I am an Empath and I identify as an American Bengali. My family and I have always been a part of various ethnic communities and groups and have been instilled with the value of respect in Islam owed to every human being regardless of age, race, gender, status, or belief. Being born in America in a heavily-populated Middle-Eastern community while being raised with the languages of Bangla, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and of course English, I was always vastly intrigued by diversity, languages and the way different humans interacted with one another allowing me to have an open mind along with an accepting and approachable nature.
I have always been the one to never really fit in and tend to be the odd one out. I’ve been criticized and teased for not being like the majority, for my sensitive nature, my skin tone, my heritage, for my chosen career path, and just overall unapologetically being myself. My captivation with different ethnicities led me to be shocked at the way I was negatively viewed growing up and the experiences I had no idea were in store for me. Life has consistently shocked me with the way humans, including myself, communicate, act, and react. What seemed so simple to me, seemed so different from others. What came naturally to me, came difficult to others. This led to my frustration of not understanding why people do certain things they do/say, developing my fascination with psychology and human behavior.
I went to a private Islamic school for 10 years where I was an outcast due to being one of the very few desis in a school where you were often underhandedly judged or looked down upon if you were not Arab such as the majority. I often received racist and discriminatory “jokes” from “friends” when anything revolving around my culture was brought up. To this day, I remember begging my mom not to pack me biryani for lunch to avoid getting teased for being called the “curry girl” due to the beautiful aromatic smell of our cultures’ food. “Why do you look like that?” “Why is her skin so dark?” “Do all desis have dark skin?” “Your mom is so light she looks Arab!” At the time I didn’t think anything of it, I just thought to myself, “Why are people so focused on things that don’t matter. Why are people so mean?”
When I was 12 years old, my parents went through a divorce that spiraled into backlash and toxicity from the desi community my family and I were a part of due to the divorce being such a taboo topic in our culture. This led to my mother, sister and I being forced to leave Chicago and relocate to New York near relatives until things had calmed down. We moved nine times, across two different states and I changed schools two times all within a year. From one culture shock to another, this was probably one of the toughest times of my life that have really shaped my character. I was held at gunpoint in NY for refusing to show my hair to a group of guys harassing me while walking home from school calling me bald and threatening me. The racism and discrimination I experienced through life as I grew older came in different forms and spiraled more into my professional life. I have had job offers rescinded upon discovering my religious background. I have had promotions declined due to the political image that would be conveyed through having a “Muslim Woman” in leadership.
However, all this no longer affects me. The stares no longer bother me. The passive-aggressive comments no longer shake me. The discrimination, I have become numb to, no longer breaks me. I know my worth. I know my value. I know who I am. I’ve been told to dream more “realistically,” I’ve been laughed at when talking about my passion and have been doubted by peers, friends, family the list goes on.
My experiences in life, my religion, coupled with my educational and professional background have shaped me into a strong empath transforming my MESSES into MESSAGES as I now hold space for individuals and lead them to blossom from their battles through being a counselor/therapist and spreading kindness in my path. I have taken back control in my life by relishing in my passion through unapologetically being myself and providing service to others as I continue learning with life being the greatest teacher there can be. I am proud of the woman I am today, I am proud of my heritage, and I am grateful for the obstacles I have overcome.
It has taken me 26 years to develop, understand, and master E. I through my own experiences and traumas, coupled with my education and professional background as I continue learning through life being the greatest teacher. I am currently leading Emotional Intelligence Training in my professional work and also utilizing my talents and hobbies to help guide those who are dealing with their own struggles and searching for relief because as a true Empath, I truly understand and know how it feels to be mistreated, judged, harassed and neglected.
THAT is why I do what I do. Because I know how desperate it can feel to search for any sign of hope that things will get better. These morals and values from Islam are what has gotten me through life’s most challenging and difficult times. This piece of cloth is a statement. It’s a statement that I am PROUD to be an American-Bengali-Muslim-Hijabi Woman hoping to continue building mountains high enough so the people after me can lead too.
Beneath every behavior, there is a feeling. And beneath each feeling, is a need. And when we meet that need rather than focus on the behavior, we begin to deal with the cause, not the symptom. Sometimes, good hearts choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. But through understanding, we C-O-N-N-E-C-T.