- My journey of self exploration began as I discovered my passion for reading, which was instrumental in navigating through societal norms and expectations.
- Moving to a new school turned out to be the beginning of a transformative journey, where I found myself separated from my familiar friends and forcibly thrust beyond my comfort zone.
- Girl Power Talk is the true catalyst that lit the spark for my transformation from an introverted individual to a confident extrovert.
- I love and respect myself, recognizing that without it, I wouldn’t have become the Sadia I am today.
Reading Between the Lines: My Quiet Reflections While Growing Up
“If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself. Unless you learn to love yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.” — Elif Shafak.
I am Sadia Shaikh, a 24-year-old woman residing in Delhi, India. My journey of self-discovery commenced when I moved from my birthplace, Mumbai, to Delhi. My memories from that period are faint, however, one vivid image remains etched in my mind. It is the overwhelming sense of tranquility I felt during the sunset hours at Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach.
As a student of literature, my love for reading books extends beyond just a hobby; it is a serious passion. One of my most cherished aspects of reading is the ability to connect with quotes. Books always provide me with a feeling of comfort and uncover emotions that I struggle to confront within myself. They yield an inexplicable and unique feeling of belonging, of being understood yet remaining unheard.
Simplicity is a quality that resonates deeply with me. It is often this very simplicity that others identify in me. Since I face criticism for my appearance and the way I carry myself, I wondered if there was truth in those judgments. I contemplated conforming to their expectations, but, in doing so, discovered that I was losing sight of my true self. Even when I attempted to mold myself according to their desires, they still always had something negative to say. I realized that people will always find faults, and that it’s best to follow your heart and stay true to yourself. I decided, therefore, to be me.
Pages of Self-Exploration: An Introvert’s Quest to Dreaming Big
I used to be shy, fearful, and introverted as a child. However, that didn’t stop me from having grand dreams and aspirations of becoming a teacher. During my school years, I lagged behind my friends and was hesitant to step out of my comfort zone and ask for help. I desperately tried to get out of situations where I had to be the center of attention.
Hence, even when I participated, my teammates would get appreciation, while I stood hidden. For a long time, this behavior shielded me from anxiety and potential embarrassment of being on stage. In 2015, however, everything changed when I moved to a new school.
I found myself separated from my familiar friends and forcibly thrust beyond my comfort zone. It is then when I realized the vastness and diversity of the world that demanded my attention. Luckily, I met my best friend at the new school; she has been an unwavering source of support ever since.
Through her influence, I discovered the joys of reading and gathered the courage to step outside my comfort zone. I embarked on a journey of reading and writing, and resolved to pursue higher education in English literature.
Silent Determination: Navigating Cultural Stereotypes and Wondering Outside Boundaries
Living in a society that has been historically entrenched in patriarchal values poses significant challenges. As a girl, it is an even more difficult task to realize one’s dreams. Every time you strive to prove yourself, there seems to be someone waiting to deliberately pull you down. Belonging to a middle class family adds to this struggle.
The parents are apprehensive about exposing their girl to the cruelty of the outside world. In my case however, my parents are my biggest supporters. They wholeheartedly support my education and career, and encourage me to learn and pursue my dreams as much as I want.
This wasn’t the case with others who kept telling my parents that things would be different if I were a boy. They were told that I would have started earning and providing for the family by now if I was a boy. This incident deeply triggered me. Nevertheless, I know that my parents have no objection to me being me. For me it was enough to pay no heed to others’ opinions.
Many of my friends question how I work when I am a Muslim girl. The truth is that my religion has never been a hindrance in between my career opportunities and education. It is the mindset of the people that falsely perpetuates the notion of a culture stopping someone from pursuing their dreams. Still, I’ve always been conscious of others’ opinions about me, wondering “what if I do something that they don’t like?” There have been multiple instances when I think “what if” about the things I do.
Breaking Out of the Cocoon: My Transformative Journey at Girl Power Talk
When I joined Girl Power Talk, I had no inkling of what lay ahead. I couldn’t even muster up the courage to talk in front of two people. I thought to myself, “I don’t think this is going to last for long, I can’t do this!” Fortunately, that turned out to be the last time I doubted myself. Gaining confidence was one of the biggest transformations I experienced through Girl Power Talk. The Sadia of a decade ago could have never even imagined to be the person I have become today.
Through the experience, I discovered genuine supporters which led to a new sense of belonging. Luckily, with the many valuable relationships I have formed in my life, I hold all my friends dear. Especially during these increasingly challenging times, when true companions are hard to find. Like Virginia Woolf said, “some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.”
Girl Power Talk has given wings to the little Sadia who once dreamt of soaring to great heights by the shore of Chowpatty Beach. It is the true catalyst that lit the spark for my transformation to a confident person. I love and respect myself, recognizing that without it, I wouldn’t have become the Sadia I am today.
I am proud of her, and I believe in the mantra, “whatever happens, happens for good.” I understand that nothing, be it bad or good, lasts forever. I hold on to the belief that “this too shall pass,” for there is always spring after the winter. Time waits for no one, and we must learn to stride alongside it.
Be thankful for the life given as God always has a plan for you. Reflecting on the wisdom from Robert Frost’s quote, “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”
Life is a journey of constant growth, and while navigating societal expectations embracing your true self is the first step of the journey. We must always remember that self-love and authenticity are the keys to personal transformation. Each step, be it an uphill climb or a downfall, is a stepping stone towards self-discovery and fulfillment.