NRI Pulse


Perspective

50 & Fabulous: Finding Self-Love, and Celebrating Unapologetically

BY NEHA NEGANDHI*

Cover photo courtesy: Neha Negandhi

I was quietly anticipating this milestone year. Turning 50 is the gem on the crown. It’s the creme de la creme when it comes to “don’t give a crap, this is my life now.”

It’s solace knowing self-worth comes from within, heaving the external trappings in the garbage.

Although, this didn’t happen suddenly as in poof! it’s my 50th birthday now, and I’ve shed every limitation. Quite the opposite, I intentionally spent years unlearning beliefs and creating new self-worth patterns.

Because leading up to this age milestone unlike any other, I vowed to deconstruct the “How will I?” into “Why would I not?”

It’s My Birthday, and I’ll Cry if I Want to

One of my hardest birthdays was turning 40. I hosted a rooftop party with dozens of invited friends, my husband at my side, and our toddler son asleep with a babysitter. And I found myself alone in a locked bathroom, sobbing uncontrollably.

My infertility struggle for a second child turned ugly, triggering my deepest insecurities, and I fell apart. Not understanding dejection/failure wasn’t the foe, but essentially, it was a lack of self-love.

I thought loving myself had all the checkmarks.

Big believer in my dreams (check).

Work hard to achieve success (check).

Build a family (check) and love will come, right?

Many years later, while sitting on my therapist’s couch, the gravitational force of her quiet question, “Do you love yourself?” delivered the same knockout punch. Instead of hiding behind an emotional band-aid, I began a self-healing journey to answer questions buried too long in the unknown.

Stop the Madness

During those years of what my therapist describes as, “tilling, sowing and reaping” I put myself into a self-imposed exile.

It’s not too mean that life stopped, in fact, it was the opposite as the birth of my daughter happened during that time. Two kids, a full household, and wrestling inner demons means there’s very little for anything in between.

And there was the milestone 50 looming on the horizon.

At certain points, I kicked myself for waiting so long to do the self-work, but the blame game only made the despair sink-hole deeper.

So I walked away from my consulting business, stopped the nonprofit community board roles, and made a promise to do the self-healing.

Stereotypical Burdens

It’s not easy. As my therapist says, “It’s like standing still while a freight train going 100 mph comes straight at you.”

Peeling the layers to discover my seven-year-old wounded self was central in understanding the pain.

Deeply buried, long scarred over but far from healed, my “different” Indian brown skin color was constantly chastised by elementary school kids. This was ground zero in my decades-long struggle to claim my existence.

Years of carrying shame when asked if my family and I lived in a teepee simply because I expressed I’m Indian.

Traditional culture is hammered by confusion when a stranger comments on how inaccurately my “Om” necklace portrays my 30-year-old age.

My “good Indian girl” mentality reinforced an inability to speak up for myself, painfully wrapping my identity around misguided cultural myths.

Repeated, painful assimilation patterns, no matter how much I tried to “be white,” shattered my esteem. Forcing a long look in the mirror to stop the blame game and find self-love.

Awakening Again

I learned — or more aptly, awakened — becoming aware through the unraveling and shedding.

The choice to discard negative messages was almost as transformative as losing the victim mentality.

Accepting that the past can never be anything different provided grace for forgiving what I agonizingly deemed unforgivable. Normalizing my parents from the idol pedestal helped unravel so many cultural norms.

In doing so, I finally felt the freedom to live life without a cultural identity map.

Feeling Joy, Seeking Stillness

When I turned 50 in August, I relished it. It felt like the hard work I put in was amply rewarded by celebrating a huge milestone.

Just like previous birthdays that ended in zero, I celebrated 50 with a huge birthday party. And this time, there were no tears, only happy cheers.

Cheers to my good and full life, the experiences garnering wisdom that will inspire others, especially my kids, who are now 14 and 6. Cheers to my friends and family for their support and love.

And most importantly, CHEERS to feeling joyfully untethered because it blissfully keeps me seeking for the next 50 years and more.

*Neha Negandhi is a TEDx speaker, writer, and co-host of the podcast, Lentil Soup For the Soul.

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