Start Here, Stop Nowhere
Having realised that lack of self-confidence is a widespread problem in many Nepali youths, ‘Start Here’ was incepted to provide a nurturing environment for shy, hesitant, and in-confident individuals to explore and express themselves.
By Abish Shakya
Everyone has their own reasons for joining ‘Start Here’, an emotional intelligence program by ‘My Emotion Matter’, an education company that helps students, teachers and working professional develop emotional intelligence. The reason I had joined the program was that I’d felt stuck in life. I needed to become self-aware and develop my confidence, something the program was trying to offer.
The sessions took place at ‘I Am The Gardner’, a petit nursery in Chakrapath. I attended their fourth session which had nine participants, and my mentors for the programs were Aprajita Jha (AJ) and Miss Nepal 2016 Asmi Shrestha, along with program assistant Prajwol Wagle (PJ), and the Co-founders Sagar Satyal and Bhawana Shrestha.
The ‘Start Here’ program was important for me to discover my self-worth and to add value to my already existing life. We were regularly doing different activities—practising being kindful, and calm—together with my mates. I was getting to know my mates better on the first day as each of us conversed with each other. The session involved some writing, some talking and a whole lot of listening activities.
On the first day, a friend broke down and cried when we were reflecting on ourselves. “I feel like a loser,” she said. Hearing those words disheartened us. However, after a group consolation, we were back on our feet, smiling, and taking selfies.
“The World Economic Forum predicts emotional intelligence to be the 6th most important skill in workplace in 2020. So, ‘My Emotions Matter’ is on its way to develop emotional intelligence among the people. ”
As the days passed by, we became more comfortable with the group, and we began speaking from the heart. It all started getting deep when a friend shared his story of being intensely bullied in school. Another guy expressed about being sexually-abused as a child. Soon, we heard so many stories from cheating death in the hospital bed, broken relationships, broken marriages, visa rejections, parental divorce, loss of family member, suicidal tendencies, careers uncertainty, and bad business.
The green handbook provided to us held our deep secrets, but we shared it all among us, leaving nothing confidential. We listened closely to each other as we revisited our joyful and painful moments. It made me feel stark-naked at times, but the group was so comforting that I couldn’t leave anything out of my stories. Tears spilt down our cheeks in almost every session, but we cherished them together. No one was being judgemental. We weren’t even giving each other any radical advice but were rather embracing the stories of the past. We were realising the truth and making confessions, and in the process, we were understanding ourselves and each other.
Any obscure thoughts submerged in our heads were being scribbled on colourful chart papers. Small incidents were being recalled and spoken out loud, and we applauded each other on our minute heroic deeds. Almost as if we were taking turns, more tears were spilling down. Crying with a close group of friends felt way better than crying all alone in despair.
By the days, we were understanding our characters and our actions. We were listening more to others and developing empathy—trying to live under their skin, somewhat succeeding. By playing games together, drawing and involving ourselves in creative activities, every session became increasingly vibrant and radiant. In these small activities—folded with emotions—we realised our strengths and weaknesses. We understood ourselves better, and we were taking control of our emotions.
‘Start Here’ reminded me of being carefree as a kid. Of course, the idea is not to run away from our responsibilities, but to embrace it. Overall, it felt stress-free, and I felt as if I went on a mini-vacation. When it was time for goodbyes, someone cried again. I left the sessions with optimism, confidence, knowledge, hundreds of happy pictures, and a positive outlook on life. The mentors and friends I made here will be hard to forget.
How it all started:
While on her fellowship with Teach For Nepal, Bhawana Shrestha released that emotions make a huge impact in the way students learn in classrooms and was discontent with the fact how overlooked emotions were in the teaching-learning process.
Sagar Satyal had been a topper at school but realised he had little self-knowledge when he graduated. This led him to start a mentorship program for college students to reflect on their own lives which gave his life a sense of purpose.
After meeting with each other in 2016, they started conducting self-reflective sessions. Participants Prajwol Wagle and Aprajita Jha felt the need for personal development in them and joined the group. Encouraged by feedback from participants, ‘My Emotions Matter’ was started to enrich the lives of people through the skills of emotional intelligence. Former Miss Nepal 2016 Asmi Shrestha was the final addition to the team.
‘EI 360’ program for corporates and ‘Super Teacher’ programs for teachers are other programs by ‘My Emotions Matter’ which are designed to help them develop self-awareness and empathy to find meaning in their relationships and work. They also broadcast a weekly ‘MyEmotionsMatter’ Podcast from where they share ideas on knowing oneself, improving relationships, and living a life of purpose.