Rutuja Naveen - Mumbai, Maharashtra


My mother never forced me to do or not to do anything, she believed in me learning through experiences. It was the first time for her to force me for doing something, and that was to attend this conference. Of course I was frustrated; June was the only time in the whole academic year when I was allowed for dance classes. Eventually, with a heavy heart, I had to go to the conference, and so I did.

It was 2014, I was a 16 year old shy and introvert girl, with a lost smile and a childish self, which a 16 year old teenager should have. I was low with my confidence, confused about career, desperately in need of love and affection from my busy parents. Coming from a small town called Solapur, I never had the confidence to even speak English or have a conversation with the people who've come there from Metropolitan Cities. First day was terrible, seeing people dressed well and speaking so well, I felt out-grouped, I was too shy to go and talk to anyone, hence being alone sitting in a corner and being too harsh on myself for not being able to make friends. Second day was the same. I acted like I'm too busy seeing the valleys and mountains at that place, just to hide my shyness, which naturally stopped others from approaching me. By that time everyone was getting along amongst each other so well, played, laughed, and sang songs in the free time under that beautiful sunset. And I was in my room crying because of my low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

Third day, I woke up, did the exercise, and sat in a corner during quite time. I asked thousand questions to myself in my head to get to a conclusion of my state.

Why am I nervous to talk to people?
-Because of my language, and people will judge me for having bad English. I don't want to be judged.

What will happen if they Judge you?
- I will feel too bad of myself.

But aren’t you already feeling bad of yourself?

Why do you care of what people think of you?
And I had no answer to this question. But it made me realize one thing that if I keep caring of what they'll think of me, I'm never going to be happy.

So I decided to talk to at least 3 people in the entire day. And, I did! But they didn't judge me, in fact they were sweet, which gave me a little confidence to talk to more people.

I couldn't believe that all the while it was my overthinking that stopped me from approaching people. In the time of those seven days I had built enough confidence to be socially open no matter how the language is or how you are dressed.

It takes years for people to build self-confidence, to stop overthinking and to learn that what people think of you is not important to make you happy. But this place has helped me learn it in a week!

LMAD has taught me to love myself which I will always be thankful of.

I went back to it in 2016. The confidence had probably gotten to over confidence and ego for two years until I came here. I've had broken relationships because of this. And I didn't care, I always thought it’s the other people who should apologize and then I might think of getting back to them. I didn't care if I was all alone; I took it as my pride. But this place does unexpected. After listening to the stories of fellow participants who have lost their loved ones and have been rude or arrogant, I couldn't see anything but how much a relationship matters and I should value them until I have them near me. That day, I didn’t care whose fault it was and whose wasn't, I wrote apologies for every friend of mine whom I've hurt and every person I've let down. Once the conference was over I hugged my mom and apologised her for letting her down in any manner. And we both had tears in our eyes. I sent apologies to the lost friendships. And till today we all have a very deep bond. 2016 gave me my broken relationships back. It made me realize that each and every person has gone through or is going through a tough time, and I should be kind. And I will get this kindness back in return.

Today I am 21, Studying Law in Mumbai and to be honest I still have new sets of problems, because one goes and other comes right. But how you face it, is important. Nothing can give you exact solution, but a way to find a solution or a hope to overcome any problem, is in itself a solution. This Conference has given me that. I will always remember that moment from the last day of the conference when for the first time, I smiled from within my heart, and I always do, every time I visit LMAD.

Stories of Change