While growing up I remember my mother’s pithy two-word advice to a lot of my problems- BE YOURSELF. How simple it sounded at first. But it was so much easier said than done. I have been trying to do that and after four decades of struggle, I’m able to say with some honesty that I am finally closer to being myself.

As a young girl, I remember being called a smart mouth because I spoke my mind. It would hurt me quite a bit till I decided I should probably talk less. I rationalised, that may be if I did that, people would not misinterpret me. I tried that and ended up even more frustrated than before. Not only was I still not getting understood, I was forcing myself to keep quiet. Those who know me would understand how tough that one’s on me. I cannot ‘not’ talk.

It isn’t just about talking; I’ve realised it’s an all-pervasive phenomenon. You are judged about everything. Your appearance, your choices, your actions… the choice of words may be different but it all boils down to the same. It’s a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ situation

It wasn’t exactly a Eureka moment when I realised, I’d had enough of all this. I had given myself a lot of grief and I had to end it. As I came out on my own and experienced the freedom to be myself, I found it liberating and addictive.

Of course, since then, I have earned a new set of adjectives- from outspoken to rude, straightforward to brazen- depending upon my personal equation with the individual. To be honest, it hurt sometimes, it hurts still too especially if it comes from least expected quarters. But now that I have found myself, that is a realisation I don’t want to part with, whatever be the cost.

The trouble is that right from our childhood, we are prodded and chided into being a ‘good’ girl/ boy.  Goodness is incentivized and it becomes so ingrained in us that we instinctively end up as people pleasers, often at the cost of our own happiness. So not worth it.

I try not to be rude but if I am asked, I do give my honest opinion. People around me have also adapted their mental compasses. I liken it as a brand building exercise where I am the brand. It took me a while to build my brand but now people know what to expect of me. I have lost quite a few ‘friends’ on the way only to conclude that they never were friends in the first place. On the other hand, I have also met many like minded individuals who call a spade a spade.

Asserting one’s individuality isn’t such a bad thing after all. It took me a long time to realise how far I had come from being myself. I am not wasting any more of that and neither should you.

-Dr. Shivani Salil

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