No! You’re a misfit!!

‘Sorry chef, I don’t eat fish,’ I said, when the chef asked me to taste the Goan Fish Curry.

‘You’re such a misfit! Kitchens are totally not for vegetarians!’ he laughed.

This was many years ago, right at the start of my career. Not many of you know that I began my career in the Hotel Industry having worked with brands like The Oberoi Group and Sheraton – a great learning ground and a foundation for many of my skills.

Chef wasn’t being mean; it was his genuine advise. Non-vegetarian food being a large part of the Indian dining experience, I was told repeatedly that kitchens were a no-go for vegetarians, unless I wanted to restrict myself to the bakery.

Often when serving in restaurants, some guests even refused for me to serve them. I’m left handed and left-handers were not very popular for silver service. Overall, I was accustomed to feeling out of place every now and again.

Eventually, for reasons such as culture and relocation, I left the hotel industry and became a soft skills trainer – the first of my several career changes.

Strangely though, last week, the conversations sprang back to mind while I was making pavbhaji (a well known Mumbai street food) for a vegan promotion, related to my spice business.

While catering to vegan requirements, down to buying vegan butter and checking the labelling on breads, I couldn’t help think of the moment when I was ruled out for being vegetarian. And yet here I was, pitching to a market that followed an even more restrictive diet… a mind you, a market growing at a phenomenal pace!

But this article is not about veganism or being left-handed. It’s about facing rejection and living with it. It’s a lot more common than you might think.

I was reading July’s Mensa magazine and there is a moving open letter from a 10 year old who explains how he felt when no one accepted him for who he was and how he continued to feel socially awkward…until he found the school just right for him.

It’s common in the dating game too.

Just a few weeks back, I was speaking with a boy who was new to dating and seeking some guidance. As we chatted over coffee, he explained his most recent date. ‘I liked this girl but she said that I am not sporty enough and that I don’t go out too much. So I am thinking of working on the feedback and then maybe she will like me. Or maybe I should change my profile photos to put one sporty picture and then one in some popular place. I think girls like those sort of things.’

My heart went out to him. To face rejection is one thing, but to begin to make edits or worse, project yourself as someone you are not, only just to so you can be accepted, is a whole new type of pressure.

So this Sunday, here’s a little love for that misfit in us all:

  1. When someone says no, complete that sentence! When you feel defeated, take a piece of paper and write down all the things this could mean. E.g. not here, not me, not just yet, not in my kitchen, not in my house…because no doesn’t mean never.
  2. Don’t just assume that ‘You’ are the problem: Refusals are often framed in a way such that it may appear that you are the problem e.g. ‘you will not be my obvious choice for the next promotion.’ Great! Before you go beating yourself up for being an utter loser, think! Are you in the wrong  place? Are you seeking the wrong role? Cut yourself some slack and think through all variables. Perhaps, you are over ambitious, but hey, that’s just one of the infinite possibilities on the table and just one person’s view. Always, keep things in perspective!
  3. Fall in love with refusal: I have to say, I love a good NO! It makes me feel like the game is on! There is no better accolade to say, you pushed as hard as you could and no better prompt to get creative – up your game, change your game – do anything, just not more of the same.

When someone says no…
And you feel low…
Think of ways to change the game…
do anything, just not more of the same!

Enjoy your weekend guys!!

And if you wish to explore those refusals, you can contact me for coffee.

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