I was preparing lunch the other day when my teenage daughter walked into the kitchen and said, ‘Mama, something smells lovely. You are a great chef!’ She hugged me and I remembered a very different time when my in-laws used to tell me constantly berate me about my incompetence in cooking. Yes, I admit that when I got married, I was not very well versed with cooking because my life was more about books and studies. My in-laws did not take very kindly to it because they wanted an accomplished, professional, homely and beautiful daughter-in-law who could whip up a dish in seconds like some magical jinn or a professional. The tirade had such an effect on me that after my husband passed away, I used to avoid cooking.
Constant criticism can take a toll on your self confidence and I wish I had known this earlier. Being a single mother, I concentrated on building a career and left the cooking to more capable people.
Life has a tendency of completing the circle no matter how long it takes. As a result of the ensuing lock down and COVID 19, I had to don the apron again. The familiar doubts and the voices in my head resurfaced. Each time I would cook up something, I would seek validation from my daughter and my folks. I took their approval with a pinch of salt. Were they merely saying it because I was asking them or had I really done a good job? With time, I realized I am not a bad chef. I am not perfect or great but I am not bad either.
Today I wonder why was I criticized so much? Why was I not given time to adapt to their cooking or mannerisms? Why was I subjected to so much of scrutiny that I just gave up trying? This is not just about cooking or in-laws but there are times I see people having unrealistic expectations from other people, whether it is friends or relatives or professionals. Why can’t we understand that if you really want to accelerate a person’s learning, then freedom and encouragement work a thousand times better than pressure and criticism?
Next time when you feel like criticizing some one, just stop and think. Your words have power in them to not just heal a heart but to shred a heart to pieces too. Be kind!
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