Updated: Dec 28, 2019
By Nandini Rao
Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds
Gratitude, I have learned is a part of our spiritual journey. When I was young, at school, there was a prayer we said at the morning assembly. I did not know the significance of the prayer, then, but now I do. The prayer is:
Thank you for the world so sweet!
Thank you for the food we eat!
Thank you for the birds that sing!
Thank you, God, for everything!
I TAKE PRIDE AT BEING PERFECT
Growing up in a household where my parents exhibit perfection in every task they do, I seek perfection in everything. Most importantly, nothing short of perfection in any work is acceptable to me.
At school, my teachers love to entrust me with complicated responsibilities. They are sure that I would deliver perfectly.
At college, I am indifferent to taking up any responsibility. The sheer number of students in my class scares me and deters me from taking up any work. The reason is that I fear that I cannot deliver perfectly. Besides, anything short of perfection is not acceptable to me.
I’m married into a household where every member of the household expects me to fulfill the role of a perfect daughter-in-law. Only this time, I am at a loss to comprehend what perfection means. No matter, what my efforts are in completing my daily tasks and duties as a daughter in law, I fall terribly short. Consequently, I begin to lose my confidence, my new family just cannot integrate me as an inherent part of their family, because, I do not behave perfectly. I falter at every step, with no guidance, no encouragement and keep losing my touch with perfection. I am no longer perfect. Hence, I am a failure.
I AM A FAILURE
I grow ashamed to face my parents and admit that I am a failure. I grow more and more introverted. I no longer look forward to going back to my parents’ house. I do not meet my friends from my pre-marriage days. I have made no new friends after marriage. I hate being seen as a failure by new acquaintances as I am no longer perfect. I grow more and more lonely. I do not need people around me. I have become self-sufficient for myself. At this point in time, the only other human being who thinks I am perfect is my two-year-old daughter. I fulfill all her needs. To her, her mother is perfect. I am happy with her.
Most importantly, the need to be perfect always is an overwhelming feeling for perfectionists, like me.
My daughter is two and a half years. I seek to pitch in for earning some extra income to make sure of a good life for my daughter and myself. I learn new skills and land with a job. I never have a job I like; nevertheless, my job (which, over the few decades of working, I have managed to make my career) brought in the extra money to fulfill the needs of my daughter, to whom I wanted to give the best that was possible by a woman from a middle-class household in a teeming metropolis like Bombay (now Mumbai). I am now, perfect. Hence, I hold some value to the people around me.
My colleagues (a few dozens of them in 12 companies that I worked in the span of 27 years!) will always remember me for the perfection with which I delivered my work. Rarely a comma amiss, rarely a missed timeline. A few small goof-ups, nothing unmanageable. They serve as my learning experience and for which I have never stopped beating myself or running my abilities down in front of my colleagues. Because I hate being IMPERFECT at these times, I never let myself forget these instances.
I AM THE PERFECTIONIST
BECAUSE I TAKE A LOT OF PRIDE IN BEING THE PERFECTIONIST MOST OF THE TIMES, I mercilessly beat myself mentally on occasions when I have not.
Interestingly, my colleagues always praise my eye for small details and the perfection with which I execute my work. The ability with which I bail them out of emergent situations at work, the willingness with which I always lend them a helping hand has all my colleagues praising me to my bosses. Most of my bosses rest easy after entrusting me with tasks with tight deadlines. They know that I would leave no stone unturned to deliver it perfectly and on time. Always an eager learner, I go beyond the call of my duty, role and like to amass the knowledge that I can apply in that particular industry.
Respect at my workplace rises steadily.
I, finally rest easy as, being redeemed, or rather compensated for being a failure at home, with my perfection of work at my workplace.
Strangely, none of this really fulfills me, even at work. I have everything going my way at work, and yet I stay dissatisfied and unfulfilled. I feel miserable. I complain and fret at not getting promoted at work, nor getting a deserved salary increase, nor resources to develop a team that I ask for. The more I think about it, the more I hate my workplace.
Somehow, to me, all the respect that I have earned seems to slip away and I end up as a cynical, resentful and complaining employee. The result of all this is that I am always overburdened with work. I work late hours to deliver. For over many years. I have burnt myself out faster than any of my colleagues or people of my age.
I CANNOT ACCEPT AND EMBRACE MY IMPERFECTIONS
My professional life is slipping rapidly. My life has become miserable. I hate to wake up in the morning and go to work. I hate to take on new assignments willingly, although I do not refuse those dumped on me. I fill myself with negativity at my workplace too.
What an unenviable life! Negativity in personal life and negativity in professional life too.
My increased tendency to generalize everything over a single insignificant incident, label people, polarize myself, blame myself and many such habits come in the way of my happiness. Efforts to keep me motivated and positive are in vain.
MY LIFE ALTERS
Then, I read an article that impacts me tremendously. One particular line haunts me and I begin my journey of Self Transformation.
“True happiness is the result of feelings of gratitude for all the little and big things in our life!”
I knew that this was the key to turning the quality of my life and my attitude around! I began to journal my blessings and my disappointments each day. Simultaneously, I also revisited years of my past and began to journal my blessings and my disappointments, at each stage.
I read my list again and again. Every time that I read it, I re-write one or two of my disappointment as a blessing! What appeared as a disappointment at one point of time in life actually turns out to be a blessing for me at a later point. I express my gratefulness to the situation and people involved in those instances. I begin to mend broken fences and burnt bridges. It is not an easy task. My efforts are wrought with failures. I do not give up. I keep at it, never letting go of the attitude to gratitude that is the key to fulfillment and satisfaction in my life.
It is, at this point when I realize how I have hardly ever been grateful for a great many blessings in my life.
We, human beings, tend to get caught up in solving the various problems/issues of our day-to-day lives. We forget to express gratefulness to the thousand blessings that are all around us.
Good and bad things are happening to us all the time. Why then, are we always busy solving the problems, or worse re-living our past problems and wasting our time and energy? How many times do we, pause, rewind and express gratitude for the good things happening in our life, wholeheartedly, and without any disclaimer? How often do we appreciate the efforts of people around us to make our lives successful? How often do we acknowledge their presence and appreciate them?
When I say appreciate and acknowledge, I do not mean the superfluous, lip service that we very often indulge in, but appreciation and acknowledgment and gratitude from every cell in our body, every fiber of our being.
How often we think, so many of the blessings of our lives are our entitlements! We do not even spare a thought to what our life would have been without those blessings. How often do we really let the feeling of gratitude envelop us and sweep us off all negativity?
I have taken the education my parents provided as my entitlement as their offspring. So many times, I even complained that I was not allowed to pursue the stream, nor the career that I have wanted. When I PAUSE, RE-WIND, APPRECIATE, ACKNOWLEDGE AND THANK them for whatever education they have provided to me, from the very fiber of my being, I realize the size of their sacrifice, the generosity of their beings. What my life would have been without that basic education they provided to me, is not something that anyone would ever want for themselves! How difficult it would have been to face the vagaries of life for me without that empowerment tool called basic education!
It has become a good habit for me, to do the exercise of PAUSE, RE-WIND, APPRECIATE, ACKNOWLEDGE AND THANK everyone and every incident at the end of every day. It enables me to complete with myself, others and various circumstances around me every day, forgive myself, others around me every day. This stack of gratitude, over time, in my thoughts fills me with positive energy, fills me with supreme happiness and contentment. This building of positive energy in my thoughts, day by day, weeds out all negativity from my thoughts, past and present.
Consciously choosing to fill myself with gratitude, consistently practicing to do so, patiently picking myself up when I fall, developing a kind and compassionate attitude towards myself and others is well worth the journey of my life and worth all that I do in that journey!
I end this blog with a lot of gratitude to the people who will read this, appreciate this, acknowledge this, help me build on content and context of life and be a part of my journey.
About Nandini Rao
Nandini Rao is a Transformation Coach with in-depth exposure to several business functions.
An internationally certified coach, she is committed to coaching people to raise the quality of their lives, achieve their goals.
Her writings reflect the depth of her understanding of life and people. Her ability to relate to people instantly makes her an excellent coach, mentor, and builder of lasting and meaningful relationships.