Skip to main content

The Art Of Unlearning

Image Source

As we grow up, we learn a lot of things. I do believe that every person who comes into your life teaches you something. Every situation that you encounter does too. All of us have been given the same set of cards, what we do with it makes all the difference. How do we learn what to do with it? Life teaches you that by putting you in certain situations and bringing certain people in to your life. I have always been a keen learner, be it art, cooking, professional work or anything new that fascinates me. I am a self-made woman and I am proud of the way I have brought myself up. Every turn that I took in life has taught me a lesson and I am a product of these lessons today. The most important lesson that life has taught me is the importance to unlearn. You need to unlearn many things during the course of life and this probably is the most vital thing that life teaches you.

I turned 32 this month and as I look back at my life, I realize that the past decade has been the most important time of my life. This is the time I learnt what life is all about. This is the time I unlearnt a lot of things. This is also the time I became smart enough to realize what lessons to keep and what to let go. The past decade has changed me a lot. From having my heart broken to finding the love of my life, from being a novice at work to a successful leader, from being an angry young woman to a sensible slightly older woman, I have come a long way. More than the lessons I've learnt, what made me a better person are the lessons that I unlearnt. I have had to erase plenty of lessons from my mind, but here are the most important things that I unlearnt in the past decade to lead a better life.

~ Money is everything.

When you grow up in a family with very limited means, you think that when you have more money life becomes better. As a child I have seen how money changes people. Since we were not that well off, we were mocked by family and friends. I have worn hand-me down clothes from people who took pleasure in pointing out to others that the clothes were theirs. While my friends were going to summer camps and exotic vacations during the holidays, I had to stay at home. It is not easy to deal with all this while growing up. Very early in life, I learnt that money makes you popular. That money is everything. If you have money, people will respect you. If you wear expensive clothes and jewelry, people will want to be close to you. I thought that once I start earning, I will be very happy.

At the age of 22, when I held my first paycheck, I did feel happy. But, not as much as I thought it would make me. Yes, I now had the money to buy anything I wanted to, but I realized that materialistic things don't excite me. I probably felt more happy when I finished of my student loan for my graduation, than when I bought something for myself. When I unlearnt that money was everything, I learnt how superficial some people were. Today, I have everything that money can buy, but what makes me more happy is a long conversation with my husband, a gossip session with my girls or some lone time with a good book. Money does make life easier, but it sure as hell can't buy happiness. People who change their attitude based on the money they have, are terribly shallow.

~ Everybody has to like you.

When you come from a place like mine, you tend to have some internal crisis. When you have grown up with people mocking you for your looks, speech, financial status, you tend to become very conscious and you try to please everyone. You agree with the crowd even when you have another opinion. You hangout with people even when you cannot relate to them. You let go of your own beliefs and stick to people who you think are your friends and relatives. These are the people who will be calling you a pushover behind your back. You expect people to like you and mould yourself for them even when you do not like who you are when you are with them.

Thankfully, I learnt to unlearn this lesson very early. Probably when I was around 18 or so. Once I started my graduation and met people from many walks of life, I changed. I realized that I could be what I was and not be apologetic about it. I started opening up more and this gave me confidence. Many people did not like me for being so open about things and about my strong opinions, but I realized that I did not care if they liked me or not. Soon, I learnt that you do not need everyone to like or understand you. If you have a bunch of people in your life who like you for who you are, that's enough. The day I unlearnt this, my life changed for the better.

Image Source

~ Hold on to the grudges.

While I was younger, I held on to my anger. When people hurt me, I kept it in my mind for the longest time. The problem with me is that I associate people with the memories I have with them. If it was that of hurt, I held on to the grudge. When I looked at that person, that pain was the first thing I felt. I had a lot of pent up anger and frustration within me because of this. I have battled crazy thoughts, done terrible things, when I held on to grudges. All because I felt that it was necessary to get back at people.

Only recently, I learnt to let go of grudges and make peace with it. It was an unnecessary burden that I was carrying and the minute I let go, I felt so light. I still associate people with my memories of them, but I have learnt to look past it and take a look at the newer things. Also, since I've seen Karma come back at people in the best way possible, leaving things to Karma made more sense than carrying the baggage myself. Having said that, I'm not someone who would put up with shit. You tick me off, you will get it back. Addressing the issue on spot is easier than holding on to it for the future.

~ Love is a distraction.

I've always thought that love is the perfect distraction from life. When everything around is not in place and melancholic, you tend to look at greener pastures. That was what love was for me before. It took me away from agony, even if momentarily. This does not mean that I did not love the men involved. I sure did, but it was more for the escape I felt when I was with them.

Today I know how beautiful love is and how important it is. Once you unlearn the lessons I've mentioned above, once you gain confidence in yourself, once you start looking at people as someone who will not hurt you, you tend to understand love better. While all of us are looking for an escape at some point or other, love gives us the strength to get past this phase. Sometimes, love might start as a distraction, but with time it becomes a priority. I know that, now.

~ Where you come from, defines you.

Growing up, when you see children from rich families have it all, it makes you believe that all that matters is where you come from. All my relatives and friends came from affluent families and they had everything set for them, their parents had given them a cushioned platform to start their lives. I thought this is what makes all the difference. Then I read a quote by Bill Gates that said "If you are born poor, it's not your mistake. But if you die poor, it's your mistake."

My journey till here wasn't easy. I have had to fight at every step and at every turn, but I never gave up. My parents gave me the best they had and I made the most of what was given to me. I fought hard to create a decent life for myself and for my parents and my journey is what defines me today, not where I come from. Having said that, I am not the one to forget where I have come from. It gives me the push, the motivation to work harder and do something more for myself. None of us should be limited by where we come from or our thoughts, we need to break the so called shackles around us and rise against all odds. Unfortunately, some people still associate me with where I've come from. If they are limited by their thoughts, I cannot do anything about it.

These are just a few lessons that I had to unlearn to lead a better life today. There are many others and I'm sure life will ask me to unlearn a few others as well during the journey. We need to realize that as important it is to learn something new, it also is important to unlearn somethings as we grown older. It is pretty clear from the above that I did not have the best of childhoods. But, I do not let it hold me back from anything. I know that I can do anything shitty and try to get away with it by attributing it to my past, but that would be wrong. I have done that before, I would not deny. That is another thing I had to unlearn and probably the most important one.

Whoever said life is the greatest teacher, did know what he/she was talking about.

What do you think is more important? Learning or unlearning?


  1. Every single lesson is a step forward in our lives, isn't it? And the very fact that we have to learn to unlearn, unshackle ourselves from past beliefs, is everything. I learnt a while ago to let go of grudges. You're right. It hurts us more than it hurts the other person. As for love, the kind of love really matters. In the end though, unselfish love really does good things for the person giving and receiving. Also, looking forward to meet the newly-minted 32 year old soonest :)

  2. Life sure teaches you stuff...and how!! It is something I have been learning since a long time now. We all do, it's just that we realise it a bit late, or when we are unaware of the changes Life brought about in us. Each lesson we learn helps us unlearn somethings we held on to. And, each lesson we unlearn helps us learn something new!
    I am happy you shared it all here, Soumya! Keep growing, keep learning and stay strong....always! I look up to you, girl!

    1. Thank you so much, Shilpa! Your comments always make me feel so good.

  3. this such a heart felt post dear. Every lesson holds true in its righteous self. I want to recount my own experience here. While my mother in law is always too keen on buying me gifts and stuff, these days whenever she asks if I need anything, I feel at loss of words. It feels like why attach so much importance to maoney and materialistic things.
    Enjoyed reading the post.

    1. This post came from the bottom of my heart, yes.

      Thank you!

  4. This is definitely written straight from the heart. I come from a small town in Bengal. I've spent sixteen years of my life in hostels/flats for higher studies and then job. Every city has taught me something and made me matured. Not every experience has been great or every person kind, but they helped me evolve into a more matured person. This post touched my soul.

  5. There's so much I could relate to in this post! I agree with you - life is full of lessons and at times we have to unlearn the ones that we have already learnt. That is the only way forward.

  6. As I read your post, I realized that I have unlearned most you have mentioned here. I was nodding my head in affirmation throughout this post. You have shared a heartfelt post here Sou. Something many of us know in our heart, but don't find the right words to share. Appreciate your writing. 🤗


Post a Comment

Just like me, say what you feel. While constructive criticism is welcome, please keep it subtle and kind. Thank you!