Chase your Dreams

for all aspiring models!

As published in the magazine “SupermodelsofAustralia”, April, 2019

It is often said that beauty is only skin deep.

Looking at strikingly handsome men and stunningly beautiful women on stage during shows, I often ask myself, what makes them tick. What’s inside them that is able to make them take brave steps in front of hundreds of people, with so much ease? What is their driver?

Over the years, many young hopefuls began to harbour secret desires to make it to the glamour industry one day. It is however known to be an extremely demanding profession, which comes with high performance pressure and has zero tolerance for mediocrity, which has eventually led many such people to give up on their dreams. They coax themselves to settle for a ‘safe’ profession where even an average performer can get a decent salary.

The beauty, visibility, speed of life, and social circle that models live in still make it a very attractive proposition for certain aspirants. And this is the group, from where we get our top Supermodels.

Modelling is a world beyond “beauty”. It is possible that someone who is strikingly pretty may not be able to perform well, particularly if he/she is not strong enough to survive in this high-pressure environment. On the other hand, an average-looking face can take the world by storm, purely because of the authenticity and ease with which he/she carries oneself.

In the world of bright lights and camera, it is always a pleasure to see someone who is comfortable in her own skin, who has not yet learnt to cake up her face and whose eyes twinkle with dreams of tomorrow. There is, of course, a learning period but if you are physically healthy and psychologically resilient, everything can be learnt- such as posture, camera, makeup, your best angles, etc., and that too in the most natural way.

The glamour world has some man-made standards, but the world is just waiting for someone to defy them. It might be YOU. Don’t hesitate to create YOUR niche. Understanding your own uniqueness and self-belief is the key to it.

Chantelle Brown-Young created her magic, while beating up vitiligo, responsible for her skin discolouration. In her TED Talk, she reveals how she created her own mould of beauty rather than trying to fit in existing mould as they were not for her. Lara Stone proudly carries the gap in her front teeth, calling it her lucky charm. Renee Kujur, who was earlier ridiculed for her dark skin, is creating a sensation in India. The common theme that comes out of these examples is that rather than giving in to the challenges of the mainstream world, these people proudly carried their distinctive feature to create their own unique brand.

If you’re one of such hopefuls; interested in the modelling industry, I urge you not to be put off because it seems like a superficial career or because it’s just too hard. Fight the stigma against the modelling industry. Create your own definition of beauty. In my experience and those of countless others, it holds incredible opportunities for both personal and global growth. Gather all that you have, hold your head high and confidently carve your path. Dream Big – because unless you know you want to be, how will you get there? Enjoy the joys of the journey as it takes you to your destination.

As in all jobs, there will be enough distractions to pull you back, but stay strong as you face rejections, keeping your self-esteem independent of them. Stay firmly rooted as you celebrate your successes and laugh in the face of the setbacks. Eat healthy, stay fit, invest in your relationship capital, seek and grab opportunities as and when they arise. Stay connected to your family and friends as they are the ones who we ultimately need to keep connected with our true self.

Start as a model, finish as a role model!

Author: Shilpa Kulshrestha is a Mindset transformation coach, mum of two beautiful young girls, and co-founder of Scintillate Coaching and Consulting.

In the clutches of an Average Life

Your family, religion and even your name was decided before you were born. You came into this world in a passive mode, eating what you were fed and learning what you were taught.

A good part of your early years was spent in school, where you did not have the opportunity to feast on the subject that you loved because it was all about passing in all compulsory subjects for a well- rounded development, irrespective of your own interest.  School boxed you nicely in a bright package that was best suited for the average challenges of life.

You did well in school or probably not so well and next came the university. It was a big deal as it was called by others as your gateway to the outside world. All the people who had any connection with you whatsoever, came into their best form to coax you to pick up a stream that will make you a corporate success. You were the centre of every discussion on the dining table and on phones with the extended family.  There was pride in those eyes on what you were accomplishing and how well behaved you were.  In other words, as most people do and as most people accomplish.

Once again, the important decisions of your life were being taken without you having a say at it, and you allowed yourself to be thrown into an ocean of conventional wisdom, by joining that Engineering, Medical or Accounting profession. After all, people around you wanted you to be successful and this “what everyone does” continued to be the ruling guideline.

But you were smarter than most and you figured there is something wrong – you decided to get to the top of the ladder by climbing higher and did post-graduation, which narrowed down the “everyone does it list” to a bare 10% than before.

You were then scooped up by a corporate giant, who came all the way to the campus to gobble you up before you got a chance to think about anything else.  You again couldn’t say no as you wanted to prove to others and yourself that you were so much in demand.  Perhaps your personal circumstances, financial constraints, sense of responsibility played a role as you took the wise path because that is what someone who is responsible will do.

Once you entered corporate life, you were imprisoned for ever by the corporate zombies, promotions, free insurances and off course, that fat pay check in your bank account every month.

This was amazing as you contemplated what to do with the significant money you made and how much better it was than rest of your friends!  You used some of that money to upgrade your technical skills as those were selling like hotcakes in the market and fewer people were doing it.  This paid back well. You went up the ladder and further shrank that comparative figure of the number of people in that top slot.

The rise to the top created a standard you had to live by- in the form of having a great partner, a palatial house and the best car in the market. 

However, in your late thirties and a rising star, you started noticing an uncomfortable thought.

None of it brought fulfilment. 

You remembered your parents’ wisdom how once you reach that level, which was impossible for them, it will bring in massive rewards and you knew that you had ticked all the boxes, yet you didn’t feel like you won.  Perhaps you needed to go beyond.

A little more time passed and then one evening, you recalled your school teacher’s warning not to loose track of your dreams and you started feeling that she was on the verge of being proved right!

The weekends you live for.

The vacations that you wait for.

The hobby that you keep pushing off.

The dream that you have but seems far away.

All in exchange for

An average life that you were running for but have settled in so well.

It is surely not possible to change now.

You can’t just throw it all away for chasing the dreams.  It will be childish.  What would your family think, what would your son aspire, if he sees you acting so recklessly?

A wise friend whispers in your ear – be contended.  Who are you to challenge that?  What are you but an average bloke who is doing amazing by the average standards of the society?

=====================

While the story is that of a fictional “you” – seeing a life getting wasted like this is just too much for me.

Are you too struck in this automatic mode, playing ball by ball, taking life as it comes?

Do you depend on external events or circumstances to drive your direction?

Would you like to get on to the driver seat of your life?

How good will it be to take full control of it, pressing brakes at your will, to grab learnings along the way and accelerating at your will, to reach your goals with all those golden learnings?

Are you ready to make that conscious choice to get out of the average life and leave behind a legacy?

If the thought excites you, this would be the most powerful thought of your life.

Reach out if this rings a bell and talk to me – I want to hear your story and give my 2 cents.

For more details, keep an eye on my upcoming book, “Automatic to Deliberate”, co-authored by me and Kapil Kulshreshtha.

Beautiful the way you are!

“Killer looks!”, “Sexy!”, “Hottie!”- How many of us have seen such comments doing rounds on photos posted on social media?

While these are harmless comments, I often wonder why we give such importance to our looks – so much so, that as we grow older, many of us get frustrated by how we look, and end up doing literally anything to maintain that beauty.

I don’t intend to turn this into a conversation or lecture on what we should do or not do or about women’s right or any such larger thing. I just want my fellow women to consider their own heart and joy as a bigger priority than feel the pressure to look beautiful for the outside world.

There is probably no woman in the entire world who considers her appearance as the first thing that she wants to be complimented about. There is a lot beyond being pretty. As a woman, I want to yell out my views and the view of most women I know. Okay, I do like it when people tell me that I look good. I do sometimes spend time on myself to look my best for a party. But do I always, 24/7, 100% of the time care about looking beautiful?

Not really– in fact I like myself best when I wash my face and look in the mirror at the end of the day, when I am in my cotton pyjamas, feeling comfortable with how I am, and proud of my rawness and vulnerability. That is the time I tell myself that I am beautiful- inside and out!

I hang around with a bunch of friends who are extremely passionate, fun-loving and wonderfully pleasing – some love to wear makeup, some prefer to stay natural, but each of them is vividly beautiful. We may not have the perfect body ratio (frankly, I’ve never cared to find out what it is), we may not be the prettiest (as per conventional standards) but we find each one of us amazingly bright, valuable and beautiful. We crack the most insane jokes and enjoy the tiny joys of life with so much positivity, bringing out the best in each other. We can whip up a thousand solutions in a minute for a problem any one of us is facing. We may not know the perfect dance moves, but we dance joyfully with each other. We may not be the most accomplished cooks, but we try making new dishes soulfully, and then enjoy it heartily, complimenting each other for the love that has been poured in!

Many of my friends have stopped taking pictures which make us look beautiful or have the perfect angles, instead we opt for creating memories that capture our craziness, our fun-filled moments, memories that allow us to be ourselves and happy. Rather than concentrating on who looks the best, we concentrate on who is at their best – who first utters a funny sentence and makes the rest of us burst into endless laughter, sometimes even rolling on the floor

Ladies, do not let external beauty drive your survival quotient. As much as it may seem, you do not owe it to others to look beautiful all the time.

Do not give away your hard earned money to the diet industry just because others love to see us in size zero! Instead, eat right to maintain a healthy body for that sparkling smile.

Go for those hair extensions if you like, but remember to eat well to let your hair shine in their own luster- long, short, straight, frizzy- however you like to keep it.

Throw those high heels in the air at times and feel the pleasure of walking barefoot once in a while.

A little mascara never hurts, each shade of lipstick sets a distinct tone for your mood that day and your selection of that flowery, coloured or black dress magnifies a different side of your beauty each time. But do not hide yourself behind it, Instead, wear it to feel beautiful, for YOURSELF, when YOU want, where YOU want.

Express yourself freely and feel the excitement as your heart flutters with the joy of having spoken your mind. Take some time out to look within and connect with your own beauty. Explore, read, travel the world, work on your passion, experiment and be proud of the bliss you create. Let the happiness in your heart shine through your eyes and travel through every muscle of your face, creating that contagious smile.

As Dr. Steve Maraboli said, “There is nothings rarer, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself: comfortable in her perfect imperfection”.

You have everything within yourself to make you pretty. Your imperfections make you real, your smile makes you beautiful. Carry yourself with pride, be happy, laugh and radiate in your own shine!

#10yearsfromnowchallenge- Make a start today!

Seeing so many success stories on #10yearchallenge everywhere on social media, I am inspired to share my musing on how health is perceived in my immediate environment. 

While I cannot claim to be on top of my fitness game, healthy eating has always been a priority ever since I was old enough to have some control on my daily food. My mum thinks I’m obsessive, my daughters have always been intrigued by my recipes (which includes the likes of broccoli kebabs, beetroot cookies and zucchini pancakes) and my husband can’t stop feeling proud of it. However, it’s never too late to learn what’s missing, and it was barely a year ago that I joined a fitness centre, in order to have a more balanced lifestyle through regular exercise.

With time, weekend conversations with my friends – most of whom are in their early forties – have started to lend more focus towards a healthy lifestyle.  This topic creeps its way in every time, and it’s interesting to note different responses from different people when it does.

  • Analysts: These people genuinely want to understand every single detail of how best to stay fit. Their questions revolve around the kinds of foods to eat, the kinds to avoid, the new superfoods, the grandma recipes and various exercises. They’re even keen to read a few books to research tips towards a healthy lifestyle. These people may not have done much for their health in the past but are keen to do so, once they have all the information they need to make an informed start.
  • Observers: A slight extension of the first category covers the people who do want to know all details, but they choose not to carry the burden of this knowledge too far and usually get rid of it as soon as they reach home; just not quite convinced enough to push through their comfort level and make a change in their current lifestyle.
  • Rebels: This set of people find this talk boring and rather pointless. They exercise regularly, but don’t like to talk about it. They eat the right food five days a week and let loose on weekends. They find it unnecessary to share details of their healthy regime, which allows them this luxury on weekends, thus creating an illusion that this is their lifestyle every single day and it keeps people wondering how they keep fit.
  • Happy-go-lucky: People who are too content with their present lifestyle and love their food like anything. Their mantra is to enjoy life as it comes: eat, sleep and drink while they can. They believe that, sure, doctors may tell them to stop eating certain foods one day… but until then, enjoy! 
  • Reformers: Here’s also another set of individuals who are no nonsense, no junk-food eating people. They exercise profusely, eat by the book and have an opinion for each single bite of junk another individual eats. These people want to push it to the limits to spread health awareness. They are brutally honest about what they think and are, more often than not, perceived as rude due to their extremist views. 

None of the people in the above categories are necessarily right or wrong. Each has their own way of doing things, which has probably, but not always, served them well in the past.

My question to any of these people would be, “Are you doing enoughto take control of your health?” If the answer is yes, “fantastic! You are already on the winning path.” If no, “do you have the courage to challenge your current lifestyle and make changes – big or small – towards a better health?”. Some may require a doctor’s consultation to start with, based on their medical history. Some may need to consult a dietician if wanting to commit to a strict diet.  Some may want to join a local gym while others may want to commit to a badminton group or park runners in open air, to be surrounded by motivated people all the time. Do whatever appeals to you.

In last 2 years, I got an opportunity to witness several health transformations in my inner circle. My husband, who has been a born foodie, lost 16 kg based on his own discovery of mindset change (See Article). Another friend engaged a dietician and lost 12 kg as a fantastic start to a healthy life. Just by saying goodbye to junk food, my high-school nephew not only lost 14 kg but also gained the confidence to set and achieve huge goals in his life. Each of them lost 15-20% of body weight and ushering a new healthy season of their lives. Several other friends and family members have started their healthy journey and it is heartening to see them create tiny wonders in their own individual ways. 

A healthy mind and body are assets that you create for a lifetime, and you are its ultimate beneficiary. It does not mean spending 4+ hours daily at a gym and eating only raw salad. It means conscious eating and some deliberate exercise as part of your daily routine: it may involve making some small changes like taking stairs instead of a lift, lunch time walks, yoga or even signing up to prepare for a city run. One thing that has worked for my family lately is making our weekends more active while having some fun together –hiking, outdoor games, bushwalking or coastal walks. The key is to look for opportunities to make a start and explore what you enjoy most. Do not over-think; do not procrastinate. Reducing weight may not be your motivation, but being fit and healthy should be something each of us aspire to be, not for others but ourselves.

As Bill Gates once said, most people overestimate what they can do in a year and grossly underestimate what they can do in a decade. What are you doing today to create your success story? Are you ready for the #10yearsfromnowchallenge?

Letting Go!

Some decisions in life are hard to make. Even if you know something is not right, it is difficult to take the first step in having the courage in yourself to change your life. The same goes for cutting people off who are a negative influence in your life.

I used to have this close friend who would discuss every minuscule detail about her family with me. At first, of course, I didn’t mind it: she was my friend, she had a problem, I was there. She would call me up on early Saturday mornings to complain about what was wrong with her husband, her son, in-laws, home, her finances and so on. This would lead to long conversations with me advising little things that I felt she could do to change things and take charge. My suggestions always resulted in evasive responses like “I know, you are a strong woman” but “My situation is different” or “My family won’t like it”, etc, etc.

I pressed on, committed to her growth, but in vain.

Realising that I wasn’t able to any value, I encouraged her to seek professional help and even offered to pay half of the amount. There had to be some stake from her side because ultimately, she was responsible for her own life. But I soon realised that she wasn’t willing to take any action whatsoever and over a period of 3 years, I had been reduced to a mere shoulder to cry on – and I don’t mind it, as long as I see progress.

The impact it had on my life was enormous. Despite having a happy life myself, I was under constant mood swings as her calls weren’t just limited to Saturdays, and her conversations were always limited to problems. For me, there was that feeling of not being able to do anything to resolve her situation… I felt badly stuck.

Eventually, it was my husband who made me see that my friend was unknowingly spreading her negativity to my life by her constant criticisms of people who I didn’t even know. I will always remember his words “the only role you are playing in her life is that of someone to share her pains with – there is no output, no gains, no changes. There has to be forward movement in every relationship. Where is yours?”

This wasn’t the only example. In wanting to help people, I allowed many other friends to rub their negative state of mind on me. A lot of people would hold on to their unpleasant experiences by insisting that “Your life is perfect” or “You are too strong” or “your husband is very supportive” and that their situation was different and could not be changed whatsoever. If a person was looking to seek support to get out of an unpleasant situation or willing to make changes to pull themselves out, I was more than happy to contribute.

But on one of those Saturdays, after spending hours into a phone call, I realised that I was powerless to do anything in this situation and what it was doing to me. It was then that I said to myself, “I am done with it”.

I still remember the courage I had to gather all night to take the first right step.

I called up my friend the next morning and told her that I would not be able to continue the conversations and that I have decided not to go on with that senseless criticism any more. I politely but assertively told her not to contact me anymore until she was ready to take responsibility and change things. I still remember the deep hurt in her voice; remember the sense of guilt that I couldn’t help feeling, but I needed to do justice to myself, and that was long overdue.

It’s been 12 years since and she has never called me after that. However, I have never once regretted my decision. I will not exchange pains with people without progression.

This episode brought massive changes in my life, weeding out negative conversations, mindless criticisms and discussions from which there were no learnings, no feeling of contribution and no forward movement.

Over the years I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to fire all the toxic people from my life. Have I lost good people along the way? Unfortunately, I’d be lying if I said no. But those good people were not doing any good to me or me to them.

My life is now enriched with positivity, being surrounded by friends who have a growth mindset and who believe in mutual growth and abundance thinking. Are these people perfect or without problems? No. They have issues like any of us, but we learn and build on top of each other’s experiences. Weekends are more fulfilling as we spend time in constructive talks, amidst joyful laughter and much satisfying happiness.

As Robert Tew says, “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.”

The friends who surround you reflect who you are and where you want to be in life. Choose them wisely!

Mum’s Journey: Back to Childhood!

After years of constant persuasion, last year my mum finally decided to to visit us in Australia for a few months. Coming from a small town in northern India, she had only seen that part of the world and like any other person from the mountains, her life had been very simple and self-sufficient.  

The moment she landed, I felt a strange sense of pride as I saw her walk on a land far from her known territories, something she had never imagined, let alone desired. My daughters excitedly skipped beside her, explaining everything, from the automatic tap at the airport to the accent of the people around us, and other tiny wonders on the way home like the wooden homes without brick walls inside, boundary-less compounds and pedestrian traffic lights, all of which left her astonished.

In the days to come, everything was a delight as she wondered at the much larger size of the fruits and vegetables in the local grocery store, the bottled milk that we could pour directly into glasses without having to boil, every small thing brought her inquisitiveness out. She was very surprised about the fact that people here came home only when invited. 

She continuously missed our live-in housekeeper in India as she saw us cooking our own meals, cleaning our own dishes and wiping floors. She did love the fact though that all of us could be home with her each evening, to have tea together, a rarity as me and my husband could barely made home by dinner time in India.

As a mix of such surprises continued to unfold for her, I saw amazing changes in this beautifully wrinkled old woman, my mother, who has been the strength of our family, my father’s best friend until his last day and a forever-strong woman who was always on top of everything in her life. My definition of who she was changed so much. I felt that I had not seen her face closely for a while. All I could see in her today was a bubbly kid whose eyes twinkled at every new thing and who tried to learn how this world was different from the world she was a part of back in India. She was now the youngest kid in the family and all of us, including my daughters, tried to satisfy her curiosity as best as we can.

The months that followed included her first ever amusement park ride, clicking selfies and some adventurous road trips. Then it was time for me to introduce her to something completelynew… something that could expand her horizons… the world of internet!

I bought a smartphone for her and spent two days convincing that it was an old phone lying unused (she would have refused to take it otherwise). I then opened her Facebook account and showed her how to send friend requests to myself and her other two children so that she could see what was happening in their lives. She slowly started enjoying her online connection with them and I nudged her to send friend requests to her own siblings and their children. This opened up a whole world of possibilities for her: talking to my father’s relatives whom she had not met in 18 years, seeing her grown-up niece and nephews, chatting with her neighbours and friends in India and connecting with her childhood friends – it was pure MAGIC!

Every day, after finishing her morning regime of chores and prayers, she would sit in the backyard, with her phone in her hands, playing with this new toy called Facebook. Like an obedient student, she would adhere to all the cyber security instructions that I had given her as a newbie in the internet world. When I came back from work in the evenings, she would hand me her phone to check whether she had correctly sent and received friend requests. I patiently worked with her enthusiasm as I deleted the typos that she had made in comment sections across Facebook. There were both funny and exasperating moments; once she accidentally commented a smiley face on a post which mentioned that an uncle had died. Several times, she posted messages meant for one person on the wall of another person. Her excitement was evident and so, I didn’t mind all the corrections that I had to go through in the evening. 

Soon it was time for her to return to India. As she delicately bundled up her new learnings to be taken home, Facebook topped the list. She soon advanced in her use, moving from phrases like “good”, “nice”, “thanks” to typing full sentences. She started reading news on Facebook, learning new recipes and even taking part in competitions. She still enthusiastically connects me to her local community and family groups (lest I lose the touch with my roots). While I’m sitting on this side of the world, it’s a delight to see her exploring new things. There are still funny, burst-out-laughing moments, when one of us has to rush to change some words on her posts, but it’s a new and pure joy to see her connected to the world through her little Facebook window. 

Introducing my mum to this world has been my most satisfying experience recently. It feels as if I have nurtured another child. 

We sometimes get so busy growing up that we don’t realise when our parents become kids again, and the child in them yearns for new experiences. I urge you to take the time to see that child and take them on unexplored journeys, destinations and experiences. The satisfaction you will get will be unparalleled and this will definitely move a few chords in your hearts. 

And if a 75-year-old can do so well in unexplored territories, why can’t we? Jump into terrains never visited, explore the unseen and expand your world of knowledge.

Fear is not a reason, curiosity is!!!