Deciding to Be My Authentic Self Changed Everything

Early in my career, I migrated from India to the Midwestern United States. From the beginning, in many social and professional settings, I began to perceive a bias—the feeling that regardless of my educational credentials or my ideas and skillset, the color of my skin and my non-American accent created a stronger impression of my knowledge and intelligence. Naturally I could not do much about the color of my skin, but I decided I needed to sound like my American colleagues to “fit in.”

As you may know, most Indians raised in urban cities speak fluent English. In my family, English is the primary language. It is my native tongue, and it is the language I use when I think and write. In my attempt to fit in, I decided to put on what I considered to be an American accent. The result? I found myself having to translate my thoughts in my head from English to American every time I spoke. Over time, I realized this started impacting my confidence, making me second guess anything I said before I expressed it.

About three years into what had become a personally trying time for me, I had the opportunity to switch roles and join a new company. That was when I made one of the best decisions in my life. I quit my “American accent” and told myself to be proud of who I am. I decided to believe in the value I bring and the unique contributions I can make. If I have the confidence in myself, others will see it and value me, regardless of the way I speak. Had I not had the courage and confidence to be my authentic self, I do not believe I would be where I am today.