“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.”
― Heath L. Buckmaster
My life has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. At every stage, I’ve dealt with indecisiveness, challenges, and struggles. The endgame of becoming a writer has been achieved through a long process of elimination. Though these ‘eliminations’ have helped me grow as a person, there are some things I wish I’d learned and realized earlier in life. Things like how it’s okay to fail on a test, how I don’t need external validation to prove my worth, how a rejection doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, etc, are some lessons that would have led to more good than bad, if I had learned them a few years earlier.
Though it’s impossible that I woud’ve become the person I’m today without my past experiences, I do wish at least the following three realizations had come before. But they didn’t, so here’s me listing them out. I write these with the hope that someone out there doesn’t have to learn them the hard way. So that whoever is reading this, might not have to go through what I did.
1. Age ≠ wisdom or smartness
As Indians, we are taught to listen to and comply with whatever our elders tell and teach us. We are also taught and sometimes forced to respect them, just because they’re (sometimes many, and sometimes just a few years) older than us.
The realization that this belief system is utterly wrong, came to me a few years ago. No, it wasn’t because I proved someone older to me wrong. It actually came to me when someone younger to me, proved that I knew much lesser than them. They made me realize that just because I’m a few years senior, doesn’t mean I should expect them to comply with whatever I say, without questioning what I say and do.
That moment was as ephihanic as Harry Potter realizing his endgame in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Though since then I’ve learnt to never judge a person based on their age, I do believe it would have helped my decision making and actions earlier on in life too.
2. Failure is necessary to appreciate the value of success
In my personal as well as professional life, I’ve lost count of the number of failures and rejections I’ve faced. I’d been lying if I said these didn’t hurt. Each failure, left me questioning myself, and it still does. I’m not perfect and I admit to making mistakes even today. But the difference between now and then is that I don’t obsess over each failure the way I used to.
Now, I ask myself, these three questions:
- Was I happy with my own inputs before asking someone’s opinion on my work?
- Does that person or entity’s opinion matter in the larger context of my work and life?
If the answer to the first question is yes, I know I need to improve things on my end. If not, I am satisfied with the knowledge that I gave my best. If the answer to the second question is no, I shrug off the rejection or failure and move on with my life. If he answer to the second question is yes, then I try to understand the why and how to improve and work on it.
3. Happiness cannot be attained externally until you’re happy with yourself
We all love praise and recognition. It gives a different kind of motivation. But then, I came to realize the hard way that not every person will appreciate my efforts or success. Sometimes even the ones I considered to be my closest allies did not say ‘Well done’ or ‘That’s amazing’ when I did something I was exceptionally proud of.
Does that make my work less worthy? Absolutely not. That’s how I learnt not to let my happiness be dependent on someone’s opinion around my worth. That’s how I realized that as long as I’m not giving my best and are not happy with what I’m doing, this external validation will not serve anything.
What lessons have you learned the hard way in life? Let me know in the comments.
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Thank you for reading.