“Why fit in when you were meant to stand out?”
- Dr. Seuss
In my younger days, I spent far too much time and energy trying to “fit in”
Which meant that:
- Instead of admitting to my school friends that we ate my mum’s wonderful Indian food at home, I’d pretend that we ate “fish and chips” last night just like them. Having suffered from some mild racism, pretending to be ‘English’ was far safer than admitting you were different
- I’d often avoid talking about “what my dad does” because I didn’t want to mention that he owned a shop. This would lead to being ridiculed given the classic “Indian shop keeper” cliche
- Even whilst working with my first employer, Marks & Spencer in the 1990s, I didn’t talk much about my Indian background. Apart from the fact that no one could pronounce my surname (!), I blended in very nicely into the white middle class management team.
Looking back, all of this sounds rather embarrassing and pretty ludicrous (I’m laughing whilst I write this!). But at the time, fitting in was so important to me.
Fast forward to today and things couldn’t be more different:
- These days, I take every opportunity to speak in a self effacing Indian accent and boast about my ‘natural tan’ (…just for the comedy value!)
- When entertaining contacts and lients, I usually take them to Indian bars and restaurants (being taken to any restaurant by a ‘local’ is always a treat)
- When delivering talks and workshops, I often tell the story of how my family were forced to leave everything we owned in Uganda in 1972 and come to the UK with just £50 per family with the rest of the Ugandan Asians.
- I talk of all the lessons I learned from my dad around business, hard work, sacrifice and humility as he built a new life for his family in a strange land against the odds (and all from his little shop)
Interestingly, the more comfortable I get with who I am (rather than what I do), and learn to turn the volume up on the unique traits and qualities of “Sital” – the more opportunities I seem to attract.
“That thing” which once made you insecure is actually your biggest advantage today.
You see, in today’s crowded noisy world – it’s not your CV, your intellect or your competency which makes you different – but in fact YOU.
It’s your unusual background, unconventional career path, quirky personality and bizarre style which all combine to help you stand out from the crowd.
Like all of us, you’ve been blessed with a Unique Talent – a natural ability and a unique way of expressing that ability.
“Fitting in” was never part of that deal (despite what they taught you at school). So please start turning up the volume on YOU and start stepping out – there are people out there waiting to hear about you.
Four Questions For You Think About
1. Are you currently fitting in or standing out?
3. How can you turn that same insecurity into the story which actually makes you stand out. That makes you memorable and worth talking about?