I wonder what goes on in the mind of an athlete as they are preparing to run in a 100m sprint.
A heavy dose of Bollywood has taught me that it’s usually a flashback of all the struggle leading up to that moment where you hear the gunshot and run. But real life has taught me better. It’s usually a moment of silence. The shutting down of all noise around you. Of the voices that have held you back and even the voices that have encouraged you to go further. You hear nothing but the gunshot and run.
Dutee Chand, the first Indian woman track and field athlete who won the 100m gold in the World Universiade in Napoli came out earlier this year as being in a same-sex relationship. After her victory at a track and field event, she announced that she had found her ‘soulmate’ and the Supreme court’s decision of decriminalisation of gay sex in 2018 emboldened her to declare her same-sex love.
It got me wondering why it was so important for the sports star to announce her homosexuality in a professional arena. Why did she feel the need to come out and why then? She had won gold. All the world’s eyes were on her especially her nation’s and she could have quietly won future events without driving the spotlight to her being ‘India’s first openly gay athlete.’
What has her personal life got to do with her professional life?
Recently Zaira Wasim, the 18-year old actor decided to call it quits on account of her relationship with herself. She could have easily slipped out of the industry and with the world’s short attention span, people would have forgotten her. But she took the opportunity to announce and very eloquently at that, her decision to quit an industry at a tender age of 18, in a country where any 18-year old would vie desperately for the kind of attention she had received for her acting skills.
What does one’s sexual orientation and one’s religion have to do with one’s profession? More importantly, why did these women feel the need to declare their decisions out in the open?
The one reason that I could think of was the fact that they wanted to own their narratives. There is nothing more powerful in the world than owning your story. But there is more to this. There is also nothing stronger than being in your own power in your personal life because it directly translates into your professional life. These women have given answers to how to be successful in your life.
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Take this opportunity to question yourself.
What are the fears that hold you back in your personal life? In your relationships? A lot of times it’s got to do with fear of being rejected by your family or your tribe of people. Will they accept my choices – ones I have made independent of my social conditioning and fears? You do not want to go against decades of family loyalty for fear of being labeled a rebel or even being termed as the black sheep.
Another fear is that of survival. How would I navigate this path alone? Would I be able to provide shelter for myself, food every day on my table? If it’s not as basic a fear of survival as that, you would think how would I fund a lavish lifestyle, international holidays or small and big luxuries of life?
Or something as basic as the fear of being alone.
Chances are, that these are the exact fears that are keeping you in a job that might pay you well but does not go beyond addressing your fears. And that is where the emptiness creeps in.
We try and fill that emptiness with more holidays, more meals out, more meaningless travel. We are constantly willing to change our external surroundings wondering how to live a happy life – moving homes, changing jobs, shifting countries, transforming physical appearances but very rarely are we willing to change within.
Truth is, your professional life has got everything to do with the choices you make in your personal life. In the choice of a partner; in the small choices you make of taking up a job to be near your family because you feel responsible for them. In being in an average relationship because you have children.
And you find yourself in that rut of a cycle that goes round and round. You constantly feed your fear more than your power and eventually that’s who you become. A fearful person – managing stability and survival but do not have the courage to go beyond the everyday. And you constantly question yourself on how to live a happy life.
In her decision to quit the movies, Zaira Wasim has shown a lot of courage. She has surpassed the fear of losing all this fame, money and power and heard her inner calling simply because she realised that she was not happy where she was.
Dutee Chand, on the other hand, has taken a courageous stand in her personal life by coming out in a homophobic society and announcing it on an international platform. She surpassed the fear of a backlash from her own family. At the same time, she respected the anonymity of her partner because her coming out is her own narrative – one only she can control. Chand’s powerful personal choice reflects her courage on field as she strikes gold after gold in her track and field events, trailblazing her way to victory and teaching us how to live a happy life.
That is what success looks like. Fame, money, luxury car and a home are not a measure of success. Seizing the power to make independent, courageous choices every single day is success.
The fact that Dutee Chand is 23 and Zaira Wasim is 18 is also a cause for much hope and celebration. What I would not give to have that kind of clarity at that age.
But then again, that is my story.
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