We were told that we do not deserve too much fun, happiness and that good things must be enjoyed in moderation only.
I grew up in a lower middle class household. My parents told me that we can’t have fun all the time. If we had fun today, then we need to stop having fun and have it again on another day, later. Perhaps next week or next month. Fun is good once in a while, on special occasions. Rest of the time we must tighten our belts and work hard.
That middle class work ethics really served me well in life. I work very, very hard. I cannot feel happy at the end of the day unless I have done an enormous amount of work.
If I spend too much time chilling, I feel guilty!
And that’s a good thing I guess. My drive to get more and more work done, and my desire to continuously grow come from that upbringing. I am grateful for that.
However, there is one thing that is not so good.
We get in life what we deeply believe that we deserve. We will not tolerate anything that we do not innately believe that we deserve. The bad results we repeatedly get in our lives are repeated usually because at a deeper level we believe that we deserve them.
A common example of this is how much you will work. If you believe that you deserve a middle class life, your efforts, initiatives and killer instinct will plateau and you will likely not work as hard as someone who has a deep belief that she deserves to live rich and has not yet achieved that goal.
The person who believes that she deserves to be rich, will not be happy or satisfied with anything else. They will not rest till they reach their goal of riches. They will not sabotage themselves on the path to riches, nor will they slow down for someone else and certainly not get distracted by the many distractions that exist in this universe.
They will reject all suggestions, people, connections, trends, proposals and opportunities that do not take them towards what they deserve. Just like a person who deeply believes inside that he deserves to be poor (for whatever reason, lack of education, lack of pedigree, lack of confidence etc) will reject every opportunity even if those knock on the door or are handed to him on a platter.
Many people have deep seated beliefs about money that money is evil or root of all problems in life. Such people will never get rich. They are repulsed by money.
Some people have deep rooted belief that they will be taken advantage of. They are very fearful to part with their money, and will never invest even in their own future.
I had a student who always feared that she was being treated differently than other students. Even if we extended extra courtesies to her, she would often fight with us citing small issues that she will blow out of proportion to say we are discriminating against her.
How did you think that shaped her relationship with us? How do you think that attitude serves her in her professional life?
Despite being a very intelligent and reasonably hard working person, this fear, behaviour pattern and reaction to people alienate her from people in the professional sphere, leading to tremendous distress.
It appeared to me that she believes that she continuously needs to fight, scream and argue with people to get her fair share! As if she does not deserve to be treated equally, with respect and care as we do for all our students unless she repeatedly demands special favours.
A single deep seated negative belief or fear can completely destroy the career of a perfectly amazing person. And I eventually discovered, on a deeper enquiry, that she learned this behaviour from her mother. I was not surprised at all. We usually learn such belief systems and fear from people closest to us, when we are children.
This is the daughter of a single mother who raised her daughter in great fear that they will be exploited. Perhaps they really faced some real or imaginary exploitation at some point, I could not tell. They only way now they feel secure is by shouting at and fighting with people, constantly, even before any exploitation or discrimination has taken place. That is now their comfort zone!
How dangerous and depressing.
I have seen other people too, who shout and complain at restaurants or shops or at service people because complaining and shouting often gets them some special treatment or favour or discount.
You must have seen other people who negotiate for every rupee, even when it is unfair, and actually counterproductive to their self interest?
If you were a successful lawyer who charges INR 10,000 per hour to your clients, is it a good use of your time to negotiate for 10 rupees over 5 minutes with a vegetable vendor?
I have seen people ruining their business due to habit of negotiating too much. They enraged all their suppliers and workers, who hated the business owner, and wanted her to fail due to her habit of unfair negotiation at every juncture!
If you are unfair to people, will they want to be fair to you?
Still, it is an innate behaviour for many of us in India to negotiate tooth and nail even when we are already getting a good deal. Does that serve us well? Does that generate trust and goodwill with the people we need the most?
There are others who compulsively buy cheap things. If the price is low, they will buy 3 products instead of the one they actually needed!
Or they will buy the cheap thing that breaks down within months, instead of buying a relatively expensive product that would have survived for years. Very often, buying the expensive thing saves us money in the long run!
For example, my MacBook seemed quite expensive when I bought it. However, it has turned out to be the best laptop I bought. It is in mint condition even after 4 years of use. Compared to that, when I bought some cheaper laptops earlier, they will start getting old and battered within a couple of years. I bought an apple product after going through 3 laptops in 4 years, and since then have decided to buy only apple laptops! Because it is much cheaper to buy expensive apple laptops than cheap laptops in the long run! Wish I knew before.
These are all behaviour we learned from our environment as children. Yes, these behaviour patterns served us well in many circumstances, but they are triggered automatically, even when they are totally counter productive.
As we grow older, we need to learn new behaviour patterns more consciously, that we now need to succeed. We also need to discard behaviour patterns we learned as children in a different environment, in different times.
Otherwise the blueprints that get imprinted on our soul while we are growing up often control the results we get for the rest of our lives. Isn’t that crazy?
As I grew up in a middle class family, I was taught many of those things. Such as too much fun cannot be good, we must have fun in moderation. After too much laughing comes a lot of crying. That we do not deserve to enjoy ourselves too much. That wanting to be rich is greedy! That we should not aim too high in life. That being too ambitious is very dangerous! If you grow too much, you are going to fall very hard.
People believed that extraordinary success is not possible, so we should play safe and aim for more achievable smaller commonplace goals.
Such as we should aim to become a school teacher or try to bag a secure government job.
Even getting a Rs. 18,000 per month job at Infosys could turn you into a local celebrity if you were from where I come from!
Aim low. Play safe. We do not deserve big success. Big success is for a different brand of people. It is for very talented, very rich, very well connected, very different sort of people. You can’t succeed in sports, it’s for rich people. We are normal people. We can’t do business, it is too risky. What if we fail? We deserve small success only. We deserve fun in moderation. We deserve to earn small salaries. If we are being able to give two square meals a day and a roof over the head of our children it is enough! What else do you want? Aren’t you flying too much?
Those were the belief systems all around me as I grew up.
My parents lived according to those values. My neighbours lived according to those values. My classmates from high school mostly still live according to those values.
Very few people got out of that environment, very few challenged and rejected those belief systems.
But I was not going to settle. I rebelled. I had the courage to say no to studying engineering and to go for the uncharted waters and study law instead. When I got a job that paid a lakh per month, I had the guts to quit it and chase something much bigger. When investors came knocking, or big companies wanted to buy us out, I had the guts to say no because I dream of building a global empire.
I deserve it.
I am going to do it.
I am not restricted by those childhood limitations my family, society and environment tried to put on me. In their eyes, those were safety belts. In my eyes, those are shackles on my ever expanding dreams and imagination.
I have come a long way from living in a 300 square feet one bedroom government quarter that 4 of us (parents and two siblings) shared. And I would have done only marginally better than my parents if I bought into the belief systems that I was supposed to internalise.
What belief systems have you internalised that stop you from growing, investing, dreaming and shooting for the moon?
You deserve happiness, every single day, and you do not have to put up with people or situations that take away from your happiness or diminish your light and belittle your ambitions and dreams.
You deserve uninterrupted fun and bliss every single day, every single hour. Do not listen to the voice inside your head that tells you that you do not deserve so much fun or so much bliss. Learn how to get there instead!
You deserve to live openly, in pursuit of your dreams and destiny, and you do not have to hold back, or withhold your best out of fear or shame. Let go of your childhood seat belts or anklets that people put around you because they thought such seat belts and restraints will protect you from danger.
You deserve more. You deserve better. You deserve the best. Believe it from your core, and your life will never be the same again.
And when you meet failure, when you crash and burn, as I often do, do not let that confirm your bias towards playing small and safe, do not let it confirm your inner belief that you should not aim for the sky again. Failure only means you need to take a swing one more time with full effort and confidence. You are not done till you get what you deserve. Failure means nothing but that you need to try again.
That’s what I do.
I laugh on the face of all those well meaning good people from my childhood who try to tell me that I need to play safe and should not be too hungry, too ambitious, too courageous (inside my head, where they often torment me). I smile with pity and condescending frown at them because they never discovered what it is to truly live with passion and courage. This is a ritual, although played out entirely inside my head, that keeps my heart and faith in my mission unshakeable, and helps me to focus on what matters right now.
Do you also hear disapproving, critical or warning voices of aunts, teachers, neighbours or parents in your head that hold you back from living your life full on?
Do share with me.
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