Who defines you?


“You are so mean….” 

“You are so selfish…”

“You are so ambitious…”

“You are lazy…”

“You are a bigot… “

‘You are a misogynist….”

“Bloddy, ferminist….”

“You are materialistic…”

“You are workaholic…”


There is no dearth of labels in our world. There is no moment in our lives when we are not being labelled or judged or when our personality is not defined. Everyone has an opinion on our conduct. We are defined by what people think about us. Not by who we are. Soon, we become what people think of us. All our actions, decisions and appearances get dictated by what people ’should’ think about us. People spend their entire lives living according to other people’s impressions about them. This is the most expressed reason for unhappiness. 


There are two realities – Who we are? And What we desire to be perceived as? These are two different things. All our life is a struggle to fill this gap between ‘the reality’ and the ;’desired reality’. When I was in advertising, we conducted a market survey and one of the findings was that more than 90% of the people spent their lives filling the gap between their ‘real image’ and the ‘perceived image’. This constant conflict between reality and perception makes us unhappy. 


Humans are social beings. We need recognition, approval, confirmation and constant reassurance from the society. First we want our parents to believe we are good and fit into their expectations – the desired image. Then we go to school and now we have to struggle withy two desired images – parent’s and teacher’s. Then the third layer gets added that of our friends. As we grow, this circle of ‘desired image’ keeps growing and becomes more complex. Colleagues at work, spouse, children….. relatives, society… it never ends. We are constantly trying to look good in everyone’s eyes and play to their expectations. 


You must have heard from people “Now I have decided that I want to live only for myself” or “Now I give a damn to the world” or “I don’t care what others think about myself” or “Please, let me be”. All these people are saying the something. This is the psychological fatigue of impressing others. Seeking approval for ourselves from the society, peer groups etc. This is expressing the single most important reason for one’s unhappiness. This is the voice of a dehydrated person. 


Why do we accumulate so much wealth? Do we really need all those diamonds, cars? Why do we spend so much time worrying about our clothes, makeup… appearance? Why everyone wants to be successful…. Not in his own eyes but the society’s eyes? What is success? Is success getting a job in Microsoft? Is success owning a BMW? Is success marrying a beautiful girl? Is success buying a house in a posh colony? Because success means so many things to so many people we keep chasing it endlessly and never find it. By the time we are old and truly understand that success lies in being content with oneself, life has gone by. 


I used to make films as expected from a filmmaker – star-studded, big budget, glamorous… successful songs… foreign locations…. Filmy parties… big premiers etc. I used to show off to my peer group about the stars who were my friends…. the power I had. But then immediately after the release of Goal I realised that these films had nothing of me. Yes, they were technically sound but their soul wasn’t mine. I was making what people expected. What the audience wanted to hear. These were not my stories. Also, I was making them according to the wishes of stars who were less educated, less aware, less grounded than me. Yet, my creativity was at their command. I was playing to their idea about me. I decided to make films which came from my experiences and not dictated by others. Suddenly, life changed. All the ‘perceived’ success was gone. Life became a big struggle. It took me 6 years to make and release a small film called ‘Buddha In A Traffic Jam’. I had no work, no money and no friends. Life was lonely and dark with no ray of hope. But I stayed firm in my resolve to ‘express myself and not impress others’’. I had decided to walk on the path of my dharma,. The dharma as my conscience told me, not the path others expected me to take. 


Eventually, it worked. People who used to measure me on the basis of ‘hit’ and ‘flop’, saw other layers of me. I found lot of rejection, many abuses… criticism… made many enemies… received hate and bad press…  but in return I found happiness, self pride and my truth. Past few years have been a bliss. Because I do not carry the pressure to please anyone. I don’t live my life for anyone else. I do not derive the meaning of success from anyone else. I feel, I have found my song.  It’s difficult but achievable – to live for yourself. 


Now, I do not impress. I just express. 


‘Desired image’ is a mirage… mrigtrishna. Its a chakravyuh from which no-one has been able to come out happy. Look at yourself in a mirror and smile… you will find world’s most beautiful person. Like every flower, you have your own unique fragrance, your own lovely colours. Not many people may admire you but some will for your unique beauty. That is real success – being yourself. If being ‘yourself’ wasn’t important then why would God make you so unique? 


Only you can define yourself. Everything else is window shopping. 


Discover yourself. Be yourself. Be #IAmBuddha. 

you can also contribute to this column by sending your ideas, stories, fables, anecdotes. I’ll use them with due credits. 

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