Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Being comfortable with who you are

As I get older in age, hopefully more mature in thinking, I realized that I'm more and more comfortable with being myself. When I was younger, there's a lot of insecurities because there's a lot of people that you feel that you ought to model after and ought to follow, maybe sometimes also to lead. I think I was young and likely impressionable, so whoever is successful in whatever ways, I would like to model after him or her. As a result of such imprinting in my earlier years, I've a mish-mash of characteristics that I think is good for me in my development as a human being. It's not always easy to change your own characteristics, because it takes a lot of effort to do so and requires a lot of change. And change always require much much more than just passively following, isn't it? It requires you to really want to do it.

But I'm getting more and more comfortable being who I am. I see less and less need to mimic others. This also comes about because I realized who I am and who I am not. What makes people happy might not truly make me happy. Now that is an important realization because the key to happiness is to know what makes you happy. Blindly following what makes other people just wouldn't cut it. This is, after all, a journey that you take yourself.

I don't have to keep on comparing whose balls are bigger and whose pecker is longer. I'm glad that my job don't put in a situation where I constantly have to prove to others that I've arrived. I sympathize but I can never truly empathize with people who are in the cobra-corporate world who always have to feign happiness and fake success. Is work all about getting progressively higher and higher pay, bigger and bigger bonuses? It might be if that's what makes you happy, but I suspect that for many others, it's not. Which is why we see so many people, in the midst of a successful track career groomed for all the greatness to come in the cobra-corporate world, suddenly come to a halt and switch to a totally different career. Mid-life crisis, they say. If that's the term for 'suddenly' realizing that what makes you happy is a total change in career, then so be it. I will welcome it with open arms.

I realized, surprisingly not too long ago, that I don't really talk much about retirement and having a passive income and all those fun stuff. It dawned on me that it's not really what I wanted in life. Is it sacrilegious, for a financial blogger like me, that it's not my goal to achieve this numerical value before certain age? Maybe I shouldn't call myself a financial blogger anymore. Just because I occasionally blog about personal finance and very occasionally about stocks (nowadays) doesn't qualify me as a financial blogger, just like you wouldn't call a cashier a financial guru because he handles money. Let me qualify it further - while it's not my goal to achieve financial independence, it's still something that's on my mind, specifically at the back of my mind. It's just that I no longer obsess over it.

Define obsession. Here's what I did in the past:

1. Read a book about stocks / personal finance / money for 1-3 yrs, about one book a week. I cleared shelves of books in my local library until it comes to a point where there's really very few books that I haven't read.

2. Keep on trying to squeeze more time out to do more work to earn more money to hit my savings target, broken up into annual, monthly, weekly and madly enough, daily targets.

3. Keep on trying to reduce my expenses by cutting on food, drinks, transport and what have you.

It's not making me any happier, I came to realize. I must have carried it to the extremes of my limitations, hence the fatigue and therefore the unhappiness. But obsession is important because there lies the motivation to go on fighting when others have long given up. However, like a horse, if you don't control the unbridled power of obsession, it'll consume you.

So what am I now that I'm so comfortable being? I'm not a perfectionist - It's okay if I fail to achieve my goals and lack the discipline to follow my convictions. I'm not always consistent - I'm bashing others over lack of discipline in some areas and I'm advocating others to be less disciplined. I'm idiosyncratic - I don't buy drinks when I eat alone to save money but I spend big bucks on gadgets to save time. I'm not a rational person but I'm a rationalizing person - I act on my right brain but use my left brain to explain to others what I did. I'm an idiot in life but I do pretty well in school. I can be jealous - I'm envious of other's success and sometimes explain the success by luck or more satisfyingly, by inheritance. I can be vengeful - in my mind's eye, people who crosses me had died by horrific contraptions to extort the most pain in the most vivid manner.

If you still like me, or worse, are like me, then good. We can drink, eat and be merry and occasionally talk about how we survive this crazy world at this moment and how we're planning to survive in the future. If not, farewell and be glad that our paths, though different, had a chance to mingle and criss-cross, at least for a while.

Life is just like this, isn't it? Beautifully repulsive, sickeningly attractive.


RetireSG said...

Haha, it looks like you are going through a "financial mid-life crisis" Either that or you have achieved enlightenment or nirvana. It's good to be free and not obsessed about all those stuff.. I'm still stuck there.. then again, maybe I enjoy being stuck there. =)

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Hello Mr Butterfly,

It seems you have discovered the middle path.

You play your guitar and I sing my cricket song.

Today we make merry and play!

Silly obsessions with goals and planning on an unknown future.

To catch stardust, we need only to stretch out our arms.


la papillion said...


Financial mid life crisis? Haha, perhaps...I'm living a hedonistic life these days, couldn't care two hoots about savings. But guess what, that's because I know my spending pattern so well that however frivolous my lifestyle now is, there'll still be some savings haha

la papillion said...


Haha, I would love to live for the moment...between the ggrasshopper and the ants, I now say that the grasshopper is living a life :)

Bugger said...


Sounds like you're really maturing and stepping into the next stage of growth in your life. I've also only just discovered myself a while back!
It can be so refreshing to know yourself well enough to make firm decisions or just say "no. This just isn't me or this isn't want I want to do"

That's true freedom.

Derek said...

Hi LP,

Well said. True happiness comes from knowing what you want and not following what others have. It's a pretty radical change in mindset especially since we are brought up in a society of comparison - studies, wealth, looks etc.

Like you I’m changing my mindset gradually to find our true happiness.


la papillion said...

Hi Bugger,

Haha, I'm honest enough to recognise that maybe this current state of mind will change :) I think years of being a yes man finally gave me the courage to say no for a change.

la papillion said...

Hi Derek,

You too? That's good! Maybe we're all tired from the constant fighting..

Anonymous said...

hello la papillion,

i was just wondering if this new phase was attained as part of a conscious effort or it was more of something that just happened over time?

I am 25 right now and am behaving like exactly how you did a few years ago...

i find life not exactly happy but i feel that i am being the happiest i can be right now. saving money, doing my financial and life plans, improving on my investing knowledge and researching investments all these are my whole life.

just like RetireSG said. im stuck where you used to be and right now i enjoy being stuck but i just believe there is more to life haha.



la papillion said...

Hi Jon,

I can't speak for others, but for myself, this is something that happened to me over time. I thought that financial independence is what I wanted, after reading some blogs and plenty of books. Early retirement, passive income stream and what have you. But after some time, I realized that this isn't what I really wanted. There's a distinction between wanting something and going after it and not wanting something and going after it anyway. I realized that I'm the latter. It just seems that it's the 'in' thing to focus on financials and investments, but deep down, I know I won't be truly happy because my purpose in life is not just about that. Being older helps to clarify what I want and more importantly, what I do not want. This doesn't mean that I suddenly become a spendthrift and stop investing - no, it just means that I stop obsessing over it.

That will truly be directing my efforts and actions to things that truly mattered to me. You know, there are some things in life that you must achieve before you pass on. It just happens that financial independence is not one of them.

Doesn't mean I won't achieve it, but it means that whether I achieved it or not no longer matters so much to me.

I want to obsess over something that really really makes me happy.

jon said...

hi la papillion,

thanks very much for your sincere reply. for myself i am aware that this isnt exactly what i want from life but given my degree is in finance i cant help but want to do my best and want to apply and improve on all that i have learnt in school. i dont know about you but i keep moving my goalposts as well such that i find i can never take a rest.

what is this something that really makes you truly happy?

for myself what i want is just to enjoy as many happy carefree moments as possible with the people i love.

la papillion said...

Hi Jon,

What makes me happy? Very silly and simple things, like going to gym with my wife and then spending the afternoon having a long lunch, reading a book while lying on my bed with the gentle pressure of my pillow on my chest, sitting down on a patch of grass sipping cold tea while watching children playing on the beach.... really simple things like these. Professionally, I really like teaching and will continue to do so and incorporate volunteer tutoring to more people.

I don't want to live a life dictated by others, or by society's demands. On my death bed, being financially free is certainly not on the top of my list. Leading a useful life and a life that enriches others is.

jon said...

hi la papillion,

thank you very much for your sharing. i sincerely wish you all the best!



AK71 said...


I blog about my meals and stuff. Maybe, I shouldn't call myself a financial blogger also. I am a confused blogger. O_o

la papillion said...

Hi AK,

Haha, you at least post some financial matters on stocks and personal finance...for me I don't even keep that facade anymore! LOL

sky said...

Hi la papillion
I am a long time lurker of your blog, but feel compelled to post after reading your post, 'cos it has really struck a chord with me. I am in the what you termed as "cobra-corporate world", and have been trying to get out for some time now. I have a clear idea on what would make me happy, but still trying to figure out how to get there, ha!

la papillion said...

Hi sky,

Well, if you know what makes you happy, that's half a battle won! Most pple don't know what they want :) How about breaking it down in small baby steps, and work towards it?

EY said...

Hi LP,

This is a nice post. Resonates much!

Not easy to live life with few regrets and claim happiness aplenty. Yes, let the heart be the compass. Shut our eyes to the world and dream happy dreams. :)

Glad you found inner peace. I'm straddling both worlds, learning to be zen. Sometimes conflicted, sometimes nonchalant. Still seeking out for the proverbial lighthouse. Hope to find it soon.


la papillion said...

Hi Endrene,

I'm quite sure being zen is not a constant stage. It fluctuates up and down. It's like dynamic equilibrium :)

Anyway, you'll find it when you're not really looking for it, haha