Umama Kibria

Sun Mar 14 2021 05:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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I think most of us have grown up with an identity crisis. We want to please our parents and make them happy but also want our freedom. We try to check off all these boxes and I felt like I had checked off all those boxes for my parents up until college.

I moved out of the house for college, which was pretty unprecedented for my family. When I graduated, I returned home and experienced this transition from freedom to being back in my parent’s house. I dealt with depression and tried to figure out how to bring passion back into my life despite the lack of control.

One Friday night, I was crying in the shower and thinking that my life was in shambles while trying to figure out what I could control. I tried fitness and eating better because those were two decisions I had total control over. This became a motivating factor in my life that gave me a plan to practice discipline and self-acceptance.

I also always believed that if I found something I was passionate about, was consistent, and connected it with a community, I could make an impact. Still, the fitness narrative was so different and hard to understand for my family to the point that I had to move out to pursue my purpose.

I developed an app called SweatPack that connects people to group workouts and sports leagues. I recognized that I could empower a community and offer resources and a sense of identity while motivating transformation.

Unfortunately, some of the Bangladeshi community commented on my sexuality and made up other strange narratives associated with fitness at the time, things my parents heard. I understand that the community was taught that they weren’t good enough to take on these ventures or fitness, but that mindset also leads to obesity and diabetes, and health issues. My mission was to change the narrative.

My parents, like all of our parents, are all about hard work, sweat, and tears. I wonder why they thought I would ever want to choose an easy route. They inspired me with their journey, so I didn’t want to settle for a normal job. I wanted to pursue something bigger and show them that their hard work was worth it. Fitness for me is just the industry, not what I do. I’m a technologist, a startup founder, and a business leader.

My journey was tough, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. I was recognized as Forbes 30 Under 30 leader and TEDx Speaker for my impact in the fitness industry with SweatPack. I accepted myself, and my family has learned to love, accept, and understand me. I’m on my path and working on my timeline. Many women have given up their passions or planned their life to appease others, one way or another. I hope others see this as a call to follow your gut. I believe that if you do, you will go a long way.

Small Business, Identity, Entrepreneur