Freedom from Fitting in
How to Fit while being a Misfit?
From childhood, I thought I was an extraordinary kid. Maybe being extraordinary made me a misfit as I went on to achieve things which in general doesn’t sink in, in the minds of our patriarchal society that easily.
The only thing which helped me “Fit in” or made me come out stronger every time some mind-boggling challenge was thrown at me by life, was being resilient.
All this started when I tried my hands on modelling while I was studying at IIT Bombay after working so hard in Kota to break the notions of girls not being competitive enough as boys.
There was so much criticism around in my college, definitely not in a good way, which many times demotivated me and made me think "What did I do to make these people react so badly with me!". Later I understood that it’s not their fault, the society has wired us in a certain way that it was difficult to accept an engineer and that too an IITian becoming a model professionally.
Though I wish I was not criticized or mocked at every step. Many photographers in the college refused to shoot with me, some even thought that I am not good-looking enough to be get clicked or too fat to model. But somehow, I always had this courage to face these fears and difficult times, which I think I can give credit to my upbringing and the Sikh background I belong to, where our Gurus have always taught us to be strong and determined in achieving one's goals.
I shifted my locus of control from external to internal and started concentrating on getting better by learning makeup, posing, styling, etc. from YouTube, movies, or whatever I could get my hands on. Soon, the day came when I entered the Gladrags Mega model pageant, and I won it as the second runner-up and that was the happiest day of my life.
After winning the pageant I thought that all the criticism and people not being in favour of me would completely stop but that was not true, though it stopped bothering me as I became more mature in handling it or had a different perspective to make peace with it. Had they not been so critical of my work, I would have never gone on to win a national pageant, their criticism acted as a motivation for me to follow my dreams more passionately.
After this, I always concentrated on my dreams and improving myself by being resilient towards these challenges and never giving up.
During the placement season at IIT, I got placed on the second day of placement week. This made me one of the top 100 students who got placed in the first two days in some really good companies. In my 4 years of work experience, I explored many companies and profile just to find that sweet spot where all my skills can be used to their best. That was not the only challenge I was facing, when I worked in a typical start-up world surrounded by the most intelligent minds of the nation, I was judged and didn’t come across as credible even in my work because I am a model, many assumed that the analysis part of the project is not my cup of tea or they just couldn’t believe that I can.
On the other hand, when I worked in the fashion industry where half of the people don’t even know the renowned colleges I came from, I was considered as an outsider and not suitable enough to take care of the fashion-related work (the kind of work for which I joined the industry at the first place). So, a misfit in both worlds when each world thinks I would be better off in the other.
Now the idea of leaving everything seemed an easy escape but that meant giving up on my dreams, I leveraged my skills in both worlds, in start-up world if they thought I can model in the advertising of the company, I took it and also voluntarily asked for the work which they thought that I couldn’t do. So I took the challenge of proving my worth even if I didn’t have to, considering I came from the similar educational backgrounds as them. But in life as someone rightly said, it’s your reactions towards the actions of others will define you.
After few years of working in the corporate, I decided to go ahead with my MBA, and I got into IIM Bangalore to find the next step of my journey and to give myself a platform to grow more personally and professionally. Though these institutions grind you to become the great leaders of tomorrow and I gained a lot and can’t be more grateful, but still, it’s a long way to create an environment that nurtures the misfits of the society. The perceptions and prejudices of people around which are generated in the minds of people by the hypocritical society we belong in create ripple effects to the great extent. While working in projects groups at IIM, many times I was perceived not credible enough to do a significant part of the project because of the image or perception they have created in their mind that is so strong to ignore the fact that I cleared the same entrance examination to get in there in-spite of my modelling background. Sometimes I used to accept it as it is, rather than trying to prove myself. Though over time, I learned to become more resilient towards such situations and concentrated on what was in my control, and that helped me always come out stronger and more successful.
One thing which I realized very early in my life was that to be a great leader one has to become good at heart first as these renowned degrees will teach you to be excellent in your field, but they are never the testimony for one being a good person.
It will take time for the people around us to understand the ‘Misfits’, who are the creation of the very society they belong to. For that, they need to break the barriers of prejudices and perceptions, till then being resilient is what sets the sail.
Jaskirat Kaur is currently leading the business development of all the subsidiaries of a 90-year-old business group - Machani Group. She did under graduation from IIT Bombay and MBA from IIM Bangalore. She founded ‘LeanIn Mumbai’, a women empowerment group, under the affiliation of Sherly Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Also, have done professional modelling & was a runner-up in the Gladrags Miss India 2013. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, sometimes dancing, painting, travelling & reading about history.
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