After years of grappling with the need to be the best at all costs, Real Rich Community Founder Vasavi Kumar came to terms with past traumas and dedicated herself to intentional self-care.
By Vasavi Kumar, Photos courtesy of Vasavi Kumar
I was 7 years old when I decided I would always be better, faster and the most hardworking out of all my peers. Growing up in an all-White town on Long Island, New York, my family was one of three Indian families. And the kids in school never let me forget it. Me being the curious child that I was, I wanted to be friends with everyone. All I wanted was to be accepted. At home, I had to be “Indian.” At school I had to “act White.” To this day I still can’t believe the amount of pressure I was under to fit in.
One day after school, one of the girls in my grade was carrying a shoebox. I asked her what was in it. Rather than answer me, she threw me down in the snow and started beating me up and shoved my face in the snow. My favorite Gap plaid pants were ripped, and my self-esteem was torn.
My older sister watched me from afar and had no clue how to respond. This girl who beat me up had an older sister who was even meaner than her and used to bully my sister and call her poop. (Because, you know, brown skin.)
I got my butt kicked. My hair pulled. And my self-respect went down the drain. When my mother came up to the school to talk to Principal Cincotta, guess who ended up getting into trouble?
I Am the Best, But at What Cost?
From there on out, I made up my mind that no one would ever beat me up. If anyone was going to torture me, it would be me. I made a vow to always be 10 steps ahead so I would never experience that type of embarrassment and pain.
You know what happens to a young girl who decides to be 10 steps ahead of everyone to avoid suffering and be accepted by her peers at all costs?
She grows into an adult woman who overworks herself.
She becomes an adult woman who is emotionally and physically fatigued.
She is chronically dissatisfied no matter how much she accomplishes.
She keeps accomplishing yet feels like it’s never enough.
She soothes herself with substances and alcohol, night after night.
She doesn’t know how to rest and relax.
That same young girl (me) is now 39 years old, sober and has a few tips to share.
Shift your relationship to resting.
When’s the last time you took a nap? Does the thought of closing your eyes even for a moment freak you out? If yes, go take a nap. Your body needs to rest. Going to sleep exhausted isn’t a badge of honor. I understand if you can’t sleep during the day. But you can put away your phone sooner. Shut down your laptop and get to bed earlier.
Introduce moments of calm and stillness into your every day “to-do” list.
Think of your mind as the parent and your body as the child who wants to play and have fun. I’m reminding you of this because as you begin to slow down and introduce moments of calm into your day, your mind will not like it. Start small by introducing three deep breaths after you get off yet another Zoom call with your clients/colleagues. Before bouncing out of bed and checking your phone, start by whispering “Thank you” to your body for being there for you each and every day.
Say no like your life depends on it.
Women have been conditioned to say “yes” like their life depends on it. I want you to say “No” like your life depends on it. Can you delegate the task at hand? Great, delegate it. Can an issue or project wait? Awesome. No need to put pressure on yourself to get it done right this second. Invited to another party you have no desire to attend? Awesome, even more of an excuse to read that book you keep saying you need to start reading.
Understand that slowing down is necessary to your healing.
What are you actually afraid of? Because that’s what you’re running from by being “so busy” all the time. Most of us don’t want to slow down because if we did, we would have to be with whatever we have been running from our entire lives.
For me, I was running from never again feeling powerless, helpless, with my face shoved down in the snow.
What are you running from? Will you give yourself the time, space and energy to slow down so you can connect back with yourself today?