Whenever I meet new people , they ask me ,” What do I Do?” and there used to be a slight pause before I could answer. There was a feeling of missing a sense of validation.
But after many months of feeling this, I realized I need to overcome the fears. Now, I love talking about it, because I love what I do, even though it is so different from what I have traditionally done, and that certainly isn’t all of who I am. It was just a part of me.
How it all started ?
When I was young , I came to know that no girl has ever been into IIT, the toughest engineering college at the time , from my city, and there I was determined to achieve that milestone. Least knowing, how it would shape my life, This was more like standing up to the challenge.
I was always a straight-A student, a perfectionist, and an overachiever. I had developed a mental model that, performing well was my reason to feel good about myself. My accomplishments got me the praise and admiration of many and gave me what I needed to feel special and valued.
I was a smart girl with a “smart career,” …but was I feeling authentic about myself ?
After engineering, I got placed in one of the most coveted places and opportunities kept coming my way, one after the other . This was followed by lot of laurels, learning , appreciation and people looking up to me and asking advice. Validation and approvals of what I was doing, kept me going forward, and I also pursued my MBA, followed by another high paying job.
About Being Myself
However, after almost 15 years, I started feeling incomplete. As if something was missing, but any different step was unimaginable . After all, I had worked so hard to reach this point in my life. I should love it, right? Hadn’t I finally arrived ?
I struggled with this decision so much, because on one hand, I hated going to work. On the other hand, when I told people what I did for a living, they always looked at me with admiration. My dad had bet his life savings on my engineering career and the fact that I was one of the few women then, to be selected to such prestigious colleges.
My career looked awesome, interesting and impressive on paper, but I was quietly dying inside. I finally took the plunge and left my job..but what next….
I tried my hand on a few of the lesser prestigious initiatives, and people did not react the same way, as they would earlier.
Quitting the career that I didn’t love was, on one hand, so freeing. But on the other hand, without that layer of validation, I felt naked and inferior. I felt like a failure, who couldn’t hack it in the real world. My identity was at that time restricted to my career, that looked so good on paper but didn’t feel good in my soul.
I have always been a networker and would attend lot of social events, and I would dread the question “So, what do you do?” My response was always a little timid, almost apologetic. “I stay at home.”
There was usually a feigned interest, as if they weren’t really sure on how to engage further. I would quickly add, about my gig as a blogger, which would garner a little better interest. And then I would mention my past, as a final effort to get the approval, I so desperately sought. Not to mention, that would work and people will reel back into something more exciting and the validation would come back.
Time to Self Reflect
The next two years, were about lot of self reflection, stepping outside the strong achiever avatar, that I had cocooned myself in. I struggled for a long time to find my identity, without all the “usual stuff” to hang onto. I would often face the question, Who am I without my career, the accomplishments, and the external validation?
That is when I started to scratch the surface of “Who am I, really?”
All these years, I had lived trying to love myself by doing things and getting all the validation, with my heart towards exploring what really excites me. I knew I wanted self-validation, but I always craved for an external validation. My biggest learning was that I was measuring my life with the wrong questions all along.
Instead of asking myself , what do I want to be , I started asking myself, who do I want to be ?
Instead of pursuits which sounded and looked good on paper, I started working on pursuits which ignited my fire, and brought my joy in learning and doing.
As human beings, we forget the being part often in our existence.
If you are stuck in any relationship or a job, and you don’t feel alive, then you need to ask yourself a few questions.
How do I want to feel?
What comes naturally to me?
How do I want to measure my life in the end?
What jobs or careers would allow me to go that way?
I’m in a completely different career now, and believe me, it was not easy to get off that drug of validation, which I craved for. To add to it, the disbelief from closed ones, always posed as a hindrance.
But through this process, I learned how I want to design and live my life and that guides everything. I am at ease and I don’t feel that I am living two different worlds. I discovered that I want to feel freedom, ease, joy, and meaning in my life.
As much as I enjoyed going to my office, there was a part of me which was left unnourished and that is a big difference now.
Going to a cubicle every day didn’t allow me to create those feelings and experiences. I want to show up in the world authentically, the way I am , I want to make mistakes and I want to share myself with other. My traditional job never allow me to be that authentic person that I ,now, so deeply love.
Some of you may not relate to what I have written and you probably feel authentic at work. That’s great !
But the point of writing this is that ,try to live a life of your authentic self , every moment. It is about showing up in the world in a way you truly are. That’s what makes us Human Beings and that’s all that matters !
Today, I am a wellness Blogger, Angel investor and work with start ups. Here was my latest talk as an angel Investor..