Neeta Bhushan
[Photos Courtesy of Dr. Neeta Bhushan]

When you think of the word grit, think Dr. Neeta Bhushan — former cosmetic dentist turned bestselling author, international speaker, social entrepreneur, and leadership coach.

Bhushan has demonstrated grit in a number of ways. She remained resilient while overcoming the deaths of her mother, father and brother, all before the age of 19, and has demonstrated immense courage by leaving her million-dollar dentistry practice to pursue her calling through advocating for leadership grounded in emotional strength intelligence.

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The girl on the left. Bold in her own right. Transforming smiles from the outside. Her outer shell beginning to crack. She had all of the outward success. Chasing the art of perfection and overachievement. Living the dream, that others looked up to her for. . The girl on the right. She is beaming. She is unapologetic. She owns her worth. Radiating authentic love for herself. Transforming smiles from the inside out. Still struggles but knows WAY better. Living her truth, while helping others find theirs. . Two images, same smile (hah a little whiter on the left ?) just with a different sense of confidence. One dictated by society and all the obligations that came along with it, and one on HER OWN TERMS. . Oh Neeta, Everyday you wake up and you get to choose how you wish to be…loved the girl then, but IN LOVE with the girl now. . What's your transformation story? . . . #transformationstories #weallgrow #bebettereveryday #emotionalgrit #emotionalresilience

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It also took tons of grit for Bhushan to get to where she is today. Born and raised in Chicago to a traditional Filipino-Indian family, she spent many years sacrificing her happiness for the sake of family, society and others. To please others, Bhushan created a lifestyle that appeared glamorous on the outside, but when she was honest enough with herself to realize that she was suffering on the inside, she made a bold move to leave her “perfect” life behind. 

In the years that followed, Bhushan went on a journey of self-discovery, traveling to over 45 countries, researching human behavior dynamics and leveraging her own emotional grit to coach and speak about emotional strength intelligence. As a result of her perseverance, Bhushan has transformed the lives of thousands globally and has set the bar for a new form of emotional leadership. 

Her latest book “Emotional GRIT” teaches readers how to remove the old “gunk” to strengthen their emotional intelligence, build their GRIT game and fill their cups first so that they can lead fulfilling lives.

Brown Girl Magazine recently caught up with Dr. Neeta Bhushan to discuss her new book, her background as a South Asian, and the choice to chase her dreams. 

So many South Asian parents want their kids to become doctors, and you not only achieved that dream, but you also had a successful practice! Did you experience any backlash from your community about leaving dentistry to pursue a “non-traditional” career?

Yes, because it was not “traditional” and completely “unconventional,” as well as totally against the programming of a “safe profession.” Some of my family members to this day are quite puzzled as to what I do now. 

You share that emotional intelligence is key to unlocking your potential, but embracing emotions remains a taboo topic in the South Asian diaspora. What solutions, if any, would you propose to reverse this trend?

Teaching that vulnerability builds trust, as well as courage. We need more courageous leaders being okay with the notion of “I don’t know it all” and “I need help.” Asking for help is one of the ways to be courageous — which is the biggest factor that affects the stigma around the mental health crisis that we see today, along with the great rise in depression, anxiety, stress and even suicide. 

I love that you invite readers to take a closer look at their own leadership and equip them with a kit to build their grit! Can you tell us more about emotional GRIT and what inspired you to create the GRIT framework?

Understanding the stories of your past and how to make better decisions as a result. It’s a way to fully embrace your emotional health, and I use the GRIT framework as an acronym for Grow, Reveal, Innovate and Transform. The first step is to be aware of the situation and be aware of your thoughts and feelings, which leads to growth. The second step is to accept where you are, which leads you to reveal your next chapter. And only then will you be ready to commit or innovate to change, and then finally take action and transform your life. 

[Read Related: The Delicate Mind: Award-Winning Organization Tackles Mental Health with Faith Leaders]

You recently founded the Global GRIT Institute, which aims to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses while creating more time for freedom. What kind of impact does this type of platform have on the global conversation about empathy-centered leadership? 

We are solely focused on helping wellness-based companies and humanity-plus companies create impact in the world. One of the four pillars at GGI is teaching capacity building. Capacity building for the leaders and entrepreneurs that we work with is the [essential] foundation to building empathy-based leaders. 

Your grit is incredible, especially since you have faced adversities, such as losing your mother, father, and brother at a young age and surviving an abusive marriage. Given your resilience and path to self-mastery, what are you most proud of?  

That’s a tough one, but it is being able to consistently inspire women throughout the Asian and South Asian diaspora to speak and own their voices. Everyday I get emails, DMs, messages and videos from folks around the world sharing their stories with courage and resilience, which is a reminder that our work is so important. 

Not only are you a best-selling author, but you are also a mom, wife, business owner, international speaker and coach. How do you balance all of your commitments? Do you feel like there are any extra pressures placed on you, especially as a South Asian woman?

Pressures are there, absolutely. But luckily I do have an incredible partner who doesn’t quite believe in traditional gender roles. Since he loves cooking, we take turns with our son and believe in co-parenting. And as serial entrepreneurs, much of what we teach — which is efficiency and maximizing our genius zones — we value within ourselves. 

What advice do you have for Brown Girl readers who are trying to live their most authentic lives and break away from the expectations of “tiger” parents and/or traditional cultural norms?

You do you. Reading this hopefully has given you the first glimpse of what your next chapter could look like. Ask yourself how you wish to show up in the world — as a people pleaser or as a person making your own impact in the world?

[Read Related: Indo-Caribbean Life Coach Shanita Liu Transforms Fears Into Courage]

Neeta Bhushan’s journey shows that no matter what challenges you’ve faced or limiting mindsets you’ve inherited, you CAN break out of the box to regain your sense of self and the integrity to do your life’s greatest work.

If you’re looking to establish a new kind of grit, unleash your potential and accelerate your life, check out the bestselling book “Emotional GRIT” by Dr. Neeta Bhushan. To learn more about her extensive body of work, visit her website and follow her on social media.

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