A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Beware, being popular has unpopular pitfalls
Happy hone wala hai ji New Year. People won’t stop grinning from the North Pole to South Extension. There will be festivity in the air, and yeah, many will hope that they’ll be able to lose weight, quit smoking and walk every day in the park for an hour. Mein toh ji resolutions banaati hee nahi. Not because I doubt if I will be able to keep up with them. I know I undoubtedly won’t. But also because it is cool to claim that we don’t believe in resolutions.
Chaddha ji regularly tells me what’s cool these days. Like it’s cool to criticise Kejriwal, he says. I asked him if it’ll be cooler to criticise Modiji also, but he gave me a weird look. We settled on criticising Rahul Gandhi.
Anyway, coming back to resolutions, I have decided to risk being uncool and make one this coming New Year. Because, you know, dil se awaaz aa rahi hai. And even though it’s nothing that I’ve not been preaching already, somehow I know that in the new year I’ll be able to follow it in the true spirit. I have decided to not invest even a teeny-weeny bit of my time, effort or energy in being a ‘People Pleaser’. Because hota kya hai nah, the more we try and make it an ideal universe around us by going out of the way for everyone, the closer we get to slowly ruining the universe within us. And I’m beginning to realise the importance of the inner universe more than ever before.
It all started with a spate of frequent headaches and the constant feeling of being low on energy. Discounting the gloomy weather and possible physical ailments, I realised that I was getting closer to a state of being depressed. Not depressed just to maro style, as in ‘I went into a depression ever since my London holiday got over’ a la Page 3, but like, ‘I don’t feel happy doing things that used to give me a kick earlier’.
One evening I sat and made a list of all conversations I had had that day. They were varied — from a discussion with the boss to a pre-appraisal review of a subordinate, and from an argument over parking with the neighbour to a chat with the maid at home. There was one thing common, though. Each of these interactions involved me trying to do or say things with the aim of making the other person happy. Nothing wrong with trying to be nice, you could say. But then in more than one such instance, I was doing it over, and against, what I felt was right. The subordinate had not been performing at her expected level for the past several months, and had discipline issues to make it worse. But I couldn’t bring myself to telling her so in blunt terms, for the sake of not hurting her feelings. The maid was asking for leave for the sixth time in the month, and using obvious excuses while she did so, but I couldn’t bring myself to call her bluff and deny her leave for the sake of avoiding needless melodrama.
Both situations may have given me the temporary solace of coming across as a nice person, but made me feel miserable afterwards. The tendency to make everyone happy was clearly backfiring at a much deeper level, apart from damaging my self-esteem. And you know what, slowly you begin to realise that even those for whom you are crossing boundaries to be extra nice, consider it to be their right and take it for granted. Basically, sab ke liye accha ban ne ke chakkar mein life ka chakkar hi bigad raha thaa. Being a people-pleaser has the following inherent risks:
1 Leads to undue expectations: People start expecting a whole lot more from you than you can, or should deliver. It’s like chaar din boss ko impress karne ke liye if you stay back late in office, your work-hours automatically extend in the boss’s mind from the fifth day. Nuksaan kiska? The idea in life is to be true and honest to how you are supposed to be — at work, at home. Stretching your limits to make others happy and then kicking yourself at the back every day when those people take your niceness for granted is a sure recipe for depression at some point in life. Abhi se hi sudhar jao toh achha.
2 It makes you feel selfish and guilty: Know that trying to make everyone happy is the definition of ‘impossible’ in many wise dictionaries. And the attempt to do so can only be at the cost of your own happiness. We find it so easy to feel guilty about being happy. Our conditioning, sadly, is so that we make such a silly virtue out of being sacrificial lambs through our life. I remember a friend, when asked to write about the ‘greatest human being’ in a school essay while everyone was busy glorifying Mahatma Gandhi, wrote, ‘My mother is the greatest human being. Because she saw such hardships in life, but never cared for her own happiness. She always put the needs of the family and relatives over her own.’ That friend got the first prize in the essay. Clap, clap. Her mom was genuinely great, but I don’t know how many times people in her life would’ve reminded her that her greatness lies in ‘not caring about her own happiness.’ You get what I’m trying to say? A people-pleaser gets so busy pleasing everyone that they forget that term ‘people’ also includes their own self. And trust me, if there’s anything I’ve learned from experience in life, it is that you could pretend to be all great or whatever, but you can NEVER make others truly happy till you are happy from within.
3 It exhausts you: Trying to please all the people, all the time is SO tiring. So, so, so exhausting. I don’t even know how to explain it better than just saying it plain and simple. Trying to be popular drains you out. Period. So here’s the thing. In the coming year, I have decided to take a seven-point pledge, in order to avoid being a people-pleaser. Aap bhi socho. This year may just make a lasting difference in your life.
I’ll not feel bad about wanting to be happy
I’ll learn to look into peoples’ eyes and say NO. And not follow it up with an explanation
I’ll be humble and considerate, but I won’t apologise, if it isn’t my fault
I’ll look after myself with love, and prioritise myself over unworthy people, without getting on a guilt trip
I won’t feel obliged to answer anyone who demands my time and attention at their will
I’ll be honest, polite…yet assertive and clear in expressing my opinion about things I don’t like
I’ll maintain a self-respect folder and do something every day to make a worthwhile entry in it
(Sonal Kalra wanted some gyan on ‘pleasing self’ from Google Baba. She’s now busy deleting sites on masturbation from the browser’s history. Happy New Year to you by the way. Mail her at sonal.kalra @hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.)