“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” — Dr. Seuss
When I first saw this quote, it resonated with me and changed something in me.
My family came to this country when I was three. As an immigrant, all I wanted to do was to find my way in this new world and just fit in. Only now in adulthood have I come to value my different experiences and background, which is why I am so passionate about my message of embracing all that you are. In fact, fitting in is rather boring. It is through our diverse backgrounds, varied cultures, religions and experiences that make us unique and special. Acceptance of ourselves and others is key to creating a happy existence for us all.
I wanted to share a little bit more about my background to illustrate that I truly do understand how it feels to be different. I was born in Africa to parents who had an arranged marriage and met each other only once (in front of both sets of parents). They lived in India for a few years before deciding to venture to east Africa where my father believed there would be better business opportunities. We led a wonderful life in Uganda and had many friends and family near. In fact, there was a large Indian community until Idi Amin exiled all Indians from his country. We eventually found a safe way out and landed in London for several months before immigrating to the States. It was here that the culture shock began. Growing up with conventional parents, the freedoms of America were difficult adjustments for us all. Because I was the youngest and grew up here, perhaps it was in some ways easier and in other ways harder for me. My mom’s sari and bindi (forehead dot symbolizing marriage and religion) clearly differentiated us very visibly. But, our cuisine, traditions and, in fact, our whole way of life was so different than those around me. We were immersed in the Indian culture and all I wanted to do was to fit in to the American ways. Not only were we different culturally, but we were limited financially because my father became disabled three years after we came here, leaving him unable to work ever again. This misfortune only exacerbated the adjustment factor as we had bigger issues to worry about. It became about survival. My father’s physical limitations restricted how much my parents could do for me in many ways, but their positivity and love had no bounds. Although I had to do a lot with a little (like so many of us) and develop independence at an early age, I know it has made me who I am today. Without knowing all of this, people may look at me and think things are easy. It was never easy. It takes courage, perseverance, focus, hard work and dedication to get where you want to go. We all have our story and struggles and this is just mine.
As much as I thought I was different, I found friends who shared the values upon which I was raised. I gravitated towards those who were kind, loving, honest, respectful and generous. That’s not to say it was a smooth path, but I realized that those people who were meant to be in my life appreciated my diversity or often did not even see any differences. Despite a very complex background, I remained self-confident because I was raised and surrounded by good people. It is only through acceptance of who we are that we can actually become all that we are meant to be. Loving and being loved transforms all and gives you the strength to truly be who you are. So,
♥ Accept all of your quirks and imperfections that make only you.
♥ Accept challenges and struggles as ways to build your character.
♥ Accept that there is more good than bad in the world.
♥ Accept that you can do anything and your potential is limitless.
♥ Accept that you can overcome.
♥ Accept that you can always do better the next time.
♥ Accept that forgiveness is powerful.
♥ Accept that acceptance is life changing.
♥ Accept that you were meant to stand out.