NewsX recently carried out a special show- ‘Tryst With Destiny’ Rising Back From A Crisis With Pooja Bedi, presented by CatFit. This series provided a holistic conversation about mental health, challenges faced in life and how to come out of it stronger, with anecdotes from Pooja Bedi’s life. This discussion targeted how to deal with adversities in life and the different coping skills required to overcome those challenges.

NewsX was joined by Arpan Dixit, Global Head, CatFit, Shefali Chopra, TEDx speaker and Storyteller, CatFit and entrepreneur Pooja Bedi, for this special episode, ‘Tryst With Destiny’ Rising Back From A Crisis With Pooja Bedi.

In her inaugural address, Pooja Bedi spoke about her mental and emotional crisis which drained her and how she came out of it. She said, “It’s very easy to look at an exterior, like a film family and put a bracket around it and stereotype people while saying what an easy life. Having said that, we’re all human beings, whatever it is that we go through, we through as a human being going through life and being a star child is actually very difficult because your life is public domain. There’s a lot of trauma associated with the fact that parents may have had relationships or are divorced and that becomes public fodder. One goes through challenges in terms of emotional challenges, for example, I was sexually molested in my teenage years by my stepfather, so those are human experiences you go through and rise from. An emotional experience for me would be, from the age of 27 to the time I was 32, I think I lost everything that was important to me in my life. I lost the man who raised me, my Nani passed away, my dog passed away and my mother died in a landslide, my brother committed suicide because he was schizophrenic. My marriage broke up, I had two small children and in addition to that I was starting off life with no income once again. I started writing columns for 4,000 rupees for Midday, trying to get my life back together again. These are huge challenges from 27-32 when you’re just developing your own sense of identity, going out there in the world and figuring things out. It’s a huge setback to lose every support system known to you at that point of time and still be positive. When people saw me, I never cried and lamented, I did in private when I cried and let it all out because it’s very important to never suppress thing but to experience it. The idea is what is the bigger picture, I could wallow in what has happened, I can look back at the past and wail. At the end of the day, it’s my life and these are my choices as to what happens to me doesn’t define me but my attitude towards what happened to me defines me. It’s not exclusive to me, everybody will lose a parent or go through a failed relationship, everybody goes through professional challenges and ups and downs, it’s called the journey of life. How I choose to embrace my challenges, rise from it, be stronger as a result of it, those are my choices. It’s up to me how I handle a crisis, whether I allow myself to be scarred by it, be bitter about it or to be better because of it”.

When the CatFit team goes to schools, they find a lot of children, male and female who have been molested or violated and result in suicidal tendencies or going into a shell. Giving out a message for such children, Pooja said, “I think it’s very important to take away stigma and shame from that. If you don’t attach stigma or shame to it, a child will go in a shell. It’s important to tell people to speak up, to tell children they have a right and they must speak up. I believe statistics say that almost 80% of sexual abuse cases take place with somebody known to the victim. It’s necessary to speak up and there are so many times families tend to push it aside because it’s somebody known and they don’t want to create a family drama or create an unpleasantness within the family but I’m sorry, if someone is a bad person, they need to be highlighted, spotlighted and everybody needs to keep their kids away from them. It’s important to turn around and make a statement, mothers should not accept the fact that their child is a rapist and go stand up for him but give him two tight slaps and say how dare you violate the integrity and dignity of a woman. It is women who need to stand up for other women whether it’s mother-in-law’s who may have to tell you to abort a female fetus and are put through the trauma because the family wants a boy. Women have to stand up for women and if there is a case where people are looking the other way, that means a woman is involved and that is so unfortunate”.

Speaking about the mantra and where her resilience to rise back comes from, Pooja said, “Basically my parents really led by example, they had really rebellious lives, they went out there and fought conventions and defy a whole bunch of stuff. These days your trolls are available and the type of media on you in every possible way. I think watching them say if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, the fact is you choose to go down a path. Take responsibility for yourself, your actions. It’s important to understand that every single thing in life is your choice, every decision that surrounds you, so you look at your life with a lot of gratitude and at yourself with a lot of appreciation. If you’ve made bad choices, then turn around and make some good choices. I think resilience also comes from a sense of self-worth, a lot of people don’t feel good enough and they accept the bad that is happening in their life because they feel they can get no better or they can do more and that they don’t deserve more in their lives. It’s very important to develop self-worth and that must be inculcated since childhood, we’re so used to telling people off and putting children down, be like so and so, do better, strive for these marks. Comparing children and motivating them only for success, making them feel less like they haven’t done their best or they’re not well rounded enough and all sorts of pressure is put on them. We need to build their self-worth, not in an overconfident, bratty way but true inner self-worth, where they believe that if they put in their time and effort for something, it will be of good use and generate value and great results. We all have these programs, limiting belief systems that we’ve all been programmed with, break out of them. Which belief system doesn’t work for you, let go of those systems instead of holding on because of a sense of identity, if it’s not serving you, it doesn’t belong in your life or space. Most importantly, gratitude, count your blessings and at every point, you feel victimized, turn around and count your blessings, the good things in life. If you fill your life with positivity, it gives you the strength to go forward as you realize your blessings and face any adversity better at that point of time. The stupidest things that we take for granted around us, emotional, material, mental, be grateful. What very important in life is passion, to have passion for something, everything else becomes inconsequential. When you have a goal and focus, you will do what you want in life and whatever happens along the way, you deal with it because you’re focused on where you’re going”.
Talking about her highest and lowest point so far, Pooja said, “When you’re going a crisis, it’s the worst because nothing in life feels as bad as that moment. At that moment, everything is paramount and everything has its place. When you look back in hindsight you realize, if you can go back in time and just tell yourself that everything is going to be okay and you’ll come out stronger. Whenever I’m going through any crisis, I think of my future self, coming back to give me a hug and say that everything will be fine”.

Speaking about her take on teaching psychological and mental health at schools, colleges or workplaces, Pooja said, “I think it’s extremely important to give children coping skills. As we know the world is getting smaller due to technology, the access to all the information can be used and misused. So many kids are addicted to these devices, they’re just engaged and don’t have any outside coping skills and are immersed in their screens. The fact is, this is the new generation, it’s their life, this will be their reality. So, our job isn’t to ask them to not do it because it is their world and if they do, they’ll be disconnected with a future that is impending. I would ask parents and schools to give the children coping skills to deal with the fact that we are human, going through a robotic space in so many ways and where is the emotional quotient leading to your mental quotient and strengthening that. We should give our children emotional, social, interpersonal, financial skills, teach them more and send them outdoors. How to heal, how to be better human beings and not shut off, how to handle a crisis, how to speak up, to develop personality and body language are things which are very important”.

The CatFit team has Special Forces and NSG commandos who go to schools, colleges, universities, corporates. Speaking about her closest experience with the defence personnel, Pooja said, “Firstly, I was in a military boarding school, it took a lot of mental toughness. I was surrounded by kids from the armed forces because the school catered to that entire demographic on a large scale. Second, my fiancé’s father, who was a Captain of the Indian Navy and Arjuna awardee. The kind of experiences he shared about the Navy, how incredible his journey was with the armed forces was very heartening. The armed forces care of their own and the courage, respect, care within their circle in very phenomenal”.

Talking about people finding their inner strength out of their comfort zone, Pooja said, “We always say that we developed our inner strength and toughness because we came out of our tough times and that teaches us a lot about us. Your greatest tormentor is your greatest teacher because the tormentor is teaching you so much about yourself and somebody that you despise with all your heart may be a hero to someone else. So, the person isn’t bad, your equation with them is. You need to figure out what is it that went wrong between the two of you or what is dysfunctional about you and that person. The part of you that believes in the dysfunction is what perpetuates it and it’s important to turn around and take responsibility to every relationship, good and bad, to thank those people who sometimes need to come into our lives to teach us a hard truth and thank them for teaching you a lesson”.
Life skills are the most important skills and talking about which skills she believes should be a part of student’s lives and work culture, Pooja said, “The most important thing to teach everyone is the importance of holistic wellness. Unfortunately, wellness is only seen as physical and nowadays mental wellness is coming into the picture. However, there’s also emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial and social wellness, all these different forms are intrinsic to our proper functioning and if one of these is out of balance, a large part of us is dysfunctional. It’s important to us to, firstly, in schools, colleges, workplace to introduce the concept at every point of holistic wellness. Second, self-worth. Teach people to stand up for themselves, not accept nonsense, bullying, to have the strength of purpose and integrity. It’s extremely important to emphasize integrity, it’s okay to make a mistake but not lie about it. Also, in terms of coping skills, to have certain forums in place between the sexes, how to interact, work and live with the opposite sex. You need to have this at all levels and you need education regarding this because of the many myths surrounding it and issues surrounding it. There are so many mental phobias and fears around it, people are scared to work with women in the workplace now because they might get accused of sexual harassment, misuse the law. I think all this leads to a very unhealthy environment in the workplace, it’s important to educate people how to use and not misuse the law, how to treat the opposite gender with the utmost respect at all levels”.

Psychologists at CatFit have done research on mental health and they’ve put forward their findings. Sharing that body of work, Arpan said, “Last year, four of our psychologists were a part of the Government of India’s study and the whole idea was to find out the impact of Covid-19 on mental health. This will give everyone an idea of what it does to a person’s mind, mental, psychological and emotional health. Six fields were undertaken, teachers, parents, doctors, policemen and the Corona warriors to identify what was happening inside the brains of these people. It was an extensive study, six books have been published in the field by the Government, this is for posterity. Now, on the basis of this study, we can go back and will be in a perfect position to find out what kind of depression levels, stress, anxiety, emotional issues or levels of resilience they had. How to ensure that they have better coping with adversity skills. So, these are some of things we managed to bring out through this study and this is what we will pass over to the people once the restrictions are lesser”.

Speaking about weaving storytelling dimension to mental health and its response and success, Shefali said, “Initially when I started, there weren’t many takers but now I realize people are opening their minds to it because one story can change many lives. These stories aren’t community-based but they travel from country to country. When there are stories regarding strength, self-worth and talk about illnesses and breaking the mental shackles, I have stories to do with it. People will always remember these stories and their impact. Schools must take storytelling as a serious subject because they really transform people. The stories with regard to strength, it creates an impact and is unbelievable how a story can lives”.

Pooja added, “It’s all about your mind and how strong your mind is. Martina Navratilova said ‘The game of life is played in the six inches between your ears’. It’s all happening in your mind and strengthen your mind is, is on you. How you program yourself, reprogram yourself is all up to you. You have all the tools available, incredible psychologists, incredible teams, the Internet to research how to do that, how to go about changing certain aspects of yourself and getting the mental strength required and need to have an amazing life which you deserve. I think that’s the most important thing we should share today, is to tell people the power to change life is with them and it is their choice to stay where they are, or to move on and ahead, going from strength to strength”.

Watch the telecast here: