The girl in the mirror is brown and I love her

the girl

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

~Henri Nouwen

Before you read any further, know that everything and anything I share is intended to have you look within and perhaps see the bigger picture, life lesson, and take action from awareness.

Today, my husband Ashish, my Golden Retriever Laney and I move to Austin.

We’ve been living here in Kansas for three years. Consider this my goodbye and Thank You letter.

When we first moved here I was scared. I grew up in a predominantly white town on Long Island where my family was maybe one of three Indian families.

I heard it all growing up:

“Your dad owns a 7-11.”

“Can I get a slurpee?” 

“Your mom’s a dot head”

“Your people ride camels and elephants.”

“Your religion is so weird. Why do you pray to elephants and monkeys?”

“Ew, I would never kiss you, you’re Indian and hairy.”

“I’m not going to invite you to my birthday party, you’re brown.”

“You smell like curry.”

From a young age I was made aware that I was different. That I didn’t belong and didn’t quite fit in.

My peers taught me so much:

  • I don’t matter.
  • I was socially “uncool” yet worthy of rejection and teasing.
  • I’m a loser, weak, and deserve to be alone because I look different.
  • The most I can expect in my relationships, is to be alone.
  • I am a fundamentally flawed human being.

And, I hated myself and who I was because of that. I’m also aware that these are the stories I created as a result of what happened. I attached meaning to everything so as to make sense out of why I was being treated this way.

The result: Extremely low self-esteem. And it looked something like this:

  • I would beat myself up for everything, even when everyone told me I did a good job. Because of course, I could always do better right?
  • I would say sorry when I wasn’t actually sorry, or at the weirdest times, like if someone else would bump into me or I wanted to express a different point of view.
  • Oh and making mistakes? No matter how big or small, it was the sin of all sins. All my mistakes would be catastrophized and I would want nothing more than to hide under a rock from the guilt and shame I was experiencing for not having been perfect.
  • Saying no to others was torture, and all I ever wanted was to be alone because then at least I knew I would avoid feeling less than (guess again, because wherever you go there you are)

So is this blog post about white people?

No. Not in the way that you may think.

As my fierce and feminine friend Nisha Moodley says, “Treating racism with racism doesn’t work.” (click to tweet tweet)

You see, it’s easy to pass blame on “other people.” But this isn’t about “us” versus “them,” whoever “them” may be for you or me.

This is about low self-esteem and self-rejection and what happens when you allow your distorted sense of Self to run your life. (thanks to my fabulous friends Jen Kem and Nisha Moodley for shedding major light on this for me.)

Honestly, it could have been anyone who taunted and teased me growing up, and the impact would have been the same.

A sense of Self rooted in rejection, unworthiness, and inferiority.

So why am I choosing this to be the topic of today’s post?

Because I am forever grateful to Kansas for showing me the path to self-acceptance.

When I first moved here I was terrified I would have to experience all that I went through growing up.

I mean understandably so right?

We are talking about the Midwest here. I’m not going to sugarcoat and act like Kansas is the most diverse place to live.

It’s not.

I’m a New Yorker.

I’m used to walking the streets of Manhattan and seeing people from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

Many who look just like me.

Where I didn’t stand out like a sore thumb.

Moving to Kansas brought up a lot of my childhood anxiety, self esteem issues, and trauma.

I struggled to maintain a personal sense of self and to also rationalize some of the hurtful comments about how I was perceived in the world.

Needless to say, all of my “shit” came to surface when I moved here.

Every party I would go to, every networking event, every restaurant Ashish and I would frequent, we stuck out like a sore thumb.

Once again, I felt like I was back in elementary school on Long Island.

I found myself yet again, rejecting who I was (not that I had ever stopped).

Hating that I had to have a name like Vasavi, have brown skin, and the tireless need to explain my religious and cultural background.

Note, this was way of seeking validation and acceptance.

And even to this day, it takes extreme effort for me not to reject myself.

Yes, even me.

Someone who has committed her life to help others see that they are worthy of all their desires and dreams.

No coincidence there.

Trust and believe, I have spent a lot of time with the darkness inside of me and for much of my life accepted what the “critics” or haters have said to me.

Self-rejection is poison, and I far too long have drank this poison.

This poison is so strong that I myself forget that I am a Divine Being and question my own feelings, wants, and desires.

I still need to remind myself every day. That I am not my past. I am not the words that have been spoken to me. I am not my distorted sense of Self created by me when I was a child.

That I simply…am.

And what I choose to insert after that is entirely up to me.

Kansas, thank you. It took a leap of faith and courage for me to leave my comfortable life in New York.

Thank you for holding the mirror of self-rejection and low self-esteem right to my face that there was no way I could continue to ignore what was really going on inside of me.

For that I will forever be grateful.

The next season of our life begins today as we drive to Austin, TX so I can pursue my dream of becoming a vegetarian chef.

I have made these commitments:

1. Stop being who I think you want me to be, and just be me.

2. Say no. And stick to it.

3. Give myself permission to make mistakes.

4. Stop second-guessing my choices.

5. Let love in. It’s everywhere

The only way “out” is to look within.

For me, there really is no choice.

I know to much now to ever look outside of me to fill whatever void I have inside of me.

It took moving to the middle of America, 31 years, a new marriage, external achievement and success, an emotionally numb internal state, sitting in despair and self-loathing to get me to where I am today.

Surrendering to who I am.

At any given moment, a blank slate.

An opportunity to start fresh once again.

I don’t plan on stopping the introspection and reflection that it will take me to get to true acceptance of this Being called Vasavi.

My invitation to you is this:

See yourself in this story. For me, the “brown” girl in the mirror was who I needed to love.

But replace the word ” brown” here for whatever you identify with in your life right now.

Maybe it’s “overweight” or “black” or “gay” or “powerful,” or “sensitive.”

None of it is right or wrong, it just is what it is right now. There’s no judgment here.

I’d absolutely love to hear your answer to this question down below in discussion section: What do you need to do to love and accept yourself?

Spend time with yourself. Become your best friend. Do whatever it takes to feel good about yourself. (click to tweet tweet)

Treat yourself with respect and kindness. Fight the urge to reject yourself.

And know that you are your best teacher.

Love, Vasavi

P.S. You’ve had the power all along my dear. Seemed appropriate to quote Glenda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz 🙂