Written by Ritu Garg
Our limitations don’t make us less, they make us more.
Sounds oxymoronic! Paradoxical! Well, come with me, let’s unravel the knot together.
‘Our limitations don’t make us less
Wisdom tells that they make us more
But only if we let go and don’t stress
and live life focussing on our core.’
A limitation is a limitation only as long as we feel guilty and apologetic about it, as long as we feel the need to explain it, as long as we are embarrassed by it, as long as we feel the need to justify it, as long as we feel as though we are ‘not enough’ due to an incapacity that we think we have.
If looked at from a life-affirming perspective, it can be considered a strength to say, ‘No’ to the pursuit of a skill, trait, capability, or resource which the world finds important or normal to pursue, and absence of which might invite a ‘meh’ response from people, for which we are judged incapable, complacent, indolent , insensitive, selfish even.
The echo-chambers of friends, well-wishers, dear ones in our family, and the virtual universe of social media can inflate our ego and play on our emotions. The indiscriminate voices of our tribe will say, ‘Go for it, we have your back.’ We love this energy. We thrive on it and we keep going back to this pool to draw from it appreciation, encouragement, attention, advice, confirmation. It’s a space where we never face rebuttal, we are never challenged.
But in this overwhelming crescendo of “Go for it,” our little voice, the most genuine voice in our head, is quietened. The importance of our own experience, our own conviction, our understanding of self, and of the workings of our physiological framework, get diminished. I don’t mean that one should not challenge oneself, that one should not upscale or learn new things, but the idea is to be ‘woke’ about it, to be aware of your own wish and also to reflect on where the urge to do something is coming from. Is it our soul calling for it or are we chasing a goal that has been projected onto us? Are we doing it as a participant in the ‘rat race’ or possibly as a response to FOMO (fear of missing out)?
There is joy in missing out—if there is FOMO, there is also JOMO (joy of missing out). I think there is a mojo in JOMO, because it means that you are prioritising yourself, choosing to recharge yourself, and being courageous enough to step out of the race, which is not easy to do. When we do it, our self-confidence and our faith in our capacity is reinforced. This is a magical space. There is collateral beauty in letting go. THE COLLATERAL BEAUTY OF IT ALL.
Sometimes, our definition of empowerment is flawed and misplaced. It is very important to realise that empowerment is not always about adding things to your to-do list, it also means subtracting. It means saying ‘no’ to a few things, and there begins self-care, self-love, self-preservation and conservation of energy. When we do intelligent subtracting, we truly become smart workers and achieve efficiency and effectiveness. Sifting and winnowing and retaining the goals and skills that we are passionate about, that speak to our soul and connect to our unique constitution, makes us want to rise each day with the energy to go forward and hit the sack every night with an enviably excited yet rested mind.
I also feel that being a capable individual doesn’t mean being a super-human. It’s the heart that matters. It’s humanity and empathy that empower us to be valuable to society. We can add value to society, to our neighbourhood, and to the world just by being who we are, provided we value ourselves in our entirety. The world runs on interdependence, economies run on interdependence, so it’s ok to depend, it’s ok to seek help, it’s ok to not know, it’s ok to say, “No”. It’s not rude, it’s not prudish, it’s just self-love!
Here is a little story of my journey of turning a weakness of mine into a strength. I had always wanted to learn to drive a car. It was 27 years ago, when I was a university student, that I gave it my first shot, I was hopeful, even certain. But after that 20 minute driving lesson, my head hurt badly, I was feeling frazzled and disconnected with myself. I thought it must be fatigue or perhaps the pressure of input and joy of taking the first step.
I attended my lessons thrice weekly, and slowly, instead of looking forward to them, I began to resist them.
But there was an indefatigable desire to learn how to drive, because knowing how to drive a car is a certification of ‘coolness’, confidence, daring, up-to-date-ness, focus, concentration, cosmopolitanism, independent womanhood, dependability and so on; it’s among the housekeeping skills of today’s world.
At the same time, I also began to realise that, deep down, driving a car tired me and inflicted me with an excruciating migraine. My mind would feel trapped in a box where my free flow of thoughts and energies felt suffocated. I had this strong urge to leave the lesson and go back into the freedom of unleashed thoughts.
But I thought that stopping the lessons would be giving up – being a loser. I continued to strive and exert, without realising that my physiology was not attuned to driving.
My husband’s acute sense of observation, and his frankness did not go down well with me. He said, “I don’t think you are made with the attitude needed to learn how to drive, and that’s totally fine.” In the meanwhile, three of my friends had learnt how to drive and I was still at scratch. Finally, my son went to college, and as an empty-nester I thought, yet again, that time had come to empower myself.
By that time I was 46, getting clarity – and then suddenly a moment of understanding came to me – I can survive without knowing how to drive, just as a fish can survive without a bicycle – and it doesn’t make me incapable of helping others. I can still help people in my own unique way.
Perhaps, I didn’t really want to drive, so why was I so hung up about it? Why did I want to learn?
If it’s for the sake of survival, then it’s fine if I cannot drive, because I can call for help; there will always be a neighbour, or uber, or a taxi, or the option to walk, or an ambulance… If it’s for ego – to be cool – then I am chasing the wrong goal.
That I cannot drive does not diminish me. I still don’t drive. I would rather spend that time, energy and thought on doing things that make me joyous, that make me a value-creating individual in society.
It has made me realise that there are personality differences.
I have learnt the value of “No.”
“No, I don’t drive.”
“No, I cannot come to a late-night party, but I will come and give you a hug and leave.”
“No, I cannot wear a saree (dress traditionally worn by women in India), because my stomach hurts.”
“No, I cannot have you over at this moment, because I have scheduled my day, but I would love to do it some other day.”
No to one, yes to many
No to many, yes to self
Saying yes is “being good”,
Saying no is “rude”—
When you give someone a “NO”
I want to let you know
That you are saying a big “YES”
To your own inner highness
Be polite and turn down the offer –
No, I don’t drive
But my heart is my chauffeur.