Embracing your differences

A young person is sitting at their desk at night next to a pile of books, with a thought bubble that features their face and two love hearts, representing self-acceptance.

A white banner with text that reads 'young people's voices'

Hi my name is Sharvari, I’m 19 years old and I’m on a gap year which I like to call, ‘my year of self-discovery’. This piece is about exploring our identities and embracing our differences.


Night sky, untouchable beauty.

Or so I thought.


Too complicated?

Shavani? Sharvani? Shivani?

Is it that hard? Apparently so. So we settled for Sharu


Say it again.



You think it’s so inconsequential.

Only a name you say with a shrug,

But you’re shrugging off me.

My identity, my culture.


And so the night sky returns with a full moon.

I’m taking it back, I’m reclaiming what was already mine.

I’m not Sharu who lives in fear, who puts on masks because she’s too scared to show who she really is.

I’m walking out there as Sharvari.


Sharvari, who is beautiful and confident and authentic.

I’m walking out there as me.

My story

My name was stolen from me, and so much of my identity was denied along with it when I moved here from India. It was not enough that everything looked, felt, and smelt different. It was not enough that no one was like me. I wasn’t even welcome in this strange land, and even my 6-year-old self could sense that. I was mocked, my culture was considered ‘weird’. I was different and I hated it. 

I hated it so much that I shut down. My once bubbly, friendly openness transformed to a numbing quiet. I tried in every way to be like everyone else, from the clothes I wore to the food I ate, in a desperate attempt to shed off my culture and my own identity. It didn’t feel safe to be different anymore.

Even when I moved to secondary school and was no longer a minority, I continued to be a social chameleon. I pretended to have watched films that I’d never watched, to like music I’d never heard, to have opinions that were not my own and experiences I’d never had. To be honest I didn’t know who I was, where I began, and where others ended. Even though these people were ‘just like me’ I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I were to expose my differences I would once again become an outsider. So the chasm kept growing as I kept living a fake life.

“Aim to be you.” – Matt Haig.

It’s not that easy though, is it? What if you don’t know who you are? Or what you like, what you believe in, what you want? 

Who am I?

I had never asked myself such existential questions, until I had a breakdown and went through therapy. 

I went in as Sharu and came out as Sharvari. 

Things that helped me to change

Spending less time with people that I felt I couldn’t be myself with 

Yes, that meant that my friendship circle got smaller but I’m so grateful, because the people that did remain are the people that I can be my most authentic, clowny self with. If you don’t feel like you have your ‘tribe’, actively try to find people who share your values, people who you feel comfortable enough to explore your identity with.

Sharing small pieces of my identity with people I could trust 

It’s definitely not easy and each piece you share can, at the start, feel like a piece of yourself that you’ve lost. I started off by sharing my music taste and went from there. Once you dip your toes into the water and realise that people are actually open to knowing you, you’ll hopefully feel more comfortable to keep sharing.

Marie-Kondoing my activities 

Ask yourself: does this activity bring me joy? Is this something I really want to do? 

I’ve found that since starting a daily mindfulness practice I’ve been able to be better aware of my body’s needs and that generally aligns with my intentions too.

Ask yourself the deep questions

What do I value? Who do I want to be? But another thing I’ve found useful is to journal with prompts.

Journal prompts for exploring identity

Once we start the process of trying to understand ourselves, then it starts to become easier to embrace our differences, because we can see that we are these incredible, multifaceted beings. We don’t have to love everything we find out about ourselves but we can, over time, learn to accept them. Try journaling; get a piece of paper and pen and try using one of the prompts below.

  1. Tell yourself that you’re (insert quality/ characteristic e.g. confident) – what would you do differently if you were…. 
  2. What would your day look like if you embodied that characteristic?
  3. What is a part of you that you dislike?
  4. How does that part add value to you or people around you?
  5. Which relationships leave you fulfilled and which ones don’t? What do these relationships add to your life? With those that don’t fulfil you, what do you plan to do about them?

How have I felt since starting this journey? 

I’m emphasising that I’ve only just started this self-discovery journey and it’s going to be a life-long one, because my identity will evolve, but it’s about having the tools and awareness to listen to what we truly need and trying to be our most authentic self. What that phrase means will shift from person to person but I see it as living intentionally (whatever that means to you). Maybe go journal that one – I dare you 🙂

For more content like this

Read Kiki’s article about learning to love her dark skin.

Read Charlotte’s article about what self-love means to her.

Next Steps


Updated on 04-Feb-2022

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