Honoring Our Personality – Honoring Our Uniqueness

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I perceive this world and universe through the filters of my unique personality. Same goes for you. You perceive this world through the filters of your unique personality. That is the way it is for all of us.

Grand teachers of all ages and races say that our true self is exalted, beyond any limits and definitions. Beyond our unique but limited personalities. Maybe my truth is beyond my limited personality – unlimited, infinite. I do at times get glimmerings of being connected to and being at one with the vast energy force field that permeates our whole universe. However, I do not experience that all the time. Not yet. I am operating in this world through my personality. Sometimes when I am frustrated with myself, I find that personality limiting, exasperating. Feeling hemmed in and frustrated with myself, I wrote once –

शरीर का सीमित आकार
व्यक्तित्व में गिरफ़्तार
भटकती फिरती इधर उधर
कहाँ है कहाँ है मेरा घर
(a limited body, imprisoned by personality, I roam about cluelessly – where is my home?)

“Imprisoned” was just that sad feeling at that time. I wouldn’t say I’m imprisoned by my personality, but rather that it is the unique vehicle I am riding as I navigate this world and life. We all, each one of us, is riding the vehicle of our unique personality as we navigate this world and life.

Our personality is not an inconvenience to be endured through life. Not something to make snide jokes about as veiled self-criticism. Our unique personality is the unique vehicle we ride as we navigate through life and this world. And it serves us well to know, understand, and love the vehicle that we ride. It makes the ride that much more enjoyable and smooth.

Ask any car rally enthusiast or wise practical city-dwelling man, he will tell you – it is important to know the car you drive. Want to earn your father or husband’s approval? Here’s a way to crack it – become a super-knowledgeable-your-hands-dirty-with-grease dude with your car. (Better still, don’t try to win their approval. Live your joy).

So while I navigate this world, with my limited personality-filtered perceptions, it is important for me to know, understand, honor and love my personality, the unique vehicle that I ride, so as to better navigate this world and life and have some fun while doing it.

When we do not know, understand, honor our personality we are just passive passengers “riding” our personality – letting God or the devil do whatever crazy they wish to do at the driver’s seat. When we take the time and effort to know, understand, honor and love our personality, we get to sit in the driver’s seat (sometimes) with God as the navigator. Yay! Himalayan Car Rally here I come!

Knowing, understanding and honoring our personality, the unique vehicle we ride while we are here, enables us to function better.

Two things have helped me tremendously in getting to know my personality better.

1. Astrology
2. A “Know Your Strengths” Exercise suggested by Marie Forleo

What??? Vani you love science! You are so logical and analytical. And you turned to the silliness of astrology? I am disappointed in you!

Simmer down. We’ll talk about astrology in another post sometime. Let’s tackle the second first – a very simple Know Your Strengths exercise. Rather, know your Unique Awesomeness.

Know Your Unique Awesomeness

Marie Forleo in New York / New Jersey, the creator of MarieTV, runs B-School – an online course for wannabe entrepreneurs and already-at-it-and-wanna-rocket-to-the-sky entrepreneurs. The most heartening thing about what she offers is how to do business while aligned with your soul, your inner truth. That is at the core of her message – honoring our true self. She, so very kindly, gifted me a fully-paid scholarship to her B-School program a few years back.

The first week of the B-School program is the deepest. It is about acquiring clarity about our own self and about the ideal customer of our business. One of the “classes” in that first week is “Leverage Your Uniqueness” and Marie Forleo recommends that we go out into the world with our UAP “Unique Awesomeness Proposition” (not just plain bland USP, Unique Selling Proposition)

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It is all about, to quote Marie, “finding that sweet spot: that purposeful, joyful, clear place where your greatest gifts meet your customer’s needs”. And this is not just about business. It is about living our life.

Conventional (read, hackneyed) wisdom tells us to work on “improving” our self, work on identifying and acknowledging our weakness and then working on improving ourselves in those areas.

As we work and work and work on improving our weakness (mostly just by beating ourselves up in our private admonishments) we wilt and wilt and wilt – while all the time our strengths that are automagically (yes, that is a word) God-given to us are sitting tapping its fingers, waiting to be used, still as fresh as day one, despite all the self-flagellation.

So the wise thing my dear devoted reader (I do hope you are my devoted reader. Subscribe if you want to become one.) is to consciously know and honor your strengths and leverage that!

Ok Vani, how do I know my strength? I am so hopeless…

You are not hopeless. The instant you accept that, you shall become hopeful! Magic!

Here are two simple ways that worked superbly for me. Suggested by Marie Forleo, I now pass them onto you-

#1. Now Discover Your Strengths book

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This book includes access to a personality test. People play with all kinds of funky personality tests on their way to office and share on Facebook – but this is different and good. I am different and good am I not? Ergo, it is but logical – what I recommend is different and good. (Btw, you are different and good too. Same pinch!)

I found the personality test in this book to not only be good, but for me, rather accurate. After you answer the questions, it gives you your five topmost strengths, in decreasing order of impact.

My two biggest strengths as per this test are –

Connectedness
Quoting a bit what the book implies by Connectedness: “Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our judgements, possessing free will, but we are part of something larger. Some may label it spirit or life force. Whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it.”

Intellection
Quoting a bit what the book implies by Intellection: “You like to think. You like exercising the muscles of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; simply that you like to think. You enjoy your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection…”

Man, for the personality called Vani Murarka, this is bulls-eye accurate! Ever since I fully understood and acknowledged these aspects of my personality, (by observing my thoughts and emotions), I committed myself to sharing this strength with you on a consistent basis (Every Saturday and Tuesday. Have you subscribed yet?) via my blog “vani expressions”. I decided to consciously channelize and leverage my strength. But that became possible only after I explicitly recognized and acknowledged my strength. Not just because this personality test said so – I found, out of self observation that it was indeed so.

The same goes for you my friend. There is something about you that is so absolutely beautiful and comes so automagically naturally to you. Please find out what it is and love it and honor it and live it. Don’t wait for your spouse or parent to acknowledge you. Even if they do, it won’t help much. It will help a bit, but not much – unless you must find out and acknowledge and live your beauty.

There are many ways that beauty manifests itself. There are many basic strengths the book has identified, 34 to be precise. Give it a shot to find out what they think about you. Borrowing a used book might not help because to take the personality test, there is a scratch patch with a number at the end (kind-of like a password) which gives you access to the test online.

They seem to have a direct online (paid) version too – Gallup Strengths Center. I used the book.

Note: I have no referral association for the sale of this book or Marie Forleo.

#2 Ask Your Friends

Another method Marie suggests for knowing your strengths is to ask your friends. Mostly we are so conditioned to focus on what is wrong with us that we have no visibility left to see what is right and good about us. So it is good to ask. It can give us visibility about some aspect of our self which we were not aware of. So the method is simply to ask your friends – “What are my 3 best qualities?” Email them, or whichever other method you want to use, but I suggest you don’t just ask publicly on your Facebook timeline! 🙂

Ask at least 25 people Marie suggests, and I agree with her. You will see a pattern emerge in the responses that people give. There may even be just one clue that you get which is crucial for you at that point in time. When I did this, when I asked people I thought I could ask, I did get some pattern. However one feedback from one friend really stood out. At that point in time I was in a position to consciously acknowledge and leverage that strength. She said I have the “Ability to say ‘NO’”.

Those days, after having left the corporate and academic world, I was at a loss for what to do with myself, my time, my life. I realized that while I did not yet know what to do, I clearly know what I do not want to do. I also recognized what exactly happens inside me which enables me to reach that clarity. If I continue with an activity or engagement that I do not want to be engaged in, I feel a strong sense of being coerced, of my arm being twisted so to speak, by the person or system or whatever imagined ghost I am struggling with – and my being protests against that and I reach the clarity that I must *not* do this. I even feel a strong distaste in doing or continuing with that activity. Ever since I have explicitly recognized this aspect of my being I have learned to honor it and trust it as a guiding force whenever that kind of feeling arises. As I know that feeling clearly now, I can also differentiate it from other tendencies to say no that I may have, either out of fear or because I just want to take it easy, or whatever other reason. Hence I have the faith that this strength of mine will not misguide me.

So dear devoted reader (I know you have subscribed by now) – go on, write to 25 friends and ask what your 3 best qualities are.

Whether you use these methods or not, do honor your personality. Recognize your strengths and honor them. Maybe you’ve heard this thing that is said, “love yourself” and maybe it did not make much sense. Well recognizing, acknowledging, honoring your unique personality is one place it starts. The beginning of seeing the beauty in you. The tender, sweet, absolutely gorgeous, luscious grand beauty in you.


Image credit: BBC TopGear Magazine India Car Gallery – Volvos in Himalayas

Success Without Money

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Ironically, just when I left the job world, along with it came the desire to earn money. Before that I had never really bothered about money (or success). I had always just moved towards whatever was intellectually satisfying. In the process work, education, earning had happened as a by-product.

When I left the job world, I did not know what to do with myself instead. This not-knowing, utter confusion, no clarity, no direction gave me a sense of failure. There was one thing that I was 100% clear about though – that the choice I have made, to leave my job and career as a software developer was not an incorrect one. I knew that this is the only option I had. I knew that continuing in the field any further would cause me serious harm. No, that does not mean that software development is a harmful field. It is a superb fantabulous field. It is exhilarating. Yet, everything inside my being was telling me that this is not what I am essentially meant to do. I am not meant to be here anymore. My time here is up. If I continue any longer, for the sake of practical wisdom – one needs to have some job, some regular stream of income, financial independence… if I force myself to continue due to these reasons, in opposition to my inner being, I knew it will harm me such that I will become a grotesque, disfigured ball (mentally). This I knew in every fiber of my being.

That’s it. That’s all I knew. If not this then what? I had no clue about that.

When I could not contain the utter despair of not knowing what to do with myself, and all the howling raving-mad depression it brought on, I used to unload to my friend. It is obviously not a very pleasant experience for anyone, to be the recipient of such a gift – a woman howling away in despair. In frustration and utter helplessness my friend sometimes said, “You are wasting your life.” This compounded the sense of failure.

My dad never gave me a sense of failure. He knew there is some other way in which I am seeking to express myself. However, time to time he would gently remind me, “50 thousand rupees per month. You should arrange this much for yourself. Then you are free to do whatever you want.” I used to be thankful to my father. Thank God, in the middle of all the cluelessness now I at least know how much I need. One tiny bit of clarity.

It is not that I did not have money in the bank. I did. Yet, I believed it to be extremely parasitic, lethargic, not-very-nice-at-all to not earn my expenses. All that Vani Murarka had earned had been used up. Whatever was left, a good amount to take care of a few years at least, was money that dad had saved for me. Originally for my marriage. Now maybe for some day when I would buy a house, or some such substantial expenditure. That money was not meant to just to “live” on. I sure did not want to simply just exist that way.

Of course I wanted to do something with myself. Something tangible, meaningful, concrete. Just that I used to think that things become tangible, meaningful, concrete if it brings in money. Money makes it official.

So the girl who had never really bothered about success and money before, now having left the conventional career world, wanted to be successful, wanted to make money.

As I kept searching for answers, even as there would be times of joy and happiness, when I would be feeling good about myself, this bunny rabbit would hop along and come and sit and say with blinking eyes, “Ya… but money… “. Money is not a source of security, I have always known this. It is not something that I needed to learn. Even then, this bunny rabbit would come – “Ya… but money…”. On mild, more-or-less-ok days I felt unsuccessful. On days of utter despair, I felt like a complete failure.

Vani Murarka still does not have a regular source of earned income friends. In fact the one source of regular earned income that she had the past few months, Rs. 10 thousand per month from her brother, for helping with his company website, she has let go of even that two days back. Anyway that did not really count for success did it, getting money from your brother? Even then, it did feel good, that earned income after several years of none. I bought clothes with a sense of freedom last Diwali. And it was money for services well rendered. I am glad and satisfied with myself for whatever I did officially in that capacity. I know I made significant positive contribution in the company’s technology trajectory. But now I have freed myself even from that engagement.

Once I figure out what I am meant to do with myself and start doing it and then it brings in money I will be successful. That is what I thought, but it did not happen that way. I already feel successful.

Huh! How come? You can’t do that. That is not as per the rules of the game.

Well, sorry. What to do. It happened. I already am successful. I already feel successful.

That’s all that success is. A feeling.

I feel successful because I feel joy in my being.
I am successful because I washed away resentments and hurt that I had towards family members. Once upon a time I used to feel I do not belong. Now I know I do belong.
I am successful because I now understand my personality better, I have learned how to honor it and I know what I have been cut out to do.
I am successful because I am no longer lonely.
I am successful because I am now living with the one I love – which is what I always wanted.

I am successful not for any of the above reasons really. I am successful because I simply feel successful. The feeling of success is a by-product of joy, a by-product of being free of hassles we carry within. A lot of the things that were sitting heavy in me, preventing the lightness to be experienced, have been removed. Hence, I can now sense the presence of what was already here, what has always been here.

It is possible to feel successful, it is possible to be successful, without money. It is possible not just for me. I am not anyone special. It is possible for each and every one of us.


Image credit: photograph by Mircea Ploscar from Pixabay.com

“Achieve! Achieve” But Why? – An Invited Article

human machine

Discussions on productivity just sound like another form of the litany “ACHIEVE! ACHIEVE” to me. This voice only grew louder and meaner as I found myself unable to continue in the corporate and academic world and was left wondering – “So then, now what?”

So what if I get 78 on 100, or 85 on 100 in a subject at school and not 92? “She is so intelligent but… “, that is what each teacher told my mom at the parent’s-teacher-meeting each year for ten years. “Can do better”, “Can do better”, every teacher wrote these same three words in the comment section of my report card. And I was left wondering silently, “So? So what if I did not get those few marks more? How does that matter?” I never got an answer. This standard feedback slowly translated into the litany inside “Achieve! Achieve!”, a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with myself. Each time my inner voice demanded “Achieve! Achieve!”, my being with quiet innocence asked, “Why?” – and an answer was not forthcoming…

Dear Reader,

I was invited to contribute an article to an ongoing collaborative blog project called The Human In The Machine – articles on productivity written mostly by people in the software world. My article titled “Achieve! Achieve!” But Why? was published today.

The above was an excerpt from the article. Here is another –

“Work is love made visible”, says Khalil Gibran. That rings true in my being. However, to do that, one first needs to connect with the love within, which can then get expressed in the work we do. Some people know from early on which kind of work is “love made visible” for them. Maybe you do not know what it is for you. For the longest time I did not know. Now I sense that I am nearing the answer.

To find what you naturally like to do, which can be of worth to the world, can be a process of elimination for some people. It has been for me. This can be extremely harrowing and can batter one’s self esteem. You try one thing and find that is not the answer. You try another. That too is not the answer. And the only way you can know if something is or is not the answer is by doing it. And each time your self esteem dips a bit further. Self-doubt and the sense of failure tighten their grip. Nevertheless if this is the only option you have, then it is the only option you have. This search requires patience and faith. Even then, while being harrowing, this search can be exhilarating too.

Each doing and undoing leaves some clue in its wake. “Feeling” data points accumulate, the feeling that each activity, each engagement aroused in you. This “feelings database” that you create in your heart makes for exotic intuitive data analysis, if you let the pattern and answer reveal itself…

I invite you to please visit this project “The Human In The Machine” and read this human’s whole article here.

If you would like me to write for your publication, please email me at vani.murarka@gmail.com