Personal Finance

Be true to yourself for progress in life

Be true to yourself for progress in life
Be true to yourself for progress in life. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Like most people, I'm not gifted with a super-human ability to see yonder. So, in the course of my life, I've consistently made a series of painful and costly mistakes on anything from self-care, fashion, dating, college, work, business, marriage, parenting and everything in-between.

There really should be a mistakes quota per person because I seem to have grossly exceeded mine.

For a long while I was convicted that I was intrinsically inclined to make a mess of my life and then walk right through it over and over again. It was frustrating but with it came the liberating realisation that I am wired to live through periods of monumental stupidity causing enormous confusion as the stepping-stones to get me to the other side with crystal clarity.

Didn't I think to get some help? Well, as Buddha put it; "When the student is ready, the teacher will come". I wasn't ready for help.

Even if help had hit me with a sledge-hammer right between my eyes, I would not have recognised it for what it was. I wouldn't have appreciated it because I was looking for clear, plain and simple quick-fix answers to anything and everything — I wanted magic to my challenges. In short, I wasn't teachable. I wasn't ready.


In spite of myself, I got loads of help from others who didn't necessarily package themselves as "help".

I identified them quite unknowingly, actually. Their lives resonated with me in one way or another. I studied what they did, I paid attention to what they said even though most of them didn't know and still do not know of my existence. I followed their lives along like a fly on the wall — a silent observer. I spent most of my days wanting to think, speak, act and live exactly like them.

I learned without setting out to. I grew to the point at which I realised that they did not hold the key to my answers. Their lives, however, enviable were based on their answers. I was and still am selfish.

All of us are. We are created that way and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that until we let our selfishness infringe upon the rights of others. So I realised that what I needed and wanted was my answers. Everyone else like me is selfish. So they had done the work required on themselves and created their answers for themselves. No one had answers specifically designed for me. This was as profound a realisation as it was hard to take.

Be kind as I share this with you and spare me the indignity of having to disclose how long it took me to accept full responsibility for finding my own answers.

It is a long story that goes over the numerous hills and valleys of more mistakes than I want printed here. I eventually did find my answers and in many ways I am still finding them.

This is not because I'm exceptionally smart. I was just fed up of looking in all the wrong people, things and places.

I wish age-old wisdom was a little bit more direct. It simply told me that "my answers lay within". Boy! All those years I'd spent looking without were such a waste! I could have saved myself so much hurt, relationships, shame, anger, bitterness, failure, rejection and heartbreak. My biggest hurdle was my training all through life.

I was trained to do things as those in authority around me did and accepted as normal and good for me. I was very well-trained to look for answers outside of myself; what subjects to take in school, how to dress, what to aspire to and be.

When most aspects of your life are pre-determined for you, you live your life following other people's answers. It indulges the lazy in you because you do not have to do the heavy-lifting work required to find your own answers. For as long as you're following other people's paths, you're going to be lost for a really long time.

Here's what I've learned — you don't exactly find answers. You discover them by consistently being true to yourself.

This may not be the usual, normal, comfortable and acceptable way to be but it is your authentic self. I learned that to be true to myself, I've had to break a lot of norms, re-align mine and others' expectations of me and in some cases develop the thick skin to completely go against long-held norms. It is the price one must be prepared to pay…and it is more than worth it.

My whole life can be summed up as a collection of valuable experiences. I now turn around and weave it into structured tools to enrich those in a quest to finding their own answers.