A few days ago, a friend and I went to watch a movie. There were people of every kind there – teenagers trying to be cool and all that, couples cozying up to each other, loners, losers (the kind who whistle when anything with a vagina and mammaries comes up on screen), families, extended families and friends (not unlike us) catching up after a while. There was a sense of gaiety at the multiplex, a listless yet comforting hullabaloo that made you feel alive and part of something bigger. They were all looking forward to their movie of choice, an evening of fun and relaxation with their loved ones. The ones flying solo were hopefully, looking forward to spending some quality time by themselves. In fact, if I may digress, few pleasures exist as the pleasure of solitude does – where one can enjoy an evening exploring things one likes, irrespective of commitments to another.
Anyhow, the convivial atmosphere was infectious and exhilarating. The movie was fun (the snacks were more fun). As we left the multiplex and aimlessly ambled along the mall making small talk, I couldn’t help but notice the milieu around us. I saw their faces – the sadness, the worry, the indifference and the occasional smile. What change in that five minute time frame! Why though? It is but obvious that one cannot live in a multiplex, even if one is a movie aficionado of the rare and extreme kind. I saw the smiles being replaced with the expression of reality. I had to ponder for a while before I figured out the exactness of the emotion related to that expression and, then it hit me: ‘self-worthiness’. More importantly, the degree of ‘self-worthiness’ present. I agree that it’s a peculiar term but, pray allow me my literary licence.
Self-worthiness may be defined as what weightiness one assigns to oneself. It is more often than not guided by societal guidelines, cultural value, one’s familial beliefs (non-religious, mostly) and one’s moral compass. And, most people I saw were projecting quite low degrees of ‘self-worthiness’. If I may cite an illustration, I saw a lady, I assume she is of limited means on the basis of her general appearance, running after her four or five year-old son, an expression of mild dissonance and an odd tiredness on her visage. She looked resigned, defeated, purposeless. It was as though she was chained to her mediocre life and all the limitations that came with it. And, most importantly, there was no sense of self-worthiness in her. Her entire focus was on the boy and on getting him to eat some fancy dish at the food court and letting him play thereafter in the kids’ section while she hurriedly gobbled up the leftovers for sustenance to drag the kid home, make him do his homework, cook, clean and serve dinner to her family.
One may say, this seems nothing out of the ordinary. After all, parents look after their children. But, that is hardly my argument. I saw on the face of that woman, a despondency that was echoed on most others’ as well. It was an emotion bordering on the despair experienced on failure and that of trudging along despite it but, not for oneself as I gleaned further. The nature of this failure was peculiar. Not a failure to provide, not a failure to prove something or anything to the world but, a failure to oneself. That feeling of looking at yourself in the mirror everyday and being happy that you have achieved something worth your while for yourself – your very own moment of worthiness, a tribute to yourself. That. That was missing.
That sense of self-worthiness is what is missing in most people’s lives today. I do not say that people do not achieve anything worthwhile at all. By all means, a lot of people achieve great, if not more, things in life. However, the conjecture I put forth is that is your achievement reflective of the best of you? Is your achievement what you desire? Is your life’s path that of self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction? Or are you stuck in a rut, doing what needs to be done to make ends meet, appeasing family and friends, reserving your aspirations and desires due to societal norms, limiting yourself due to familial constraints and narrow-mindedness? Do you look into the mirror every morning and wonder, ‘I see a broken reflection of myself. But, is the mirror broken or am I?’
I looked at that woman and I tried to give her a ‘title’ or a ‘position’ of her own. Alas, I could only ascertain her to be ‘wife to so-and-so’, mother to ‘such-and-such’, daughter to ‘X-and-Y’ and, so on and so forth. Not one of her roles in life was hers and hers alone. I looked around and saw countless people afflicted with the same sense of dependence. Of insecurity. Of indistinguishable lives. Of half-hearted dreams. Of undisclosed desires. Of buried aspirations.
I looked at that woman and I saw how her life was slowly passing her by and she was giving it away, partly voluntarily and partly because she was afraid. Of what? Of losing even the minuscule sense of self-weightiness she possessed – that inkling of ‘mattering’ to the world for her was as an auxiliary fragment in her society. I looked around and saw countless people facing a similar conundrum. Indian societies‘ entire lives go in rearing the next generation. They pray that their progeny does something worthwhile and makes a name for the family. They exhaust their entire resources and sometimes even more, all in the hope that their daughters (though in most Indian societies daughters are given limited or no importance at all) and sons may bring honor and glory to their family. And I think to myself, what about these people themselves? If the time and effort spent on raising possible rather than probable success stories was spent on creating a self-worthy individual, would that not solve the apparent vicious cycle in motion and, gathering momentum, may I say? Why not spend your resources on yourself as well? I am not suggesting denying one’s young, I merely ask you to satisfy yourself as well!
Why, you ask? Why spend time and effort on yourself when you have probably settled into a comfortable shell already? Because you matter. Your perception of yourself matters. It matters to you and to society. A deflated ego, which is an obvious by-product of self-unworthiness results in echoes which affect more than you and your immediate family members. This increases pressure that the younger ones in the family perform better which in turn results in unhealthy competition in society. The anxiety is self consuming in itself! For instance, the sheer pressure on the youth of today to perform has driven university admission cut-offs to 100% in 2011 (Source: University of Delhi). As a result, a number of second grade institutions like IIPM and Amity have sprung up to fleece families, armed with a grainy, dual-tone dream of expensive sounding degrees and diplomas. More and more people are clamoring to get viable employment, not just in India but, globally. Teenage suicide rates have risen exponentially in the past ten years. Is the pattern not clear to us yet?
Instead of burdening one’s children and younger siblings with unbridled expectations, I first ask you to look at yourself and ask yourself, ‘What right do I have to decide this young child’s future? Is it fair on my part to expect this girl/boy to achieve my dream when I myself have not persevered?’ I looked at some of the faces of the people in that hustle-bustle and saw laziness, conformity and delusional hope. And I saw the teenagers who had come along with their parents. Their fresh young faces had already started to show signs of strain, of unmet expectation, of the suppression of their own dreams, of the slow dwindling of their own desires. I saw them turning into their parents, one small step at a time. Waiting to fail themselves, waiting to live with dissatisfaction, waiting to transfer their expectations (or their ‘family traditions’) onto the next generation, waiting to dissolve into oblivion. And I thought, what pointless lives.
Instead, I propose to mend what is broken. So I say, let us look within. I urge you to reflect and fish out that ambition you once held so close to your heart. That young individual who dared to dream, who had stars in her/his eyes, who was willing to persevere for whatever s/he thought to be her/his true calling. Pull her/him out of the abyss of lost hope and renew that lifeless part of your soul. Do what your heart desires, make a name for yourself. It’s never too late. Do as much as you can, so that when you look at yourself, you can justify who you are, what you’ve done and what you’ve become with pride and love for yourself. Live your life, for it will allow others to live theirs as well.
Well, that’s all for now. Ciao!