Monday, June 29, 2015

Insult as Motivation

Our college Annual Day for a batch of MBBS and BDS students was held day before yesterday. The outstanding achiever, winner of several awards including the gold medal, as the custom demands spoke to the audience. She narrated a story which went something like this: About 7 years back she never thought of medicine as a career option. She wanted to be a businesswoman to help her not so well-off family. But then she met someone who told her that she should not be thinking of medicine since she won’t be able to afford it. It would be out of her reach. She felt insulted and bad by it and that was the turning point for her. She decided that she would do it and with support from family and friends. Today she was there, right up there as the outstanding achiever of her batch.

Today morning I happened to read on twitter someone having written on a saying ‘Insult is just a rude way of inspiring’. The narrator went on to describe incidences in life where she has been able to do well in her corporate career because of putting up a brave face and earning the determination to do well in response to insults thrown at her by her superiors in office. 

What is our reaction, our thought when we hear such a thing? Let us largely divide reactions of people in three categories. The first set believes in the fact that whatever be the performance or lack of it of someone, insult is a total no-no. It affects the psychology of an individual in a negative way. Insult can drive people to depression, anger, hyper or hypo activity and is akin to a crime.

Another set of people would believe that the ill lies with the person causing the insult and has no bearing on the one getting insulted. Thus the person facing the insult should take it as a challenge, as a motivation and perform to give a fitting reply. Thereby, believing in the adage that insult is a rude way of inspiring and that without it sometimes, without that rude jerk, that vigorous shaking, performance is not enhanced.

The last category of people would believe that one cannot do away with insult largely. Be it any workplace, at home, there are certain people who inflict insult as a way of expressing their anger. Therefore though undesirable it cannot be avoided. 

Whatever the belief be, we gain inspiration and motivation from a myriad of ways. People have been inspired by a humble bee, by mountains, by books. Great men and women have achieved greatness in the path of proving someone wrong equally as proving themselves right.

Yes an insult hurts the ego and either it buckles up for the fight or gets down and out or a few other possibilities in between occurs. There is no ideal way of targeting the insult. A few days back this author had written on the role of teacher as portrayed in the movie Whiplash (, where insult has been an extreme weapon to motivate. While anecdotal evidence suggests, as narrated in the beginning, its success, the risks, more often than, not outweigh the pros.

And as for the student who we undoubtedly believe will excel as a doctor, who knows, what kind of a successful businesswoman she could have been. Not that she still cannot be.


  1. Having faced such a situation, I eventually let it go. There were professors in our institution, who used to pick on me, telling me I am not like the other girls, due to my physical stature. Now, it's perfectly fine, if they pick on my academic performance, but not how I look like. I was told, "You are worth nothing", given your looks. Such kind of words being uttered by Instructors is not done.

  2. Its unfathomable how someone can say that. Shows deep malaise and conflict within.

  3. Insult is another colour (apart from sympathy, smile, compassion, jealousy, etc) in the set of sketch pens titled 'emotions'. A success or failure is always a function of multitude emotions, but we speak only of those which impacts us the most. In this case what is evident is the emotion which impacted (i.e.insult). What may not be evident as clear or loud is 'support' and other emotions. In a nutshell its never a "one emotion" game.


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