Since childhood, Indians have been taught to take pride in OTHERS’ achievements and that’s the root of so many problems. It is okay to take pride in your religion and your culture but unfortunately, we have been taught to feel an unhealthy sense of pride in OTHERS’ achievements. That’s why some of us are so fanatical about religion, cricket and our on-screen ‘heroes’. I wish we were taught to feel a healthy sense of pride that comes from overcoming life’s challenges. A person with a healthy sense of pride won’t burn down cricketer’s effigies because he/she has already a lot of things from his/her own life to feel proud of! Unfortunately, a lot of Indians are taught to run AWAY from challenges (“Engineering kar le, future secure rahega”, “Shaadi karle varna log kya kahenge”) and hence, there is nothing to feel proud of!
The way some people behave with customer service is disheartening. Employees who work as customer service executives represent the company but they are actually not responsible for the products and services. And yet, some people pour all their anger on them, completely forgetting that the person at the other end of the line is a human being. In a way, some customers are trying to bully someone who is in a vulnerable position. It perhaps boosts their ego and makes them feel as if they are in control of their life. Perhaps, it is a way to feel less powerless.
I have laughed at dwarfs, transgenders, gays, lesbians, prostitutes, people from lower economic class, people who cannot speak English and dark-skinned people in the past because I wanted to fit in. And when some of my friends or loved ones did the same, I thought, “They are nice to me and people around me, so why all the fuss? Sure, they look down upon the waiter, but how will it affect their loved ones? How will it affect me?” However, people who think that any human being/group is worthless or is inferior to them, will, in all likelihood, treat us in the same way.
Long time back, I heard someone say that we need to treat ourselves as trustees to our life, body, mind and the planet. When we are owners, we kind of abuse what we own. When we are trustees, most of us are responsible and conscientious. For example: A father may eat less or smoke or do something harmful to himself but when it comes to his child, he will urge him to stay away from bad habits. When we consider ourselves as the trustees (and not owners)to our planet, we might care about it better. I liked this thought but I feel there’s something missing…
An attitude of a trustee could lead to a stable and better world but without ownership, there is no creativity. We may work hard and do our best for our organisation or any collective unit but without a sense of ownership, we are not satisfied. In practical life, we have a selfish side to us and it needs to be honoured too. Without a sense of ownership, we will be deprived of self-expression. The worst part of this is that the child in us will be abandoned. A child has no responsibility…she doesn’t have to care about putting food on the table. She doesn’t feel guilty about doing things that make her happy.But this child is important. Sports, Art, Entertainment are not ‘basic’ needs but they are important for human beings. Being a trustee (all the time) kind of stops your growth. Being an owner (all the time) can be harmful to the society. I guess we need both the owner and trustee.
A people-pleaser (like everybody else) can impress two kinds of people: Other people-pleasers like her and people who don’t care much about what others think of them. If she tries to impress the first group and succeeds, she feels dissatisfied. If someone is pleased with you, then he must be:
Ego is a child of rationality. A rational person always wants to be certain. He is forever looking for proof but there is no ‘perfect’ proof. You may be convinced that a particular food is healthy but practically speaking, you can never know whether the healthy food you buy is actually healthy whether it is from a small village or a factory. Rationality is important but at the end of the day, you can never be 100 percent sure.
Similarly, ego is forever searching for the proof that it is worth something. You maybe a living legend, but your ego wants more and more proof.
In both cases, there is complete disregard for subjectivity. Everybody’s focus is on the food’s effect on the person and not vice versa.
I’m reading this book called ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg and it says that a lot of who we are is actually due to habits. Usually, when we think about people or even ourselves, we think in terms of values and character and hence think in terms of fixed ideas. For example: We say that an unethical person does what she does because of her beliefs or because “She is not a good person.” But what if it’s about habits too? The book says that brain is neutral..and so are habits. The brain doesn’t know whether a habit is good or bad…all it cares about is saving energy. Habits save energy. Imagine making decision for every small thing …it’s too taxing, right? That’s why we have habits. There is a lot of Science, Psychology and Neuroscience in the book and basically, all the three areas say that you cannot actually erase old habits from your brain. In a way, it’s a good thing because if you don’t remember things like driving, you would have to learn the whole thing again. In a way, it’s bad because not-so-good habits won’t die. But there is hope: you can replace the old habits in a way that they won’t bother you. I’m not even half way through the book and yet, I have gained so much from it. I will be writing more about it when I finish it but for now, it got me thinking about pride and how it’s related to building good habits.
When I analyze by own bad habits, obsessions and addictions, I feel that pride is one of the things that can help us in getting out of bad habits. When you are addicted to something, you are not in control and nobody likes to feel this way. No one likes to get addicted. You may derive pleasure but pride, unlike egotism, is necessary for survival. Like they say, the greatest pain is when you ‘fall’ in your own eyes..when you cannot respect yourself.
The more you get addicted, the less you actually care about the pleasure that you get from the thing you are addicted to. It becomes more of a habit. This inability to kick out an old habit and stick to a new healthy one makes you feel bad about yourself. It is a great threat to confidence.
There was a a time when I equated pride with egotism but they are clearly different. Pride has got nothing to do with others…it’s about your own expectations from yourself and how you fulfill them. Nobody else can know whether something is an accomplishment for you or not because no one can completely know what exactly you went through to accomplish it.
On the other hand, when you are not proud of yourself, you try really hard to impress others. When you have nothing to be proud of, you try really hard to associate yourself with others who have accomplished something. That’s why you see people reacting in weird ways when somebody points out a flaw in their country, religion, etc.
When we are addicted, one thing that may help us is to understand that in the things we are doing in the short term and are not something we want in the long term. At the end of the day, what matters is whether we feel proud of ourselves or not.
From our childhood, we are taught about image management. We strive to build a great reputation in the society. An image is formed: an image that will evoke envy in others, an image that your family members will be proud of, an image which is close to perfection. But there is a major flaw in this idea. This image, what we aspire to create, is connected to others. Since nothing in this universe can exist alone, it creates all sorts of problems, not just for you but for others.
Note: I suffer from anxiety issues. Few loved ones also have the tendency to worry TOO MUCH (sometimes in an abnormal way) about all sorts of things, so I guess I do understand what the state feels like. Please note that I am not criticizing those who suffer from disorders or those who can’t help but worry. This post is not against worry/anxiety. If you are worried about your daughter who has to travel at night, then your worry is completely legitimate. If you are worried about your husband who is in the army, your worry is legitimate. If you were sexually abused then of course, you will be afraid of the world. This is about situations which are less serious. I am talking about excessive worry which leads to people suffocating their loved ones. Of course, *I* am no one to decide what is serious and what is not, where you should feel anxious and where you should not. I am only sharing what I found out about *my* anxiety and *my* observations about people around me. It’s all subjective.
Anxious people are always pitied. We often feel bad for them. This might sound ridiculous but I pitied myself for being so anxious all the time and I felt the same when I saw anybody who is anxious. Anxiety sucks out all the fun out of life. But it’s only while writing my last blog post (it’s totally related to this post, so do check it out) that I realized that over-anxious people can be egoistic. This was a huge blow to my ego though.
So here’s my thought process as an anxious person:
“I am afraid of this big bad world. People might manipulate and take advantage of me.”
“People will laugh at me. I will mess things up.”
Everybody has such thoughts but when these thoughts totally take control of your life, you develop anxiety issues of the serious kind. When I saw some people who were stopping their kids from doing something because of their anxiety, I felt bad for the parents. But here’s the thing: If a parent is so worried about his 25 year old son that he stops him from making his own decisions because of concern and worry, then there is a lot of ego involved. When you say that you will chose a bride for your grown up son for “his” good because the world is a mean place and people might cheat him and all that then what you are actually saying is:
1. My decisions are always correct.
2. My son cannot make good decisions.
3. The only people who cares about my son is *me*…the girl that he loves cannot love him more…
4. The whole world is full of mean people and I am the only nice guy!
Can you see the arrogance? Your fear is coming from having a low opinion about others. I must admit that I am pretty much like the person above. I mean, there was a time when I was afraid of the “mean world” (I still am) where people are out there to hurt me. But here’s something really fascinating about this mindset: I am actually saying that only others can be mean to me and I cannot be mean to them at all! In other words, I am good, others are bad. My excessive fear about the “big bad world” was partly coming from my assumption that I don’t have anything “dark” inside me that could possibly harm or hurt others and THAT is an egoistic assumption. The reality is that I have also hurt people, I can be also the oppressor. We all oppress each other and we don’t even know it.
If you are always in fear, maybe you should ask yourself a question: Why do you have such a low opinion about your fellow human beings? I understand that you are worried about your son but isn’t it insulting to think that he can never make a good decision? How can you be sure that you will always choose well?