Sanjana was born and raised in San Diego, California, by the two most hardworking people she’s ever known. Her parents immigrated to America from India to build a better life for their future children. She grew up knowing that her success would mean theirs, too. From an early age, Sanjana was always striving to be the best. 

Entering elementary school, Sanjana was the only brown kid in a predominantly white space. Having different color skin, following a different religion, bringing different food in her lunches, and being the only one to speak with an accent, it was clear she was different. When she began experiencing racism and bullying, she came to believe that if she performed the way others wanted her to, and said and did what other people wanted her to, maybe then she would be accepted.

In an effort to be accepted by her peers in school and in the Indian community, as well as within her family, Sanjana sought to be as perfect as possible. The more Sanjana focused on perfectionism, the more being “perfect” was out of reach. She began struggling with anxiety, believing no matter what she did or how well she performed, she would never be good enough. By high school, schoolwork became more difficult, but when she tried to focus, the less focused she became. She was experiencing depression, and when she began thinking in black-and-white terms — either she was going to be perfect or completely worthless — Sanjana’s mental health worsened and spiraled into suicidal ideation.  No one knew how much she was struggling or how she really felt. People saw what she wanted them to see: that she was a good student, a good athlete, a good daughter, a good friend. But there was one big problem with that, she didn’t feel like any of those things. She was wearing a mask, still pretending to be the person she thought others wanted her to be. 

Sanjana’s perfectionism and mental health challenges progressed in college, until she became very physically ill. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and learned it was onset early due to stress, making the mind/body connection.  She immediately knew she had a choice to make, she could keep ignoring her anxiety and depression, and live in pain forever, OR she could make being her real self a priority and finally face her mental health issues. 

Sanjana bravely decided to take off the mask and be honest about how she was really feeling. She received support for her mental health, gaining coping skills for her anxiety and depression, and shifting her perspective to progress not perfectionism. Today, perfectionism is no longer her top priority in life, it is health and well-being. Sanjana advocates for the importance of vulnerability, no longer wearing the “perfect” mask as she shares her story with others. She encourages audiences to believe they are enough no matter what, that support systems are necessary, and that there is always hope. 

Sanjana is based in San Diego, CA. In-person speaking engagements beyond 90 miles may require a fee for travel expenses. 

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