Having grown up in India, in a culture that valorizes endurance, I had grandeurs views of what integrity is meant to be. In my mind it represented standing up against injustice, for good against evil, standing up against the grain of society on gender and social norms, fighting all odds and falling on your sword for your values. It was glamorous, larger than life, a moment when one loudly and proudly stood up for beliefs.

I am now in my mid-forties, living in a Texas suburb, running around like a busy mom of two and an entrepreneur. As I pause to reflect upon my chronicle of moments of integrity, I realize that instead of a big moment of declaration, these were small realizations peppered throughout my daily life.

These choices to stand up for integrity came in the form of having the humility to realize my self-serving hypocrisy when I expected the specific behavior of my kids when ironically I was not reliable and consistent in making those choices. It came from going in deep and reflecting upon my true motives behind ambitious career goals.

Few years ago I had an opportunity to join a small start-up firm. The vision of the product and services resonated with my desire to be of service to innovation and promotion of person-centeredness in our health care operations. I had championed this cause for years. The company was small and in early stages of formation with promise of growth that I believed in. But candidly speaking what sold me even more was the big title that I would acquire, which readily serviced my ego disguised as fiery ambition. Needless to say, I jumped in with enthusiasm aiming for lofty success goals.

Having spent the majority of my career in corporate world, I had many learnings to absorb in a grounds-up startup operation. It was exciting and humbling all at the same time. I loved being able to wear multiple hats, having exposure to many different facets of business. As I entrenched myself in my new role and ramped up on what I really needed to do where rubber met the road, I was faced with a subtle realization: how do I balance the level of transparency when selling an idea vs. selling a product? I went through whole spectrum of doubt, confusion, anger and frustration. I spent so much time deflecting my confusion onto anger and disappointment towards others. For it is so much easier to hold others in contempt of lofty standards of integrity that I was not ready to step unto. It was exhausting and pointless.

I could not run from myself anymore. Finally, I stopped. I had to turn inward. I realized I was spending too much time expecting others to live up to my perception of integrity when what I need to do was step in and own my space. Own that space without guilt, apology, or explanation. I stepped away from the role. For years, I have looked back at that decision with doubt that perhaps I quit too soon. I viewed it as a personal failure to have the chops to muddle through the “murky” decisions of the business world. I wondered if I was too ideological. 

It was no one moment of epiphany that offered me clarity on this dilemma that I have been dragging with me. The clarity came in bits and pieces over the years. I realized it was a choice I made. The decision to stay true to my definition of integrity and the values I bear in my professional world. Integrity, much like other values, can be personal. Colored by our experiences, our upbringing, and tainted by the lens through which we view the world. We can only contribute towards the collective journey by walking our own path with resilience. I do not have all the answers. But I am open and grateful for the experiences life brings my way that unveil to me that which I am willing to fall on my sword for. What my non-negotiable’s are and how I can live integral to my core values.

Here’s wishing you openness and revelations in your journey. 

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Shaillee J. Chopra is a freelance creative writer. A healthcare technology advisor
by trade, Shaillee also works with kids, teaching mindfulness and art. She lives in
Austin with two rambunctious boys and her husband. She loves to color outside the lines and hopes to be of service through her faulty, messy yet joyfully authentic expressions. You can contact her on her website.

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