'Whenever I have a problem, I sing. Then I realise that my voice is a lot worse than my problem'. True story!
Dear fellow Toastmasters and guests, I still remember the day when a 12-year old me stood in front of a class of 60, singing my heart out. Listening to music was one of my favourite hobbies as a child. I used to be crazy about songs, so much so that my greatest ambition was to become a singer. So as I was saying, on this particular day, my music teacher was doing a selection for the Independence day group song team. You know, every year, on Independence day, we have an event where hundreds of students from various schools gather at a stadium and sing patriotic songs together. THAT, is what this selection was for. So I stood in front of the class and sang a famous patriotic song. My music teacher stood beside me. After listening to me, she said, in a calm voice, 'Rejected. Next'.
"Are you kidding me? How dare you embarrass a music buff like me in front of my whole class! i didn't ask t be the lead singer, I just wanted to a part of the hundreds of students who sing that day. And you didn't thinkI could do that, did you?"
Of Course, I din't say that out loud, but you get the point, right? I was devastated. I was a class-topper, had been one my entire life. I was so used to being admired and being the teachers' pet that I couldn't take it in. I silently went back to my seat. I still remember sitting on the 2nd bench trying to control my emotions. My music teacher meanwhile, continued with her auditions as if nothing had happened.
You know, I attended an all-girls school. This meant that none of us had any inhibitions about speaking our minds. So moments later, I hear my classmate scream at the top of her voice - "Ma'am, look, Ramya is crying!" Let me give you a personal advice - Never rub salt on someone's wound. I was already embarrassed, trying to control my emotions, and now all eyes were on me. The whole class was starting at me thinking I am some kind of a nut-case - the class topper crying because her music teacher thought that she sings horribly! If I wasn't crying till then, at that moment, I completely lost it.
That wasn't the first time I got rejected for singing. The more I wanted to sing, the more I got rejected. I was devastated, not once, not twice, but many times. first, I cursed myself, then I pleaded with God - 'God, why did you do this injustice to me'. The funny thing is, I was so concerned about my singing career that I went online and took a tone test. Do you know what that is? It is a test that tells you whether you are tone-deaf or not. Imagine my relief when I realised that I was not indeed tone-deaf.
After that rather long and painful tryst with singing, something hit me. If I love singing, I don't need others' approvals to do that. If singing makes me happy, don't try to please everyone around you; go ahead and do it anyway. From that point on, I didn't stop singing, I merely stopped singing for others. One of my learning from that episode was that if you love doing something, go ahead and do it; don't bother about what other people might think. That was indeed an eye-opener for me.
As girls growing up in India, at least some of you would have grown up listening to the statement - 'Don't do that, what will others think?'. I have personally tried to please everyone around me. I was a good and obedient daughter, a good student and a good sister. But this same 'quality' did land me in a lot of trouble later on. Then I realised, who am I kidding! I cannot please everyone around me at the same time. A lot of women go into depression because of their constant urge to please everyone around them - their parents, in-laws, husbands, kids. They get up early in the morning, prepare food for the entire family, get their kids ready for school, run the other household errands and after a 10-hour work shift, come back home to another routine at night. Basically, in this process of pleasing everyone around them, most of us burn out.
The question boils down to 2 things - 'Do you want to be yourself?' or 'Do you want to please everyone around you?' All of us get that uncomfortable feeling when we try to be ourselves, right? Because the moment you do that, you start getting noticed. People start thinking you're different or even a weirdo! Because you are! You are different, because you speak your mind. Is it risky? Of course it is. But it is a 100 times more worthwhile that trying to be someone the society wants us to be. Remember, 'Don't change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.'