Nine Steps To Happiness

Step 2 : Be Yourself!

Be yourself. This is the easiest of the advices, this is the toughest of the advices.

My apologies to all the Dickens’ fans. I couldn’t help it.

Anyway, we pretty much established the importance of being ourselves in the previous installment, complete with a detailed treatise on all that goes wrong when we don’t allow ourselves to be our real selves for long.

Green Room is a magnificent technique in my experience, a great way to cut your losses and lead a healthier life, not just emotionally but also physically. But, it is just a start. If you are looking for a truly fulfilling life, you would need much more than a temporary reprieve which may be effective but is always short term.

In short, much as you may like it, you can’t spend your life holed up in the Green Room. That would not be a coping strategy. It would be downright escapism. Green Rooms, the real ones as well as the metaphorical ones are meant to rejuvenate your souls, re-introduce you with your real self and gear you up to face the stage and act out your parts. But in no part of this Universe, can a Green Room be an alternative for the real thing. Ultimately, each one of us has to step out and face the World.

Green Rooms are one of the many strategies that you need to lead yourself to that fulfilling, happier existence. It is by no means is the only one and nor would it work in isolation.

Once you start stepping in and out of your Green Room, you will start realizing how good a rendezvous with your own self feels. The happiness, the energy is the bait that pushes you towards a lifestyle that can actually lend some permanence to ‘that’ state of mind.

Unless we strive for this permanence, we shall be stuck in a vicious cycle which has become so synonymous with the contemporary working class — rollicking weekends and dreaded ‘Monday Blues’[1]!

While this cycle is perfectly okay, so long as it constitutes a normal work routine[2], it is problematic when these patterns start aping themselves in our lives as a whole. If you are happy in your Green Room but your mood goes for a toss the moment you step out (figurative ‘Monday Blues’), the whole purpose of the exercise is lost. What you need is an effort and a strategy to let the joys seep into your daily existence, gradually but permanently.

So from where do we start?

Simple. Be yourself.

And then, once again with due apologies to Dickens, I reiterate the opening line — this is the easiest advice, this is the toughest advice.

Be yourself. Beautiful words. Once you realize the beauty these words can lend to your very existence; you will fall in love with the phrase.

Being ourselves is our natural state, something that comes to us effortlessly.[3] However, most of us have been wearing and flipping the masks (that we have already talked about) for so long that somewhere, they have become a part of our identity. Minus the masks, we feel naked; vulnerable. We are scared of revealing our real selves not just to the world but to our own very selves.

And before this spirals into an enigmatic sermon[4], that even I cannot make sense of — let us break this down.

Why do we wear masks?

To please others!

Now only if the objective was half as noble as nobly it is worded, the masquerades of our lives would have been exalted to divine levels. True, we do it to please others but the undercurrents are way more nuanced[5] than this brief phrase allows to be disclosed.

There are several kinds of masks that we regularly flip. The ones to please the powers to be, the ones that are meant to sustain relationships and the ones that are there to sustain that social standing.

We also wear masks to hide our insecurities, the flaws we think we have, the image we think we should have.[6]Masks give us a sense of security, courage to step out and face the world.

I had said it before and I say it again — there is of course nothing wrong with the masks. Or else the image consultants of the World would have to be branded as the biggest traitors against all human good.

Slipping into various roles and responsibilities that life imposes on us is a formidable task and masks are a crucial part of seeing us through. Similarly, if masks help you cope with your flaws (that you think you have) and complexes, nothing is wrong there either.

Masks are omnipresent. In a world that thrives on politics — the workplace politics, the societal politics and the politics of the relationships — our masks are our survival strategy. But when the masks start interfering with our real identity, our situation is akin to that roving stage actor who is unable to switch off and snap out of his part even offstage.[7]

Most of us have been wearing and flipping the masks for so long, that we are slowly but steadily losing touch with our real self.[8]Absence of masks in itself has become a scary prospect, something to be avoided, not embraced.

And then the inevitable fatigue sets in. This is when the chinks start showing and when your real self peeps out of those chinks, the image is horrifying. Not so much for the rest of the world. They had already been seeing the accidental glimpses all along.[9] But for you, it is like walking into the ultimate nightmare. The one that offers no escape.

The domino effect that follows can potentially tumble your carefully stacked life in seconds — the life that you had built around the masks and your projected image.

So, what is the way out?

What we need are moments of lucidity, when we can switch off in-between masks and be aware of our actions, causes and consequences. In other words, the moments when we like (love?) ourselves and not like the mask we are wearing. This warrants brutal honesty to one’s own self, a tough call but can go a long way in simplifying our lives and our perspectives.

There is a world of difference between your Green Room and the fact of being yourself. The Green Room is a daily/weekly burst of energy, the place or a point where you can be yourself with reckless abandon. It is your personal rendezvous where no one else matters.

But the beauty of being yourself lies in the fact that it exists amidst the rest; not to the exclusion of the rest. It is a subtle, conscious realization of who you really are; a conscious distinction between the mask that you are wearing and your real self. If you are actually aware of who you really are, in tune with the motivations behind your actions, the fatigue will really never set in. The process will be conscious and you will be empowered to choose your masks and subsequent actions instead of slipping into them either by habit or compulsion. And even if despite all this, the fatigue does set in, your self-awareness will ensure that you are not caught by a rude surprise — a pre-requisite for any crisis management, whether personal or professional.

[1] See, this is not about the grumpy Monday mornings. For me, it a symbol of normality. In my part of the World, no matter how much you love your work, if you get up all excited on a Monday morning, something is very wrong with you!

[2] See above.

[3] How easy it is to distinguish a downright annoying kid from a cute one! They are being natural, haven’t learnt the art of masking.

[4]Self help mumbo jumbo that gives application heebi-jeebies! In other words, self help advice that makes everybody feel enlightened but which nobody dares to apply.

[5] And selfish. Most of the time, pleasing others is hardly for the sake of others. It is essentially because pleasing others is a corollary to our own ends. If this were not the case, the world would have been full of sub-conscious Mother Teresas and I, of course, wouldn’t be writing this book.

[6]Individuals suffering from body image issues is a more outward manifestation of this very phenomena. .

[7] Think Black Swan — the Oscar winning flick on the same theme. The real life effects may not be as visibly disturbing or as gory, but trust me, the subliminal effect is of the same proportion — basically a sightly mess of our life and happiness.

[8] And that was the reason why we started with The Green Room technique before coming to this part. You need to first re-acquaint yourself with yourself before starting to live together. A date, if you will!

[9] If you want to be nerdy about this, Google Johari window. It is perhaps one of the finest, scientifically cognizant tools dealing with a person’s relationship with themselves and others — a map of your projected self versus the real one. It will tell you exactly how much of your real self you have been accidentally broadcasting to the world without even realizing.

Stay tuned for Step 3. Meanwhile, catch up on Step 1 and help spread the happiness around by clicking the ❤ icon below. Also, don’t forget to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment box. Lets have the conversation going!

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