You are confident when you simply are who you love being.
A young man came to meet me some days ago. He confessed that he has low self-esteem. And that, he said, was forcing him to be tentative in almost all situations. Often this tentativeness was translating into insecurity and fear. He wanted to know how he could be more confident of himself.
The only way to be confident of yourself is to not bother about what people have to say. Simple. If there’s something you have to do, go do it. When you do something, when you present yourself to the world, naturally, there will be several opinions that will be thrown up about you and what you have to say or do. If you fear those opinions, you will be tentative, therefore, you will lack confidence. Over time, this tentativeness will cripple you. You will become phobic – not wanting to express yourself freely and fearing judgment all the time.
The way to deal with such a situation is to first understand Life. The fact is that you are created special – you are gifted and talented in your own unique way. And this lifetime is really an opportunity to express that talent. When you don’t express yourself freely, you are not living fully. You are living an incomplete Life. This incompleteness, this lack of fulfilment is what manifests itself as a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. Some people, like the young man I met, are acutely aware of this state; most people blunder along not knowing they are even living incomplete lives.
The way to regain self-confidence is to go do what gives you joy! Only doing what you love doing, only expressing yourself fully, freely, without inhibitions, can give you joy. And when you are truly happy, from within, then you are really not concerned about what people have to say about you. So, in essence, self-confidence lies in just being who you are. When you are the way you love being, without a care about what people think or people say, you can only be happy, you can only be confident.
Have you heard the birds sing? They sing without a care about whether anyone hears them sing or what they think. They sing because they want to sing. They sing to express themselves. The birds don’t have a self-esteem or self-confidence problem. Surely, we humans can learn from those humble birds?
Or, without appearing to trivialize the discourse, if you want to learn from another human, learn from Trump. When he tweeted ‘covfefe’, he surely didn’t bother about public opinion. He simply expressed himself. He still doesn’t care what people think of him and the word he invented! Perhaps, ‘inventing your covfefe’ can be a metaphor for being yourself and being confident!?
Feeling grateful for what you have helps you to bounce back from no-go situations!
People have often asked me if there have been times when I have felt like I can’t go on anymore; when I have felt beaten and deflated. Of course, I have. I am no less human. I live in the same world as everyone else and I have similar issues that many are grappling with.
Just two days ago, looking at our Life’s design – how every department is ravaged – I was recollecting an old Tamizh song to Vaani: Sothanai Mel Sothanai, Podhum Ada Saami. It is from the 1974 super-hit film Thanga Padhakam that stars Sivaji Ganesan (P.Madhavan, M.S.Viswanathan, Kannadasan, T.M.Soundararajan). The song is a cry in despair of a heart-broken man, an appeal to a Higher Energy, saying, “Test after test, challenge after challenge, oh, can’t take it any more…!” Each line of the lyrics by Kannadasan carries so much depth and meaning – anyone who is clueless about what lies next and feels numbed by an inscrutable Life challenge can relate to every word.
So, when I recollected a memory associated with the song to Vaani, I too was feeling the way the lyrics describe Life to be. (Read more of our story here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). I had heard of this song first as an 7-year-old when my father’s oldest brother passed away suddenly. We were living in Delhi back then. When we arrived in Madras and visited our grieving grandparents and the rest of the family at their home in George Town’s Rasappa Chetty Street, I heard someone mention to my parents that my uncle had last heard this song on the radio late in the evening and told his wife that he could relate to it totally. If my memory serves me right, I think he died in his sleep. It wasn’t until a few years later that I watched the movie itself on TV and then for several decades I never thought about the song. Until, of course, two days ago.
I am not even trying to suggest any parallels here! I am just confessing that we are all vulnerable in the wake of Life’s onslaughts. I have read an interview of Amitabh Bachchan, which he gave sometime in 1998 or 1999, when he was in the throes of ABCL’s bankruptcy, where he recounts telling his God, his version of the Higher Energy that we all look up to, this: “Bahut Ho Gaya, Ab Bas!” It means, “I have had enough, please, please spare me…” So, each of us is vulnerable in our own unique ways. We cannot be immune from fear, grief, insecurity or worry. No one is.
But there’s something each of us can do when we are plagued by debilitating emotions. You can zoom out and look at your own Life as a witness – dispassionately. The moment you do that, self-pity, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, all these wasteful emotions will dissolve. I did just that, yet again, a couple of days ago. When I recounted this song, and I was beginning to tell Vaani that it’s been so, so many years since our crisis broke, I realized that I still had her by my side. And she still had me. And together there’s a lot more we can do. I was immediately soaked in immense gratitude. So, let us keep ploughing on, one day at a time, was what I told myself. That’s how I bounced back. I told her: “Varattum, Pathukalam!” It means: “Let it come, whatever it is, we’ll face it!”
What I have learnt from dealing with cluelessness in an inscrutable situation is that you must never hide from, or fight shy of, your vulnerability. Know that, not just you, all forms of creation are vulnerable. Know also that there is a Higher Energy that’s more intelligent and more compassionate than us humans!! So when you recognize that there are some problems that you cannot solve, just trust the process of Life and let go! This means that you must accept your situation, accept your vulnerability and only focus on whatever you can do. Feel the way you do, but don’t cling on to that feeling. If you feel you can’t go on, explore that feeling. Ask yourself, isn’t that just a way of pitying yourself; does it serve any purpose? When you see how futile your self-pity is, and all the negativity is, zoom out. Look at your Life like a third party, like a witness. And you will always find, no matter what the context is, that there’s so much still to be grateful for, so much to celebrate. The moment gratitude comes in, it drowns self-pity, self-doubt and all the negativity!
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Celebrate being clueless and not knowing where your Life is going!
There may be times in Life when you will begin to question why you made the choices that you made. There may be anger and grief in you for what has happened. And there may even be guilt over what you have done that led to what has happened. As you wallow in self-pity and self-doubt, everything about your Life will appear listless, uninteresting and meaningless. You just begin to hate the Life you have and don’t know where to begin. Or how to snap out of such a state.
Relax. You are perfectly normal if you feel that way about your Life just now. It is only from feeling lost in Life can you find yourself, find focus and learn to appreciate the value of being happy despite your circumstances. I too have been there and felt exactly that way. So whatever I tell you now, I share from personal experience.
We must first understand that Life by itself has no meaning. You came with nothing. And you will go, when your time is up, with nothing. So all this drama of achieving, possessing, losing, reclaiming, all this is just a waste of an entire lifetime, really. But this doesn’t mean that there’s no point in living. Obviously a Higher, Intelligent (that’s certainly more intelligent that everyone around here) Energy has created you and given you the gift of this lifetime. Now if you are spending this lifetime brooding, grieving and feeling miserable, then you are clearly squandering this opportunity, this gift. Recognize that the opportunity to utilize the gift of this lifetime is with you. Nobody but you can live your Life for you. No matter who you are with, you have to act, you have to take charge, you have to get moving to create the Life that you will enjoy living. Simply, you must get down to work to bring meaning to your Life by doing all – and only – that which makes you happy.
Now, it’s quite possible that you are feeling lost in Life because you are where you are because of the choices you have made so far. It is always your past that creates your present. And it is your present that seeds the future. Since no one can undo the past, the only way you can move into the future is by living in the now. When you are clinging to the dead past, you are missing the now. Your brooding over what was is not going to change it for you. As you go along in Life you will discover that no experience is ever a waste – clearly, as Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots backward. So, let go of the past but learn from your past choices. Understand which of those choices made you happy. And which are the choices that you would never want to make again? Then ask yourself what is it that will make you happy? And begin to work in that direction. You must remember here that from where you are you may not be able to immediately transition to where you want to be. But unless you start making choices relating to your happiness, you will not move in the direction of where you want to be. Also know that sometimes the future you want to create for yourself may seem hopelessly distant. Or that you may struggle with getting started on the journey. This is when you must be patient and start learning to live in the now. Trust the process of Life. Things happen in their own time and at their own pace. Your job is to keep working on being happy celebrating and savoring each moment.
Knowing your ikigai helps here. Ikigai in Japanese means reason for being. But, colloquially, it also means what do you wake up for each morning? What gets you excited to get out of bed and going? Find your ikigai. And this takes some time and effort. So, you begin with a long list of things you like doing. And keep doing most of them. Soon you will realize that you love doing somethings more than the others. The list now gets shortened. And soon again you will discover that when doing a thing, or a couple of things, you just feel blissful. That then is your ikigai. Start focusing on it. Do it again, and again, and again. Become a master at your ikigai. When you become world-class and attain mastery at it, you not only are happy doing it, you are also profiting from your happiness because the world likes to pay a premium to engage with masters!
So, stop ruing the fact that you are lost. Instead celebrate being clueless. And get down to working on your Life. An exciting journey awaits you that will help you understand who you really are and what makes you really come alive and be happy.