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Puvaneswari Marappan: Breaking Out of Her Shell and Spreading Her Wings

23 Sep 2021

Puvaneswari Marappan at the IMU Research Lab during her Master’s studies

In life, there are several important questions one must ask oneself. These questions would give you a clear vision of what is needed now and what is next for oneself.

Take a moment and reflect on some of these questions today – How are you feeling? What is currently bothering your thoughts? What are you worried about? Are there any challenges you are facing now, if yes what are those challenges? Do you have a supportive environment?

Most important of all, do you have sufficient knowledge or tools to survive and thrive?

This is not some Harry Potter spell we are talking about, but basic Life Skills that covers social and self-management tools. Tools that help you build resources and to manage your emotions and thoughts, efficient financial planning, a tool to network for your personal and professional progression, empowering your well-being, effective decision making?

So, do you have the sufficient knowledge or tools to survive and thrive wherever you are?

Did you know about the ONLY Plan A “culture”. Let us take a simple assessment to see if you fit this “culture”.

The “Culture”
1. Having to conform to societal standards.
2. Only allowed to score A’s and nothing less.
3. Have you either been compared to a cousin or someone else’s children?
4. Been told to choose one of these mainstream occupations – Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer?
5. Never had the opportunity to have a social life.
6. Must be equipped with lots of talent, the more the merrier.
7. Punishment is more effective than encouragement.
8. Expressive? What is that?
9. Overbearing or overprotective parents?
10. Who are we kidding, we all have experienced it.

We understand that all the above is unavoidable mainly in an Asian community but WHY were we not given an equal opportunity to prepare ourselves for the life after High School, for the life where we now need to be on our own two feet.

In a constantly changing environment, having life skills is an essential part of being able to meet the challenges of everyday life. Life skills provide us with important tools for development, such as confidence to break out from our shells, independent thinking, interpersonal skills and how to act in situations where our protective parents or teachers may not be around to help or intervene (dealing with a bully or personal insecurities and fears, for example.) Unlike motor skills and basic intelligence, executive function, and decision-making skills are not innate but learned.

Like Puvaneswari, most Malaysians grew up only having Plan A and are required to work hard in life, be it academics or professional. Do you know what was neglected over those years?

Self-care and mental health were never part of our life dictionary. Do you know why? Because our parents never had in theirs too? Not even in our high school.

Puvaneswari is a classic example of most Malaysians life journey. A young girl from Bentong, Pahang. Grew up with strict parenting who prioritised academics over everything. Puvaneswari paved a path for herself by heading to Kuala Lumpur to embark on her tertiary education. How did Puvaneswari survived and is surviving this new life of hers?

Rule #1 – Break Out of Your Shell
Puvaneswari mentioned that if she was not courageous enough to break out of her shell, she would not have been able to spread her wings and be determined to have such high aspirations in life. Which drove her towards Rule #2.
Rule #2 – Always Seek Out Opportunities
Having to survive in a city with limited financial stability is a huge journey. How do we survive and enjoy it at the same time? Puvaneswari was determined to gain financial freedom for herself. She had some flavorful experiences. She took up odd jobs. It hit her hard during her MSc studies when the research allowance was cut off due to limited funds. She started Chemistry tutorings, she had her first student in 2017. She was also a freelance scientific writer. Who said researchers cannot be great teachers? – Shame on you!

She also ventured into a teaching practical session for students at pharmacy faculty in IMU. Why flavourful, because she also became a mystery shopper ranging from skincare products for RM50 per visit to luxury cars like Porsche, BMW which was RM 100 per visit. Not forgetting to explore her childhood dream of working in fashion in 2019, which takes us to Rule #3.

Rule #3 – Be Open and Strategise
Nothing comes swiftly in life. What is life without some challenges and hardship? Puvaneswari broke all ceilings to make her modelling dream come true and she knows she would regret it if she did not try it then and still is a model now. Her first gig was an unpaid gig, it was a boutique catalogue for a fashion designer. She received chances to do few advertisements after that. The moral of the story right here would be, it’s ok to do unpaid jobs, it is a way for you to kickstart your journey and gain opportunities.

Why be open? Imagine this, Puvaneswari with zero contacts, no family support at all, experienced 50 auditions and only receiving 1 modelling job, contacting 100 individuals and receiving 2 replies only. If she would have given up then, would she be able to gain commercial advertisements for Anytime Fitness, Kotex, Tunetalk or any other advertisements now?

Remember, before quitting or giving up ask yourself what are you really quitting and giving up – the now or the future?

Rule #4- Get a Mentor
Having a mentor helped her a lot in her career and life. She was able to receive guidance and support from someone who is already in the field. Most importantly she was able to hear different perspectives and options before deciding on anything. A mentor comes in with experience and wisdom. She is grateful for her mentor who guided her.

“There are so many people out there who are willing to help, all we got to do is just ask. There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking learning process” shared by Puvaneswari.

Rule #5- Self-care!
One of Puvaneswari’s firsthand experiences with Mental Health was during IMU’s Mental Health week during her undergrad as there was no awareness about it during her high school days back at MRSM boarding school. Took her a while to understand the importance of it and to appreciate it.

In her Master’s degree, she was heavily involved in research. It became stressful for her as she had to juggle short timelines along with her personal affairs. She knew she had to find a balance at least one evening a week to avoid burnout. Think about it, you do not want to lose out on everything you have worked for over a burnout. Taking some time off with basic self-care helps you a long way and provides a reset or refresh vibe for yourself.

Her favourite self-care routine in IMU was running and training for the marathon. Now it is about taking time off, reading, modelling, meeting up with friends, basically whatever makes her happy and calm. What are yours?

Rule#6 – Follow all the above and……
Know yourself enough to know when to let go when the time is right.

Everyone has their way of finding success in life, eventually. Taking calculated risks, venturing into different paths in life and being courageous to take the next steps.

There were few times where Puvaneswari was about to give up, but she strived and thrived to get to where she is today.

What does it take for you to strive and thrive in life?

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