by Shalini Raakendhra
This is a story of how your mind plays tricks on you. It’s a situation in life that taught me how to break that cycle of self doubt, of looking for approval. It taught me to believe in myself and most of all, to accept who I am with pride.
A few weeks ago, my friend and I were having a conversation about something that is important to me. Art, or more specifically, about the nature and history of art and its inherent differences from science. We had a long discussion on how art inspires me, of how it invokes emotions in me in a way that science and technology does not.
Logic, reasoning and most of the categories that fall under science satisfy my thirst for the everlasting curiosity I have. I have been repeatedly told that I am a highly rational thinker. (I’m an INTJ, is it really that surprising?)
I’m also innately curious as a person which drives me to constantly seek answers.
However, I do not see myself as someone driven by science. I rather think of myself as an artist, someone that imitates life the way they perceive it and occasionally(often) struggle through the tricky bits. I don’t mind ignorance as much as I do, a lack of imagination.
Our random conversation that day somehow landed on art where we started making fun of ‘modern art’ as a concept. (Any artists that are reading this, please know that your art will speak to someone, surely. But the one thing you need to remember is that art is definitely not universal. To each, their own!) Somewhere down the rabbit hole, we both realized that I knew and connected to most of the art forms, to which I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised.
I went on to explain to this person how literature and painting come naturally to me, unlike math and coding where I have to put in a bit of an effort. It isn’t that I don’t value all the scientific and technological advancements we humans are responsible for. In fact, it always kind of astonishes me how far we have come from first discovering fire. Now, this quality of mine makes me the stark opposite of what my friend is like. Logic is what comes to them instinctively and they struggle with understanding anything subjective.
The whole point of this was in me merely stating that people are different. (and that it’s beautiful to witness that difference.) In response to this, my friend said, “It’s okay, you know? It’s okay that reasoning is not instinctive with you the way it is with me. It’s okay that you’re different.” The moment they said that, I lost my cool and I made an excuse to hang up because I was livid. I became defensive.
If you notice, nothing this person said was even remotely offensive. In fact, it was supportive. It was meant in a way that would encourage me to embrace the fact that I’m different. To be comfortable with who I am. This person, is one of the biggest support systems in my life. It is someone who I can always count on. There is no way that they would make fun of me.
Despite knowing all of this, all I heard from those words were: “It’s okay you aren’t smart enough. People with lesser brains than you have made something of their lives so, you still have a chance. You should accept that fact, move on and do something productive with your life.”
You see, your mind plays tricks on you at times. It keeps telling you that you’re not enough. It tells you that you are useless and that you are a lesser person than someone you admire. But you know what? Your mind is a liar. Don’t listen to it.
The moment I realized this, which was about 5 minutes after hanging up, all my anger practically vanished. I started analyzing the whole scenario from a third perspective. We Indians are stuck up in nature, more so than the rest of the urbanized world. We are relentlessly rigid in our ways, constantly belittling anything that is not ‘normal’, as we know it. This is also when I realized how deep our parental and peer conditioning runs. Let’s be honest here, how many times have we dismissed an idea before we even give it a chance, only because ‘Log Kya Kahenge?’ How many dreams have we given up on because they set us apart from the crowd?
Why are we so terrified of bit of divergence? “It’s okay”? It’s okay to struggle with math unlike smart people that don’t? Really?
No shit, Sherlock! Of course it is alright to have your own problems. It is more than okay to be yourself.
You know what is not okay? What is not okay is to sound condescending about someone’s choices in life. You don’t necessarily have to agree with them, but it gives you no right to shame them for their choices. What is not okay is to be so full of yourself that you always consider yourself your perception to be THE ONE AND ONLY RIGHT ONE. What is not okay is to look down on someone just because they are different. What is not okay is to tell someone that it is okay to be comfortable in your own skin. Never let someone tell you that it is okay, because you know what? Being unapologetic and authentic to yourself is your damn right! Having a chance to live like that is a miracle, not merely okay.
If only we learn to come to terms with ourselves and learn to appreciate how we are all unique in our own ways, if only we could be accepting enough to celebrate the diversity…
That, my dear would be celebrating humanity itself.