You don’t care for the applause? Aww…come on!!

“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”
            Epictetus – Greek philosopher

As we go about our merry lives, chasing rainbows, fueling desires, goading ourselves to fulfill dreams, desperate to mean something in a fickle world where 1 second of fame is a lifetime, there’s a constant barrage of messages that are streamed into our consciousness. Some we internalise, some we discount, some we disbelieve, and some we fiercely defend. One of these is the oft repeated message: “Don’t worry about what others will say, do, think! Don’t worry about external validation. Worry about one thing and one thing only – what you feel and think about who you are and what you do.”

Yeah, sure. Got that. But wait a minute. Are you trying to say that:

a) if you’re an artist you’re painting only to please yourself because that is your Lust for Life?

b) if you’re a singer, you’re perfectly fine to continue to trill without ever having the pleasure of an external source telling you how evocative it is? Would Adele be okay to continue to Roll in the Deep in her bathroom?

c) if you’re an actor, you don’t need a director or the audience to say “Cut” or “darned fine job” and don’t want to go up to a podium to receive the coveted statuette? Or any other accolade that marks the merit of an artiste? (The merits and demerits of “awards” merits another post :p).

d) if you’re a ‘blue collar’ worker, a pat on your shoulder or that lil incentive that could send your child to college wouldn’t matter?

e) if you’re all dressed up in your finest and the image that winks back at you from the mirror is saying, “fantastic” is actually enough? That when that gorgeous woman at the party looks at you nervously and clutches at her arm candy even more tightly, that you don’t experience a frisson of excitement? It doesn’t matter?

f) if your child came up and asked ‘dadda dadda, see is this plane okay?’ you would instead turn around and ask, “what do you think?” and continue watching the news?

g) if your mother came and told you, “I’m so proud of you” and kissed you on the forehead and hugged you, you would smile, turn away and continue to dig into Pringles as you finished reading the last page on the Twilight series on your reader?

h) if you were a writer that it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have any readers and would continue to write at least 1,000 words a day?

i) if you were a trapeze artist, a clown, a scuba diver, a treasure-hunter, a Bears Grylls, a Carl Sagan, an Oprah, the girl next door, the boy next door, the vegetable vendor, the cobbler, the designer, the ramp model, the hairstylist, the chef, the graffiti artist, a rapper, a Big Bosser or whoever dammit, are you saying that it wouldn’t matter if no one ever encouraged you, said you were great at what you did, no one ever applauded your efforts, or saw you and admired you and respected you and idolised you as a role model?

Really? Awww come on!!!

We are so happy dissing “external validation” and quote our modern-day sages on why it’s important to do what “you believe in” and not worry about “what others say” that we forget something very important. Human beings are intrinsically, I think, social beings. We’re not meant to be living in little islands of our own. We like to admire, gossip, encourage, laud, applaud others and seek that attention because it motivates us to do more. We are naturally competitive. I think if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be living in an age where wearable watches are the new normal, yes, we wouldn’t have been curious enough, tough enough, enterprising enough to seek more, discover more, do more.

“External validation” becomes quick-sand when you let it seep into your bones and every cell of your being as the “only thing that matters”. If we hinge our identity on “the others” and what they say, do, believe, now that my dear friend is cause for grievous injury to one thing and one thing only – the idea of you. By all means do what your heart tells you to, pursue lofty goals and live by the highest ideals, but don’t discount the acknowledgement that follows. Just don’t forget to acknowledge yourself first, respect yourself first, give permission to yourself first, like yourself first, love yourself first, believe in yourself first. Be more.

Why do we say “yes” when we want to say “no”?

I don’t know really. I’ve been such a yes-er that I don’t know any other way. Well, of course I say no, or I may have said no very often in the past, but in a way that may have got people rattled. I know that I become aggressive, my tone, my body language, my intention everything reeks of a giant scream – like “I want to be heard, my opinion needs to matter, and I matter. There, take that you scumbag.” – where the the receiver of this giant no reels back a few steps and doesn’t want to ever deal with me again.

So the challenge is to say no in a manner that is firm but not off-putting, that gets you heard without provoking someone into socking you, and where you get the response that you want.

I’ve always been a scaredy-cat, always. I’ve always been afraid of rejection, of being found out that I may be unworthy of the other’s attention, affection, friendship, anything.

a) “Want to grab some Chinese? It’s the other end of town, but it’s a great restaurant.”
My response: Sure, why not? I luuuuuv Chinese.
What I’d really like to say: God, that’s so far and I detest driving all the way in traffic.
Why can’t she ever come to my side of the world?

b) “Hey,what you doing this evening? I’m free, you wanna meet?”
My response: Sure. See you in half an hour.
What I’d really like to say: Dang it. Why do I always have to meet you when you’re
free? Why can’t I just say no politely?

c) “Doesn’t this look cool? What an awesome snap!”
My response: Awesome! It’s brilliant. Tell me more about this.
What I’d really like to say: Yikes! It’s awful, you’re a lousy photographer
and no, I don’t think it’s cool at all.

d) “So could you give me the write-up by tomorrow?”
My response: Er…that’d be a tad difficult. But I will try.
“I need it. It’s urgent and I”m sure you can turn it around.”
My response: Okay.
What I’d really like to say: If it wasn’t for the money, you could
go climb a tree for all I care. Why does this
happen to me? Why don’t you go check with a
fancy agency where you pay big bucks if they’d
give you the presentation in a day? Damn!

So well, I do this so often that I really don’t know what it’s like to have a spine any more. And the irony is that my friends think I’m this strong, domineering, assertive, loud mouthed, someone who can be downright rude, person. What I really am is a needy, low on self-esteem, desperately trying to feel worthy and accepted, kind of person. There, that’s an honest confession!

What does one do if you’re like that?
1) Say “no” at least once a day or disagree on any one thing.
2) Observe and record what happens to you in your head, heart and body.
3) Learn to say “no” politely, be manipulative and diplomatic, sly and shrewd all at the same time. It won’t kill you because if you didn’t, it surely will.
4) Learn to accept a NO too, without standing on judgement. Everyone has a right.
5) Don’t be afraid of who you are. If you don’t like or agree about something when the whole world is cooing about it, stand your ground and make your point if asked. It’s absolutely okay to not go with the herd.
6) More often than not have legitimate reasons for saying ‘no’. Not because you’re out to get her or him and be a bitch and you love tripping people up.You’re not House and he’s almost always right, however abominable he may be.
7) Observe your relationships as you begin to say ‘no’ where earlier you were perceived to be the ‘good, cool, one with the girls (or guys) kind of person’. If they’re not being as warm and receptive to you, you know they aren’t worth your time. What a waste of precious time all these years.
8) If you’re saying yes when you actually wanted to say ‘no’, question, analyse and go the core of who you are. It’s called an inquiry into self. Be ready to be amazed at what you discover.

It’s time for me to walk the talk. Will keep you posted on how goes it. In the meantime if you think this makes sense, have tried it, share, share, share. Sharing is caring and if I or any one else can benefit from your experience, Hallelujah!

“Do I matter?”

Gosh! It’s been exactly a month and a half since I last wrote. I’ve been away for various reasons – all personal. And then I hide behind the most trusted of all excuses which won’t ever give you away: work. :).

I had fallen off the grid with my walking, yoga, meditation, journaling, blogging and my routine was all over the place. Why? Because I was intensely focused on creating a ‘wow’ experience for my mom for her ‘surprise birthday party’. The intention was there, the focus was there, the determination, belief and action, all were there. And was it a wow? You betcha! (Hidden nugget: recipes for success are all here – focus, determination, belief, action and detachment from outcome – just got to do it.).

Well anyway, I’ve gotten back to my morning walks. Slowly, but I did it, I took one baby step at a time. I’ve gotten back to listening to podcasts like this one on the Unmistakable Creative, which I found very enlightening. During the course of Samantha Bennett ‘s conversation with Srinivas Rao, the host of UC, she mentioned, “Do I matter? Does anyone see me?” and it immediately struck a chord. My primeval being heaved when she (my primeval Renu) heard “Does anyone see me?” and I knew that this is a BIG thing. A question that I’ve battled with all my life.

Let me ask you this. Have you ever felt:
a) that you’re the kind who’ll always be the silent behind-the-scenes type but unlike a set designer or a director of a movie, or even a spot boy, you never get credit for everything you do? Maybe you don’t want it, and that’s your personality, but come on, at least sometimes it’d be nice to get all the credit for everything right? Right?

b) that somehow there are people who’ll always say, ‘hey let me do this, I got this’ and then you find that you’re the one who’s doing it, but later everyone around says the former did so much heavy-duty stuff? What a great help he/she was?Aaargh!!!

c) in a community or in a family or even in a team at an office, no one gives credit to the original idea that started something, anything, but everyone goes cheek-bussing and hi-fiving and the credit goes to perhaps the last one who wrote that email and said, ‘let’s do so and so at this time. Let’s meet?’ and you look forlornly and wonder, is this how it’s always going to be? You shrug and realise YES!

d) that those who’re seen to be doing something all the time even though in actuality they’re doing zilch, are the ones who’re credited with being ‘active’, ‘amazing’, ‘brilliant’ whereas you, if you’re the one who started the movement, oh well, sorry pal, not this way, the EXIT’s out the back-door, and shut the door silently behind you will ya? Er…who’re you?

e) suddenly on those occasions when you do make a sound and question, everyone looks at you, doesn’t like the sound of the question and what it purports to be, (perhaps makes them feel uncomfortable) and then suddenly you don’t matter? You’re not in the consideration set anymore, because you dared to ask a question and there in one fell swoop you’ve been swept to the background again.

f) the need for closure when some people you knew well, laughed with, were friends with, suddenly for no reason (seemingly) avoid you, look through you, turn their nose up at you, frown in your presence or just ignore you? Do you want to naturally gravitate towards the back of the wall or the elevator and agonise about, “why me”?

Each and every one of those instances has happened to me. I’m not a diva. I’m not an ideas-machine. I’m not a self-aggrandizing attention-seeking cloying sycophant who needs to prove anything. Correction! I do need my day in the sun! I do need external validation. Yes, I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t matter. I do need someone to applaud and say, ‘Brilliant job! No one else could’ve done better.” I do need for others to raise a toast. Yes, it’s important. I won’t lie, it is important. And I do crave for it. But that’s the one thing I’ve realised – the more you crave for something, the farther away it gets from you. But I’m human. For once I don’t have smart alecky answers or guide posts on how to cross this oh-so-human-failing of mine. Because all I ask is, “Don’t you see me?” 

If you’ve felt this way too and have found ways to make your peace, share. Sharing is caring! Lots of love to you!





Shame, shame! Who me? Yes you!

First off! Brene Brown salut! 

You’re a genius. You’re a wholehearted, wonderful, insightful, genuine, authentic, articulate, creative, empathetic being. Dare I say more? Jesus, someone may think am plugging you shamelessly in pursuit of some hidden agenda (getting my blog noticed for one)! Off with your heads all ye who think shameful thoughts! Oh Lord! That’d mean that the entire planet would become headless because everyone bar none thinks shameful thoughts. How do I know? I did Brene Brown’s e-course yeah! Did you? Well, shame on you! Just kidding y’all (this is BB’s favourite term, y’all, not you all, ye all, but y’all). Am just tripping on ‘shame’ right now!

Anyway, this post isn’t going to be all gush-gush about Brene Brown and her course and what I learnt or didn’t and so on. However, I would urge y’all (wink!) to read her book/s, especially ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’. I loved it. Everytime I read something that resonated with me, I’d go nodding my head, ‘Yeah, she’s so right!’ and that would be every 2 minutes :). It’s amazing really about how conditioned we are into thinking that we’re not worth it. That if:
we don’t do or behave or perform or achieve or say or plan or become or feel the way we ought to, as proscribed by those omniscient beings, who wield a circle of influence in our growing years (could be anyone, not just parents), we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. This ridiculous notion has had some seriously debilitating consequences on our psyche, and I know I’m paying for it still because I bought into that silly idea just like y’all. Why? And why in the name of God didn’t we open our f&^$@#ng mouths and scream and yell and rave and rant saying ‘I don’t want to feel this way?’ Ooops! We did, just that when that happened I guess we were called neurotic or paranoid or just plain mad. Thankfully, this deep, insatiable hunger to throw off our shackles of conformity (in a good sense) and find ourselves, yes, just plain find out who the hell we truly are, has gained so much momentum that well, I’m just lovin’ it baby! Thank you conformists. If it weren’t for your rigid outlook and if it weren’t for our inherent restlessness to just be, however anachronistic that may sound, for to just be harks back to stillness, we wouldn’t have the likes of the wonderful and heart-full and soul-full Brene Brown talk to us of ‘shame’ and owning our story.

When I wrote Fears, Mine – 1  and Fears, Mine – 2 last month, little did I realise that what I was actually doing was naming my ‘shame triggers’. So now you know that my entire life and self-worth is hinged upon how I look and what others think of me. I feel so small right now, I could cry. But Brene Brown, I tip my hat to you, you taught me, through some very creative exercises called ‘art journaling’ that I’m enough. Like Sark (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) had said in one of her wonderfully illustrated books, ‘I am enough’! I remember this because a colleague of mine called Kunal, back in my advertising agency days had mentioned Sark, during one of my ‘deep dark and lonely’ moments and I’d gone looking for Sark in bookstores and couldn’t find it and I finally ordered it on Amazon, back in the day when the Rupee was much stronger and the dollar wasn’t so forbidding and prohibitive as it is today! Be that as it may, the point is, shame is a powerful, fearful, deeply prohibitive and shackling word, a word that can freeze you in a nano-second making you forget all your meditation and the scrupulous and arduous ‘inner work’ you’ve been doing for months. For shame is nothing but the absence of self-worth, and the presence of fear tormenting one’s soul till you die with an eternal sneer on your lips, deep regret in your heart and unquenchable thirst in your soul. Well, I could ramble on about what it is and what it isn’t. It may resonate or may not resonate with you. What I’d like to do however, is to leave you with these wonderful sentiments as expressed by none other than the magnificent and truly wonderful and creative human being – Brene Brown!

Take care of yourselves till next week when I’ll be back with more chronicles. But hey, don’t forget to share, for sharing is caring! Have a super duper weekend, promise me, no crying! Love y’all!

Creativity Lives In All Of Us

I shall not suffocate. I shall continue to express and articulate and create.

I am a creative being!

Creativity lives in all of us

What's the greater risk?

Let go. Let go. Let go. Is that such a risk?

Contribute more than you criticize

What would you like to be remembered for? The one with the acerbic tongue or the one with the warm, generous, loving heart?

Don't run from the truth!

Truth is here, it’s going nowhere. Why run from it?

Stillness speaks. Stillness rules.

Think. Dream. Feel. Question. It ain’t that hard you know?!

Perfectionism be damned! Be yourself!

What would you rather be? Perfectly fearful or imperfectly daring?! You choose!

Let Go of Cool! I'm me and that's cool!

Would you want to be called a traitor? That too a traitor of yourself to yourself by yourself? Never ever ever!

I am superwoman!

I found my superpower. Curiosity and Passion! Now I’ve got to own it.

Own Your Story!

My story matters to me. You bet! I matter to me.