For the last 2-3 years, I have been trying to be more of myself.
I used to live an outwardly driven life where others’ perceptions and opinions of me mattered… a lot. I wanted to achieve things and in the process be respected and admired. That’s the simplistic way of putting it.
Deep inside, driven by childhood insecurities, I felt like an inadequate guy. Scared that our unforgivingly judgmental society would find out my inadequacies and reject me, I covered it up on the outside. With accolades, achievements and other props that the society valued a lot. Externalities that made me ‘look good’ on the outside, but mattered less deep inside. That’s the complicated way of putting it – something even I realised only in my mid-thirties.
Before that realization, life was easier, relatively. I would chase things. Once done, I’d go after something else. However, that endless loop got tiring. I was tired of running from one achievement to another. At times, I wondered if I was chasing things just to please an invisible audience. I felt pretentious at times.
Tired of the unending loop, I slowly turned inwards and started seeking answers.
In the beginning, I didn’t understand why I gave so much importance to others’ opinion of ‘me’. My insecurities were embedded deeply inside and like most uncomfortable things, the mind buried it deep enough so that one doesn’t have to deal with it daily. It took a while and a lot of digging into to uncover the built-up anxieties and insecurities.
It became clear that I had bottled up childhood insecurities and was very uncomfortable in letting the world know of my shortcomings. I was scared of being rejected too. That fear of rejection made me conform.
And when you conform so much, you can’t be yourself. You turn into a kaleidoscope of the society’s whims and fancies – but little of your own. You essentially live other people’s lives rather than your own!
Once you realize the issue, you’d think things would be easier. Nope!
As I kept peeling the layers of outwardness, hoping I’d find the ‘real me’, I realized that a lot of things I chased in life were simply props to enhance others’ opinion of me. Beneath the layers, I didn’t find a ‘real me’, but only nothingness. The nothingness was extremely unsettling at first. All those things that meant so much to me suddenly lost its importance. Everything I pursued crumbled merely into a facade. There was nothing to hold onto – to anchor my life and strive for. Seeking of any kind, the very thing that gave my existence so much meaning until then, seemed unimportant.
When you seek, it means you have somewhere to go. However, when you introspect deeply, you realise there’s nothing to seek. We are all just fine, in the here and now. To do nothing, to be nothing and simply be here without much ado, just like kids, appeared to be the only truth.
It’s as if I spent a lot of time shedding my outer-self in pursuit of a true inner-self, only to discover there’s no such thing.
It’s been a year now – and I am a bit more comfortable with the nothingness or whatever else you could call it. It’s still uncomfortable at times, but then we are a resilient species and I have figured out ways to cope up with it. Or so I fool myself.