crept into the mind slowly dissolves off, and a fresh feeling of security gets instilled. With fear washed away, and the courage that "I can face the world" comes in, self-confidence boosts up, and eventually most of the harm gets undone.

Kids, it might be a good idea to ask your parents to get you enrolled in a martial arts school; parents, that might be a good investment for them. And, my young friends and parents, its never too late, to get into that Kung-fu outfit and do some 'hiya hiya' :-) Yes, all the above is applicable for you too! Of course, I know, all human beings don't come off the same mold, and not everything works for everyone; but, hey, isn't it still worth a try?!


  1. I think you are absolutely right in the statement that boldness is a psychological manifestation of self-confidence. Any activity that instills confidence in children should thus result in making them bolder. Opportunities to explore and identify their own capabilities without having to face the complications of winning or losing like in exams should also help children in building their confidence and boldness.

  2. Hi Tedy,
    I go for taekwondo classes frm 6 to 7 daily....and I'm telling to all otrs...martial arts is a gr888 way....this has embedded confidence in me...and many otr.....SO I agree with u.....otrs who try, will benefit too :)

  3. Tedy KanjirathinkalJuly 15, 2008 at 5:05 PM

    @minking than: bingo! :-)

    @meghna: good for you, dear :-) I'm also planning to sign up for Kung-fu, once I'm back in India ;-)