Nitika Chopra has empathy like some of us have parking tickets or high heels—in spades.
First, she’s a global citizen. Born in Ohio, she moved to Cairo, then Singapore, back to Ohio, on to New Jersey and Hong Kong and, for the past 16 years, she’s called New York home. She’s seen the human condition around the world, and the differences we share in common.
But moving a lot didn’t help her escape her personal conflicts. Nitika hated her name, endured a painful and debilitating case of psoriasis for a decade from age 10 and was divorced by her twenties.
Now 36, Nitika is not only all grown-up but fully self-actualized. As the host of Naturally Beautiful, a talk show that ran on the holistic lifestyle channel Z Living, she referred to herself as a “self-love guru,” and few have learned the hard way better than Nitika how to show oneself grace.
“I’m committed to helping others access tangible self-love. It’s such a buzzword these days, but the more I talk to people, the more I realize that most of us have no clue what it is, what it looks like, what it feels like, what it means. My mission is to make it tangible, to help them feel like they can achieve it. I use every avenue I can—my blog, my social media—to share the journey I’ve been on.”
We got philosophical with Nitika to find out how one gets from the lowest lows to the highest highs in the same lifetime.
Q: How can someone so young have so much wisdom?
A: I got into all this stuff because I got sick when I was 10. I had those dark moments. I didn’t choose happiness; for years, I chose suffering. I didn’t know there was another choice. I felt horrible and uncomfortable, then I started to dig—how can I get past this right now?
Q: How does one cultivate inner beauty when you don’t feel your best on the outside?
A: I tell people you should treat your body like you would a younger version of yourself. If you were to see a girl in front of you, you wouldn’t say, “You fat cow, how could you?” That would be horrible! I ask people to talk to their own bodies that way. That’s how the conversation needs to start. You can’t just genuinely decide to like yourself in two seconds, but you can have compassion for yourself. I didn’t say my skin was pretty; I said to myself, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting right now. I’m sorry I’m so frustrated by you.”
“I find the more you can choose a higher vibration, the healthier you’ll be”
Q: How did your challenges lead to your purpose in life?
A: The biggest thing for me was being uncomfortable in my own skin, whether literally or figuratively, because of my name or heartache. That pushes you to ask questions, to seek more. It can push you in either direction: to want to feel better, or to feel bad to the point of numbing out. Either way is an option, no judgement, but I find the more you can choose a higher vibration, the healthier you’ll be on every level. My definition of self-love is being more committed to your happiness than to your suffering in every moment. In those times of despair and disappointment, I could choose to be upset, to continue to be sad, to suffer, and it’s not that it’s not valid, I’m just committed to something more. I really pushed myself to choose something higher and happier. It’s a moment-to-moment commitment.
I think a huge part of self-love is letting myself feel like, “This sucks, and I’m not up for it.” A lot of times people want to feel better and be happy. It’s such an achievement these days to get ourselves there. So instead of feeling where we’re at, we’re not allowing ourselves to be honest. Choose happiness, but don’t do it at the expense of being able to see what’s really going on inside.
Q: In practical terms, how do you do that?
A: A lot of it is just habit. Maybe you saw a parent choose suffering and you didn’t know you could do otherwise. Maybe you see that you get a lot of attention from choosing misery. It’s about our pasts and the conversations we’ve had that lead us to this point.
“We get very serious in life and forget about having fun when we’re adults”
For starters, acknowledge it. During my training, I always learned that’s half the battle. If you’re unhappy and choosing bad patterns, do some evaluating and see if you need to talk to someone, or choose better foods to eat or practice having more fun. That’s actually a big one. We get very serious in life and forget about having fun when we’re adults. Do an inventory about where you are and where you want to be and what you think will get you there, even if it’s only one step. Make that time and that effort. Those things are all going to make a difference.
Q: When did you know you could help others overcome adversity?
A: I’m a very passionate person, so I would genuinely walk around telling people all I had learned, and when I noticed that not everybody thought the way I did or knew the same stuff I was learning, I thought I could help more people. I took classes, got trained, and it grew from there.
“There’s no magic pill. You just have to be crazy enough to believe in yourself”
Q: What challenges did you have to beat to build your business?
A: I’ve had an insane level of belief in my dreams ever since I can remember. My parents have always known what I speak is going to happen one way or another. I didn’t have any money, contacts or anyone saying “you should do this” except for me. I was able to navigate with a lot of hard work and a lot of faith. There’s no magic pill. You just have to be crazy enough to believe in yourself.
Q: What do you wish you could tell your younger self? What do you wish you could tell everyone?
A: I would tell my younger self, “I know nobody gets you now, but that’s going to change.” I had no friends, no one understood me as a kid. Inside I felt, “I don’t think I’m crazy, but no one seems to be reflecting back to me that I’m normal,” so it was a really challenging time.
I tell others to start with compassion and empathy. Use community, your friends, your family, but you have to start with having it for yourself. That’s the most beautiful relationship you’ll ever cultivate.
Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: There’s definitely no typical day, but every day includes social media. That’s really fun. The only other part that tends to happen often is I write a lot—for my blog, sponsored content, I’m working on a book proposal…it’s a ton of stuff. Some days I’m at meetings, some days I stay home and do calls. I try to watch my running around so I don’t run myself ragged.
Q: How do you find balance?
A: My home is such a huge part of what makes me feel centered, so I’m always trying to make sure it’s clean, I make my bed every morning, I cook a decent amount of my own meals. Having really clear boundaries helps, so as much as I love meeting people in person, I try to say no a lot unless it can’t be avoided because I know I’ll get adrenal fatigue if I’m not mindful.
Q: What motivates you?
A: My vision board. I’m staring at it right now. It’s another way for me to express my dreams and goals. It feels fun and unrestricted—there’s no map or plan or strategy or return on investment. It’s purely about: What do you want? I get to play! If I could create anything, this is [the manifestation of] what I would do. Sometimes I don’t even realize what the answer is until I let myself go there. I have a really big section [on the board dedicated to] my apartment because my home is a sanctuary for me. There’s a picture of a street with brownstones, which I’d love to own one day. There’s scuba diving because I haven’t been in years, and it’s a true luxury to roam the world and see what’s below the surface.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO NITIKA
Role model: My soul sister tribe of friends.
Personal mantra: Be more committed to your happiness than to your suffering.
Your favorite bra: Anything black and supportive.
Proudest moment: At the end of my self-love celebrations I do here in NYC, I’m usually like, Holy cow, I cannot believe I just did that!
Greatest extravagance: My hair. It needs the money.
Best workout: Running from the subway home. It happens every day.
Hidden talent: I sing. I stopped a decade ago and am pushing myself to get back into it. I’m in the Resistance Revival Chorus started by founders of the Women’s March.
Superpower: I wish I could think about the meal I want and have it in front of me.
Fear you’re trying to overcome: I’m always afraid I’m going to mess everything up. I have to tell myself, Calm down; don’t be weird.
Best book: Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani and The Alchemist by Paul Coelho.
Mood-boosting song: Janet Jackson’s “Escapade.”
Favorite app: I’m teaching myself Spanish with Duolingo.
Craziest thing you’ve ever done: Swim with sharks in the Indian Ocean.
Perfect day must contain: An almond milk latte.
Get more Nitika in your life here.
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.