I remember, sitting in a meeting or with friends and getting quite uncomfortable because I was not in synch with the conversation. I did not share the same values or ideas that were being discussed and often I could not relate to them. Many times I would feel like speaking up and then again, I would keep quiet, silently nodding my head in agreement while every bit of me disagreed. I was the odd one out and that frightened me. I did not want to be the weird one, the one with different ideas, the one who would disagree with the conventional ways of doing things.
I am sure, many of you will identify with me when I say this. We all want to be accepted, we all want to fit in. What we do not realize is that we lose a small part of our own uniqueness, every time we try to change and mold ourselves to fit into the expectations and perceptions of others.
We often put on different faces and we show the world the face they want to see. We put on different masks as per the situation because we are afraid of how other people might judge us. We are scared what others will talk about us behind our back. This is a universal tendency in all of us, and we put on faces out of the need for approval and belonging.
It reminds me of a story of a husband, a wife and a donkey.The husband and wife were once on their way to the market along with their donkey.As they were walking they meet their neighbors who call them fools for walking even when they have a donkey. So the husband orders the wife to ride the donkey. As they go a little further, they meet a couple of friends who scold the wife for riding the donkey and making her husband walk. Embarrassed by their friend’s comments, the husband tells the wife to get down and he himself rides the donkey.As they go a little further they come across a group of women.One of the women reprimands the husband for letting his wife walk while he is happily riding the donkey. Ashamed, the husband takes his wife up and makes her ride with him. Soon they reach a town full of people, who, seeing them both ride the donkey, call them cruel for making the donkey carry both their load. Completely perplexed and confused, the husband and wife decide to carry the donkey on their shoulder, tied to a pole. Soon they reach a bridge they need to cross to reach the market. At this very moment, the donkey manages to get one of his feet loose and kicks the wife, who loses her balance and drops her end of the pole. In the struggle, the donkey falls over the bridge.Since his forefeet are still tied to one side of the pole he drowns.
Just like the husband and wife in the story, our entire life, we are unconsciously seeking approval and validation in everything we do from people, society, friends, neighbors, family members, extended family members or our office colleagues. At some point in our lives, all of us have dreamed of doing something different than what we are already doing. Sadly, ninety-seven percent of many dreams do not see the light of the day because we are so scared of what people will say or because we let our rational mind tell us “Beta tum say na hopai” (you will not be able to do it).
There are many dream killers outside ready to ridicule you, tell you why you cannot make it, how it is safe to do whatever you are doing and to be rational. If only you could take that one more step beyond your fears, you would be somebody else. As John Milton famously wrote “He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires and fears is more than a king’.
Imagine if Steve Jobs cared about what people thought about him – we would not have known the joy of owning a bitten apple! If Michael Dell was too scared of failure or concerned about what his friends and family thought and had not started his informal business of assembling computer parts, from the small room of Dobie Central residential building, when he was still a pre-med student, Dell Inc., the world’s leading sellers of personal computers would not have existed !!
The point I am trying to make here is, everybody has opinion just like everyone has bellybutton!! Just because someone is giving you their opinion does not necessary mean they are an expert on what they speak. Most of the time, people give their opinion just because they want to have an opinion! Being scared or too much concerned about what others have to say will only screw up your head. If you want an opinion, then seek the opinion of experienced people in the same field, who have taken the risk and have learned from their experience and have found a way out of their deadlock. That will help you broaden your horizon and take an informed and intelligent decision, rather than a decision based on some opinion which might not even have any foundation.This will also give you ideas on how to fight your fears and find options to overcome your current situation that you are stuck at.
The Mountain Dew’s add “DARR KA AGAY JEET HAI” (There is victory beyond Fears) is something I have come to believe in.When you face your fears, only two things can happen, one, you overcome your fear, or, two, you realize you have the strength to fight your fears and you try again. Unless you turn deaf ears to people who pull you down with their negativity, there are high chances you will always be stuck in the same situation where you are today. I know, it is not always possible, not to be bothered by what your close people have to say.It will take practice, like everything else, and soon you will master the art of listening to the advice and feedback of the people that will help you achieve what you want, rather than being bothered by the opinions of people which will only serve as a deadlock and make you stagnant.