AUSTIN, Texas - This pandemic has brought out many struggles including job loss, higher uses of drugs and alcohol and, for some, a loss in hope.
Some people are using those challenges to make themselves stronger.
Online businesswoman and podcaster, Vasavi Kumar, a first-generation Indian American who battled addiction and impostor syndrome, is now in recovery and helping women flourish in both business post-pandemic and in life.
"I’m so excited to bring you the top lessons from a former cokehead…. And how to apply it to your business," Kumar says in an instagram video to her social media followers.
What you see is what you get, she keeps it real, using her life experiences to help other women.
"I knew that the pandemic and the stay at home orders were leaving people feeling very isolated," Kumar says.
Her isolation wasn't at the hands of a pandemic, for her it came a few years back at the hands of cocaine and alcohol addictions.
"I created this out of my own pain, I did, I created the ‘Mind Your Own Business Membership’ community out of my own pain and what I wish I would've had during the darkest most difficult period of my life," Kumar said, describing it as a feeling of hopelessness.
"A lot of times the emotions that we are experiencing are so deep and can feel so uncomfortable and painful that we feel like we have to numb it." Kumar said. "We don't want to feel anymore and we reach for what's easy right? Reaching for that bottle is a quick fix and I’m saying this from a place of, I've been there."
Kumar has since found sobriety.
"I think the greatest gift that you can give yourself is the willingness to sit with your discomfort. Instead of shutting those feelings down and suppressing them and suffocating them and saying I don't wanna feel this, allow yourselves to sit with and breathe it and being like, ‘what am I feeling right now?’"
She says it's not about ignoring the problems around you, instead it's about acknowledging them.
"Listen, there's a lot that we cannot control around us we have social justice issues, racial issues and injustice in literally every area of our society and it sucks and it's not easy and there are people in our society who are oppressed simply because of the color of their skin or because of their gender or their sexual orientation." Kumar recognizes. "I am not saying that none of that is not real but ultimately what are you, how are you going to take your power back?"
She says as a first-generation Indian-American woman, she knows what it’s like, but says taking your power back is something that starts from within.
"I'm not gonna say that it's been easy in Austin, but it's not easy anywhere right? So, that's why ultimately I've had to learn to accept myself because we often think, ‘if I move here, it'll be easier. If I move here, it'll be easier’ but the thing is, if you don't accept yourself, it doesn't matter where you live," Kumar says.
A New York native, she frequently remembers going back to India with her parents to help keep her culture and traditions.
"I could be around 500 Indian people and still not feel accepted, because it may be that group of Indian people think I'm too Americanized for them or I’m too outspoken for them, Kumar says. "I'm a divorced Indian woman, I'm kind of a black sheep in the Indian community, but ultimately I've had to learn to accept myself. This is who I am. Take it or leave it and that's it."
And as we all navigate the pandemic, this is the advice she's giving to entrepreneurs.
"I can give you all the business strategy in the world but if your mind is not right it does not matter. Stop minimizing and invalidating your every word, your every thought," Kumar says. "You do not need permission from other people for you to feel the way you feel instead of swallowing our words, [we should be] learning to speak up and boss up and really look at every area of our life and ultimately, what it boils down to, is personal responsibility."
Vasavi continues celebrating sobriety and is currently sending book proposals and running online workshops to help others expand self worth and entrepreneurship.
If you're interested, head to Vasvai's website.