The sure-shot formula for a life of misery is to allow others’ ratings of your actions determine self-rating. It is impossible to predict the personality and character traits of a kangaroo simply by observing its jump. Similarly, it is improper to analyse character by observing a single action of an individual.
Unfortunately, humans tend to see themselves through the lens of others’ approval. If significant others applaud your actions, you become euphoric. If it’s a thumbs down, you emotionally beat yourself to a pulp. All this stems from a headstrong belief that the quality of who you are is determined by the quantity of how talented you are. And then the quality of being human is replaced by the quantity of being a successful human.
In the Mahabharata, Karna eagerly sought approval from others. He judged his worthiness by his success in exhibiting talent and his success from the ratings others gave his performance. Just before the final battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishma, the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army, was asked to rate the strengths of the heroes on their side. While assigning high ratings to most warriors, Bhishma rated Karna as an ardha-rathi, which meant that he was half a warrior.
Bhishma pointed out that Karna had been cursed by his guru Parashuram that when he needed his knowledge the most, he would not be able to recall it. The one who was cursed to be useless during the most important fight was nothing but an ardha-rathi. Although Bhishma’s point was valid, Karna couldn’t take it in the right spirit. The world of Karna’s heroism crumbled down; he felt that in declaring him as ardha-rathi in war, Bhishma had declared him as good-for-nothing in life! In sheer frustration and to everyone’s shock, he declared that he would enter the war field only when Bhishma was dead.
Karna’s alarming declaration was not so much of an attack on Bhishma as much as it was on his own self-trust. Such deep distrust in oneself arises from the conviction that one is unlovable because everyone else is more desirable due to better talents or facilities. If you find yourself giving a lot more weightage to the opinion of others — introspect and remember Karna. Others are not there to put you down; it is you yourself who does it before they do. Begin by identifying your strengths and focus on those rather than on perceived failings.
Once you believe in your strengths, no one can push you down, however hard they try. Work on your weaknesses and be realistic about your abilities. Once you reach a comfort level with who you are then the number of likes or dislikes will no longer be relevant to your tranquility.
Peace and joy cannot be purchased by forcing others to love us more but by hating ourselves less.
When we are not at ease with ourselves, we become extra sensitive to others’ behaviour towards us.
Blaming others works wonders in covering our inadequacies. But the truth is that not people but you yourself keep you insecure.
(The writer is an author, Tedx speaker, story-teller, corporate trainer and visiting faculty in several premier management schools)