“It’s human nature to judge. I’ve done it myself countless times and have learned to catch myself before jumping to conclusions. The brain makes quick assumptions based on what it can sense, and often those are very surface-level observations. We’re never not going to form first impressions, but what’s important is that we keep an open mind to change that impression as we learn more – and seek out to learn more.”
Graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Public Relations, Pooja now works as a Senior Communication Specialist at a Fortune 100 Company. One of the things that I have always admired about Pooja is her way of truly embracing who she is at her core. Being a first-generation Indian-American, Pooja never hid who she was to keep those around her comfortable. In fact, the fact that she was able to be strong in who she is gives so many people around her the courage to do the same.
“My parents were both born and raised in Bangalore, India, and immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. I feel so blessed to be in touch with the rich heritage of India. My parents did a great job raising me and my sister – they taught us about where we came from while recognizing that we were American too. The parts of my culture that are most visible and that I enjoy sharing with others is our food, my religion, familial traditions, music and dance, and clothes.”
Bringing Your Authentic Self To Work.
One of the most empowering things about the workplace is being able to collaborate and work with people who are completely different from you to reach a common goal. As easy and comforting as it is to surround yourself with people who are similar to you, the growth we all desire is only found when we are challenged by the people around us. However, even though we may experience growth from being challenged, we may also face the consequences of being stereotyped.
“It sucks to know people may underestimate you or form an unfavorable opinion about you. But, I do enjoy proving them wrong and that’s what keeps me going. When I interact with someone for the first time, I’d like them to walk away knowing I’m smart, compassionate, confident, and bold. Many people are quick to judge based on the fact that I’m a petite, 5’2”, young woman. They assume I’m timid or inexperienced. They’re often quite surprised when they realize I’m a little firecracker who will speak my mind and hold my own.”
Outperforming The Stereotypes.
For many people, having to “outperform their stereotype” is something all too familiar. Being able to bring your authentic self to work is harder to do if you feel like who you are is more susceptible to be the recipient of biased actions. However, Pooja reminds us that even though it may be difficult, it is doable.
“Remind yourself about the last time you felt like that…and realize that you made it out ok. Surround yourself with people who do make you feel included and loved, so they can remind you what it feels like and can help you get through it. Be unapologetically you. Don’t give into it. Find what makes you feel good about yourself, and just keep doing that.”
Finding Balance When It’s Hard.
It would be unrealistic to say that every time we choose to be our authentic selves that we are 100% confident in who we are. Doubt is a natural feeling, and the best thing we can do when it creeps in is to address it and reflect on where it stems from. Balance, as Pooja highlights, is what will allow you to sit more comfortably with yourself even when it’s hard.
“It’s about finding a balance. Recognize what sits well with you and what doesn’t. If you walk away from a situation in which you were inauthentic and you don’t feel good about it, recognize that and make a note not to do that again. And, remember that the world would be so boring if we were all the same. What makes you special is being you, so why would you change that?”
Grateful for the way you remind us all to be true to who we are Pooja, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Water Your Garden today.