defragment.me

Thin line between delusion & faith

I've been regularly labelled as being delusional, an escapist or simply naive. I don't get upset anymore, am rather used to it actually.

Guess what? If I never had my ideals and succumbed to people's version of cold reality, I wouldn't be having the liberty to work wherever I want while not having to answer a single phone-call while finding the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I'll be working somewhere comfortable and would probably be with someone 'comfortable' as well.

This is another point of my life when I'm pulled into drawing strength from my inner-reserves again. This time around, the stakes are higher. I'll be lying if I tell you I am not paranoid nor insecure. Which is a contradiction because I believe that security is an illusion and therefore insecurity shouldn't exist. But try telling that to my human mind. ;p

People tell me that I am lucky or they wish they can be as gutsy as me. I go through the same paranoia process and indecision like anybody, in fact it may be more (ask my partner if you don't believe, I wake her up in the middle of the night all the time to *repeat* my paranoia to her all the time). What could be the difference is that I am not willing to live a mundane life. No matter how insecure, paranoid, down-in-the-dumps, upset, depressed, angry, in-confident, weak I can be, I am never willing to wake up, go to work, get paid, buy some stuff to comfort myself, grow old, get sick, be happy because I have money to treat my medical conditions, wait to die. Sorry, that sort of safe existence makes me not want to exist at all.

Plenty of times undesirable circumstances are there to push you out of your comfort zone for your necessary growth. I have spent the first half of the year fretting about the uncertainty I was about to face, but right now, I cannot help but feel totally grateful for it has given me the opportunity to go through a renewal process that was very much needed. One door closes and another opens.

I have a friend who keeps making ridiculous (even to me) decisions in his new venture but through his bold decision-making, his venture is experiencing tremendous growth. If you do not know him personally you may misunderstand his attitude on being borderline flippant. What most people do not know is that he has gone through a personal tragedy and it has allowed him to have very different perspectives while making decisions. When you have personally come across the face of death, what used to be important no longer becomes so and vice versa.

I have not experienced that sort of personal tragedy but have come close to it by being the creator of my own tragedy. I have been to that point where I have lost all love and enthusiasm for life. I was decaying.

Nothing can be worse than losing the desire to live, not even poverty or sickness. This period of healing has allowed me to recover my enthusiasm and that is very precious, the desire to look forward to another day. We can either be fearful or excited about the unknown, that is the beauty of our free will.

I choose to have faith, I keep having the choices presented to me and I still choose to have faith. I have faith that as long as I try my best and lead my life in the most meaningful manner, to the best of my capacity, the Universe will provide for me. It has never failed me so far, I have always been given what I have desired, as long as I was not afraid to take the plunge.

I do not know if I am deluding myself or if I am biting off more than I can chew, but who is to determine what are we truly capable of? It is only but ourselves who have limiting beliefs. How many of us in history had accomplished seemingly impossible feats precisely because of great ideals?

I have made the leap, and the height of that leap has increased since I last wrote, but I have always been an all or nothing person. It is either I do something with my best effort, or I don't do it, rather than trying to go the 'safe' route. What is the worst that can happen? That my partner end me end up having to sweep floors? That we can do, as long as we're in it together, united in the same direction, it doesn't matter if we really end up falling flat our faces. At the very least, we have tried our best.

Inner reflections: Self-esteem

I have low self-esteem. I am not afraid to admit it. In fact I think I over-emphasise on it.

I hesitated writing this post because I wasn't sure if I really wanted to share my confused, intimate thoughts publicly, but eventually I've decided that I do feel like I want to share my growth (or the lack of it) with you.

Prior to my Tokyo trip I promised myself I will start from a clean slate when I return. Now that I am back, I'll not be afraid to admit that I am still in the process of clearing my thoughts. I shall attempt to type them down here – but I should pre-warn anyone that whatever that follows will probably be like a tangled ball of uncertain, confused thoughts.

Issues arising

I am not sure when did the transition actually take place, since when did I morph from an over-confident, vocal kid, to someone who is painfully shy and who is coping with the lack of a self-esteem? This is the root of many of my issues. My poor self-image probably contributed most of me:

  • being afraid to speak out
  • being extremely shy
  • having no proper boundaries because I am afraid to upset people – not being able to say 'no' when I should (which in turn is causing many more issues)
  • under-charging for my work that I am seriously proud of
  • letting people step all over me
  • disliking confrontations
  • getting upset very easily because I take people's words too personally, or letting criticisms upset me too much because I am too sensitive of my own flaws
  • letting my moods fluctuate easily because I am easily affected by outer conditions
  • expecting too much out of myself because I don't give myself much credit
  • not being motivated to work because I am paranoid that I'll start to regress in terms of quality of work

Basically I am constantly swimming in vicious cycles. Poor self image leads to tons of issues described above which translates to poor quality of life. It is already a huge improvement from a couple years back, when I would find it difficult to believe that I would ever be happy. I used to think that my life is destined to be ridden with 'bad luck' because I tend to encounter negative situations repeatedly.

Blaming it all on the world

It seemed like all I wanted to do was to be happy and work for my passion, but all I ended up with was plenty of people who seemed to take advantage of my idealism. I would negotiate a low-pay package because I wanted to learn, thinking that since I was green, it would be sensible to exchange money in return for experience. However, being a fast learner, I would usually excel on the job, but the pay package would never be revised.

I sincerely believed that my employers would recognise my effort. Yes, it doesn't make business sense for them to revise my pay package voluntarily right?

At this point, many people, especially those who believe in their capabilities, would hold reasonable talks with their employers to change the situation, but fearing confrontations, I would simply be silent, until I would gradually lose the love for my job because of the lack of appreciation – monetary or not.

I would proclaim proudly – that I am not taken by money the way most people do and I would rather choose to be a poor artist who would at least be working for a job I love. Ah, that poor artist mentality. That set the pattern I would encounter for many years of my life. I gave up money for the freedom to choose (I still will).

There was a particular job where most of the employees were just trying to bide their time, whereas I was winning pitches and new accounts with my work. Six months into a job, no word of any recognition, which didn't particularly disturb me, until I found out by accident that I was the lowest paid employee by a four-figure mile.

I am only but human. I felt let down, not only by my employer, but by the world. Why was it that no matter how hard I tried, how much I excelled, how not materialistic I was, I never seemed to be appreciated?

It is only a recent discovery that perhaps I didn't value myself enough for people to value me. I couldn't see that being paid adequately and being materialistic are separate issues.

And it seeps into my current work

After going into self-employment, the same pattern ensued. I kept my rates low when I first started out to build a portfolio, which was justifiable. Just that I continued to keep my rates low because I probably didn't think people would hire me if I raised my rates. Apart from that, I kept accepting work because I was paranoid that work would dry up. So, I was working long hours, getting not a lot of money, feeling really stressed out because I was very particular about the quality I output, with deadlines looming over me every day.

It wasn't a pretty sight. Do I have anyone to blame for burning out, falling sick, and losing the passion for my work?

I remember telling a client that I was flexible over rates as long as I get to do good work. Now, I am not sure what kind of message I was sending out to the world. Though I must maintain, I am very blessed because there have been a couple of clients who not only refrained from taking advantage of my idealism, they actually took care to reward me more than I asked for. If I had to go through all that again just to know that there are such kind souls that exist, I would gladly do it all over again. People like them give me hope in this world.

It is extremely frustrating, because all I wanted to do is to be nice, help companies who are starting out (which means they do not have much of a budget), because I truly want to invest in their dreams. I want to help execute someone else's vision, because I know how it is like for someone to help when everyone else just want to know about the figures.

I have not changed my stand, I would still consider helping someone if it was worth it, but there has to be a balance. I find it difficult to reconcile that being one of the better designers (not the best, but I would say above average, that much credit I would give to my work), I have to think really hard if I wanted to purchase a new laptop for my work.

The creative conflict

I think this is an inner-conflict that many passion-motivated people face. Trying to get rid of the 'poor artist' mentality or stop thinking that money corrupts (my beliefs about money will warrant another long post).

And how do we draw the line between genuinely wanting to be 'nice' and yet not allow people to step all over?

I have a fear. That I will not meet expectations if I start to raise my rates. Then again, the value of money is relative. Even I charge really low, there will still be people who will deem it too high.

Overcoming it

I am not sure how long it will take me to overcome my low self-esteem – it has been rooted deeply in me since childhood. I take comfort in a quote (originally discovered on Evelyn Lim's blog) from Warrior of the light by obviously enlightened Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist):

You can recognize a Warrior of the Light by the look in his eye. Warriors of the Light are in the world, they form part of the world and they were sent into the world without saddlebags or sandals. They are often cowardly. They do not always act correctly. Warriors of the Light are wounded by the most foolish things, they worry about trivialities, they believe themselves incapable of growing. Warriors of the Light sometimes believe themselves unworthy of any blessing or miracle. Warriors of the Light often ask themselves what they are doing here. Often they find their lives meaningless. That is why they are Warriors of Light. Because they fail. Because they ask questions. Because they keep looking for a meaning. And, in the end, they will find it.

The feelings President Obama invoked in me

My partner was asking me why I was sniffing away watching Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, deliver his inauguration speech. Was I touched? Not really. I was not really able to describe my emotions.

The first time

I remember the first time I had watched him. It was a video linked from a blog, during the early days of the race of the Democratic nomination. I do not usually have the patience to watch any videos, but somehow, something urged me to click on it. My hair stood while I watched him that day. From that moment on I would not forget who Barack Obama is and what he stands for, just like the many others who had watched him speak.

I have always been interested in politics, but my interest in Obama grew deeper than a casual interest. I followed him from the democratic battle with Hilary Clinton to the presidential race with John McCain. When there was a clear winner on election day, I, along many others, heaved a sigh of relief, took in a breath of hope, and waited in anticipation. There was something surreal about his win, it felt so real, yet some part of it was unbelievable, a black man taking the center-stage of America.

Resonating with him

Why am I so taken with him? Because he is the epitome of what I believe in. His story, borders on being too familiar with me. The struggle against the odds, the belonging to the minority, the unwavering faith, the fight against the cynics.

Each time I hear him speak, I cannot help but get reminded about my own struggles, the darkness of my past, and the brightness of my future. He symbolises hope, his words inspire. He is deeply attached to and fiercely proud of the founding principles of America, based on liberty, equality, virtue and ideals.

Hope & ideals

He is the living example of how much one can achieve with undiluted hope and ideals.  I am sure people stifled their laughter when he would tell them of his dreams to contribute to American politics, or when he first ran for the Senator seat; people did not give him a chance when he was up against Hilary Clinton, they applauded his courage for doing so because it seemed like an impossible task, that he would even bother to try.

Hope and ideals - two words that do not have any grounded feel to them at all, that it was almost that these words do not exist in reality. It was with hope and ideals that I have built my life around, it was with hope and ideals that I formed my arguments to retort those people who had criticized the way I had made my decisions. People who were hopeful and idealistic, were typically labelled as being naive. The world does not function based on hope and ideals, the tired song we were taught to sing.

Shift in our consciousness

Obama winning the election marked a signficant shift in the world. Probably the world was already evolving, but his win brought about a sense of reality to the idea that people are finally willing to open their hearts instead of using their minds all the time. He did not just scrape through the election, he won by a landslide, and the number of people who turned up to watch his inauguration was unprecedented. He did not just win the support of the hopeful and idealistic, he had managed to convert many of the fatigued realists. For once, the idea of having hope and ideals are moving these people.

Gratitude to Obama

I will have to thank him. For his presence has made my journey feel less lonely, with more people seemingly willing to take the road less travelled. People will find it less amusing when I talk about my hope and ideals. He has opened the world's eyes to the many possibilities possible with the intent, will, strength and faith. Over the past few months, it is as though the air seemed fresher, the colours seemed brighter, that somehow despite the failing economy, people are not afraid to fight hard for themselves and for other people. I watched as there were tears forming in the audience at the inauguration ceremony yesterday, tears forming in the eyes of the weathered faces, these tears are joy, that people are actually celebrating the inauguration from their hearts.

They all want to believe him, there is just something about Obama that makes you want to believe him. His speech was not the usual fluff, but pragmatic words that reminded us the need to face our issues and work hard at them.These words are not only inspiring for the Americans, but for everyone of us.

In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.