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GirlTalkHQ Founder Asha Dahya opens up about the journey to find her identity
“Don’t apologize for who you are… true happiness comes from knowing your individual worth and identity”
I have been in a relationship for 31 years, which, coincidentally, is also my age. That life-long relationship has been with no one other than my identity. Sounds weird, but hear me out!
For most of my life, I’ve struggled to uncover who I am and how I want to be perceived. Though you’d image this struggle would get easier with time, my experience has been quite the opposite. As I’ve grown older, extraneous circumstances – peer pressure, family pressure, the media, relationships with boys, my career- have threatened to break up my longest relationship and have even managed to hijack my identity at times.
A Girl Named Kristy
I can remember 6th grade as clear as day. It was then that my self-confidence first blossomed. At the start of the school year I became best friends with Kristy, a new red-haired girl. We were both outcasts, and soon an inseparable pair. We didn’t mind that we weren’t part of the ‘popular crowd’. We did our own thing, had a lot of fun and laughed a lot.
I don’t know what it was about Kristy but she ignited my self-confidence like no other. All of a sudden I felt pretty and funny. I could hang out with boys and play sports. I didn’t mind saying stupid things or worry about embarrassing myself. I also started caring about the way I looked because I knew it would enhance my new confidence. It was the first time in my life I became aware of who I was.
Riding the Confidence Rollercoaster
In high school that all changed. I started to lose my self-confidence. I wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest, the most popular, or the girl the boys liked. I was earnest to find something that could restore my former identity. I decided that ‘thing’ would have to be my career.
When I started college, my #1 goal was to graduate and become a successful actress. Back in my Kristy days I’d decided that was what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. My last year of undgrad I landed a job hosting a national daily kids show in Australia. This was it! My big break!
For the next 5 years I was consumed with my career. I was nominated for 2 awards, was making great money, and got a lot of attention from guys. Everything great in my life was thanks to my career and in turn it became the sole source from which I drew confidence.
In 2008 I decided to capitalize on my good run and move to Hollywood. Bad move. Later that year the economy crashed and there were no jobs to be had let alone for a girl without a work visa or a presence in LA. I was the girl who went from success to success, and all of a sudden, I didn’t have that anymore! I was heartbroken, not only because I didn’t have a job, but also because being jobless had diminished my self-worth. I realized that along with losing my title and my income I’d once again lost my confidence and with it my identity.
During that time I married the love of my life. Yet, as if to keep a natural balance to things, my marriage began to crumble as I was resetting the foundation on my career. By 2011 my husband and I had separated. It was devastating to admit it wasn’t working out and that I had allowed myself to be part of a toxic relationship. Though the separation was the best thing for the both of us, I was once again stripped of part of my identity.
Fast forward one year and my career was back on the upswing. I landed a great job hosting a daily news show on MSN and I was stoked! I was going through a horrible time personally, but professionally I was on the rise! Over the next couple of years I worked on various short-term reality TV production gigs and my career began to regain its strength.
Finding My Identity
At the beginning of 2014 I finally came to see how destructive my ebbing and flowing confidence had been. I realized that I’d never actually known my true identity but had simply attributed it to whatever was the most successful thing in my life at the time, or the thing that was making me the happiest. When that thing changed, I didn’t know who I was and I would unravel.
Going through a divorce, starting a new relationship, healing from abuse, nurturing my faith in God, and starting my own business allowed me to take stock of my identity. It really was the most precious thing I owned; yet I had allowed circumstances to define it. I knew I needed to base my worth and identity in something solid, immovable. For me, that took learning to place my trust in God and accept my complexity as a human. I make mistakes and also do awesome things but that’s not what defines me. They make up part of who I am.
Accepting that it’s ok to be me in all my complexities also helped me see that I was the one putting myself in a box. I’d been forcing myself to live up to an ideal and punishing myself emotionally when that didn’t work out. So I let go. I let go of what I was holding onto so tightly and allowed whatever was right to come my way.
Today, I am still in this process of learning to hold tight to my identity, regardless of what happens or who comes into my life. It’s still a struggle but I feel much more at peace knowing I don’t have to adhere to the standards I used to set for myself.
I want to encourage you reading this to let go of all the things that threaten your identity and force you to be something that is making you miserable. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes and you are more than all your greatest successes. You are you, in all your weird, wonderful complexities, and no one should have the power to change or diminish that. Don’t apologize for who you are. Once you realize true happiness comes from knowing your individual worth and identity, you won’t look to others to fulfill you.
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