Led by a calm and joyful spirit that fills the room with peace, Ushi Patel is catalyzing the renaissance of women through personal branding. A first generation, Indian-American, Ushi is a globally recognized brand consultant and designer, who once felt fragmented within two seemingly different worlds; the deep roots and traditions of Indian, Zambian, and South African cultural streams that flowed through her lineage with the freedom and promise of the U.S.; the ambitions of a business woman with the wisdom of an artist; the fiercely competitive spirit of an athlete with the curiosity of an academic; and the love of God with a devotion to science and the natural world.
Patel shares, “For a long time, I thought I had to push against or be “right” in relation to, in order to have the sense of place and impact I longed for. It just created resistance, struggle, and the “overs” – overthinking, overfunctioning, overworking – to prove I was enough, to feel understood or seen and that I had a purpose. Everything looked great on the outside – awards, promotions, money, even impact – but I felt tired and isolated within. There was a storm of cultural narratives vying for position in my head. I had to take time, an intentional sabbatical, and ask myself in the quiet, ‘Who am I within this storm?’”
What emerged in the solace of her sabbatical was a calm energy and sense of wholeness. Ushi published Benjamin Franklin award-winning poetry and gave a Tedx talk about her experience inspiring readers and audiences to strengthen the relationship with oneself. She designed a personal brand model that Ushi describes as, “A return to you. We are multidimensional, multi-faceted, multi-passionate beings that are forcing ourselves into a singular way or formula. The person we think we need to be is suffocating the great person we are.” She assures, there is a way to take the reins of our internal and external narrative, to transmute dark to light, to shape a bright, joyful and enriching future for ourselves and others. This is the work of a personal brand. This is the renaissance of women.
Generations of Story
Ushi Patel: My family’s immigration story began in South Africa and Zambia in the early 1940s on the liberating waves of satyagrahi and at the precipice of Indian independence, when Indian indentured laborers transformed into free merchants and tradespeople.
My great grandfathers set out on a steam ship from Gujarat, India to Africa with empty pockets and a heart full of dreams. My great grandmothers followed, carrying the rituals and traditions of their homeland and blending them with the local culture and lifestyle. They all searched for a better way for us, the future generations. In that era, before Yoga, Chai and Chicken Tikka became mainstream in the West, the holy grail for Indian immigrants was an American education, and why my father and mother came here.
I am the daughter of immigrants and the firstborn child and grandchild. My family is an inspiring story of resilience, loyalty, service and perseverance, but also one of colonial residue that screams of inadequacy and the misconception that we have to suffer and be other than who we are to know providence. They only knew one formula for happiness: Be the best in school. Be smart, don’t act smart. Get married. Be a doctor or engineer. Keep your allegiance to the Indian community. Specifically the Gujarati community. Get a house. Have kids. Repeat. You want to do what you love? You want to have a passion? Do it on the side. As modern as I thought the Indians in America were, there was still a dominant narrative that a woman’s only place is in the kitchen, as a wife, or a mom.
I love my family. I am grateful for them. Of course, I would fall in line. I wanted to make them proud. I wanted to belong. But, there was a relentless stirring in my heart…
Breaking the Cycle
Ushi Patel: After connecting with women around the globe through my work, I saw that we often choose to struggle in isolation, thinking we are the only ones that feel a certain way. Yet, we have shared stories and experiences. We are all making choices for a sense of stability, security and belonging that hold us apart from the adventure we really want, the joy and peace of being wholly who we are. We diminish. We make ourselves palatable. We make nice. The person we think we need to be to have what we want, is suffocating the great person we are. Everyone is trying to make sense of where they belong on this planet, in their worlds and in their families.
How do we honor where we came from while also honoring our intuition, the impulses of our soul? How do we stand in our wisdom and lived experience in the face of opposing and daunting cultural norms? How do we live our truth when our livelihood could be at stake? How do we cultivate a sense of home within ourselves, so there is no need for external validation?
Eventually, after some tough love and touch fights, my parents and I aligned. They saw our dynamic of individuation, in their dynamic with their parents. As do I with my own children. My parents, their parents, we are all the results of stories we chose to believe. Those same people in our community and extended family that flung silly statements like, “No one will marry you if you act so smart,” or “You shouldn’t send your daughter for that opportunity because it obviously means she’s up to no good,” have dropped those stories. They have evolved. In fact, they are now the greatest champions of my intelligence, artistry and craft.
The world will always be full of empowering and limiting narratives. The danger is when we adopt the limiting narratives as our own or make ourselves wrong and abandon ourselves in relation to them. In taking control of both my internal and external narrative, I built a bridge back to myself and in doing so I became a bridge for so many women. I found my sense of place and purpose in being the bridge between worlds. What I learned is now the core tenet of the personal brand model I teach. We are a story away from everything we want in our life.
Generous, Trailblazing Women
Ushi Patel: I work with big-hearted, change makers. I love them. They are ambitious. They are generous. They are brilliant. The outcome of their work is priceless. They are the bridges to a positive future. And yet, much of their work remains invisible; unnoticed, overlooked, and underappreciated. Why? Because of a predominant narrative that says, “Seeking visibility is arrogant, desperate, or vain.” Or a question, “How do I make sense of myself in a world that doesn’t seem to make sense of me?” When either dynamic is at play, we diminish our voice, dim our light, and dilute our impact and influence.
Our brand is our legacy, our imprint on existence. Brand is not an act of ego, but an act of gratitude and love for our gifts and what can only come through us. If you can reframe the adventure of a personal brand as an act of gratitude you will open an unencumbered channel to the beauty of who you are, which is fervently trying to bang down any wall within you, so it can get out. That is the restlessness you feel. That is the doldrums. That is the tug that says, there must be something more.
There is something flowing through you and coming to you that someone out there craves.You are an answered prayer. There are plenty of people who want to know what you’ve come to know and can receive it because of the way you deliver it. Because of your unique voice. Because of your lived experience. Because of the way light flows through you.
Our work is to create resonance, that sweet spot in which this light, the beauty and grace of who you are, vibrates in congruence with the aspirations of your audience. This is how you stand out in a world of noise and a sea of sameness. This is the cornerstone of a magnetic personal brand that leads to greater joy, contribution, creativity, and wealth. This is the renaissance of women.