Finding comfort in the uncomfortable zones

When I first started working, I always wondered how I would manage to lead an independent life, fight the world around me to let me be myself and self-dependent.

I used to see people living smoothly in the office and on social media at least from where I could see them. I always thought they had some sort of latent superpower to do it all. Now, being on that side working the whole day and then finding time to dance to my favorite songs, trying to play ukulele, talking to friends and family, I have come to realize that we don’t have superpowers. It’s just a lot of willpower.


YES, I have been selected as an AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship fellow. Previously, I have worked in an organization for seven years, and over the years I have had a great time experimenting with different roles and functions within the organization working on purpose-driven projects. I learned a lot in those seven years but then at some point, I realized that it has become my comfort zone and I believe that if you find your comfort then it means you have stopped growing and so I decided to get out of my comfort zone, collect all the assets that I have acquired and move to an uncomfortable zone that would allow me to challenge myself.

I remember when I decided to apply for the fellowship, I was very excited and nervous to put myself in a position where I would challenge myself and not be in my comfort zone any longer.

It was initially a very tough decision to make at first but I knew it will bring about a great change in my life, and I can carry forward with all that I had learned in my previous job. Being in a comfort zone can cost a lot. I always knew that it was very convincing for someone like me who believes in a combination of hard work and smart work to achieve things in the given time frame that I created for myself.

I was beyond thrilled to be accepted as a Fellow and to begin the process of being matched with an organization – the Milaan Foundation. Milaan Foundation is a non-profit social development organization that envisions an inclusive and equal world, where every girl has the knowledge, skills, and social environment for all girls to pursue their dreams and explore their full potential. The project that I am assigned to is The Girl Icon program. The Girl Icon Program takes place as girls transition from adolescence into young adulthood, a critical life stage as post-secondary education, marriage, and employment prospects are considered and questioned. The Girl Icon program aims to support adolescent girls with the necessary tools to follow their aspirations and provides a safe space for girls to practice their newfound skills. This exploratory study assessed the benefits of Milaan’s Girl Icon Program by comparing beliefs and attitudes of gender norms, leadership skills, and self-positive traits between Girl Icon participants and non-participants.

I remember my first day in the office. I was nervous and felt a bit awkward. Although the staff was quite nice, they showed me around the entire office and made me feel comfortable. Everyone in the office is a welcome breath of familiarity and helped me to become more at ease along the way. One of the things I learned during my time in the fellowship is how to simply just be in uncomfortable situations.

At the professional level, I learned self-assertion and not being so concerned about what others might think of me. I have a very understanding relationship with my supervisor and our values and thoughts are really in line when it comes to working. Overall, I am working at an amazing organization, working on ambitious and exciting projects, with a group of brilliant people, reviewing huge data spreadsheets every day. It may sound unpleasant to many, but this is exactly what I want to do to find the stories and patterns hidden in this vast amount of data and use that information to improve the education sector for young girls in rural areas of India.

After a few months of AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship adventure, I feel satisfied for several reasons. Yes, I am uncomfortable with the most comfortable situation I have ever experienced. It feels great and is very overwhelming. I guess that’s what I wanted when I decided to apply for the fellowship.

Deciding to apply for the AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship was one of the best decisions of my life. I am a very structured thinker myself. So I like to have a basic schedule and structure throughout the day that would allow me to balance my personal life and work-life throughout the day.

One of the things I have learned so far is that I cannot be perfect at everything and it should be okay. Sometimes everything seems difficult and impossible, but that too shall pass and I will emerge stronger.

A screen shot of my Fellowship cohort during a virtual session
A screen shot of my Fellowship cohort during a virtual session

Naina is a first-generation learner, the only one to migrate from a small village called Daudpur in Uttar Pradesh to a big city like New Delhi to pursue her dreams of working with young women like her. At the young age of 14, she participated in Naz Foundation’s sports and life skill program through her school which eventually opened up her to newer experiences, and perspectives. Her work at Naz has been varied, ranging from planning and conducting sessions on sexual health, reproductive rights, financial literacy, communication, and other soft skills to now understanding M&E, data, managing and coordinating it for the entire Young People’s Initiative Program of the Naz Foundation (India) Trust. She is an enthusiastic learner, a believer
in using data to transform lives and impact them positively. Naina looks forward to a journey of growth, exposure, and learnings through her fellowship at AIF. She intends to grow and do meaningful work in the development sector, and is motivated to encourage others through her energy to keep learning and discovering newer ways to solve social and economic problems that exist around us.

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