Last year was rough.
My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I felt directionless. I was blaming people and circumstances for how I felt. Only after months of introspection and contemplation, I realized the problem was not outside of me; it was within. I had no control over my own beliefs.
We all consciously and subconsciously nurture certain beliefs that make or break our mental health. The ones that are good for our mental health help us look at life, people, and problems with a healthier attitude. However, the ones that are not good for our mental health dwindle our hopes and self-esteem and nurture many negative emotions.
I jot down some beliefs that I resolve to break up with this new year:
1. My self-worth depends on people’s opinions about me.
The truth is people’s opinions keep changing. In fact, our opinion about ourselves will also change. So linking our self-worth to opinions is like linking our self-worth to the changing weather. We are damaging our self-esteem with our own beliefs. We determine our self-worth by the way we look at our failures and successes. For me, meditation works wonders to clear my head, access my inner source of strength, and nurture a healthier perspective toward my failures and successes.
2. I always need to be happy.
My spiritual Guru, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, says, “Drop the ‘always’ and happiness will be possible.” The truth is that happiness and sorrow come and go. When we don’t recognize this, we hold unrealistic expectations that lead us to more unhappiness. When we become too attached to our happiness, we refuse to come out of our comfort zone. And the space outside the comfort zone is where real growth happens.
3. Success is getting what I want.
In life, so many desires don’t get fulfilled. If you notice, you’d be happy about some of your desires not shaping up at all. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a very unique definition of success. He says, “True success is having the courage that does not diminish in the face of adversity. The days you have a lasting smile on your face may be considered successful days. The day you have total confidence, that day you are successful.” I think this is a revolutionary way to look at success. After all, the purpose of ambition and achievement is happiness. And there are so many instances when we do achieve what we want yet no happiness follows that achievement. So can we really call that success?
4. I should be perfect.
In our drive to be perfect, we become imperfect. Perfectionists often get annoyed (we can’t handle imperfections in others). Perfection cannot tolerate imperfection; it becomes a noose around our necks. So we keep getting angry, but anger is a punishment that we give to ourselves for others’ mistakes. When we get angry, our sugar levels rise and our blood pressure and stress rise. Things don’t change just by getting annoyed. We must see a situation from a broader perspective and deal with it with some skill.
5. Everything should happen as per my plan.
It is good to have goals and work toward them, but life doesn’t always go as per plan. Life is going to be unfair. We can give our best yet get the last seat—or no seat at all. It is healthier to recognize that life is unpredictable. Flexibility around plans can help us keep our emotions stable and be more resilient in our endeavors. There is no point in compromising on other valuable aspects of our life for a plan. We can always have a plan B, C, D, and so on. In the end, everything has its own time. Put in your efforts and be patient with the results.
6. Fulfilling desires is the road to happiness.
In reality, every desire leads us to frustration. When we fulfill one desire, our minds no longer find it interesting after a while and so they look for something else. When a desire is unfulfilled, we are visibly frustrated. So the real key to happiness in life is not getting stuck in a desire. “Dedicate your life to some larger goal, or to the service of others around you. Then you will find that only happiness flows through your life,” says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Second, remember that a supreme power is taking care of you. When you have this kind of faith, then you can be happy.
7. Disagreements signal something is wrong.
When we disagree with someone, we often tend to label them as incorrect or wrong. But the truth is that we just have different perspectives on the same situation. I am again reminded of a quote by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He says, “Different perceptions are there and they’re bound to be there and should be there. The different viewpoints make life much richer when you recognize the underlying current of well-being and belongingness.” Arguments should be welcomed by everyone with open arms. If you welcome the argument, you’ll see that you’ll have fun. Arguments should end in humor, rather than in sadness and frustration. I have noticed that really intelligent people know how to argue and how to snap out of it too.