Hitting my first grown-up rebound changed my life. That sounds dramatic, I know, but hear me out. The steepest burnout spiral I’d ever experienced became my first step towards breaking up with my limiting legacy beliefs for good.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let me first introduce you to the “ticky marks.” The standard principles that I, just like anyone else who grew up in a stereotypical Indian family, adhered to for the first twenty-five years of my life.
The ticky marks stated that I must:
- Do well in school.
- Respect my elders.
- Strive to get married and have lots of babies.
- Become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.
- Do Not swear or express negative feelings.
- Do not talk too loudly or too much.
- And, perhaps most importantly, never talk about things that feel uncomfortable, hard, or scary.
In a nutshell, I learned that I wasn’t supposed to talk about feelings at all.
I played the part of the perfect little Indian girl pretty damned well all the way into adulthood, keeping my opinions to myself. I don’t think I’m unique. Many of you probably feel like you had to deal with restrictive ticky marks as children. Sadly, these shape so much of how we perceive and conduct ourselves when we grow up. It’s no wonder many of us struggle to connect with our authentic desires and feelings.
Most people rarely pause to consider what it truly means to achieve success in their own lives and on their own terms—from their bodies to their relationships, from family to money to careers. All those ticky marks cloud the vision we grew up internalizing. Ticky marks that eventually and inevitably grow into limiting legacy beliefs.
Beliefs form the foundation of our expectations and determine our actions. They influence our decisions and help us better understand ourselves, others, and the world around us. Limiting beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves that keep us from becoming who we’re meant to be. They prevent us from pursuing our goals and desires. They’re the reason we sabotage our success.
For years one of my biggest limiting beliefs was that I would never measure up to my big brother, Sanjeev. He was a chronic overachiever. He was a talented pianist and star tennis player. He went to a “gifted school” and then became an engineer and a doctor. He was quiet, polite, and an old soul at heart, essentially the exact opposite of everything I was. Everything seemed to come effortlessly to him, which only made me feel worse, and so I pushed extra hard to check off all my parents’ ticky marks. It was exhausting.
Chasing academic success.
Chasing the picture-perfect existence.
My chasing started early. Perfectionism wove its way in and out of every nook and cranny in my life. It led me to people-pleasing for decades. It reared its head in academics from elementary school until my MBA ended. It colored all of my early career choices. It sparked the onset of my disordered eating habits and intense exercise regimen. It led to my all-or-nothing “hamster wheel” approach to health and wellness.
I couldn’t see how unhappy I was.
I couldn’t see that I was caught in a failure loop caused by self-sabotage.
I couldn’t see that I fluctuated from feeling totally numb to feeling incredibly critical and cruel toward myself.
Until I did, and then my whole life changed.
At twenty-six, after clawing my way through four years of undergrad, graduating on the dean’s list, and starting my career in an executive position at IBM, I decided to pursue my MBA because how else could I answer the whole “what am I meant to do with my life” dilemma? While pursuing my MBA, I also purchased a home and planned and executed my wedding to a man who had just started his neurosurgical training. Moderation? I don’t know her.
I kept adding challenge after challenge to my already high-stress life because I was hungry for something more. I continued to find ways to extend the chase toward success and away from my feelings, and when there was nothing left, I desperately chased the idea of being “skinny.” Very quickly, the gym became my happy place. I started eating well (or so I thought at the time), I trained hard (too hard), and I loved the progress that I was making (because my clothes started to get looser). I felt stronger than ever, more intense than ever, and thriving off those endorphins.
Until it happened—my first grown-up rebound. Perma fatigue had set in, and I ate everything in sight. I looked at all of those ticky marks that I thought I’d checked off the list and realized that the math wasn’t adding up. I’d chased, and I’d chased, racing towards that finish line, and there I was, supposedly at that line, and I felt nothing. The constant drive to chase accolades and thinness had exhausted me, and I was utterly sick of myself.
And so I decided to look inward for the first time in my life. I knew that if I wanted to be more, do more, live more, and love myself more, I would have to stop Band-Aid-solutioning my life and start digging through the dirt of who I was to something more meaningful.
This set me off on a journey through all the feelings, opinions, and beliefs I inherited from my childhood. I started to dissect the mess of what was driving me and realized that hardly any of it belonged wholly and authentically to me.
Your beliefs may have served you when you were a child, which is why you’ve hung on to them for so long. However, I suspect many of the beliefs that have stuck with you since childhood have become a real pain in your ass. They’re no longer compatible with your life.
Your values, and yours alone, hold the answers to questions like: “Why can’t I really feel happy with my body?” “When will I get to the point where I genuinely feel proud of myself?” “When will I feel truly comfortable in my own skin, regardless of how many likes I get online?” Identifying my core values helped me finally break my constant self-hate-quick-fix cycle to get into the driver’s seat of my own happiness.
If you feel like your own dreams and desires are buried way down, like mine were, then now is the time to tap into your core self and revive them. It’s time to stop climbing the wrong ladders to someone else’s version of beauty, health, and success and to start defining your own messy but beautiful path.
About the author
Sonia Jhas gave up her skyrocketing corporate career and began searching for a new path that resonated with her core. Eventually, she transformed her life through deep analysis, education, determination, and willpower. Through her journey, Sonia uncovered a deep passion for wellness and a driving desire to help others. Sonia has made it her mission to help people live their best lives through online talks, speaking engagements, television appearances, and coaching. She has accumulated an impressive 80+ million media impressions and continues to spread inspiration all over the globe, including appearances on Breakfast Television, Global News, CHCH-TV, and more. The TEDx speaker and award-winning mindset and wellness expert’s enthusiasm, sense of humor, and openness about her own journey have earned her a reputation as an unstoppable force in the wellness arena. She is the author of the forthcoming book I’ll Start Again Tomorrow (And Other Lies I’ve Told Myself) [Page Two, January 2023, $17.95].
By Sonia Jhas