I want to say this is a mantra I've believed in my whole life. But I fully know that that's a lie. In elementary school, I begged my mom to let me Cinderella for halloween for like, three years straight. Now, I'm a firm believer in diversity and that Cinderella doesn't need to be a blonde girl just cause the books and movies say so, yadda yadda yadda. But the important point is that I wanted to be her because all my friends were being disney princesses, and I really wanted to fit in. Never mind the cool costumes that could've utilized all the beautiful Indian clothing my grandparents always bestowed upon me.
In middle school, I totally perpetuated the guy's girl stereotype. I was intentionally contrary to the girly girl, because I thought early on I would never really fit the "girly" stereotype and I didn't want to be in the middle of the spectrum. I never wore makeup, I only wore vans (and they were from the boys section, because I was just. that. cool.), and sports were my number one lunch discussion topic of choice. In a way, it molded me into the person I am today because I learned I had a genuine interest in the world of sports, and I can still get ready in 5 minutes if I need to (sneakers are SO easy to put on). But now that I'm older and more mature, if you will (please pronounce that ma-tyuer), I realize that it's kinda fun to put on makeup and girls' shoes are infinitely better than boys'.
In high school, I didn't interact with Indian people at all. I realize part of this comes from the fact that there simply weren't a lot of us. But I didn't really make an effort to know the ones who were around me. I never practiced traditional dance, I never sang like all my cousins and family friends, and there was even a point I was ashamed to be categorized as Indian. (Can you say tragic?)
When I graduated, I realized that no one knew me as the person I had created meticulously over my 13+ years of schooling. In fact, no one knew me at all. It was strangely freeing, but maybe worse, disappointing? Who was I if not the person I had sought to become with every purchase, every carefully placed word, every decision? Leaving my little world made me realize I was whoever I wanted to be. I know. This is literally the cheesiest thing I've ever written, but it's the truth. I had to think really hard about the new person I was going to become. And the first, most important decision I made was that I wasn't going to be ashamed of being Indian, or being girly, or being kinda nuts. I was going to own every part of myself.
Part of coming to college, part of moving to another country at 17, part of being an adult, was realizing that if I didnt question my identity, no one else would either. I came to the understanding that if I had full confidence in the person I was showing the world, everything else would matter a little less. So I still wear sneakers, I still don't really know how to put on makeup, and sports are still my ~lifeblood~. But I'm proud to say I'm just that much more immersed into Indian culture than I was before (shoutout to my roommates), I love being girly when I want to, and my favorite disney princess is blonde, but that's not why I like her.
So. There it is. The number one lesson I learned. Confidence is not "they will like me," Confidence is "I'll be okay if they don't." No matter what person I put in front of them, I will be confident in her. It took a long time to be able to say that, but there's no going back now!