Sunday, March 25, 2012

Change the way you value yourself

It is tempting to say that the thing most requiring a change is Society’s resistance to change. That, unfortunately, is not quite the right change to seek. Not all change may be for the good and sometimes a proposed change may require to be changed itself. Society’s resistance to change can act as a necessary brake though you could always argue as to whether the resistance is unwarrantedly high.

A change in Society’s attitudes to its constituent citizens, though difficult, is easier than an internally driven change of people. Society has various rewards that it can confer – awards, publicity and the like – which can drive attitudes. This is why my earlier post ‘Change the way you value people’ concentrated on what, in my opinion, were changes necessary in societal attitudes. An internal change of people has to be self-motivated and, maybe, driven against societal disregard and, thus, far more difficult.

When society values people it has to go on deeds. When an individual values himself he can go on character since he is the best judge of what motivates him to do what he does, if he can be honest with himself. Nothing new needs to be said about what constitutes good character. The problem, however, is that we do not practice what we preach (Nothing new I am saying here either but, then, the fact that it has been said so often has not changed much!).

Honesty is the Best Policy

All of us are in agreement, of course we are! We do live by it, as far as it is practicable to do so. Really?

‘No-one can say that I am not honest. Well, if I know my company is getting this huge order and I can buy up the shares at a low price today and clear a profit enough to fund a foreign vacation for my family, why not? I know there are rules against insider trading but who cares about them anyway?’

Looks like your pride in your honesty is less valuable to you than a foreign vacation.

‘This is the problem with being honest. Look at our neighbor. He clears about twice what I make in bribes. I have to make do with an Indica and he can buy a SUV though we are in the same position’

I’d rather you said, ‘How can a man opt for a more expensive life-style at the cost of his character’. The way you say it, it seems like you are honest merely because you are afraid of getting caught. If you say it in front of your children, you are teaching them that honesty leads to unhappiness. Not exactly what I want the children of today to be learning.

I love giving happiness to the people I love

Where is the joy in life if it were not for the people we love? If there is anything I can do to keep them happy, what greater pleasure than that?

‘Listen! I have to go to the boss’ party tonight. The CEO is coming and my boss says that if I can make it he will introduce me to him.’

‘You promised Seema that you would stay over at the hospital with Ajay tonight. How can you make it now?’

‘I know. Tell Seema that I can’t make it. They will understand.’

Right! How can you let go the opportunity of getting the eye of the Supremo? Is this a one-off or are Ajay and Seema to always understand?

One should work where one can be passionate about what he is doing

Of course! I’d love to work in an area that excites me.

‘I thought you always wanted to teach. Why this shift to IT?’

‘Where is the money in teaching, dude?’

‘College teaching is not all that bad, is it?’

‘Maybe! Quantum difference in life-style, dude.’

Ah! Yes! Your joy in working in the area you are passionate about comes a distant second to an up-market flat, car and clothes!

The point I am trying to make here is that our value systems – that are the building blocks of our character – come a distant second to social prestige. Thus, what we are doing is the replacement of all the internal drivers of self-worth with dependence on society for providing you all your sense of self-worth.

There is a Sanskrit saying ‘Paradhinam prana sankatam’. Dependence on others is distressing to the soul. What we are doing is handing over the entire keys to our happiness to others, for where can you find happiness without a sense of self-worth?

All the measures that society provides involves your comparing yourself with others much like young kids standing against each other and competing for who is taller. If you find yourself falling short and you are unwilling to accept it, then you take recourse to your race, caste, religion or gender to prove your ‘inherent’ superiority much like a short kid standing on a stool and claiming that he is taller. The problem is that you have to keep lugging the stool everywhere you go and keep getting suspicious about whether people with smaller stools are trying the saw the legs off your own. Also, anyone who, in your opinion, has a bigger stool automatically makes you feel inferior!

If there is one change that I wish every individual would make then it is that he respects himself for his values and how courageously he has stood by them rather than for what he would call his position in society. Otherwise, we could end up like the biblical character who exchanged all that was valuable to him for a mess of potage.


  1. Passion part i agree 500%
    Cobbler can make pots if he has passion.

  2. Where values are concerned, you are right - it is better to live by them (for ourselves) than to speak about them (to impress others). When we desperately try and prove our inherent superiority I guess what we're indulging in is one upmanship - adorable in kids but offensive in adults.

    1. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment.

  3. Very nicely expressed.
    I think that the kind of people who live for social prestige, are so unaware of the fact that while they think the society cares for them, the society rarely thinks about them. Its just so full of idiosyncracy.
    One only has to ask self how much do we care about what others are doing, we will know how much the others care about what we are doing.
    It sounds so bad, if we do things for ourself and not for societal prestige.
    I was watching Sholay (old classic), there is a scene where sanjeev kumar goes to talk with the father of his widowed daughter in law (jaya) to ask him for his permission to remarry her off. the father is a bit reluctant and fears what will society say? To this, Sanjeev gives a very nice answer, "samaj logon ko akelepan se bachane ke liye banaya gaya hai, na ki, kisi ko akele rehne dene ke liye."(society was made to give company to lonely people and not to let anyone be alone.)
    I wonder, the change for which society (samaj) was created, did it achieve that change really? Or have we become so obsessedly dependant on society that we have mixed up our priorities!! Did we make society or did society make us?
    (sorry long comment, i almost was inclined to blog on this rather than just comment, hehe)

    1. If you choose to write a post in my blog, I am only too happy to have it here:) Thanks for coming by and posting a comment.

  4. All the points raised are fair, points we must think about. What we say and what we do, there is a world of difference in the two.

  5. I fear there are two issues with changing people - one, that they have a fine way of always justifying their actions, and two, many a times, they are not even aware that they may be doing something wrong in the first place!
    Yesterday, during the Rape Bill debate in Parliament, Sharad Yadav was waxing eloquent against the provision on making stalking an arrestable offence. His justification - "Everyone does it when they are young. We all did it when we were young."
    What does one say to that!

    1. Silence is golden :) But this one, Rickie, is about changing your own self :)

  6. Don't know Suresh. Are values black and white? There is a relentless battle between practicality and ideology, I agree.

    1. I am not making any value judgments about what values you should have Rachna! I am saying judge yourself by your values and not by what you think Society would say about you - the latter is a game with perpetually shifting goal posts which you can never win :)

    2. I understand your context, Suresh. But even the values we have personally are affected by so many factors not necessarily what society thinks of you but of the prevailing systems. For eg. if you are the honest officer stuck in a really corrupt machinery, he/she can even pay with their lives for being honest. That is what I meant practicality vs. ideology! Sorry if I digressed from the main point of your post.

    3. True Rachna! But that ought not to become an excuse for being dishonest in order to buy a bigger car :) There is a difference between compromising on your values for survival and compromising for greed :) Like Gandhiji admitted that women fighting off a rapist with violence is not against Ahimsa - exception always exist.

      In the main, all of us compromise. When, for what and by how much is all that differentiates us one from the other.

  7. We are on the same page on that :).

    1. This was only the process of finding out that we were always on the same page :)