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The need to be the best at everything can be a recipe for discontent. The author talks about how she realised that being a ordinary woman is not a bad thing, after all!
The desire to be recognised, admired, praised, do well and be successful is something that everyone wishes for. I would find it hard to believe someone who doesn’t want this. Probably someone who has renounced worldly things (the moh maya) but most of us I bet fall in the first category.
Right from the time we are at school, there is the urge to do well at studies, in the elocution competition, to be a good dancer, to be the head boy/girl. Then comes college- the desire to get into a reputed college, be popular there; again, do well at studies so that we get into a professional course… and the grind continues.Then come the placements, and the wish to get into that Fortune 500 company, earn a fat paycheck. And then the corporate world- which is an altogether different ball game. For here the tables are completely turned. It’s your smart work and ‘so much more’- actually the latter matters more.
Is there any respite after that? Sadly no.
The wish to settle down with the ‘ideal match’, then have kids, and then be that super parent of super kids.
To be the employee who is the ‘technically sound, popular and go to person’.
To be the super Mom/Dad who spends quality time, teaches their kids, cooks tasty and a variety of dishes, does the household chores and run errands deftly.
To be the ideal daughter/son, daughter in law, son in law who is the apple of parents/parent in laws eyes.
So basically be the super efficient, multitasking and awesome being who will put Rajnikant to shame.
But is that really possible? To excel and do fabulously each time in every sphere of life? And what happens when this over zealous being sets high goals and fails to achieve them. Will he/she settle for anything mediocre?
Your son came 3rd in class. Why not 1st?
I got the promotion but it should have come a year earlier. (So my happiness is diluted)
I made parathas for my son but my neighbour made parathas and biryani and dessert.
I have a well furnished 2 BHK, with all the comforts but my friend has a villa and a Benz.
I got that job I was dreaming about since years – a reputed nationalised bank but my classmate just landed into a foreign investment bank.
Looking back at my life, I have always been the go getter and have never settled for anything but the best. It required lot of hard work and I put it in without any qualms, as I knew what the result would be. Whether it was getting the first place in a debate or coming first in class. Usually Chartered Accountancy is considered a very challenging course, and with a pass percentage in single digits, most people prefer not getting in. But for me the goal was not just passing the exam but being on the All India Merit list (which is the Top 50 in the country). It required hours of cramming my head into books, giving up worldly pleasures, in fact living the life of a hermit.
My joy knew no bounds when I cleared the CA Inter exams with an All India Rank of 37. I hoped the same for CA finals too and put in much more effort. But as a rude shock, my name was not in the merit list, though I had cleared the exams in the 1st attempt. There were tears of joy in my Mom’s eyes and my family was over the moon. A qualified Chartered Accountant in the family, the first one- it was a moment of pride for everyone. But not me, I couldn’t stop my tears and couldn’t digest the fact that my name wasn’t in the Merit List. The happiness of this one moment for which I had toiled for years meant nothing to me.
A few hours later I got to know that lot of my friends who were really good at studies had failed, and the results were at a all time low. Slowly I got out of it, and today after so many years when I look back I feel I missed out on celebrating this milestone just because of my urge to be the best, which had not happened. Now as much as I want to live it again, it won’t come back.
Today after years, no one asks me: “which rank did you get?” No doubt it will always stand as a star on my resume but beyond that its nothing, really!
This incident made me ponder that having high expectations and working towards it is no doubt good; after all being ambitious is a good trait. The desire to do well is what will make us take steps in that direction. But what happens about things beyond our control? You study well, write the exam and give your best shot there but after that its not in your hands.
Similarly in corporate life you slog, develop your technical expertise, drive projects, jump at the prospect of something new and hope that you make it to to promotion as you feel you deserve it. But there are factors beyond your control. The decision making rests with someone else- you can do your best in keeping the communication channels open, getting regular feedback working on it. But beyond that if you are not chosen, what can you do? Yes you can change your job but these issues exist everywhere.
For the exam thing, you can give your paper for revaluation but what if the result is the same? Would you sit and sulk and let go of the joy of clearing the exam with distinction (just because you are not on the rank list) OR not celebrate that promotion (because you made it a year late)?
As bloggers we always want our posts to do well, to garner more views and be liked and shared by more people. But not all posts will do well. Does that mean we stop writing or don’t write our heart out? Personally I have some favourite posts which I feel is the best of my work till date; sadly the same sentiments were not echoed by my readers. Yes I did feel bad but that doesn’t deter me from writing. And there are topics which I know most people wont be inclined to read, but I still have a lot to say on those topics and so I write them.
As a mom, like everyone else I wanted to be that perfect Mom. I had a smooth pregnancy and a quick normal delivery without any issues, my child was healthy and I was happy. Everything seemed picture perfect. And then I was in for a rude shock when I wasn’t able to feed her. My supply was low and I had to supplement her feed with formula. This shattered me. I felt I had failed as a mother. The perfectionist had suffered the biggest setback. Gradually I got a hold of myself and realised I am harming myself by indulging in self pity and guilt. I snapped out of it, and I was at peace.
My wish to do well in life has helped me achieve success be it in terms of my profession or my career as a blogger but its not without its side effects. The burning desire to be the best each time has made me miss out on small joys, in fact be completely oblivious to what I have achieved if it isn’t the best. It has made me anxious, over thoughtful, melancholic at times, and I have put a lot of stress on myself.
I have now come to terms with the fact that I may not the best every time, I may just be the mediocre girl no one notices- but I also realise that I have limitations, I have priorities and there are things beyond my control. I can give my best shot and that’s all I can do. The outcome is seldom controlled by me. This realization has made me look at things with a different perspective- I may not be the No. 1 employee, but I am content. I like the work I do, I work with a bunch (well, a few) of awesome people, and bring home a good paycheck. Yes, I have decided that in the blind urge to make it big, I cannot screw up my personal life.
This is my choice. I am happy writing and happier when I see my blogs so well appreciated. There are times I write into the night with so much passion and vigor, and hardly anyone looks at the post; it just vanishes as one of the 1000 blog posts. But that doesn’t deter me from writing what I strongly and passionately feel about.
I may not be able to cook as well as my Mom or the aunty next door but I can surely satiate my family’s hunger with dal rice sprinkled with lots of love.
I may no longer be the 20 something super ambitious girl who has just one goal – to be on the top – but I know I am a much more contented, happy person today. Do not mistake this for complacency. I still strive to do my best in the 9-10 hours I spend at work, or when it comes to writing my blogs or spending time with my child. But I no longer link my happiness or measure my worth in terms of being the best at everything I do. I celebrate my successes and yes I do feel low when I don’t make it, but I try to snap out of it when I realise that this was not in my hands and it is but futile spending precious time moaning over it.
And as always I pray to the Almighty: “God give me the courage to change things I can, strength to accept things I cannot control and wisdom to know the difference!”
Published here earlier.
Image source: pixabay
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An avid reader, a shopaholic, head over heels in love with my little bundle of
Well put! It takes courage to say what you have. To add to the peer pressure theme.. it just doesnt end with marriage, kids, kids jobs, kids marriage… it continues on to how many grandkids, what they do …. Your concluding lines are most apt! … “God give me the courage to change things I can, strength to accept things I cannot control and wisdom to know the difference!”
Thanks Archana, I have learnt these lessons over time and if my writing this can help some othe woman who is going through a similar situation, I would consider it worthwhile
I simply love reading what you write – Much love
Much love AJ!
I am fifty two and sometime back my young daughter with all the wisdom she collected after walking the earth for 15yrs asked me, “amma why should someone else define your success.” A person without ambition can only be 6ft under, even when you say no ambition, you want tranquillity, then your ambition becomes tranquillity, what you are talking about is certain amount of acceptance and detachment, if you are in that space you are blessed. Stay blessed.
If you are still yo-yoing like me then hold a fist full of sand and meditate on it, sand does not stick by anyone.
Thats surely some wisdom did bits from your daughter. For me, ambition is important without that life would be very dull and boring but its important to know when to let go, especially when things are beyond our control
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