How to achieve a healthy mindset
Sometimes the weight of life becomes destructive to our mental health. Our minds get foggy from the overwhelming information – making it difficult to find stillness and serenity. Hence, it’s important to unwind and let go.
Studies have proven meditation as an effective method to improve mental health issues as it encourages relaxation and leads to mental relief.
But what is meditation, really?
When it comes to taking care of the body, mentally and physically, yoga and meditation go hand in hand. A branch of yoga, meditation, is the practice of achieving tranquillity and mindfulness as well as perspective, and even extends into our daily lives.
If you want to practise being mindful, you should direct your attention to the now, rather than dwelling on the past or even the future. Technically, being “in the moment” becomes an integral feature when it comes to meditation.
As serious as it may appear, meditation is not nearly as intimidating as it is thought out to be. At the end of the day, it all comes down to having a healthy mindset and here’s why:
Importance Of A Healthy Mindset
With a healthy outlook:
- Your worries will not appear larger than they are – instead, they seem more manageable.
- Your focus will be on searching for solutions and avoiding ones that add to your mental tension.
- You can find ways to grow beyond your thoughts and / or simply treat them as passing states before they become overbearing.
- You can remove the overwhelm that comes from dealing with uncertainty by setting clear priorities and goals.
Coming full circle, here are some mental health benefits that meditation has to offer:
Promotes Better Sleep Quality
When you regularly incorporate meditation into your routine, its benefits continue even when you’re done meditating. It helps your body relax and release tension. As you train your mind to focus on every deep breath, the stream of jumbled thoughts simply floats away.
At times, living stress-free seems out of reach, but meditation can clear your mind from information buildup. When you meditate, it gives clarity, allowing you to gain new perspectives on stressful situations. What once was a stress-provoking situation, is now just another thing to pass.
Regulates Negative Emotions
Meditation gives you a moment to be more mindful of your emotions. Instead of ruminating, it distracts you from excessive focus on intrusive thoughts. It makes you more attune to present experiences and flourish through even the inescapable hardships of life.
Spending even a few minutes to meditate can help you stay centred – leaving you in a state of relaxation and with a tranquil mind. When you feel anxious or tense, it can restore your peace and keep you calm throughout the day. Deep breathing encourages you to focus less on anxiety-provoking situations and more on the moment.
Recognising mental illness among men in Malaysia is long overdue. Social expectations of masculinity shape the way boys are brought up and the way men behave. We become conditioned to believe that men must be strong, that fathers are the breadwinners, and that “boys will be boys”. These gender stereotypes shape our expectations of how men should behave and inevitably lead us to treat them in ways that fulfil our expectations in what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The assumption for men to be strong is for them to never show weakness. Oftentimes, this expectation means that men should not face any problems because to have any problems is to not be strong enough to “tough it out”. Popular phrases like “Real men don’t cry” and teasing remarks of boys who cry behaving like “little girls” reflect this expectation. For our fathers, the need to always be a pillar of strength and a figure to look up to carry a burden that many of us never considered. When men feel none of that as fathers, they don’t want to admit it or seek help. This may have significant effects on the family and relationships.
A study published by the American Journal of Men’s Health highlights how popular beliefs about masculinity actively deter men from forming expressive relationships with other men, primarily because such social connections were viewed as “unmasculine”. To express their feelings and personal problems felt awkward and almost like a “taboo” against their concept of being masculine. Being “masculine” may be about shaping men to be strong, but it also denies them their right to reach out for help without fear of being humiliated leading to growing numbers of mental illnesses among men in Malaysia.
Evidence shows that the importance of a father’s mental health goes beyond that of their own well-being but affects that of their children’s mental health as well as the stability of the family. For fathers who experience mental illness, their children are at a higher risk of behavioural and emotional difficulties. Research shows that this is often the case because the amount of suffering experienced by the father may mean being less consistent in showing warmth and affection towards their children. The same can be said for their partners as well.
When someone in our family has a mental illness, it can cause stress and worry for everyone. They believe that having a mental illness is an issue experienced solely by the individual and is harmful. It ignores the well-being of the people that also struggle with supporting their partners and children. To thrive, it is important that we also understand and support our father’s well-being. Supporting the mental health needs of the men in our families, of men everywhere, is crucial to improving their health.
In June as we celebrate fathers everywhere, let’s take a moment to start taking notice of the men in our lives. Caring for the mental health of the men in our lives could be through small gestures as simple as asking how they are and how they feel. Sure, fathers may not be very expressive from the get-go, but simply checking in often can remind them that you’re there for them. If your father is among the group of dads that tend to look for information online rather than consulting professionals, buy a self-help book. “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, M. D, is a book that addresses issues like depression through a strategic perspective rather than an emotional one which may appeal more to men.
How to deal with the next-day-nerves
We all need to let loose once in a while, but sometimes these uplifting nights end quite the opposite – with a hangover. Hangovers differ from person to person, but they usually involve a headache, nausea, tiredness and, sometimes, anxiety. Have you ever experienced hangover-induced anxiety?
Also known as hangxiety, this noticeable increase in anxiety occurs the day after heavy drinking. It will have you regretting the night before and worrying about what you might have said or done. You could feel more nervous while waiting for your friends to recover from their own hangovers and fill you in on what happened.
Why does it happen?
There isn’t a single cause for hangover-induced anxiety, but those who experience anxiety in general may be more susceptible to it. These negative feelings during a hangover could also stem from the physical symptoms of a hangover, alcohol withdrawal, emotional withdrawal, medication use, alcohol intolerance or guilt from drinking.
How to cope with it
There is no quick cure for hangovers, but you can ease the discomfort with self-care. Tend to your physical needs first with good hydration, gut-healing food, and more sleep. To help reduce your anxiety, explore calming techniques such as deep breathing, meditating and practising mindfulness. If your hangxiety doesn’t go away within 24 hours, or you feel the need to drink more alcohol to deal with it, it could be a sign of something more serious and you should consider seeking professional help.
How to avoid it
Set some boundaries for yourself on your next night out, but if you still don’t trust yourself – ask a friend to help you stay within your limits. Drink slowly and in moderation with water breaks in between each drink. You should also plan ahead to make sure you don’t drink on an empty stomach and are able to get enough sleep to recover from the next time you drink.
Emotional stress is not a joke!
Have you ever found yourself zoning out in conversations with people you love, or even while trying to get through an episode of your favorite Netflix show? Perhaps you have found that you are having trouble sleeping, are more irritable, or are simply more prone to headaches and tummy aches than before?
If any of these symptoms sound like something you’re currently experiencing, you may be emotionally exhausted.
Emotional exhaustion is a state in which you feel burnt out physically, mentally, and emotionally. This could be sprouting from stressors you may be feeling from either your work or personal life. However, it often takes a lot more than a hard day at work or a petty argument with a loved one for you to experience emotional exhaustion.
The essence of experiencing emotional exhaustion comes from a build-up of multiple stressors over a period of time. The troubling thing is that you may not even notice it immediately.
So, what causes emotional exhaustion?
They always say that prevention is better than cure, so here are a few things that can cause emotional exhaustion:
- High-pressure jobs
- Intensive schoolwork
- Financial stress
- Raising children
- Grief over a lost loved one
- Poor self-care
Being aware of the situations you are in and the symptoms you may be experiencing can save you from the long-term complication of having to recover. Evaluating your environment and your emotions often can help you be more mindful of what you are feeling.
With all this in mind, how can you then treat emotional exhaustion if you already have it?
Here are a few tips that you can take to help yourself:
Identify your stressors
Being aware of where your emotional stress is sprouting from can help you create solutions to reduce the exhaustion you may be feeling. It can help if you were to write it down in order to be able to create a clearer image of the changes you can make to help yourself.
Practice and prioritize healthy habits
Getting enough sleep. Eating mindfully. Drinking water. These are elements we often forget to prioritize in our lives. Yet, the reality is that if we were to be more mindful of keeping these habits, they would help sustain us better by reducing the stress we experience so that we may have a more well-rounded life.
Take a break.
Seriously. Take. A. Break. It can be as simple as opening a window and allowing yourself to breathe in that fresh air. Make yourself a cup of coffee. Or you know what? Go outside! Take a walk. Go to the mall. See your friends and give yourself the time to unwind, because even though we have heard it multiple times, you really do deserve to take a break.
Call your friends or family
Sometimes stress can make you feel isolated – like you’re the only one experiencing this tremendous amount of responsibility. Therefore, it is important for you to realize that you are not alone and that everybody else is experiencing burnouts similar to yours.
Breathe. Be mindful of the way the air fills up your lungs and the way it slowly exits through a long exhale. By focusing on our breathing, you will be able to draw your consciousness back to the present moment and give yourself that time to recharge.
Everybody is prone to experiencing emotional exhaustion at some point in their lives. It is our own personal responsibility to be aware of the state of our mental health so that we may be better people for ourselves and the people around us.
Don’t let stress take away the joy and fun!
‘Holiday fatigue’ or ‘holiday burnout’ is the exhaustion that comes from the many events and tasks that can come with celebrating the holidays. Everyday life can sometimes be hectic enough, and even though holiday season may sound like a time for relaxation, for some this isn’t the case. The holidays can bring about a lot more errands, work deadlines, and events to attend – filing up our schedules even more.
While all of this is happening, it can feel overwhelming and we may notice ourselves being heavily preoccupied, causing us to neglect looking after ourselves and our own needs. This does not have to be the case though. Seasons of festivities don’t have to be guaranteed to stress you out. It is possible to maintain a balanced schedule and enjoy ourselves during the holidays!
Dedicate time for solitude
Or with someone if that works better for you. Whichever it is, dedicating even a few minutes of your day to do what you enjoy or what helps you destress, allows you to unwind and relax -something much needed especially after restless party planning and non-stop socialising. Look after yourself by doing what you love whenever you can. Even if it’s enjoying your morning cup of coffee for just a few minutes, or slowing down before leaving for a party to do a five-minute meditation. And remember, that self care doesn’t have to be limited to just meditating or doing your skincare routine, it can also be affirmations to let go and enjoy yourself while at a dinner, to enjoy that second round of dessert, or a simple reminder to yourself that you deserve to have fun.
Set realistic expectations
If you can’t meet that friend for brunch at 12 because you have to be at a family event at 1, don’t spread yourself out too thin. You will feel less overwhelmed when you try setting realistic expectations with time and what you are capable of. Another example of setting more realistic expectations during the holidays is being realistic with your bank account. Being realistic with the money you are able to spend rather than showering too many loved ones with lavish gifts. Setting realistic expectations ultimately is simply knowing where your own limitations and boundaries are and respecting them. This is important as it can help you get by through the holidays without feeling guilty, regret, or stressed out.
Maintain healthy boundaries
Setting boundaries during the festive period could maybe be the most responsible thing you can do for yourself. This can often look like knowing your limits – knowing what time of the night you begin crashing, or knowing what in particular during the holidays trigger you and your stress. Knowing your limits and what you’re comfortable with can help you draw those boundaries you need to draw in order for you to enjoy the celebrations and yourself; without feeling like you neglected your needs and / or self-abandoned.
The holidays can be good time to count your blessings. Especially with all the celebrations, and people you get to see and catch up with again. The holidays can be a time filled with an abundance of love, family, and friendship. You may be surprised at how rejuvenating it feels after taking some time at the end of the day to journal down the events from the night before that you were thankful for. For example, you can try asking yourself:
- Who were you grateful to see at the party and why?
- What you celebrated and how does it makes you feel?
- What moments have made you feel happy, loved, or excited?
- What have you enjoyed about this holiday so far?
Besides this, absorbing and savouring present moments too can be a way of practicing gratitude; especially inner-gratitude where you are left feeling not just full of appreciation but also a lot more in touch with yourself. Practicing gratitude can put you in a better mood, remembering all the good things and people you have in your life.
The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful but, it doesn’t have to be. If you try incorporating these practices into your holiday schedule, we hope they make your festive period a bit easier. And no matter the season or time of the year, prioritising yourself and your mental health is always important.
They aim to be the leading trusted digital mental health ecosystem partner
Therapy has become more common than previously thought. Before it secured a spot on self-care checklists, most people feared being stigmatised for seeking treatment. Even those who received external support experienced an internal stigma that prevented them from coming forward and asking for help. Now the public perception of mental health has changed for the better. While we were isolated during a global pandemic, it became part of the national conversation and gave many people courage knowing that they were not alone.
“With the global pandemic accelerating the awareness of mental and holistic wellbeing, the topic is steadily gaining the attention it deserves, especially in Southeast Asia,” says Safe Space Co-Founder, Lynette Seow. “Currently we see a spike in people coming forward to seek help and expressing their vulnerabilities to our expert therapists.”
Although there has been a shift, there are still obstacles to recovery and treatment, including accessibility. Safe Space allows more people to have access to therapy by offering comprehensive online and offline mental health solutions. They aim to be the leading trusted digital mental health ecosystem partner by driving value and positive outcomes through social impact and innovation. Safe Space’s system makes it easier for clients to find a therapist they connect with and communicate from wherever they might be. We spoke to their co-founder, Lynette Seow, about prioritising mental wellness and the use of online platforms for therapy.
What are the current barriers to face-to-face therapy?
“With working from home still being the prevalent mode of work, one barrier could be the challenge of finding space to engage in face-to-face therapy. It also requires more travelling time to go down to a physical location versus turning on your computer. For some who might be more cautious or immunocompromised, going to a physical location for face-to-face therapy is a challenge. Giving clients the decision to choose their preferred mode is empowering and results in more fruitful sessions.”
What are the opportunities and challenges of online therapy?
“The key advantages include the affordability and convenience of having access to a therapist on demand. Clients can reach out to a therapist at the click of a button without having to invest their time, money and energy to reach out to one. . Online therapy is extremely helpful in emergency situations or during a breakdown when clients need immediate support to be able to talk to someone and feel settled, which helps their overall mental state. Moreover online therapy offers a range of therapists that clients can choose from, picking from different countries, race, gender, specialization and more.”
What is the importance of mental wellness and how do we know if help is needed?
“Mental wellness is as essential as physical wellbeing, if not more. Mental health shapes our identity and pushes us to be the best version of ourselves every single day. A stable and positive mental state, helps individuals tide through different obstacles throughout their lives and be more “present” in reality. When you sense yourself frequently gravitating towards a dark place mentally or have trouble focusing on reality – it is advisable to reach out and talk to someone you can confide in or a professional if needed.”
What are the benefits of using Safe Space for therapy?
“At Safe Space, we believe that there is “sunshine” for everyone, as in help is provided to anyone regardless of their mental illness, age and identity background. We offer individual, couple and family therapy depending on people’s needs. We also offer video or face-to-face options for mode of therapy. For corporate clients, this is a convenient solution to roll out to employees and their dependents as the platform is easy to use for all ages. It also provides fast access, with clients being able to book an appointment with a therapist within 24 hours. Currently, our corporate EAP utilization is over 50% as compared to the industry benchmark of 4%. Finally, we have a substantial pool of therapists based in Malaysia so will be able to bring local context into the sessions too.”
How can clients get the most out of each Safe Space session?
“It is advisable for them to come for the session with an open mindset, having the trust in their therapist to listen and guide them and additionally having an end goal to work with.”
What are the benefits of finding the right therapist and how can Safe Space help?
“The right therapist will enhance the state of being of individuals twice fold or even greater. Clients feel refreshed, heard and even confident in themselves to move forward. Undoubtedly it is enabling the “small wins” of their day. Safe Space has a trusted tailored database of therapists to suit the exact needs of people who are seeking help in specific areas.
From our quarterly impact measurement survey of Q1 2022, clients commonly reported that their Safe Space therapists provided a listening ear, taught them exercises to manage stress and anxiety effectively, helped them recognize distorted thinking and corrected their negative thinking patterns. Over 40% of clients also mentioned that their Safe Space therapists taught them healthier coping mechanisms, and to better express and manage their emotions.”
What does the future look like for Space Space?
“We are thankful and humbled with the current accomplishments of Safe Space, enabling many individuals to get the help they need for themselves. We endeavour to have more innovations around the B2B space and the society at large in the near future. Ultimately we want to be a mental health ecosystem that works across different countries and with different stakeholders such as corporates, insurers, hospitals and schools. We are also constantly looking at mental health tech innovation that can have real impact on individuals.”
You can book an appointment with Safe Space’s vetted therapists on their website.
How we can actually support women
Empowering women should happen all year round and not only during the month of March, however, since this month focuses on supporting women be it at home, in the workplace or even in your community, you might also want to know how you should go about it, without making them feel small or intimidating them.
Since the turn of the century, we are seeing more and more women joining the workforce and stepping into male-dominant sectors in the workplace as well. Today there are fields that might see at least one female employee working along with the majority of male employees. In such environments, it is easy to feel intimidated, not because women are not skilled or knowledgeable in the field, but because the men that work with them would always try to intimidate them verbally or through certain actions.
While we are on the topic of breaking the bias, these traits should not only apply to empowering women it extends to empowering any gender. Yet when it comes to women, there is always room for men to take the upper hand as they try to prove that they are physically capable of doing certain tasks better and faster than women do.
What people tend to overlook is that women have the ability to endure and are a resilient species, and they have proven just that during the pandemic. In many countries, women have become more vulnerable as they were homebound and were forced to be in the same space for a prolonged time with partners who were abusive towards them, which has tipped the scale of the domestic violence cases that are reported.
According to a study conducted by the University of California Davis, the pandemic had challenged the mental, physical well being of many women whilst burdening them to also work double-time to continue to advance in their careers. It is quite clear that with physical distancing in place and many worksites shutting down all over the world, only very few jobs were able to transition to working from home.
While this opened up many opportunities for women who were capable of taking up work that was computer-based, affected their work-life balance. So how can we as a community step in to empower the women that live around us?
Sociologist and Author Tracy Bower PhD who wrote The Secrets to Happiness at Work notes that to create the condition of happiness there are two solutions that involve agency and structure. Meaning that they have the ability to take personal action and influence the system around them.
According to Bower, there are five ways to empower women as communities:
- Manage your bias – When you are, talking to a woman; set aside your prejudices and provide positive reinforcement to influence their thinking, behaviour and the choices they make. A 2021 US study revealed that 38% of people preferred to work for a female boss. This statistic itself can form a bias; therefore, it is better to present the statistic in a way that says ‘people preferred to work for brilliant female leaders’.
- Pay attention – Given that we are pushed to read people all the time, it is easy to lose focus on people around you. Our attention span is decreasing and it is important to conserve that resource. Pay attention to the moods, behaviours, outer appearances of the women in your community. Take time to listen to their grievances, their hopes, and their approach them with empathy and compassion. Always make sure that you validate her feelings and remind her that she is not alone.
- Create opportunities – Women seem to thrive in work environments that provide the flexibility and support to complete their tasks. Workplaces and even communities should therefore look at ways to support them by influencing workplace policies to allow them to work around their schedules of taking care of their children, attending to the household work or having to fulfil personal responsibilities.
When work-from-home methods were put in place, women seem to have joyfully embraced it and are thriving in their careers as they continue to work-from-home yet manage to achieve the day’s workload. Furthermore, provide them constant feedback by words of encouragement or even positive reinforcement to improve their skills at the workplace or in their households.
- Give praise – Women are prone to develop self-doubt and can easily undergo impostor syndrome. Make sure you praise them when they complete a task or they step into troubleshooting to fix problems in a project. Anyone will feel motivated when praised for his or her skills and for making themselves resourceful.
During group gatherings or meetings always, make it a point to appreciate a woman’s contribution that helped towards the success of completing tasks at the workplace or even in the community.
- Be authentic – Open up about your stresses and share your vulnerabilities with women in your community or workplace, then they too will understand that everyone has their difficulties and weaknesses. When people admit their mistakes people will feel validated about the way they feel or how they go through life experiences. This creates strong bonds and forms a circle of trust among communities that can be empowering and supportive towards the women among them.
The best support that can help you advance in your career
March is the month of celebrating girl power and empowering the superwomen in our lives. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day works around breaking the bias in every sphere, yet that is a battle that women keep losing half the time.
This is mainly because women have to work hard to prove that they are worthy of recognition and are worthy to sit at the high seat of the decision making process. This process is often hampered in competitive work environments, as there is always a male who will have better qualifications and more experience given that they are not burdened with the responsibilities of childbearing, running households, and having to strike a work-life balance in an increasingly demanding world.
Having female friends in such a work environment or even in general can benefit immensely for women who are ambitious to shatter the glass ceiling. Not all women have the fortune to work under woman bosses or have a workplace that has a majority of females to work with.
Yet when one gets to work in such a work environment one might notice how supportive they become since they empathise with our daily battles to reach your career goals, improve contribution towards building the company they work for, whilst looking to be a good homemaker or partner to her family.
So why is it important to have a circle of female friends?
In my career progression, I have had many female bosses as well as counterparts that have always supported me in securing consultancy work that they believed that I would be able to take on. Even when I have lost confidence, they would always remind me that I could always learn on the job and that I should take up the offer anyway or go and give it a try at the screening interview.
Their faith in me has partly helped with where I have reached in my career as a writer and as a media consultant.
In a study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US they analyzed the gender composition and communication pattern predicted on women’s leadership success within an organization.
Researchers used a quasi-experiment to determine the causal interference in rising to the leadership ranks based on human and social capital variables. While leadership placements based on one’s educational qualification were seemingly equal, high-placing women who have inner-circle contacts act like a clique and were able to maintain a level of contacts that never overlapped with their inner circle’s members.
So how can women improve building their inner-circle, well you have to only follow these steps:
- Go beyond networking – rather than just networking get to know a little bit more about the women that you meet when you go for workshops or conferences
- Give priority to build relationships – while building your relationship with the women you meet, also make an effort to get to know their other female friends
- Nurture the connections that you make – Once you get to know their strengths or specializations always seek advice from them or even lookout for ways you could get their support in your career growth
- Always make space for other women – Recognise the good work and the hard work that women in your workplace do, give credit where it is due and do not be shy to praise such women on their achievements or when they offer to help troubleshoot an issue in your processes.
- Improve your sisterhood – Maintain the inner circle by keeping in touch with them to bounce ideas off, seek advice, and confide in them your grievances. They will be your best support system and will be there to fix your crown when it falls.
Promoting equal access to investment opportunities in the equity market
In celebration of the International Women’s Day, Bursa Malaysia Berhad (“Bursa Malaysia” or the “Exchange”) today joined 118 exchanges around the world in raising awareness on gender equality in the equity market space. To further commemorate the occasion, Datuk Muhamad Umar Swift, Chief Executive Officer of Bursa Malaysia, rang the bell at market opening, followed by a dialogue that centred around women’s participation in the Malaysian equity market.
According to the Exchange’s data, women are becoming increasingly engaged in their investing activities, accounting for 36 percent of new Central Depository System (CDS) accounts opened year-to-date, up from 34 percent in 2021 and 32 percent in 2020. In addition, female investors made up close to 30 percent of the total traded value in 2021, with a 178.4 percent increase in total traded value and a 194.1 percent increase in total traded volume between 2018 and 2021.
“While these findings have been encouraging, there is still much work to be done to improve financial awareness and participation in investing activities among women,” said Datuk Muhamad Umar Swift. “As a strong proponent of gender equality and inclusivity in the marketplace, the Exchange will continue to advance the gender equality practices in order to close the gender investing gap. This includes providing both men and women equal access to investment opportunities available in the equity market.”
Other than hosting the virtual dialogue, the Exchange also launched its #MyFirstTrade# Campaign, which will run from 8 until 31 March 2022. The campaign invites female investors to share their inspirational first-time trading experiences, with the objective of motivating more women to enter the market and begin their investing journey. These short stories will be featured on the Equality4Equity page on the Exchange’s Bursa Marketplace platform as well as on all its social media platforms.
During the campaign period and in line with efforts to encourage women’s participation in the equity market, the Exchange and participating brokers will waive their respective portions of the CDS account opening fees for the first 4,000 women who open CDS accounts via Bursa Anywhere.
Beyond social engagement activities, the Exchange leverages its online education platforms such as the Bursa Marketplace and Bursa Academy to provide relevant tools, articles and programmes that can help inspire more women to consider equity investing for positive wealth creation.
This IWD, Content Forum celebrates & reinforces its commitment to safeguarding all women in the industry
With humble beginnings dating back to 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th, marking a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Themed #BreakTheBias, IWD 2022 seeks to continue the campaign’s efforts in accelerating gender parity and celebrating women’s achievements everywhere, while recognising the important role they play in today’s modern society.
With this in mind, the Content Forum honours women in Malaysia and the world over by reinforcing its stance and commitment towards women representation in the industry, by protecting them where content creation is concerned.
“Today, the Content Forum celebrates all women, while recognising their important role in today’s modern society. While we are truly glad that society’s view on the role of women have evolved tremendously over the past few decades, we would like to see a more active and a larger representation of women, particularly in areas pertaining to broadcast and the media at large. We believe the theme of IWD 2022, #BreakTheBias, is an especially timely and important one because whether deliberate or inadvertently, bias and stereotypes against women still remains in many shapes and forms. At the Content Forum, we firmly believe that merely knowing about bias against women isn’t enough. What is required is clear action to level the playing field,” said Content Forum executive director Mediha Mahmood.
She added that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code (Content Code) is a set of guidelines that was drawn up to safeguard the interests of all levels of society, including women. In this regard, the Content Code ensures that women are not misrepresented or exploited in any way where content creation is concerned. Aside from that, it also outlines best practices and ethical standards for content creation and consumption across all platforms such as broadcast, media and television.
Among some of the guidelines involving women outlined in the Content Code is the provision that content should reflect an awareness of the need to avoid and overcome biased portrayals on the basis of gender. Another point to note in the Content Code is that no visual or audio content should condone the exploitation of women and its content must not be negative or degrading.
“For many decades, the content industry has been blessed with the tremendous talent, expertise and beauty presented by women They entertain, educate and amaze us both on screen and behind the scenes. So, on International Women’s Day 2022, we offer our thanks to these amazing women and reinforce our commitment to ensure that the content industry is free from bias, stereotype and exploitation, and where women are respected and valued as they well deserve,” said Mediha.
Indeed, the content landscape has come a long way since a time when women were so often misrepresented or sexualised. At that point in time, there were no platforms for them to speak up on such matters, and some were not even aware that such things were not okay. Content standards were different and self-regulation was not even a practice yet back then.
“We all need to come together and openly discuss about how women (and children) should be properly defined by the society and the industry – in order to stop any form of bullying or sexual harassment,” said local actress Sofia Jane.
Echoing her thought was fellow actress Fatimah Abu Bakar who said, “When women and men speak out against sexism – they end up being ridiculed by certain groups of the society who have normalised this unacceptable behaviour. My advice for all young people out there – who want to make a difference in addressing sexism, is to call out any misbehaviour. Do not keep quiet.”
Daiyan Trisha, actress and singer, shared, “I have been selective at choosing my roles, as I carry the responsibility on how I should portray myself as a young female actor in the industry. Personally, I believe that there should be more representation of strong and powerful women, being portrayed in local content.”
Meanwhile, actress, director and producer Susan Lankester said, “Positive results happen when diverse story-tellers, actors, directors, producers who are involved both on-screen and behind the scenes get their hands in and get involved in protecting everybody in the industry.”
For more information on content standards about the portrayal of women and regulations against online gender violence, visit us at www.contentforum.my to view or download a copy of the Content Code.
Understanding the issues that make women believe they have impostor syndrome
As workplaces attempt to strike a balance in gender, we see an increase in women joining the workforce each year. Today some workplaces have more women, making up over 70% of the staff. However, does this mean that the workforce is finally opening avenues for women to succeed in their careers and provide them with the environment to grow as professionals? Unfortunately, we still seem far from achieving that.
In my years of working for different comms related industries, I have met women who are efficient in handling roles that require a complex level of administrative and people management skills. However, these individuals are prone to burnout and are not comfortable in handling the internal politics that come their way.
See, there is this longstanding conditioning where the hierarchy or the conservative work ethics feel challenged when there is a woman taking charge of a project that is high profile. There is always room for the office gossip ‘she must be going to bed with her client’, ‘she is gunning for that promotion’, or ‘there is someone in the shadows helping her with all this work’ etc.
These types of judgement by the work environment often place such individuals in a position of vulnerability and can make them feel belittled and bullied, affecting the way they continue to perform at their workplace. Women start to doubt their abilities, skills, and even their qualifications to be leading projects or assignments that they work on, despite the clients constantly praising their efforts on such instances.
These individuals start to lose their confidence to complete the task, which in return, affects their productivity and efficiency often resulting in them being removed from the lead role and getting placed as the assistant to the newly appointed project lead (who is oftentimes a male).
It is at this stage when women start to develop ‘Impostor Syndrome’.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
In 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes came up with the concept of the ‘impostor phenomenon’ following a study they had conducted on high-achieving women. Concluding their study, Clance and Imes hypothesised that; “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”
Impostor syndrome sets in when one starts to doubt their abilities and begins to feel like a fraud. This phenomenon disproportionally affects high-achieving people that are led to believe that they accomplished successful results with their capabilities. This later leads them to question the accolades they receive once they complete a task.
Is it fair to blame women?
Considering how the judgement, bullying, and aggression by others cause women to develop deep anxiety and self-hatred for being a high-achiever, plagued by the feeling that they are frauds; it is not fair to blame women for displaying signs of Impostor Syndrome. This can also lead to individuals undergoing trauma in the workplace who start questioning whether they would fit in with the changing hostile environment at work. They question whether their colleagues would start to hate them because they have lost self-confidence to complete the task, and might even lead them to depression.
Talisa Lavarry, author and founder of Yum Yum Morale – workplace diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy, was brave enough to write a book reflecting on impostor syndrome titled ‘Confessions From Your Token Black Colleague’. Lavarry, a woman of colour, explains how systemic racism and bias had affected her to fall prey to impostor syndrome when she worked on a high profile event that had invited Barack Obama to deliver a keynote speech during the former President’s tenure.
Addressing the hostile work environment
The biggest issue that women face is that there is no public platform which is willing to speak out about how one could overcome impostor syndrome. For instance, there are enough and more career development workshops for men who can draw inspiration from role models that have succeeded after overcoming deep depression, and have found a hack to be successful in the work environment.
Unfortunately, it is a little more difficult for women to find role models that they could relate to and could draw inspiration from to take pride in their competence, acknowledge their contribution to improving their work environment, or affirm their style of leadership.
Moreover, workplaces rarely look at individual or customised solutions for issues caused by the systemic discrimination, stereotyping, racism, and abuse of power that is deep-rooted which in return pushes women to deal with the effects of battling with uncertainties, which is normal in any professional’s life regardless of their gender identities.
Women underrepresented in management positions
According to Professor of Business Psychology, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of University College London and at Columbia University, there are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management:
- They are not capable (endorsed by conservatives and chauvinists);
- They are not interested;
- They are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power (liberals and feminists prefer to endorse this explanation).
Chamorro-Premuzic notes that the reason for the underrepresentation of women in management is caused by the work culture’s inability to distinguish between confidence and competence. Researchers have found that people who are self-centred, overconfident and those who display narcissistic traits tend to lead groups and such personality traits are not often equally common among people who identify themselves by different genders.
To share one of the least counter-intuitive findings in social sciences – women are often sensitive, considerate and more humble than men; this was proved during a quantitative review that involved more than 23,000 participants in 26 cultures.
While a survey conducted by Hogan Assessments suggest that men are consistently more arrogant, manipulative and rick prone than women. This implies that the very psychological traits that enable male managers to rise to the top of their corporate or political careers can be responsible for their downfall as well. This clearly explains why many incompetent people receive promotions to management jobs rather than competent people getting due recognition.
Chamorro-Premuzic further reveals that on a women’s journey to achieve leadership positions at their workplace, or even in their political careers, they face many barriers including having to shatter the very thick glass ceiling. Unfortunately, the lack of career obstacles that are in place for incompetent males to achieve leadership positions is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence and punishes women for their competence, to everybody’s disadvantage.
Steps to overcome impostor syndrome
- Rather than attempting to fix individuals, we need to look at creating an environment that fosters different leadership styles which need to be inclusive of race, ethnicities and gender identities.
- Competent people might not always have a confident outward appearance, and outwardly, confident people might not always be competent at completing a task.
- Change the narrative of ‘we need to fix women’s impostor syndrome’ by addressing workplaces biases, toxic cultures that fuel the concept. Promote inclusive work cultures to ensure that women regardless of their race, ethnicity or gender identity could thrive.
- Help employees to channel healthy self-doubt into positive motivation, which can be best fostered within a supportive work culture.
If we act on the above steps, we can prevent misdiagnosing women with impostor syndrome for good.
How to support your loved one
Recently, celebrity news has been dominated by the Kim Kardashian – Kanye West divorce saga. In summary, what has come to light are; Kanye has been accusing Kim of kidnapping his children or preventing him seeing them, criticising her relationship with her current boyfriend Pete Davidson, questioning her parenting, insulting Pete repeatedly on social media and asking his followers to yell at Pete on his behalf. Additionally, he believes that he is fighting for his family and that God will bring him and Kim back together.
Kanye has previously been transparent about his bipolar disorder, and has apparently said he has stopped taking medication.
Kim has largely remained silent on this issue on social media, except for one post where she says Kanye is making co-parenting “impossible”.
Here below is a chat with Taylor’s University Psychology lecturer Pang Chia Yee, who specialises in sex and relationships.
How can you tell if your partner has bipolar disorder – what are some signs to look out for?
First of all, we need understand that bipolar disorder is a spectrum, meaning it can range from mild to severe. There are also a few types of bipolar disorder according to the DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual – Five). Generally, a bipolar sufferer will shift from extreme highs (also known as mania) to extreme lows (as known as depression) – or vice-versa, with the presence of a “normality” mood in between the two extremes.
Some possible signs to look out for are:
- Alcohol or Drug abuse
- Reckless spending
- Frequent mood swings
However, in the context of a relationship, do note that it is harder for you to put the pieces together and identify that your partner has bipolar disorder as compared to a third party. Such disorders require a professional diagnosis rather than a partner potentially mislabelling the other in the relationship.
Is Kanye West’s behaviour towards Kim Kardashian (and Pete Davidson) a symptom of his disorder?
Based on the presentation highlighted by social media, it does indicate symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, it cannot be concluded solely based on media presentation as there are maybe other unknown facts and details.
What causes are the causes of bipolar disorder and what triggers it?
There are some risk factors that may cause bipolar disorder, such as environmental stressors, genetics (you may find a relative who has this disorder if you trace your family history), chemical imbalances in the body, or changes in the brain.
Some triggers include stress, lack of rest or sleep, breakdowns in relationships or divorce, alcohol, drugs, the weather (winter tends to be more depressing), pregnancy (because of the change in hormones), loss of job, loss of any sort, financial stress, and environmental and external pressures such as the pandemic.
Is a bad and sudden temper, and the tendency to overreact, a symptom of bipolar disorder?
It’s hard to make a conclusion based on just these statements, and more investigation is needed. Sometimes these behaviours develop from certain causes, such as pent-up emotions/stress or childhood trauma, and may not necessarily be a disorder. However, it’s possible for bipolar disorders to develop depending on how these stressors have impacted the brain over time.
How can we support a partner with bipolar and strengthen our relationship?
Identify things that trigger them and hopefully they will be honest and open up to you through sharing their ups and downs. Do not take it personally or blame yourself when they are in one extreme of mood.
It is also useful to:
- Encourage your partner to seek professional help
- Accept and understand your own limits
- Be patient and accepting
- Seek to understand and find out more about his/her disorder/ difficulty
While I encourage the person to also persuade the partner to seek professional help, understandably social stigma or self-pride would be a challenge as it really depends on how the individual perceives mental illness in general and the idea of seeking help.
Some tips to help persuade a loved one is demonstrate how much this therapy means to the relationship. Another way is to let them know that you don’t know how to support the other half (who has the issue) and you want to know how to assist them, hence you require their ‘assistance’ and you are willing to be there at therapy with them. Also note that finding a suitable therapist is important, so if your partner does not ‘click’ with the therapist or psychiatrist, find another one.
What advice do you have for Kim Kardashian that can help those in similar situations?
I would say to continue to keep herself calm and grounded.
I am not sure about what is her current relationship with Kanye like, but hopefully she can continue to be his friend and be mindful about the things that trigger him. However, at this point, it seems like whatever Kim’s response is, it will most likely be a trigger to Kanye – hence he screenshots their texts and exposes them on social media. So part of me is glad that she remained quiet about this issue on social media. Because the danger about this medium is that it is not about the intentions that you have when you make your statements, but about how those statements are perceived – as readers will always interpret their own meanings, and make their own assumptions.
It’s tricky to say whether she should continue to engage or respond to Kanye because if Kanye is bipolar, whether she replies or not, it can still be a trigger to his mood swings.
I would evaluate the situation and their current condition of the relationship, not from social media’s perspective but as individuals. How Kim thinks and feels about Kanye as a person or as the dad to her children, matters.
What do we do when an ex-partner or ex-spouse with bipolar or mental health disorders starts to escalate their actions towards us?
Always remember that your safety comes first. If your ex-partner or ex-spouse with bipolar or mental health disorders starts to be physical or verbally abusive or aggressive towards you, you need to inform the authorities (police officers), your family, and neighbours. As for professional help, you do not need to wait till the situation becomes dangerous to seek help.