The Shame Of Being You. F#@$!

I journal as regularly as I can. I haven’t got down to my goal of journaling everyday. I’m upset at myself because of that. F#@$! It’s one of those bugbears which I’ve tried asking to some ‘experts’ about and never got any answers that I could really sink my teeth into.

Similarly I try exercising everyday. But I haven’t got down to it. It’s on my to-do list, and there it remains, winking at me wickedly, taunting me and sometimes bearing down upon me. F#@$!

When my professional colleagues are laid-back and chilled, and I’m running around like a headless chicken because I’m a Type A personality or what have you, I know I’m a sucker for ‘wanting to be accepted’ sob narratives in my head. F@#$!

The family gets together and everyone wants to have a good time. But some like me are running around chauffeuring people around, being worried, being the ‘go-to-gal’ for mostly anything that needs to get done. I feel like cursing the living daylights for this personality that I’m born with. I curse my karma, my stars, the sun, the moon, and everything, including myself. Why can’t I be the one who can sit back and relax just like some others who pretend to work, and guess what, get all the kudos and appreciation to boot from en famille. And poor old me? Yup, I remain poor and old and me. F@#$!

Men in my life have usually ordered me around. They’ve had their egos float on Cloud 9 and if most of these men have however fleetingly felt like an Emperor, it’s thanks to me. Jeez! I have always been a victim of the ‘what if’ syndrome and so have always cowed down, bowed down and bent down to listen to them. After all ‘what if’ they leave (which they eventually do), ‘what if’ they like someone else (that too), ‘what if’ they wander away from the altar (I can almost count myself to be the Runaway Bride in reverse where the bridegroom just ups it and leaves) and yeah, ‘what if’ I never “settle down” (in plain layman terms it means find a nice man, marry, get round, have kids, fight, get tormented, and play by the rules or you’ll be left behind, so what if it’s a shitty marriage, but at least it gives you status and so on)? So all the ‘what ifs’ have come true. F@#$!

There’s an underlying theme to this whole behavioural pattern. As you step into the journey of adolescence, teenager, crusty adulthood, your beliefs of who you are get firmer, not necessarily truer. And we’re happy about status quo. Who wants to dig deep and unearth the truth right? Truth someone said is bitter, ugh! We’d rather indulge our sweet tooth and get fat and Type A diabetes right than hear the bitter truth. Sadly we get so consumed by our narratives of who we are we never turn explorer and Xena-fearless to just do a reality check and turn our narratives on their heads. And make way for other more real, closer to the truth stories that could be the gateway of more fulfilled lives.

Which is why:
a) we’re needy
b) we’re weak with longing to be accepted
c) we’re stiff with fear of being rejected
d) we’re uncertain of our own strength
e) we’re aching to belong
f) we’re thirsty for acknowledgement of our own beautiful self from a world that doesn’t give a F@#$!
g) we’re dying to be heard

We’re crying out to the world, “see me for who I am” but the truth is we don’t see ourselves. We’re afraid. Of being naked to ourselves. We’re ashamed.F@#$!

Conditioned to believe that if we’re not perfect with 10 fingers (for women they need to be long and tapering and smooth with pearly long nails for that perfect feline quality meeow!), 10 toes, narrow waists, child-bearing hips, shapely legs, tiny feet, great breasts, the gap within the thighs, the tinkling laughter, the mane that no shampoo ad can rival, the skin like alabaster without a mole or freckles, acne marks or wrinkles, then we’re losers. And for the men am sure it’s a similar story. Poor men, even more insecure than women and can’t even admit to it. Only show machismo because that’s supposed to be how they are, vulnerability can go fly a kite! F@#$!

The conditioned self. The true self. The ‘narrative’ self. Somehow we find it so easy to float on a bed of lies, shame, guilt and fear that we really forget who we are. F@#$!

What the hell do we do now? How do we step back from the abyss of dismay, disgust and delusion? How do we reclaim our true selves? I don’t know. F@#$!

 

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.

Fears, Mine – 2

We all live lives of imperfection and yet we cling to this fantasy that there’s this perfect life and that our leaders should embody it. (From Mathew Santos’ speech in ‘The West Wing’ – Season 6, Ep.22)

They’re showing re-runs of ‘The West Wing’ here in India. I’m hooked on to it. It’s fascinating how we humans have created ideas and concepts, for how we should rule ourselves. It’s gobsmackingly entrancing to watch the political machinations that are in play in the self-proclaimed ‘most powerful nation on Earth’. How people lie, cheat, pull strings, commit perjury, infidelity and yet somehow manage to stand tall and do what is right. Yes, it’s intense, extremely smart, for most parts beautifully written by Aaron Sorkin, masterfully enacted (one needs to take lessons from Allison Janney aka C J Cregg in one of the best etched characters for a female actor ever, and that’s IMHO) and so real. Who cares if the sets are not the exact same way as the real deal, who cares if it doesn’t exactly work like this in the actual west wing. I care about the characters – righteous, brilliant, brilliantly funny, with a sense of repartee and rejoinder that is almost inhuman it’s so bloody good, cocky, determined, insistent, persuasive, sly, compassionate, heroic, loyal and everything else in between –  who are like me and you, whole, flawed and oh so perfectly imperfect. Which is what makes it so eminently watchable.

Yes, we do live lives of imperfection. Perhaps it’s the law of the Universe. Maybe when the Big Bang happened, it created so much noise that it deafened the sound of perfection. And thereby created an eternal, gnawing, insatiable greedy desire for that which is unattainable. Perfection.

When I see myself in the mirror, I see thinning hair, sagging tummy and breasts, dry skin, gnarled hands, a butt that is no longer as firm as it used to be, teeth which are just about holding up, and then just when I’m sighing in mute acceptance of that which cannot be changed, I look at and into my eyes. I see a fierce brightness, a smile, a soul that’s so bright, a radiance that cannot be diminished and a perfection that is hard to beat. I catch my breath. And then the moment passeth!

I don’t look at myself in the mirror with such care and devotion everyday. Most days it’s cursory. For the longest time I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror in public places. At a restaurant, hotel, office, airport, anywhere public, when I visited the cloak room, I really wanted to be cloaked from the prying (?) eyes of others. I couldn’t look myself in the eye with confidence. I would never be able to run a quick comb through my hair or darken my liner. I was afraid. I was ashamed. What would these beautiful women (everyone other than yours truly was always prettier) think of me when they saw me? Would they be thinking, ‘My what an unpleasant looking woman?’ or would they go, ‘she’s dark, she’s a loser’ or would they not think I was worthy of any momentary attention at all? I was probably the most focused when I was in the cloak room – in, do your thing, out – and didn’t really dawdle, linger, gossip, or indulge in vainglorious practices, ha ha ha ha. I never showed up for myself. I let myself down. For what?

Fears, mine:
I’m ugly and people will find out.
I’m dark skinned and perforce, always be inferior to those who’re fair skinned aka pretty women.
I’m short and don’t have a Size 0,2,4,6, figure. Men won’t ever desire me.
I’ve got big teeth and my jaw line and profile are all screwed up. No guy will ever dedicate a song to me at a fete.
I’ve tubby fingers, broad feet, fat thighs – people will laugh at me when I wear nail polish or tight jeans. Ewwww!

As I write this, I feel ridiculous. Just reading these statements makes me wonder why I’ve held on to it for so long. Couldn’t I have known, seen, understood? I guess not. It’s very difficult to be a detached, non-judgmental bystander peeking within and figuring out how to heal.

Where did this come from? Where does it stay? Who is its bedfellow? What is its purpose? Why this self -deprecatory dialogue intent on sucking the soul out of my soul? How long will it continue? Does it deserve to continue? Am I so weak that I’ve let this dialogue show me the middle finger in open defiance?

Questions that I’ve been wondering about all my life. Fears, fears and more fears. Like I wrote before, fear is essential. But it’s up to me to decide how much, when and where it can be called upon to play it’s part. It’s time to say STOP! And flex my brain muscle and heart muscle and belief muscle. It’s time to put the fear into fear.

I’m whole. I’m beautiful. And everything that God wanted me to be. And proud to live my life of imperfection.

—  Thank you Joe Cocker :).

 

 

What have you failed at today?

I was listening to this interview that Jonathan Fields had with Sarah Lewis and she mentioned something there about Sarah Blakley, the founder of the multi-million dollar company Spanx, whose story incidentally is an inspirational read for every one of us who dares to dream of doing something daring. So anyway, in the interview, Sarah Lewis (they both share the same name, just realised) apparently talks about how her father would ask her and her brother at the dinner table, “so what did you fail at today?”.

Pause. Mull. Take the question in an imaginary glass, sniff it, sip it, roll it over your tongue and then swallow it. Does it create a warm fuzzy feeling as it slides down your throat or do you start spluttering because it just wouldn’t go down well with you?

What have I failed at today? Little do we realise that it’s our failures really, all the small ones, the big ones, the stupid ones, the funny ones, the egg-on-your-face ones, any kind of mistakes, failures and slip-ups are what teaches us to be smarter about it the next time. If little gorgeous miraculous babies were to give up at the first instance of a fall when they’re first starting to get over the crawl and learn to walk, well we’d all still be crawling on our fours wouldn’t we? Doesn’t it strike you as strange that as we grow up, more aware, more insightful, the things that we dared to earlier, only get more and more fearful as time passes by. We fear:

a) ridicule – the egg-on-my-face, what-will-people-say moments when we fail (notice I say when, because failure is a certainty that we honestly don’t want to embrace)

b) comparison – she did-it-so-well and she’s so goddammed successful why can’t it happen to me or with me or to me? Yeah. Stop. Did you ever ask “her” or “him” about his journey to the success that you have ascribed them to? Why don’t you ask and be prepared to hear about their travails?

c) judgement – now this one is a classic irony – we yearn to be successful because success to most of us is about the external approbation and the applause and the camera flashes popping in our faces and the people gushing about how “successful” we are. Yet, yet we fear these very people’s judgement about us if we’re not. What is success if not a judgement by the very people we fear of failing in front of? (Now that’s a tweetable).

d) censure – people who have our backs will always encourage us to go out and really s-t-r-e-t-c-h our limits and bask in the flowering of our potential as we do so. The muscle of potential really does get all warmed up as we s-t-r-e-t-c-h and practice everyday. Slowly, little by little by little we get better. Watch The Karate Kid, one of my favourite movies, to understand how practice helps. But we don’t want to put our time and effort into it. We want mastery in a day, sorry, in an instant, NOW. And when we fail, we are afraid of censure. Are we strange or what?

e) being left behind – we’re not rats, yet we call it a ‘rat race’. We’re not rats, yet we have books alluding to rat food, “who moved my cheese”?. In fact if you see ant behaviour (and there are myrmecologists who’ve devoted their lives to the study of these wonderful tiny creatures with big hearts and will), you’ll be blown away by their intrinsic discipline that is so individualistic and yet works so amazingly in groups (read this fascinating article on Swarm Theory here) as well. So why are we equating ‘living’ to a race? I just want to live freely, happily, connectedly, joyously and doing my own ‘thang’. Why should I be afraid of you? Beats me. Always has, but the heartbreaking truth is that we end up beating ourselves over it. We’re our own worst enemies.

f) not coming first – winning is everything. Or not. Depends on how you want to look at life. And how you define winning. Winning, success, failure, are not just adjectives in the language of life. They can make or mar us. Coming first in school I remember was the ‘big’ thing for me. When I came 2nd when I was in the 4th grade and got rebuked by my folks, I honestly felt like I’d let them down. That was perhaps the beginning of ‘wanting to please other people’, and the fear of failure. It’s okay isn’t it if you don’t come first? But then the guy with the podium finish is the one who gets all the endorsements. Ha!

g) shame – what does shame mean to you? this is perhaps the most inexplicable yet one of the most powerful emotions that can elicit a visceral reaction, can have us bound like a mummy in our own fears and keep us from truly blossoming out into the fabulous human beings we are. Shame. I hate that 5 letter word. Because we internalise it, we make it about ‘me’, we make it about ‘not being enough’ we make it about ‘never being good enough’ and we eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Jesus! We need to chew it and spit it out.

h) guilt – what is guilt? is the flipside of shame? Perhaps it is. It gnaws at your innards, brews toxic emotions and suffuses your being with this toxicity that is a drug that you are addicted to all your life. No amount of detox helps. Guilt has you firmly in its grip. But guilty of what? If I have to be convicted for:
being myself, being flawed, being quirky, being imperfect, being ‘too much’, being my true unique self, being non-conformist, being politically gauche or savvy, being a free ranger, being anything goddammit that is at its core being human, then yes, I am guilty. I want to listen to the beat of my own drummer, not yours. Is that alright or what?

When and if we are able to traverse this rocky road of the fear of failure, it is then and only then that we come to a self-assured, perhaps tranquil and “indifferent to a world-view that defines success” place. Yes, it is only then that we have truly arrived. It is time we rejigged our internal GPS to point us in a direction that is N-E-W-S (North, East, West, South). How does it matter? It’s your direction, your definition, your path, your life. Go fail.

And while you do so, please do share with me how you failed today, or tomorrow, and what you learnt from those failures? Did you feel misery, shame, guilt or were you able to take it all in your stride? Sharing is caring, I invite you to do so. Lots of love.