There is only one thing that adulthood teaches us. To curb our spontaneity and natural instincts. The more I observe my little one growing up, the more it dawns how messed up we adults are. Social conditioning ruins us. We say not what we want, but what others want to hear from us. We don’t do what our heart wants, but what is expected from us. We don’t ever grow up, only get better at putting on an act of being able to get through the days and years with a veneer of knowing what we want. Even if we’re crumbling inside adulthood teaches us not to let our defences down. Because people shouldn’t see our vulnerabilities, because being an adult means you can hold your own. We think by not letting other people get a peak of our helplessness, we’re being strong and not giving them ammunition against you. We’re so edgy about giving out information about ourselves, wondering what will be held against us and thinking of ways and means of letting the world know only what we show on the surface. We don’t realise our strengths lie in accepting our weaknesses not masking them.
Parenthood is so meaningful, only because it allows you a chance to undo all the damage we inflict on ourselves and on others. It gives you a fresh perspective and an opportunity to see authenticity and experience pure emotions from close quarters. I observe my son and realise children are more sorted than we are. They cry when they are upset and smile when they are delighted. Their emotions and actions are so pure and authentic. They’ll turn up their little noses at what they don’t like and stay absorbed for hours fascinated by everyday objects we don’t even bother a second glance at. As children we’re all mindful and authentic. We get so caught up with trying to be the plastic, politically correct beings who toe the line and live by the rule book that we forget who we really are. Our true selves get buried in the debris of societal expectations, gender stereotypes and conditioning. We think we evolve as we grow older, but at a certain level we regress. We just learn to tame our impulses and with that our ability to be curious and creative dies a natural death. We lose the ability to express ourselves while being true to our emotions. I sometimes wonder, we mask our true dreams, desires, fears and wants under so many layers that we dissolve who we truly are and settle for a shadowy existence. Every once in a while, try saying what you really want, give in to the impulse to cry your heart out or laugh till you’re teary-eyed. Confront and embrace your quirks and eccentricities. Try awakening the spontaneous, artless and natural child within. Every once in a while give wings to the child within who is hiding beneath layers of dos and don’ts and societal sanctions.
We live in decadent times. Hedonism starts early where parents fulfil needs and wants even before children realize they have needs and wants. They are given easy access to mobiles, gadgets and tabs which ensures they get to tap into a host of information at the touch of a fingertip. How will that ever leave room for creativity and curiosity to find roots? I too have been guilty of leaning on nursery rhymes to soothe a bawling toddler. Yes that is the trouble. We’re so busy strutting about like zombies starved for time that we look for quick fix solutions for everything. Even the things that matter like relationships, parenting, friendships. We think we can compensate for the poverty of time by amassing material possessions. We think we can punctuate our emptiness by acquiring brands and gadgets we’re going to lose fascination for soon. We are so gladly ignorant of the long term ramifications of all these quick fixes. Our parallel existence in the realm of social media is yet another space where we seek instant gratification by getting instant likes for our rants and rambles, narcissistic selfies or vacation snapshots.
As a parent and a bystander I shudder to think about the self-gratification seeking monsters we’ve become and the little monsters we’re in process of rearing. We’re heading towards a world where we’ll find it hard to think beyond our own needs and wants. A world where we’d want instant solutions for all our troubles. We’ll be men and women who’ll find it hard to look beyond their own noses and whose sympathies will be narrower than Kendal Jenner’s nimble waist. Where nothing will hold our attention and instead of finding solace and satiation in real human interaction we’ll depend on the deceptive virtual world to seek companionship and derive sense of self-worth.
Is that where we’d like ourselves or our children to be?
I still remember the eager beaver I was in the first few years of working in the corporate worlds. Brimming with ideas, going that extra mile to make a positive impression on my seniors and trying to strike the right note always. Time and experiences leave no one untouched. Our optimism gets tempered with realism. The enthusiasm makes way for the ability to question rather than conform. But one lesson that stayed with me both personally and professionally was that there is only one recipe for disaster : trying hard to please everyone around us. By falling into an incessant trap of saying and behaving in a manner which we feel will go down well with those around us; we’re signing up for misery. What we don’t realize early on in our lives is that how people judge or perceive us has little to do with how we are. And a lot to do with how they are. By trying to please all and sundry with end up pleasing no one, including ourselves. We bear an unnecessary burden of supposed expectations we think people have of us. We’re too self conscious to notice that everyone has their own baggage bogging them down, to scrutinize or judge us is probably the last thing on their mental screen.
While I am not suggesting we behave in an obnoxious or atrocious manner, but donning a veneer or mask can’t last forever. It perhaps is best to be as authentic as possible while staying civil. We can voice alternatives, opposing ideas and our concerns without stepping on someone’s toes. The only caveat is we need to be prepared to leave our egos in the cold storage. We need to be prepared for our ideas to be shot down, our suggestions to be shelved or opposed. I still am trying to learn to strike that balance. How do you tackle this?
I still remember being this child who would break into tears at the slightest admonishment. I would internalize other people’s opinions and judgements and try my best to be accepted and liked.Being reared as a cosseted and overprotected child made sure I was oversensitive to criticism and rebukes. I used to be someone ever ready to take these to heart. And then life happened. Life has a way of making sure we grow up and evolve. It dawned on me if there was one recipe for disaster in life,it was trying to please and placate everyone. The futility of trying to be someone to everyone. Allowing ourselves to be steamrolled and ride an emotional roller coaster depending on how people blew hot or cold. We’re never the people we once were. Forever changing, evolving and sometimes wondering how could we metamorphose into someone we never thought we could be?
With time I learned being too thin skinned was like handing over the world ammunition to judge you and hurt you. By being too sensitive one was allowing oneself to internalize and reflect other people’s opinions of you. And experiences drove home the fact we are all much more than people’s opinions of us.
As a friend puts it,motherhood helps us become more immune; almost indifferent to what people think of us. We become so used to being scrutinized, judged and harangued for how we choose to raise our kids.
And then we gradually develop a veneer of indifference and devil may care attitude.It can be a rather liberating experience to decide what we choose to accept from other people and what needs filtering out. The realization comes with time that how other people evaluate us is none of our business, it is their problem alone. Perhaps the first step towards emotional empowerment and autonomy.
All of life is a choice between love and fear. We can choose to open our heart to new experiences, people and situations. Take each day as it comes, dig up opportunities to grow and learn and jump into the helm of action instead of spending all our time overthinking and pondering over the imponderables. We can muster courage to make our own choices as well as the gumption to live them down immaterial of the consequences. We can decide to embrace change as a way of life and look at each tricky situation as an opportunity to grow and learn. Not antagonizing over people who think differently than we do. Instead we can entertain their perspective to enrich our own. We can navigate through ups and downs by seizing the moment, by choosing to change what we don’t like and exploring the world for its diverse people, places, flavours, sights and sounds.
Or we can choose to be shrinking violets cower quietly in a corner, allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by people and situations. Walk through life with our eyes half closed and half engaged, dwelling in the zone of inactivity and endless speculation. Hoping if we shut or eyes to them or shove them under the carpet our troubles under the proverbial carpet; they will disappear. Magnifying and feeding of each other’s fears. Resisting and shunning change and shutting ourselves from new people and experiences. We can choose to stunt our personal growth, find solace in sameness and monotony. Lead an incestuous existence where we meet and accept only people who think and talk like us. Shun newer experiences, revel in the sameness. Crib and complain about our existing relationships, jobs and situations yet refuse to change. Because change is catastrophic and what is familiar is a solace even if we don’t quite like it. We learn to get comfortable with the discomfort because only the known is a safe choice.
The mind keeps waltzing between choosing love and faith and getting paralyzed by fear and inaction. We can choose to overcome our mental hurdles or to stall our lives fearing a catastrophe all the time. We’re forever fighting this battle at the back of our mind at each juncture of life. I personally have found myself swinging between the two extremes when faces with all of life’s major changes and choices. As the ancient fable goes, much of our life depends on which of these two we choose to feed and grow.
Thanks to social media we’re bombarded with a volley images of beauty photo shopped to perfection, picture perfect relationship moments and postcard like vacations. We share carefully scripted and manufactured moments of our lives for sharing with friends and family. What about our fears, our weak moments, our vulnerabilities and fragilities? Well, they lay buried under the debris of the stories we weave and the images we share on-line. What makes it worse is most people who consume these anecdotes and stories consider this our only reality
Everyone has their own set of demons to fight. Battles to conquer. No one I know has ever had it easy, a smooth run. There are peaks and troughs, but what we see instead are airbrushed moments of joy and success.
This has set most of us on a wild goose chase .But this quest for perfection in any sphere is a mirage. It takes away from us the ability to value and cherish what we’ve got. We’re forever searching for that ephemeral perfection which we’re never quite able to meet. Because we seldom know what it looks like.
Won’t it be just be a whole lot easier to breathe easy and share instead what we really feel and not what we want to project? Focus on how the imperfections and quirks in our lives and our relationships actually add the extra zing and spice. It is actually our fragilities, our imperfections and scars that make us more human and relatable. Let us just make peace with them instead of battling them.