How society forces us to choose an identity, but we are so much more.

Bhavik Shah
12 min readSep 30, 2018
“man covering his face standing” by Alex Iby on Unsplash

In a modern society, the average person, tends to have somewhat of a pre-defined life set for them. We start school at the age of 4–5, to commence our learnings of basic language, sciences, and mathematics for the next decade or so. Afterwards, at the brink of adolescence, we are softly forced to choose a field we want to enter into for the next 50–60 years, graduate from a decent university with that concentration in mind, find a job immediately after graduation (hoping there are any available in that specific field), and then start our work lives — slowly working towards a retirement that seems a lifetime away. Some may get married, buy houses, have children. Others choose to dedicate their entire lives to their careers and become quite successful at it. You may know some people who just become free spirits and decide to work the odd job, live in one city and hop to the next, and somehow get away with not having any real responsibility. We all are amazed in how they can actually do that, but secretly want them to stub their toe because we are green with envy. In my case, I fall under the “average” person category. I started school as every kid does, and worked diligently to get good grades for a college education I did not really choose, yet still landed a career that deems itself to be the epitome of success(on paper). All of these events have definitely contributed to be part of the social construct set by us, for us, and we the people, have accepted this “norm” silently. But at what cost? Every decision I have made in nearly 31 years has been at a juncture where I could have either chosen the path already outlined for me, or rebel to cause massive disruption in my life. Out of fear, I chose the former. Most of us do, and with that comes an identity associated with each decision we make. We identify ourselves to be that student, that over achiever, that working professional, ultimately being “the ideal society member.”

For years and years, my goals aligned themselves to mirror this fictitious ideal member. I would be given comparisons of other family members, close or randoms I’ve met once at some distant cousin’s boring wedding. If it was not for the family comparisons, my teachers would choose former students as an examples for the class to follow. There was no escape. In a way, I was brainwashed that members of society must follow this mathematical equation to be successful. Any deviation, or slight variance in the equation would prove to be a failure. This identity I “chose” for myself proved to be exhausting, and mentally harmful to my confidence, my ego, and overall self worth. I spent a magnitude of time dedicating myself to a craft that I valued over social skills, physical abilities, and general communication with those around me. I can’t sit here and say I lost my voice to speak for myself, because I never knew I had one to use. There is no textbook that teaches you how to be a well rounded child, going to a school where teasing and bullying were prevalent. I did what I had to do — become the smart, quiet kid. I was so quiet, teachers thought I was mute. I tell this story to some people now, and they can not imagine someone who will not shut up about how much he loves pizza and the TV show FRIENDS, was once so uncomfortable by his own voice, he chose to never use it. The same man who constantly laughs now at fart jokes, once decided being bullied and ridiculed for looking different, was easier than standing up to those who insulted him. If I chose to fight back, it would go against my “ideal” society member formula. My job was to get an education and leave. My job was to accept the circumstances and ensure that I was working for a brighter tomorrow.

Eventually, I was able to dig myself out of the torturous hole that I created for myself. I used the world’s tiniest teaspoon, and it took years, but nevertheless I got out. The process was long where I ate my feelings to a point where I ran straight into obesity. (Ok, I walked — you got me) The ridiculing became worse. “There is no point in fighting back” I said to myself. My inner Pillsbury boy voice prevented me to do anything again, but this time it was different. I was embarking on the dark and troubling teenage years. Range of emotions ran through my body, alongside the blood that kept me alive. I felt more pressure to be a socially accepted kid, experiment with romance, be a pillar in the family that can rely on me. I was more frightened about what my actions could do, not only for myself but for others. “What if this prevents me in getting into a good university?” “Can I not just ignore the bullies, and hopefully it will stop?” (It did not stop) I was chased around the locker room, being threatened to be beat up. My t-shirt was pulled up multiple times to make fun of my “boobs”. I was called Bin Laden and a faggot. It was not until I made the decision to lose the weight and gain the confidence to stand up to those gremlins, that the situation calmed down. I no longer wanted to have the identity of the smart, quiet, fat kid. I wanted to be in the inner circle, sit with the cool kids in the back of the bus, and eat at the lunch table with “friends”. It was an identity of acceptance. The very people who did not accept me, were the ones I sought validation from.

High school was difficult, and the memories still haunt me every now and then. If I had decided to speak up, I would have been able to gather my self respect. If I believed in my skills as a student, as a friend, as a schoolmate, my life perhaps would have been easier. The “ifs” still bother me. Seeking validation does not disappear as you become an adult. You are constantly trying to impress new friends, co-workers, family members to find some sort of connection with them (even if it’s forced) — I was no exception. As I grew out of my shell and became this jovial individual, I was very open to talk about my surface issues. It was the skeletons I was not ready to share. Granted, everyone has a right to conceal their private life — but I never felt comfortable in telling my loved ones any deep thoughts or feelings because I was afraid. I constantly battled trust issues after my childhood traumas. The closest people in my life hurt me in a way that I never fully have recovered from. Imagine when a glass vase in your house breaks. Sure, you can put the big pieces back together with some crazy glue, but those small cracks are still there. I walked around with those cracks most of my life and if I let people see that, would I be able to recover? Will they still love me, care for me, appreciate me? I convinced myself the answer was no. As a result, I became this fun loving guy who always laughed, always down for a good time, and wanted people to really see the kind/funny side of him. This identity worked, until life’s stress weighed too much to carry. Depression hit so quickly, I felt as if I were going through hurricane constantly fearing for safety. I could not lift my head up most days, let alone be a functioning human in society. I forced myself to smile, tricked myself in having a good time with friends, and lied to my family day in and day out. I was trapped in my own darkness, and a part of me enjoyed it. If I stayed there, and continued to live this “established” life I had built, no one will know about those cracks — which means they can’t take advantage. I did not want to re-live my childhood days of vulnerability because it was easier to dismiss all of these emotions to survive another day. To be perfectly honest, being depressed was just easy.

It took some time, multiple internal monologues, loads of writing, and self reflection to realize that things had to change. This new found identity was not working, and it was actually worse off than any others I ever had. So I tried, and tried, and tried some more to pick myself up to find a solution that would remediate this pain. I finally found a way to leave NY, and move to London — a city that I have been side eyeing for over 5 years. I had never lived anywhere outside of NY. It was home. It was safe. But also, it was exhausting. I was tired of living this “NY state of mind” lifestyle where you are constantly adding events to your calendar, forgetting to breathe. I had calendar bulimia, where I over compensated for everything I had missed out as a child/teenager. A part of me knew I had everything I would ever need in New York. Yet, I challenged myself because I knew there was something missing. I needed to gain new experiences, and be independent away from all the people I loved to grow as a man. There was no way I would ever be happy if I’d continue to live by the status quo. I wanted to be happy on my terms, and finally abandon the pre-determined path given to me.

I was scared, nervous, and excited all at the same time when I left home. I found a woman who I imagined a life with, and moving to London was just the perfect time. She was the one person, arguably the only person, who understood my insecurities and fears and made them into positive attributes. Without actually noticing, she broke down walls within my heart that I believed were forever mounted with cement. When I decided to tell her I identify as bisexual, I knew she would understand and the life I had always imagined for myself would finally fall into place. This would make up for all the teasing. All the bullying. All the rejections. I was wrong. My expectations were shattered when she couldn’t accept me as me, and life again went into a downward spiral. All of my insecurities, doubts, and self loathing came rushing back, as waves of the ocean hit the beach sand during a storm. I had never felt so broken in my entire life, and kicked myself for being honest — for choosing an identity that wasn’t part of the social construct. I guarded myself in a safe haven for so long, but regrettably let someone in, only to destroy the little hope I had left. I was lost. I was exhausted. I was in mourning. I was alone.

My biggest struggle in life was not accepting who I was. It was allowing others to see it — and feeling stressed about how people would react to it. I was worried that pre-conceived ideas about me would prevent people to see the actual journey I had been on. I could have easily told loved ones about my inner turmoil, but selfishly, the thought of explaining myself on why I felt the way I felt was draining. It was not only on the bisexuality, but also the depression. Sure there was a correlation, but there was more. When my friends would say “I always knew” (referring to my sexual orientation) I’d actually found it very insensitive that in the very moment of my vulnerability, they flipped it around to make it seem they have been accepting and warm for ages. How else would you want to be? Shouldn’t that always be the standard? Was it right for them to pass judgment and make assumptions on something that has taken me an entire journey to figure out, and they knew NOTHING about? It’s not. It’s wrong. It’s almost like a game people just won with themselves, validating their theories that somehow boosts their own self confidence. I know the sentiment is meant to be supportive, yet I do believe that people should be conscious of their reactions, for any big news, because you’re not there to give yourself a pat on the back. You’re meant to be there for your friends, as they are putting their emotions on the line. This is not being overly sensitive, it’s being real. People forget that we are allowed to feel the way we feel, and allowed to be sensitive because that is what makes us humans. That is the one clear distinction between the human race and every other species. When I was suffering from my depression, I didn’t need comments like “You have so much to be grateful for, you need to just be appreciative”. Being appreciative and being depressed barely have any correlation with each other — we can be both things. Not once did any of those comments help me get out of the darkness, and tackle the true problems at hand. It helped to close me off even more. Similar to how dates would say that I was not straight enough, or gay enough. How being bi was just a step away from being gay. How this was just a phase, and I’m in denial. When did everyone become so intuitive that they knew more about me, than I did? How did they have a right to make assumptions on my life, based on how I carried myself? Had society become so ruthless with their critical decision making that they did not realize they were speaking merely from the core of ignorance? Had they become so apathetic? I was disappointed in this human behavior, and I did not want to deal with it. I could have explained keeping stereotypes alive is actually truly detrimental to us, yet remained silent because I was not ready to fight back. Until now.

I have learned that being assertive is definitely attainable, without being confrontational. I have been waiting an entire lifetime to speak for myself. Everyone has their story — this is mine and I wanted to share it in my own way, on my terms. No, this blog isn’t about coming out because that would insinuate I was hiding, and that’s just not true. I have always been present, and always have been showcasing my personality in the best way I could. The term coming out is a societal pressure that only the LGBTQ+ community faces. I never hear the straight community going through the same debate and struggle. The incorrect assumption we make is that kids are always straight unless dictated otherwise. We fail to realize that our world is so diverse, our standard and baseless assumptions need to change. The true purpose of this blog is to let people see a side of me that they never did before. I do not want to walk around carrying a boulder on top of my shoulders — hoping to be a strong man who cannot speak about his fears and insecurities. It’s time to let people in so I can learn from them. So I can work with them. More importantly, I share this in hopes that someone who is going through similar experiences knows they are NOT alone.

With all of this said, I thought about all of my life experiences that led to me a very important question: Which identity will work now? It almost felt that I had fulfilled each one that was set up for me — the academic, the good son, the over achiever, the working professional, and the most painful one, the upright and honest. After banging my head against the wall for months, and speaking to mental health professionals, I came to a very important realization. There is no one identity. To assume that an individual will live their life that way is beyond unrealistic. We have such interesting and multiple facets of our personality, that we cannot contain all of them in a box that has been classified by mere traditions and singular way of thinking. If there was any truth in that, how would that ever spark creativity? How would new ideas be generated? How would we show empathy to others from different backgrounds and cultures? How would we be our true selves? How would I be my true self? I will not only be known as a bisexual man. My legacy will speak much louder than that. I am funny. I am a comedian. I am religious. I am a family man. I have curiosities. I love to travel. I am a mentor. I am a good manager. I am empathetic. I am good friend. I am a survivor. I work to drive change. I strive not for perfection, yet to be the best version of myself. I work to make an impact on the world. I know everyone has a laundry list just like this that makes them so beautifully unique — so the next time society forces you to choose an identity, remember that you have no obligations to do so. Remind them that your qualities will not be crammed into a category box so it’s easier to classify you. Understand your worth. Embrace it. Do not let your voice go unheard because the world will listen. I will listen.



Bhavik Shah

Award winning Mental Health & DEI Workplace Advocate. Exploring new curiosities, while challenging social convention. Contact me at