By Mallika Bhatia
When I came to Munich almost six years ago, it was for a holiday. Not literally for a few days of holiday, but as a holiday that I had decided to take for a year. My husband was offered a temporary posting to Munich for a year or two and we saw it as the perfect opportunity to travel Europe at much cheaper rates. Flying to each of the places on our wish list from our home country would have been extremely expensive and it would have been impossible to cover the whole wish list. I had been running my private practice for more than ten years back then and life had suddenly thrown some not-so-great unexpected turns our way. All in all, I was really looking forward to a break from my work.
Within the first few weeks of arriving here I was handed my work permit, which I must admit I denied accepting at the Visa office. I so vehemently did not want to work back then that this new piece of paper looked like a threat to me. The man handing me the visa finally said, “This just means you may work, not that you must.” I reluctantly took that green thing and hid it away. A few months of travelling later, I came across a zen teacher who was adamant that I had to help her deal with some personal issues. I tried everything in my power to tell her not to come to me, but she was insistent. I gave in and finally my first therapy session in Munich happened in my living room. I got a home-baked chocolate cake as my fees.
As time passed, more and more people started coming to my living room and I started receiving many packs of tea, cakes, cookies and plants. I recognised it as a sign from the universe and decided to finally set up my formal practice in Munich. The process was pretty simple, but what after?
When you start formally, you hire an office, get furniture, buy mugs and glasses and tea and tissues, redo your website, get business cards printed… All in all you invest a lot financially. I was naturally expecting a regular and easy flow of clients from day one. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I realised that it is easier to get clients when you charge nothing and that was a BIG blow to my ego. The ego I had no idea was there crawled within me. Back in India, I was almost a celebrated therapist. I gave regular interviews to news channels and newspapers, my appointment diary was always full, people had to wait for weeks, sometimes months, before getting to see me, and I had been recognised on the street on more than one occasion, and yet here I was waiting for a single new client to call me for an appointment.
I had failed. My legacy ‘should’ have continued, it ‘should’ have been carried here, I ‘should’ have had work easily. These were my constant feelings, until I actually sat down to introspect and realised that this was my ego talking. Not my skills, not my talent, but my ego. I had started seeing myself from a very different viewpoint, not as who I was, but as what my achievements were. I was judging myself for not getting instant clients and putting myself down for being new to the market. Munich taught me to fail and for that I am forever grateful to this city.
It helped me adjust my lenses, gain perspective, and see me for who I was, not for my achievements, not for my past fame, but for me. It let me be; it neither rejected me, nor loved me overtly. It gave me the breathing space that I needed, the freedom to rediscover myself and my work, and it showed me how setbacks bring about incredible transformations. It changed me as a person and that in turn changed my flow of work. Today I am grateful for what I have, for the opportunities I have been able to create. I don’t hesitate before asking for work; it doesn’t make me lesser. I happily give referrals to other professionals in my field and I am always open to failing. I trust that it will make me better. Like they say, failure teaches us much more than success ever can.
Mallika Bhatia is Life Coach with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Diploma in Hypnotherapy, with more than 13 years of experience in this field. She is a writer, a blogger, and a published author with regular dedicated columns in two National Dailies in India. She also manages The Hope Tribe, a platform to share true stories of people who overcame obstacles and became real heroes. She practices in Munich at her office in NeuHarlaching or over Skype/FaceTime. Her website has more details about her work & for regular doses of wisdom, like & follow her on Facebook.