The Year of Yes, ep. 13: YES TO BEING YOU

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
— Dr. Seuss

This alien lives next door to me. An alien is a foreigner. I often wonder how many people feel like an alien in this world because they “look different,” “act different,” or dare to be different? I certainly have.

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The pressures to conform in life are immense. They come from everywhere, all of the time. From the moment our moms know they’re pregnant, people start asking, boy or girl? The ball keeps rolling from there. Society, school, corporate America, social media, the workplace all urge us to fit inside neat boxes and categories.

It sometimes feels easier to try to fit in rather than to be who you really are, opening yourself up to vulnerability. But take a moment and think about it, at the end of the day, where does that leave you?

I’ve personally never “fit in,” but don’t think that means I didn’t try damn hard as a kid. I’m a brown-skinned human who was born and raised in the lily-white suburbs of Houston and Dallas, Texas by first generation Indian parents. It's no accident that I preferentially went by my middle name Amy for 20 years, a name I asked my parents to legally change for me (from my dad's first name, an Indian custom) when I was a wee five year old kid. I wasted a lot of energy trying to be something I was not.

 

 

 

 

I’ve been called “weird” more times in my life than I can count. When everyone was listening to the Spice Girls and country music in high school, I was into the Flaming Lips. Though I was pre-med in college, instead of majoring in science, I took the winding road of philosophy, anthropology and art history. I’ve taken the path of Integrative Medicine, which is certainly not the norm in our drug-and-surgery fixated healthcare system.

My experiences will never be the same as yours, even if we share similar struggles, communities, or even parents. That is what makes each of us one-of-a-kind. What I have realized is the very things that make me me, the parts of me that I had so much trouble accepting as a young person, are actually what make me see the world, my work, and problems in creative, innovative ways. I started learning more about the world's great scientists, artists, educators, innovators and peace makers - none of whom took the "safe" road. These amazing human stories have been a source of solace and strength.

I've learned that being who you are is an immense act of courage. And that is truly a magnificent thing. The norm is ordinary. It’s boring. It's stale. It's mediocrity. Dare to be you!

By working on accepting and being the unique creature you are, with the specific skill set that only you possess - and not judging yourself in the process (that's another hard one, I know!) - a new openness emerges, the path of your heart. And if we all started opening our hearts a little more, can you imagine what a better place this world would be?

So let's celebrate your differences and mine. HELL YES!

 

The Year of Yes is a weekly photo-and-word installment by Dr. Shah written with the purpose of evoking hope, resilience, and a gentle movement toward healthy change in all of us.