Low Self-Confidence Was a Huge Challenge of Mine While Growing Up - Esha Kode

I traveled to Mumbai, India, and competed at the Miss/Mrs./Teen India Worldwide Pageant at the Leela Hotel and was crowned as the first-ever Miss Teen India Worldwide. 

1. Tell us about your background and journey.

My name is Esha Kode and I was born, raised, and currently reside in New Jersey, USA. My family came to the states back in the 1990s from Hyderabad, India. It was always ingrained in both me and my younger brother to stay rooted to our culture, hence why we were always scolded if we didn’t speak in our Mother tongue- Telugu- when we were home. 

It was also etched into our heads the idea of family and traditions, so we were sure to celebrate every Indian tradition at the comfort of our homes. This varies from attending/ hosting multiple poojas throughout the year, playing makeshift Holi with our family in our backyard, learning about our religion (though it was never enforced upon us), watching Telugu and Hindi movies, etc.

My journey, I would like to believe, has just started. I’m 18 years old and am currently in my first year of college, studying psychology. My main career goals include, but not limited to, becoming a pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon and a social entrepreneur. 

I also consider myself to be a mental health advocate and have co-founded a nonprofit organization called Happy2Thrive (www.happy2thrive.org) to promote better mental health awareness and eventually end the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. 

When I’m not studying or working on my nonprofit, I love reading, running/kickboxing, bullet journaling, spending quality time with my family, and Netflix partying with my friends!

2. How did you become Miss Teen India Worldwide and reach this stage?

I was a very timid teenager who was always reserved and kept to herself a lot due to a lack of confidence and immensely low self-esteem. My mother, being the complete opposite, impulsively signed me up to compete for the Miss Teen India NJ 2016 pageant without telling me. 

She paid the fees and came home and said that I had no other option. I was forced into it in 2016, but when I won Miss Teen India NJ 2nd Runner Up that year, my confidence skyrocketed and I started to believe in myself much more. Therefore, when I received the chance to enroll again in 2018, I was ecstatic. 

In 2018, I won the Miss Teen India NJ title, then moved on to win the Miss Teen India USA title. After this, I traveled to Mumbai, India, and competed at the Miss/Mrs./Teen India Worldwide Pageant at the Leela Hotel and was crowned as the first-ever Miss Teen India Worldwide. 

Through this platform, I was invited to a plethora of events across the country where I spoke about women empowerment and advocated for mental health. Not only was it lovely to travel and speak up about the causes I believe in, but the people I’ve met through this platform is just phenomenal. 

I have grown so close with some of the girls and the best part is they live all over the world, so technology makes it so easy for us to stay in touch and spread some love!

3. What is your opinion of body image created by the media and how hard is it to put up with it?

As teenagers/adolescents, I think we all have those moments where we feel absolutely worthless and insecure due to social media’s depiction of what an ideal body should look like. 
Growing up, I, too, was very insecure and honestly sometimes still am of my body and that is due to the media, but also due to the way people in society judge and treat others based on their body type. 

In regards to the media, it is definitely hard to put up with when all you see are beautiful model-like posts, where people just look flawless and are flexing their perfectly toned bodies. 

First of all, it is completely okay for these people to post whatever they want as long as by posting these pictures, they aren’t purposely hating on other body types and people (because we are all so different and we must embrace our differences and love ourselves for who we are!). 

Secondly, when you catch yourself getting jealous and insecure while looking at someone’s post because of his/her body, then there are one of two things that you can do that have worked for me: 

  • Unfollow that person for some time just to give yourself some peace of mind and when you have re-centered yourself, then you can follow them back; 
  • let’s say you truly do enjoy the person’s content, so you don’t want to unfollow them. That’s okay. 

In this case, I started following more inclusive and empowering accounts to kind of fill my feed up with more posts from those empowering accounts, rather than the other accounts that make me second guess myself. 

On Instagram, some of the empowering/vibrant accounts include- @feminist, @the_indian_feminist, @jayshetty, @tombileyu, @womenofimpact, @thegoodquote, @melrobbins, @pickuplimes, and many more! 

Just remember that no one’s body looks the same every day and every second of the day. Our bodies are immensely strong and yet, at the same time, super fragile. Love yourself the way you are and treat yourself with respect! 

4. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?

Low self-confidence was a huge challenge of mine while growing up. I can’t say that I am fully confident in myself now, but I have come very far to realize that I have grown immensely. 

Part of my lack of self-confidence came from my relatives who never approved of my extracurricular activities, like competitive dancing. Some others just had super high expectations of me and continuously trying to meet those expectations was exhausting. 

I was also always commented on my weight and my body, where people said things like “Your legs look like sticks.” “You’re definitely underweight.” “Do you starve yourself? Why are your hands and legs like that?”

The way I overcame this feeling of worthlessness and low self-confidence was through introspection. I started to focus on what I truly wanted to get out of life. Did I love to dance so much that I did not want to sacrifice it? YES, so I kept going with it despite what others said. 

Did I really want what others expected of me? NO, so I took hold of the steering wheel of my life and drove forward to pursue things that I wanted. Could I change my genetics to make my legs not look like “sticks” and did I really care if people thought I was underweight, even though I, myself, knew I was literally healthy? NO, so ignorance became my best friend every time these comments came up again.

The saying “you are your biggest cheerleader” is extremely true. We got one life folks, so we cannot waste those precious minutes thinking and adhering to what society wants from us. We have to and we must spearhead forward to reach OUR own goals, aspirations, and ultimate life of pure bliss. 

5. What is your idea of success or your mantra in life?

My idea of success is simple: be content. No amount of money could ever keep me happy in life if all my friends and family leave me. So, I believe that having loved ones around me is a key part of success, in part because they can be your cheerleaders when you are not able to be your own and they can also push you way past your limits. 

Another thing I strongly believe in to be content is to WORK HARD! I believe in willpower and manifestation, so the harder we work and the stronger we visualize ourselves actually attaining whatever type of success we want, it WILL happen! We just need to give the Universe time to react with our energy to create these changes.

6. What does your typical day look like?

My typical day starts with drinking a liter of water within the first two hours that I wake up, which varies from 6:45-7:30 am. Then, I like to go spend some time in Nature, so I either go for a jog in my neighborhood, walk around, or bike around. This simple act of spending a good 30 minutes away from people and social media and just in Nature centers me throughout the day. 

Afterward, I like to get a small workout in and then I go for a shower, eat my breakfast, and read for 30 minutes to an hour before my classes start for the day. I read a lot of “self-help”/spiritual type books and also fictional ones as well. What I read on each day just depends on my mood at that time. 

Reading is also something that keeps me super centered and zen throughout the day. After that, I refer to my task list from my bullet journal that I typically the night before and simply follow the tasks written. 

After all my tasks- such as college courses, homework, and nonprofit work- are completed, I like to spend the night with my family (especially since we’re still in quarantine mode due to the pandemic) by playing competitive board games, biking, watching movies, etc. I try to hit the bed by 11:30 pm and then my day starts again!

7. Which is your favorite book and why?

My current favorite book has to be Becoming by Michelle Obama. It was written with such authenticity and genuinity that I was able to connect with it at the deepest levels possible- from the being raised to be an independent woman to talks about the role of races in colleges to Mrs. Obama’s mentality of becoming the First Lady. 

I always enjoy reading autobiographies or memoirs because I feel like that individual had experienced so much in life and they took the time to jot down all their life lessons in the form of a book and spread the word to all their readers.

- Esha Kode 
Instagram @_esha.kode_

- Interview by - Chamanth Krishna 

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