#1: You don’t have to be perfect in whatever you do.
If there is one thing I have learned from all my 27 years of life, it is this: you create your own reality.
But, what of the reality that exists right now? You didn’t create it, you argue. Everything that happened in your past shaped you as a person and created this reality for you.
You cannot escape even if you wanted to, you add.
What if I tell you that your reality is a construct? The reality that feels so unshakeable to you is but one version in a million possibilities. It exists because this is the version you chose to spend a lifetime creating; a version based mostly on your limiting self-beliefs.
“But, what are limiting self-beliefs?” you wonder.
To put it simply, limiting self-beliefs are assumptions you have got about yourself and about how the world functions. These assumptions are shaped by the way you have perceived your experiences all your life. They hold you back from achieving your full potential and doing all that you are capable of.
Here are a few examples of limiting self-beliefs:
- I am too old to start anew.
- Why would people buy my art?
- I could never make this work.
- Right now, I am not in the right frame of mind to start anything.
- This has already been done before. I couldn’t possibly add anything new.
Do these sound familiar?
If you found yourself nodding even once till now, then you, my friend, are shackled by the perception you hold about yourself.
But, the good news is, just as easily as you have built this cage, you can also break free from all that binds you and explore the magic held inside your soul in its full grandiosity.
This reality where you suck and nothing good ever happens to you — you can tear it down to pieces and rebuild your world from the debris.
Sounds like too much work?
Trust me; it isn’t.
When you decide to re-learn your life lessons, you can rewrite your story.
You can rebuild your identity by defining your goals based on what is truly in your heart and not some limiting self-beliefs the society has taught you to ingrain.
Do you find yourself saying “But that is not who I am!”?
Again, your idea of “you” is defined by your beliefs and what importance you chose to give to the experiences in your childhood. And just like you can re-wire your brain, you can teach yourself to view those experiences in a new light.
In other words, you can redefine your identity.
“Our identities snowball through our lives, accumulating more and more values and meaning as they tumble along. Your early experiences become your core values, and if your core values are fucked up, they create a domino effect of suckage that extends through the years, infecting experiences large and small with their toxicity.”
— Mark Manson (Everything is F*cked)
Inspired by these words, I chose to rewrite my own story. After reflecting on my growth through the past few years, I have come up with seven essential lessons I had to unlearn so I could live the kind of life I wanted.
1. You Don’t Have to Be Perfect in Whatever You Do
This might sound obvious, but, I was raised by strict, middle-class Indian parents who only had only one dream for me — that I should have a future better than their present. To make this dream become a reality, they had sky-high expectations from me in whatever endeavour I attempted. Be it art competitions, dance classes, martial arts training, or school exams; I had to ace them all. If I didn’t, they would make it clear how disappointed they were in me and how I had failed them.
These expectations continued to haunt me in my adult life, leading me to believe that no matter what I attempt in life, I had to succeed.
Don’t get me wrong. Being ambitious is not bad.
But, wanting to win at everything to the extent that you fill yourself with guilt and brutal self-retribution each time you fail is toxic not just to your mental health, but to your emotional and physical health as well.
Failure in a small project that won’t even matter in the ultimate scheme of things can bring your confidence down and make you feel like you aren’t good enough.
That just because you failed in one project, you are a failure.
The truth is — you are not.
Every individual has their own strengths and weaknesses, and in the limited time that you have on earth, the best you can do is play to your strengths.
The endeavours that don’t bring tangible results — let them go. Work on the ones that you are good at and keep improving till there’s no one better at it than you.
After all, no one wants to end up like the old proverb — “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
2. Making Mistakes Doesn’t Make You A Bad Person
You are only human. You can stop blaming yourself for that time you fucked up. Yes, I know you ended up hurting yourself and other people, but that was not in your hands. You did the best you could in the situation you were in. You don’t have to blame yourself for the collateral damage.
You are allowed to forgive yourself. Guilt and self-hate will do no one any good, the least of all you.
No one is right all the time. And no one has to hate themselves for mistakes they now have no power to change.
Breathe, move on, and let the past be where it is. It is no longer in your hands, but your present is. Don’t fuck it up over that one mistake you committed when you didn’t know any better.
3. Spending On Things or Experiences You Enjoy Doesn’t Mean You Are Incapable of Saving Money
Growing up, my family was not very rich. Eating out and going on vacations were rare treats, and the children were always encouraged to save as much money as they can. As a result, we used our pencils and erasers to the last millimetre, wore our clothes till they were torn or worn out, and never asked for anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
This belief remained ingrained in me even as an adult.
I went through college living on the bare minimum and not regretting it. But when I started working, there was this one time when a group of colleagues planned a weekend getaway to a nearby hill-station.
My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “No” without even knowing WHY I had refused.
I could easily afford the money and the time for the trip, but even then, why did I not go along with the plan?
In a moment, the truth hit me — it all came down to my conditioning. I was so used to saving up every penny I could, that allowing myself small pleasures felt like I was being irresponsible.
Un-learning this lesson was the most difficult, but, with time and repeated practice, I managed to outgrow it.
If you are in the same boat as me, then let me tell you that you don’t have to feel guilty about spending on things and experiences that make you happy.
Yes, you are allowed to splurge on that stunning wedding dress you had your eyes on for months. You are entitled to go on that 14-day trip to Tuscany with your partner. Spending money on small indulgences is not wrong, as long as you spend responsibly.
Maintain a savings account. Learn about personal finance (or hire an expert). Keep an amount separate for emergencies. And you are free to spend the rest of the money in whichever pursuit of pleasure you want.
4. Having Fun Doesn’t Mean You Are Irresponsible
You can take breaks. You can allot time and energy in doing things that satisfy your soul. Just because your parents worked so hard that they barely had time to relax, doesn’t mean you deserve the same.
Burning yourself out and working till you drop down dead is not the only route to financial success.
Take out time for yourself. Breathe. Indulge in a hobby, anything that makes your chest feel light.
But when you do this, don’t go overboard.
- Plan out your day beforehand so that even after all your tasks are complete, you have time left to spend on self-care.
- Maintain a journal and list your priorities for the day. Make sure you include time for yourself there.
- Prioritise self-care. Buy that set of scented candles that you worry might make you look silly in front of the store cashier. Get a professional massage session. Lie down, put on that face pack, close your eyes, and relax.
You are allowed to take breaks. And no, it does not mean you are lying to yourself or not reaching your full potential.
You’re being you. And sometimes, that’s all you need to do.
5. Wanting Sex Is Not Shameful
India is a country of 1.3 billion people and 0 sex education. All my life, the only lesson my mother gave me was that sex is evil, and I should refrain from it till I am married. That my virginity is precious and I should safeguard it and gift it only to my husband and no one else. If I fail to do so, no man would ever want me, and I would have to die alone.
I was young. Without realising, I had internalised this belief.
Fast forward to when I had my first boyfriend in college, and he wanted to get intimate. My mind said no, but my body wanted it. I had to exercise a herculean level of self-control and turn him down.
But, even then, later at night alone in my bed, I was racked with feelings of shame and guilt. I had been on the verge of giving it all to him. How could I be so irresponsible to want something so evil? How I could I betray my parents and my future husband this way?
It took years of re-wiring my mentality to reconcile my thoughts with what my body wanted. And if you have been trained to think along the same lines as I was, this is for you: no matter what the world might have led you to believe, the desires of your body are not evil. Carnal desires are just a way of celebrating the madness and mess that you are as a person. Holding back is like telling the universe you don’t want to experience the gifts it has so generously bestowed on you.
6. Intimacy Doesn’t Have to Lead to Heartbreak
All of us might have had bad experiences in the past where we gave all our love, time, and effort to one person, only to have them deny it, leaving us in a pool of our own self-pity and wasted dreams.
Relationships fail, and most often, there is nothing you can do to save them.
What you can do is not let a failed relationship define love for you.
John was a liar and a cheater. That does not mean all men are liars and cheaters. Sally had another man all this while, and you never knew. That does not mean all women have back-up options ready and will run off whenever you no longer offer them a “fair deal”.
If you want to experience soul-stirring love, you have to keep your heart open to finding it, embracing it. Building walls around yourself to protect your heart will only lead you to miss out all the wonderful people in the world who might be there right at the next corner.
The world is full of awesome, loving people, and you are capable of attracting them to you. Don’t close your heart because of one failed relationship. You are in control of your love life, and when you choose to love and be loved. Nothing and nobody can stop you.
7. Admitting That You’re Sad, Tired, or Sick Doesn’t Mean You’re Weak
Another pitfall of growing up in a middle-class Indian family is watching your parents get tired, but, keep a strong face “for the sake of the family”. My father would go to work each day, no matter how exhausted he felt. My mother cooked three meals for a family of four every single day without fail, even on days she was feeling under the weather. Seeing my parents work so hard imprinted this lesson deep in my brain: work is of the utmost importance. Anyone who shies away from work is weak.
But in truth, it is not.
You are allowed to skip work when you are sick. You are permitted to cancel plans when you are tired. You are entitled to seek help when you are unwell.
Knowing your strengths is excellent. But accepting your weaknesses, embracing them, and adjusting your life around them is even more liberating.
Call these limiting self-beliefs, or call these lessons you need to unlearn, but you can achieve growth only when you let go of toxic traits and re-define your identity.