Sarica Shekhar

Occupation: Patternmaking Student, Family Manager (aka Stay at Home Mom)

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Instagram: saricaalice

HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?
I always seemed to dabble in something creative alongside studies or jobs, but I didn’t get serious about it until a few years ago. In 2015, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was living long-distance from my husband, I didn’t have family around and I wasn’t happy with my job; it was a really tough couple of years. When we moved from Ontario to California in 2016, I quit my job and wasn’t at a healthy place to take on a new one, let alone in a completely new city. During the next year, I reflected a lot in what made me thrive. It definitely wasn’t coding and I kept coming back to creativity.

When I learned about the Rana Plaza Collapse in Bangladesh, I started to critique where my clothes came from. Little memory – during my first year living in California, when walking around downtown and before stepping into a store, I’d stand outside on the sidewalk and google the ethics of the company. More often than not, I didn’t go inside. It was disappointing how much injustice there was in the fashion industry and I started to boycott fast fashion brands. I would go back home, run my hands through my closet and give a little gratitude to the people who made each garment.

The first garment I ever made, despite sewing for a long time, was in 2016. I made a skirt with a zipper closure, inseam pockets and lining – yes, I sometimes over complicate things on my first go! It was far from perfect, but I still love it. It was then I realized I could take matters into my own hands, literally, and sew my own clothes.

Fast forward to today, I still sew my own clothes and seldom buy anything new, I can probably count the number of times on one hand! I took pattern making classes, had a baby who is now 20 months old and keeping me on my toes more than ever. I’m exploring how to turn this creative journey into a business. I’m learning that there are so many other ways to make a career other than a 9-5 job. It’s important to me that I make something of myself and to set an example for my son. I’m looking forward to the future.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?
My great aunt. She is the most independent, youthful, ceiling smashing rockstar I know. When she was younger, she worked as a bank manager in Toronto. Just think, over 40 years ago, in the centre of a financial hub, a woman becoming a manager?! That’s a huge deal! She’s in her late 80’s now, continues to deny getting old, lives on her own, pushes herself to keep learning new things and looks fabulous above all. I admire her tenacity and perseverance. I aspire to be as young-hearted, fierce and open to learning new things when I’m her age.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?
Each one of us has struggles and triumphs that have shaped who we are today. You’ve come a long way to get here. Therefore, YOU, as you are now, are worthy of celebration. In a community where we celebrate others and receive celebration too, we can learn to find celebration in ourselves. The tribe encourages self-love. Full circle.

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
I recently reminded myself that I am a caring person and that the foggy days always pass. In May, after two months of shelter-in-place, I was feeling down and unmotivated. It seemed that some of my friends were feeling the same way. I missed that social interaction and was tired of sending virtual hugs. So I sent each one a little surprise in the mail to cheer them up and was able to support a few small businesses at the same time! I was surprised how much my mood lifted by my little acts of love.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?
I believe a lot of us feel like we fall short, so we don’t believe we deserve the praise. Negative feelings, such as imposter syndrome, can make one feel like we don’t belong. Due to that, we often internalize the negative rather than the positive. By changing our inner dialogue to prioritizing the positive, we diminish space for the negative. That’s where the mindset shift happens.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?
I’ve been working on that! Instead of trying to downplay or dismiss the compliment, I’ve been making a conscious effort to say “thank you!” – and that’s it. Someone is saying something nice to you and you are more than worthy to accept that little bit of positivity in your day!

WHO WAS THE FIRST FEMALE TO TEACH YOU OR INSPIRE YOU TO FEEL THAT #YOUAREENOUGH?
I’m grateful for my Mom. She has always been a huge supporter in my life. She’s always been there to listen and encourage me to follow my heart.

Another woman comes to mind too. My teacher who taught Japanese in highschool pulled me aside one day to encourage me to apply for a year abroad in Japan. She saw something in me that I don’t think I would have seen in myself. She met with me outside school hours to help with my application – I remember sitting with her in a mall food court! Because of her and my parent’s support, I ended up spending my grade 10 year living away from home in Japan. That year ended up being a very formative year for me. I learned to be independent, live with different people and immerse myself in different cultures.

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?
It’s reinforced that women have high, unrealistic expectations to live up to. Whether it’s to do with how we look, our career or having a family, the list goes on. Now as a new mother, I definitely feel the added pressure. Mental load is a real thing. Everytime we fall short of this mountain of expectation, we “prove” to ourselves that we are not enough.

Well, what if “success” as defined by society is rubbish? Not all that society values is actually important. What’s truly important is your well being and that you are doing your best. We can take the power back by refusing to accept these expectations of what we should be. We can focus on lifting each other up and celebrating our lives, perfectly imperfect. We are enough as we are now.

ARE WE TOLD ENOUGH AS YOUNG GIRLS THAT #WEAREENOUGH? IF NOT, HOW CAN WE CHANGE THIS MESSAGING FOR YOUNG GIRLS TODAY?
We are definitely not told often enough! When you’re young, you’re influenced by many people and constantly seek validation from others.

Although there are positive spaces emerging online for young women, one could easily go the other direction and fall down a rabbit hole of guilt and self-destruction too. I believe it’s important to encourage young girls to spend time away from their phone, follow their interests and join safe spaces where young women can build each other up.

The best way to encourage this as an adult? Live it yourself. As an adult, we can put the phone down, try new things and encourage others. Work on your own confidence and self-love. It will show and inspire more than you might realize.

WHAT WOULD YOU GO BACK AND TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF, TO ENCOURAGE SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-LOVE?
During highschool I was super studious, a perfectionist and a people pleaser. I was focused on academics, so I always assumed the path to success was going to university and getting a job.

Looking back, I’d do three things for my younger self.
I’d tell myself that you’ll never make everyone happy, but the most important person to make happy is you.
I’d curate examples of women from different backgrounds with successful careers to show that there are so many ways to build a life for yourself – the traditional path is not the only way.
I’d encourage my younger self to try new things, have an open mind and work on breaking that barrier in my mind that success is linear.

WHERE DO YOU THINK THE NEED TO COMPETE WITH OTHER WOMEN COMES FROM? IS IT TAUGHT?
When you feel insecure and lack confidence in yourself, it can sometimes be hard to celebrate another person’s success. Instead, it can even cause jealousy, internalizing a sense of failure in yourself and lead to competition against that person. Even though their success does not inhibit or define your own. Having a sense of animosity towards one another is how we drive each other apart.

I feel that it is taught by society, especially by the media as that’s where young adolescents often seek validation. This can act as a mirror that reflects on our own inadequacies. That feeling to out-do the next person, that only one can be at the top. When in fact, there is space for all of us and our unique talents. When we celebrate one another, we all win.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?
The Tribe Movement is important because it encourages self-love – to thrive in our own unique bodies and minds, and to celebrate where we are right now.

Whether it’s online at The Tribe or offline with your own tribe, I believe it’s important to be inspired by a community of smart, kind, resilient women. I am grateful to have a small tribe in my life. There are four of us and we call ourselves “The Math Girls” because we met through Math and Stats during university. We’ve been together for over 10 years and even live in different countries now! Each one of us has a different cultural background, upbringing and view that makes our conversations thought-provoking and meaningful. We have been there for eachother during the hard times and the best times. It has become a safe place to vent, share, uplift and inspire each other. There is a special bond between us and I respect and love every one of those women so much.

HOW ARE YOU TRYING TO KEEP YOUR SELF-ESTEEM UP IN THE MIDST OF THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS READING THIS?
The global pandemic is unimaginable. There are also some very important human rights issues – Black Lives Matter, fast fashion impact on workers to name a couple. We are living in a time where there is a lot of uncertainty and emotion – we need to be kind to each other and ourselves!

I heard a great idea recently to make a “fun” goal. Something trivial. It could be something like working towards the splits, learning to make yogurt, or starting to knit a sweater. My “fun” goal is to learn how to make boba from scratch. Half the time it’s a disaster, but it has been quite satisfying the couple times it worked out! Whenever I’m in the mood, I set myself a little time to experiment.

Other than that, my 20 month son keeps me occupied most of the time. I try to fill my “me-time” with things that bring me joy (patternmaking, sewing, yoga to name a few). When I’m having a tough day (or week), I remind myself it’s okay. Lowering my expectations, giving myself grace, making small bite-sized goals and rewarding myself (like making an iced matcha at nap time!) are a few things that have helped me stay positive. At the end of the day, it all comes back to mental health.

Whoever is reading this (bravo for getting this far!), I hope you are able to find a little joy in your day today. It’s a really tough time right now and you’re doing your best. Continue to wear a mask and celebrate yourself! We’re all in this together!