One of my best friends and I decided to start a virtual book club and this week we dismantled some pretty deep rooted concepts.
We both were looking for a book club but couldn’t find one in our current worlds, so we decided to make our own! I’m a firm believer in bettering yourself through like-minded individuals and this has proven to be exactly that so far.
We pick a book to read or a talk to watch; sometimes it’s even analysing characters in movies, discussing unpopular opinions, or anthropological views. It’s so fulfilling and I highly recommend it, especially during lockdown.
This weekend we discussed Michelle Obama’s interview with Oprah at #Oprahs2020VisionTour and it really brought up some really interesting concepts around the idea of success.
Michelle Obama raised this point about “walking your own walk”. She used the analogy of going on a hike and not comparing your speed, resilience, and success based on the person ahead of you or the person behind you. And that hit home.
In this digital age, it felt so relevant. It’s almost like if you aren’t doing THE MOST all the time, you aren’t actually doing enough. And yes, we read all these quotes about not comparing, but come on… the hardest thing to overcome is the acceptance of your place amongst others. But why do we all need to push so hard? Like honestly, why?
Is it truly because millennials like us need the added income or independence (which are valid reasons), OR is it just because we have so much generational trauma that we’re trying to fill voids with the idea of success?
Culturally, it’s a hard one to dissect. The idea of success has been deeply ingrained in many brown children from the time we are little kids. Ever since I could remember, I have felt so much pressure to over-perform. Whether it was getting good marks at school or dominating my extramural activities… it was just a never-ending fight to be the best.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand where it came from – a place of education defining security because of our history; our families wanting us to be the best because they did not have those freedoms growing up during the Apartheid. The world has been my oyster and I’m aware of the privilege I have had and I am deeply grateful for the success I’ve achieved because of the discipline it taught me. Most of all, I don’t have limiting beliefs because of it.
I can only speak from my own lived existence and so, I KNOW other Indian kids can relate to this concept inherently, as we have had to push ourselves to become something in order to fulfill a level of pride.
I cannot deny that I always wanted to be a lawyer, but the fact is that somewhere deep inside myself, I also knew that becoming a professional was something that my family wanted for me.
I know that as a family, pride from excelling at education was deeply important. It is one of very few ways Indian people (particularly South Indian people who arrived in South Africa as indentured labourers) could better themselves and the lives of their families. I appreciate that… but it’s become hard to live with a feeling of despondency based on productivity and growing success in the traditional sense.
It has come at a price. The price is the anxiety around “being enough”.
Truth is, I don’t remember the last time I stopped striving for more – and I think I’ve reached my “enough”. At least for now. I was cooking the other day and a thought crossed my mind: “If I don’t want more than what I currently have, is that okay?”
It felt like the most foreign thought in the world to me.
I still have all these goals set out for my life. Things I would love to achieve. Like launching a mental health empowerment NPO, or publishing another piece, or putting together that book idea I’ve been outlining for the last year… but honestly, I am so content and happy with my life that these feel like bonuses. And I couldn’t help but feel guilty for feeling this way.
The thing is… This journey has been so full of “trying”. Trying to fill voids. Trying to make others happy through my accomplishments. Trying to figure out my self worth because it’s been so tied to my achievements. But is that really what makes one successful?
Are your successes what make you feel worthy?
I had to really evaluate whether these accomplishments were bringing me happiness. That moment happened after I got published the first time. I felt that my career in writing had taken a turn, and I could finally breathe. I mean, I still work in a law-based environment, but it was this validation I was craving to prove that the decision to move away from law as a career had finally paid off. I felt I had earned some sort of right to walk around with a title that allowed me freedom: “Author”.
But it didn’t. It just felt like a HUGE, red stop sign. It felt like a sign screaming at me – “Mayuri, enough is enough.” And I didn’t exactly listen. 2019 was FULL of even more extreme goals that I pushed myself to achieve… but this year began and I had to start listening.
I had to check my generational trauma. And my ego.
Enough has become enough.
I have come to the realisation that I don’t actually want more than what I have right now. I have found beauty in what society and social media have deemed mundane. You know what? I like my life!
I have accepted myself. I accept my body. I love my home. I adore cooking. I love watching documentaries. I am obsessed beyond measure with writing. I have my creativity back. And that doesn’t make me an ungrateful person.
It doesn’t make you a failure to be just where you are – and it doesn’t make you stagnant. In my opinion, happiness is based on your utter contentment.
So, for now, the mental health drive, the bestseller, the unpublished piece… they can sit on a back burner of brewing ideas. And if they never come to fruition, I’ve realised that that isn’t a failure either.
Because your contentment can be found in the littlest things. Your worth lies in who you are as a person.
Most of all, your happiness can be found in your present. Be content there first, the rest will follow.