It’s Either F**k Yes! Or No

A few months ago something changed. I made an intention to be back where I was before my life started to unravel. Not to try and be where I was but to be there no matter what. For me that meant living a fearless carefree nomadic life adventure, challenging myself to grow and getting back to trusting in myself.

Since I made that intention, I’ve managed to get back here and it’s almost as if I never left. I’ve done some new things I’ve never done before – lecturing and teaching in different subjects, and I’ve got back to doing some things that I was doing before which I’ve been a little fearful of getting back into – I’m writing this from a yacht that I’m helping deliver across the Adriatic Sea, my first yacht delivery in two years.

While on the outside it looks like things are back to how they used to be, there have been some major shifts within me and that have caused some ripples in my outside world too. This is mainly because I’m now a lot more aware, and I’m listening carefully to my intuition to make sure that I’m living every moment with purpose and intention. It’s been an interesting three years of finding that voice of intuition and silencing everything around so I can listen to it. Quite often, with the PTSD I wasn’t sure if it was fear or intuition speaking, and would have to reflect, re-question, and pick apart thoughts to work that out. Once an internal battle, which is now a healthy discussion as I comfort and calm down the voice of fear to stride on forward.

These days, I’m making a point to honour this voice of intuition, even if it makes no logical sense – especially if it makes no logical sense. That means that I check in with my gut feeling and see if it’s ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (or anything other than yes really) to decide on if I go forward in a certain area. Because of this, I’ve turned down freelance jobs which offered me a much lower salary than I’ve asked for whereas before I might have taken them, having needed the money. I’ve stopped putting energy into situations, and people who I don’t feel good around whereas before I might have given allowances and continued in situations that felt bad to me. To put it frankly I’m honouring my true self with the set of strong values my Dad taught me, coupled with my Mums attitude of ‘don’t care what anyone else thinks’. I guess it’s a “Fuck yes, or no” kind of approach to life, and it seems to be working out nicely.

I’ve come to learn that for me, this way of authentic fearless living comes with constant change, life lessons and growth. I’ve also learnt that the best situations happen when I surrender and trust in myself. I know that my path isn’t a ‘conventional’ one, it means working simultaneously in five different professions for example – something I have difficult explaining let alone understanding how I manage to do it, yet it works and feels good to me. Most importantly, this path has rewarded me richly with freedom, friendship and a life full of adventures. Conventional or not, it’s fruitful, I love it, and it’s mine. With this f**k yes or no approach, it’s good to be back here.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Pierre T. Lambert on Unsplash

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The Power of Personal Responsibility

One of the things I’ve come to learn and appreciate this year is the power of personal responsibility. Admittedly, it can be a challenge to maintain this daily, especially when we seem to be in a society that profits off the lack of it, however once realised and practised it’s one of the most empowering things along the journey of trauma recovery or a personal development journey.

When I first started to become aware of this, it seemed like we’ve been taught from a young age to look externally for the responsibility of our personal life circumstances, especially when something difficult takes place. I certainly see the tendency to blame and shame in my own Western culture, which regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, called for or not, the fact is that it’s a complete waste of energy. Worse yet, by starting the ‘who’s fault is it anyway’ process, we literally give over our power to another person, a situation or anything other than ourselves. While I agree with reflecting on a situation and considering how it could be done better, I recognise that act of blaming outward is a pointless exchange of negative energy.

That said, practising this is much easier said (or written) than done and it can be a very difficult pill to swallow when we’re in the mist of a situation that negatively impacts us, such as in the aftermath of a heart break, a trauma or a death. In fact it’s actually a lot easier to blame outwards, and look for something outwards to hold responsible which is why I think a lot of us become susceptible to this kind of pattern.

The thing is that if we don’t reach a point where we can reflect objectively on the situation and hold our hands up to what was completely within our control then we’re powerless to the event and therefore can’t let it go and move on. I’m not saying that this is the only approach to letting go of a painful event, and I’m certainly not saying that it should be implemented immediately after the event takes place either – the acceptance phase also takes it’s time and it’s important to remember that! Also, not every situation is within our control and sometimes there are incredibly shitty things that happen to us which we’re not personally responsibility for at all, and no matter what, we wouldn’t have been able to change the outcome. There’s no way I could stop my father having a heart attack for instance. However when I look at the years prior to me getting attacked and the way I aimlessly went about my life, it’s crystal clear to me that I created the path I walked along to create the right environment for that situation to occur. Also, regardless of the events, I am responsible for how I reacted in the aftermath of those events and I’m responsible for whether or not I learn from the situations after. As soon as I realised this, I was able to start forgive myself for certain choices I’d made prior to all these traumas and was then able start processing all these events which have since led me down a path of empowerment and growth.

I didn’t have to take personal responsibility for my situation. I could have blamed my attacker, friends who didn’t stop me acting so recklessly, or anyone who came near me in the aftermath for not understanding what I’d been through, and believe me I did do all of this when my emotions were so raw. What I soon realised though is that for every time I deflected some blame on to someone or something else or pulled out the ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’ card that I literally gave my power away and became helpless to a situation in my past, again. And you know what, this soon got boring for myself and those close around me, and I certainly don’t want to be that person.  So what I tend to do now when I feel my ego come up at an opportunity to blame someone else for a challenging situation that I’m facing is take a breath and let it go. Then, I reflect and look for the choices I made to get me in that situation, so I can take responsibility, forgive myself if necessary and recognise the power of my actions. By taking this approach it’s means that we’re always responsible for something, which in turn this means that we can then recognise our personal power in any given situation, no matter how painful it is. Now isn’t that empowering?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

 

Find Your Fun

One of the things I often get lost in when it comes to this whole healing process; is the analysis of what I’ve been going through. Looking inside myself, at my actions, questioning what my behaviour is being driven by etc, basically everything which I write about on this blog.

This isn’t such a bad thing because it’s one of the main things that’s helped me process those challenging events at the speed that I did. It also got me moving in the direction of where I want to go with my life. So of course this process was necessary. However, one of the things that wasn’t so necessary, was me losing all my fun along the way. I realised this recently when my friend’s husband made a comment that I seemed a lot more serious these days than I used to be. And he’s right.

When I think back to the time that all these events kicked off – the first one being me falling in love – it was when I was working in the yachting industry, travelling, dancing, drinking and hanging around with one of my carefree yachting friends who would make me laugh so much that I constantly had a serious case of face ache. Back then, nothing scared me. I often put myself in positions where I’d have to work stuff out and I had this unstoppable self belief that no matter what, I’d be ok. No matter if I quit a job in the middle of the season because the captain didn’t treat me like a human being. Or if I managed to blag myself on to a sail boat delivery when I couldn’t even sail. Or trusting that I could arrive somewhere in the middle of the busiest season yet be certain that I’d find the most perfect place to rent that would be exactly what I wanted. I had this undeniable trust in the universe that everything would work out just fine, and with that trust I flowed with whatever came my way. I went out dancing when I wanted, I radiated out a fun energy that everyone wanted to be part of and I was having an immense amount of fun along the way. To put it simply, I was loving living life and I didn’t worry about anything.

Recently I lost that.

I think it’s because I’ve done a lot of work to find out what my purpose is, and with the whole trauma/self care/personal development theme I’m pretty certain of my vision of what I’m here to create with my life. However I also feel like it’s not quite the time to move forward along that path just yet. It’s as though there’s a few more experiences to collect along the way. A period of time to relax, have fun and get myself back to the carefree, fearless, confident adventure seeker that I was before all these episodes happened. For me that means getting back into the industry that I’d discovered which pays me to be on the water. The industry that gives me the freedom to work how I want –seasonally in short and intense periods. The industry where I feel challenged like I’ve never been challenged before – physically and mentally – to grow as a person in so many different ways. This industry is yachting, something that has nothing to do with self care, personal development or any of my academic qualifications, it is however, the industry which I thoroughly enjoy working in and over the last three years have avoided because of fear.

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up my mission to explore, heal and spread the word about these insights. It means that I’m taking the time to put the fun and happiness back in my step so when the time comes to walk that path I can do it with confidence, fearlessness and true happiness.

I mean after all, aren’t we here on this planet to have fun, enjoy this life and feel good from within?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Why Not Be Your Own Hero?

A good friend once said to me “You’re alone in this world. You come in alone and you go out alone”. While I agree with that to some extent (because physically it’s true). I also think that the fabric of our happiness lies in the connections we make and how strong we make them. I think the point my friend was trying to make is that it’s our personal responsibility to live the life we want to live. Not our parent’s responsibility. Not our spouses. Not any leader of any kind. Only our personal responsibility.

Throughout my travels I’ve noticed that this sentiment seems to have got lost in the cult element of the wellbeing/healing circuit. It’s like what has happened with religion over recent years too. Not to mention capitalism and most hierarchical structures. There seems to be this blind faith in trusting anyone who speaks with insight and offers others guidance. This results in the insightful person floating up into ‘hero’ status as their followers exchange their own moral guidance for that of their hero. While I appreciate that people with insight have a valued voice, I believe (like Deepak Chopra in this video) that we all have the ability to tune into our own guidance system . I also think that heros should be challenged if something they say doesn’t sit right with us. It might not sit right with us because of our own fear which once aired we can identify and address. Or, it might be that what they’ve said doesn’t fit with our personal moral values for whatever reason, either way this questioning creates discourse which is valuable for all.

The problem with this type of questioning (and the reason I believe many avoid it) is that if we question our heros then suddenly we become accountable for the moral code of actions, and for some this responsibility can be a daunting prospect.

This recently came to light for me when I met with someone who had recently left an Osho community. This person was telling me about their childhood heros and how they all turned out to be ‘immoral’ – the Catholic Church, their parents, various sporting and also spiritual leaders – and how Osho was their new hero. Now, I respect Osho’s teachings (I’m currently reading Courage and highly recommend it), but there’s also a few things about his way of life that don’t sit right with me. Because of this, I choose to learn from what I admire and leave what I don’t – isn’t it great that we all have this thing called choice – awesome. Anyway, the question that I posed to this person who was reeling off their list of hero’s was… “Why not be your own hero?”

In return I got a silent, yet startled and suspicious look. So I continued. “Why not be the person you admire, so you can say to yourself every day ‘I’m proud of you’?” This concept left this person a little bamboozled. Probably because, this concept brings us to a question of personal values and how we live by them. Whereas, if we follow a hero then we can detach from our set of values as we blindly live by theirs. This detachment from our own value system is a problem because it means that we give over the power of our moral compass to someone else rather than stopping and checking in to our gut feelings.

Can you see how this could be a potential opportunity for abuse if this hero doesn’t keep their ego in check? And if no one questions them, and let’s say, they commit to and also encourage immoral behaviour they have a whole community of people detached from their own moral compass who validate this negative behaviour of their hero and then within themselves. It’s almost as if there’s a trade off here of ‘Well I’m in the Osho/Catholic/Management community so of course I wouldn’t do anything bad’, whereas the community club badge isn’t actually a representation of our values, our actions are.

The thing is, nobody’s perfect and when you’ve gone through something painful like a trauma it’s challenging to control those negative behaviours. There is however, always the opportunity to reflect, question your actions and rectify a situation. This is why emotional intelligence is so important when it comes to negative feelings as they are our signposts of what we need to work on to become better people. It’s also important for us to surround ourselves with people who question our negative behaviour so we can become aware of it and work no it.

I’m not saying that this is easy, because for some it’s not and we grow up in a society that has many hierarchical structures where we’re taught to give our power over. However, maybe we could at least start with being our own hero and living by a strong set of values that any hero would be proud of?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Why Our Wellbeing Should Be Our Number 1 Priority

I think there’s a common misconception when it comes to self care. That to honour our self care means that we’re selfish, and of course no one wants to be deemed anything as evil as that. It’s as though there’s a certain quilt of shame that we must adopt if we dare to put the wellbeing of ourselves first, before others wishes, or god forbid we put it before progression or the opportunity to create more monetary wealth. However, the thing that happens when we do this, is that we burn out. There’s an exhaustion, a break down or a halt to a stop.

I’m certainly feeling that halt today.

Ironically I’m building my business around self care (shameless plug here), and I’m trying so hard to make things work. I’m web page building, pitching, organising, marketing, all whilst trying to earn money from other sources and then create free time to actually try and live my life. Then suddenly I’m frustrated and exhausted. It’s something that I should have seen coming because I’m aware of this conundrum which is so prolific in our society, and especially so in the industries of care and wellbeing. But I didn’t, and it was only when my life coach asked me “And what about Shereen?” that I almost laughed out loud at the irony of my situation. The problem with this conundrum in care and wellbeing industries is that when the people who are giving care aren’t in a well balanced and happy place, then to care for others requires energy that they don’t have. That’s when they’re at risk of compassion fatigue – when they don’t have the ability to give compassion to others anymore because they’ve been run into survival mode.

Lately, I’ve heard from psychologists, ex-care workers and health professionals who’ve all mentioned that they’re exhausted from over work and extreme emotional stress. Some left their jobs and were considering completely new professions, such as working in a café for one guy – something where the only thing he’d have to worry about is how to make the best coffee he can in that moment. This means that people are leaving the industries that support our most vulnerable people, because if they stayed, it means that they’d be suffering themselves. And these aren’t bad people, they’re compassionate, loving, selfless human beings who are being exhausted to the bone because the systems which they work in lack the boundaries to protect them from becoming emotionally expended.

This isn’t just a problem in the work force, it seems larger than that, an epidemic that spreads across Western culture in fact. It’s as though there’s a certain push to exhaust ourselves beyond all measures these days, especially amongst my generation and the ones following. A push to succeed and ‘be someone’ and I feel myself getting wrapped into it, even in the realm of self care. To be the person who speaks out about trauma recovery without medication, to be the natural and sustainable self care person, to be the writer, the voice, the frequent instagramer of beautiful, thoughtful photos as though I’m some kind of talented photographer when in reality I don’t have a clue. And somedays I’m just tired of it. To the point where I think maybe I’ll go and get a job back on a super yacht where I can earn money, spend time on the water and the only thing I need to worry about it whether the boat looks clean or not – simple times!

It’s when I have these thoughts that I stop and come back to my self care regime and what I need to do to replenish myself in that moment. Sometimes that’s going for walk in the mountains. Sometimes it’s doing something silly like wildly dancing across the room to David Bowie’s ‘China Girl’ to amuse my friend’s 10 month old baby. Sometimes it’s simply lying on my bed reading a book, feeling the warmth of the soft blanket beneath me, knowing that I have a place to rest for now, even if the future seems uncertain. Knowing that I have the freedom to write, walk and sleep when I want. Knowing that I can have the tools and time to stop and take myself out of the hamster wheel to apply my self care before I get burn out.  That’s when I remember that I always have this ability to apply self care, that we can all have it. The trick to is to make the intention to do it and dedicate the time to practice it. To create boundaries in our life and so that we make sure our wellbeing is our number 1 priority. To respect those self care routines as though our life depends on it, because the truth is that it does. Only then can we move forward from a clear and calm mindset, and help others without risking our own wellbeing.

I wonder if things would be different if we, and the organisations that we work for put our wellbeing first before anything else? If physical, mental and emotional wellbeing were valued as the metrics of success rather than figures and progress? One day, I’ll own a business that does.

 

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

 

If You Wouldn’t Say It To Her Face, Don’t Type It

I get it, Sex sells. At least that’s what we’re told right? And if you want to go anywhere in life, you’d better make sure you’re damn sexy otherwise you won’t be getting far! At least, that’s the message we’re given as women, and from a very young age too.

I remember this attitude back when I used to work in the Construction industry. When the pretty girls would get sent to the important sales meetings if we weren’t hitting our customers KPI’s (Key performance indicators) so we could at least distract our male customers from the fact that our company was performing poorly. It always worked, but it got tiring after a while, having to work in a community of men who never saw me as an equal. Regardless of the projects that I completed or the targets that I met, my value within the company was mostly determined by how I looked. I was 23 at the time, young, bright eyed and apparently pleasing on the eye. So the sales men would invite me to meetings to soften customer deals and the women of power in my company disliked me and would make sure I knew it. It was quite an eye opener to go into my first graduate job in an industry that based all my competencies on my aesthetics and I was reminded of that kind of treatment recently when I saw a motivational post by an inspirational women on my Linked in news feed.

The post read like this:

“Do you know the power of appreciation? 85% of people are unhappy with their career. We all have goals and we are always trying to keep up with the Jones’. Goals are great to have but don’t let life pass you by without enjoying the journey you are on. Count your blessings not your problems. Don’t regret not appreciating what you had when you had it including the people in your life. We get so focused on where we are headed we forget where we’re at and what we have now. The purpose of life is to find your purpose and to value those who supported you on the way up. Life is not a race, pump the brakes and slow down.”

It’s such a great message and in my opinion perfectly placed as a post about the workplace, on a social media platform for the workplace. It could have been written by the likes of Tony Robbins, or Richard Branson but this one was written by Shannon Bunn. A marine veteran turned legal assistant, who is a young, intelligent and attractive. She posted this statement with a picture of herself in the front seat of a car (see pic) and the popularity of the post, and the comments that followed interested me. I’m glad to reveal that most of them were about the insightful and motivational statement she made, but some highlighted the attitude that the modern workplace still refuses to outgrow. One that values people by their appearance, not their work.

There were sleazy comments that made reference to how she looked:

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Comments from people saying that they would have ‘loved one night with her’:

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There were negative comments, mostly from women such as ‘Trite BS’

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One that pointed out that it was not the appropriate platform for ‘beauty selfies’ and one comment that actually calls out the post as ‘passive-aggressive sexualisation’. I found these statements interesting because almost every motivational post I see from Richard Branson has a picture of him attached but I never see any comments like this on his posts…

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It goes without saying that we live in a visual world and because of this aesthetics seem important, but are we missing the point when it comes to the workplace?

The fact is that the very popularity of the post and the comments below it show that we are still not appreciating people for who they are and what they do in the workplace. Instead some of us still objectify and then judge each other based on looks, especially when it comes to women. Isn’t it about time we started to see each other as human beings, and respect each other as such? I mean regardless of how Shannon looks and the endless judgements that could be made about her appearance it’s her words and what she stands for that should be remembered.

I could write about the state of our society, and how unaware we are of our emotions that are ruling our thoughts and behaviour, especially when it comes to making judgements about others etc etc… but I figured that these three pre-comment posting questions would be more helpful:

  1. Would you say that to their face?

It’s so easy in the realm of the ‘behind the screen’ society to forget that there is a human being on the other side of the screen, receiving the words so easily typed onto the keyboard. A real person, just like you. A person with feelings, fears, aspirations and insecurities. Have a think about the words you’re typing to another human being and ask yourself – if he or she was here, in front of you right now, would you say that to their face? Would you say it in the tone you mean it and face the consequences of your comments? I think most of the leery men and snipey women probably wouldn’t say some of the things that they typed if they were in a face to face conversation with Shannon.

  1. How would you feel if someone said that to your sister/brother/daughter/son/mother/father?

We often forget that these ‘beautiful’ women and ‘hot’ guys are people’s family members. They are real people, not objects for our desire or attack just because we can’t control our egos. Before you write, stop and imagine how you would feel if someone said what you are about to write to your sister, brother, daughter, son, mother or father. Does it arise a feeling of anger inside you? Are you outraged that someone would act in such a disrespectful way to one of your family members? If so, don’t write it. Remember that the person who you are firing your words at is a human begin too, just like your family, and just like you.

  1. Why do you feel the need to comment at all?

When it comes to commenting on a post, how many of us stop and question why we are commenting and what we hope to achieve out of it? We can start with asking ourselves if our comment is positive, negative or neutral. If it’s negative, think twice about spreading that negativity across a visual platform that thousands of people are going to see because, frankly, the world could do with less negativity in it.

Then, ask yourself this: ‘What is it about this post that rustles up negativity inside me?’

It’s times like this that we should remember that we are responsible for our own emotions and that we have a choice of how we react upon them. If something from the outside brings up a judgement of negativity within you, then there’s something inside you that you need to investigate.

Hopefully if we start asking ourselves these questions more often then we can start becoming more conscious, compassionate and respectful in the workplace, whether it’s in the online community or the office. Now doesn’t that sound like a more pleasant world to work in?

Photo Credit: Shannon Bunn on Linked In.

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

Confessions Of A Truth Speaking Human

I feel lost with the world these days. I’m not sure if it’s just me or if we’re in some kind of illusion where no one ever speaks their truth. It’s annoying because if no one ever speaks their truth then no one ever gets vulnerable, and without vulnerability we don’t have connections. We also don’t have feedback so we never improve as people. We don’t get better at communication, we never face up to take responsibility for how we act based on our emotions and we’re losing high moral standards like honest, loyalty and respect. We start to become some half scraped version of what we think the world wants us to be because rather than being true to ourselves most of us think we have to go around being politically correct and trying to please others.

Well I’m here to throw a spanner in the works and admit to being human.

I’m going to start with my confessions. Apt, as I’ve never done a confession before, at least not in a church to a minister… something about it just doesn’t seem right – “come here and let me judge thee for thy sins oh wicked one”, erm no thanks. Instead here they are for the World Wide Web to view, I mean why have one person’s judgement when the whole word can have a go? Here’s to hoping your feeling forgiving today, dear reader.

  1. I do not have my shit figured out

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to figure stuff out and for the most part I mastered it. I’ve got a knack for digging deep to find out how things work, how we work and the general patterns that link the two. Paired with my tenacity, it’s what has helped me get the things I wanted in life – how to travel with hardly any money, how to get a distinction in an science masters without anything more than a C grade science GCSE (lowest of passing high school qualifications, for you American folk), and mostly how to positively influence people and myself to get the best out of a situation. I enjoy figuring stuff out and finding the best way to do things because it means efficiency and progress and that’s something I’m passionate about. The thing is that I can’t figure everything out, even though I strive to and usually figure more stuff out than most people, I will never be able to figure everything out, and that’s ok. In fact, it’s the way it’s meant to be. It’s the reason I like to sail and volunteer with young adults. Two things baffle me because they can’t be completely figured out. Instead I have to go with the flow and hope I’m prepared for what comes next. To quote an old friend “The true aspiration isn’t having shit figured out, it’s to be ok with the shit not being figured out, ever.” Some stuff has just got to be, and the more I’m ok with that the easier my life will be. Shit is definitely not figured out today.

  1.  I avoid, I judge, I blame

I really try not to. When I do I try to notice it and when I’m aware of it I always dig deep to find what the root cause is so I can learn something more about myself and work to improve it if I don’t like it. My ego still comes up when I feel fear or pain and with it there’s sometimes a verbal attack to whoever is unlucky enough to be near. Usually it’s an arrogant comment or a rant but if I really let it get me then I can shout. It’s not nice, it’s shitty, and I always feel the guilt and shame afterwards for not being the better person I strive to be. Those feelings are necessary as they remind me that I continuously aim to be the best version of myself. So I fully feel the guilt and the shame and in there I find the information that directs me what to do next. It’s usually an apology or a recognition, followed by an inquisition into why it happened (because I’m always trying to figure shit out remember), then I can finally learn from what happened and reach the self compassion and forgiveness for being completely me. Sometimes ego, sometimes heart, sometimes somewhere in between.

  1. I’m scared of a lot of things

I’m not scared of things that are ‘conventional’ to be scared of, the likes of mice or spiders – which to me, seems kind of silly because they’re tiny in comparison to humans but then there goes that less compassionate logical side of me speaking and realistically I know that these thing are caused by associations in the brain, probably in early childhood, and I’ll stop now while I begin to sound like I’ve figured that one out because I definitely haven’t. I’m scared of even sillier things. I’m scared of falling in love for the fear of getting hurt. I’m scared of trying, in case I fail. Mostly I’m scared that I won’t get done what I’ve been put on this planet to do, even though I’m not sure what that even is yet. I’m still not sure how I feel about fear, I just know that it exists within me and still quite prominently. Especially at the moment as I venture back into the dating world and I’m finally moving forward with publishing my books. I recognise it because it’s a squirmy kind of feeling. It’s like being squeezed from top to bottom in a vice that starts in an open 90 degree angle and closes into about 30 degrees, literally squishing me in between. It’s like being compressed under force until there is only one way to squeeze – backwards out of the vice. But if I do that, and the vice closes then that opportunity closes with it. Instead I’m trying to master staying put and holding the vice open no matter how hard I’m squeezed. Eventually the vice will give way and through the experience I’ll become stronger. It’s hard, and there is a minefield of vices in front of me but the horizon on the other side is bright and sunny so I’m committed to crossing the field.

I’m starting to feel comfortable to be my authentic self, even though I get a lot of funny looks when I talk about real topics, you know emotions, life, dreams and progression. When what I say is ‘too heavy’ or ‘too in depth’ or when people ‘can’t handle that (the truth) right now’. I’m hoping that eventually this mirage will dissipate and people will see it for the truth that it is. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes ugly. But I’ll take the truth any day, over something which isn’t even real.

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Photo credit: Ben White

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

Why You Should Question Your Motives Often

I’ve never agreed with the answer “I don’t know” to explain our own actions. Maybe it’s my drive to try and figure the world out or maybe it’s because I was brought up to think about what I had done if I had misbehaved and then was expected to reflect and fully apologise for it. I remember that my Dad would emphasise that there was a lesson in everything. Like the time I was 15 and wrote “Mr Brown is Gay” in the middle of my exercise book. And Mr Brown found it. He spent the whole lesson giving us a shouty lecture on the three meanings of ‘gay’ (homosexual, happy and the plain old offensive use of the word) then demanded from me which one I meant. “Happy gay, Sir” I replied with a smirk. At which he barked for me to get out of his class. I was a fairly rebellious teenager and usually spoke my mind which got me into trouble often, especially with Mr Brown. The offensive pages from my exercise book were ripped out and given to my father at the next parents evening. and I remember it like it was yesterday. The heavy lump drop from my throat into my stomach as I felt so ashamed that my proud Dad had to hear about how much of a little brat his princess daughter was. He took the paper and later on when we stopped at a pub for dinner he took it out of his pocket, unfolded it and put it on the table in between us.

“Why did you write this Shereen?” He asked me

“I don’t know” I said with a ‘please don’t hate me, I’m so sorry, I love you look on my face

“You must know” He said “You wrote it”. “Do you think he is gay?”

“I don’t think so. I think he’s got a wife” I replied in my ‘I don’t’ know what you want me to say’ voice

“And if he was, why do you need to write it on paper?” He challenged me

“I didn’t think he was going to see it. I wrote it when I was with my friends at the back” I confessed

“So you were showing off?” My dad asked, looking at me with a half but sympathetic smile

“Yeah.  I’m sorry I forgot to rip it out of my book” I pleaded

“Ok”. He said, taking the paper and folding it back up to put back in his pocket. “And what’s the lesson here Shereen?” He asked as he leant forward and stared into my adolescent eyes

“Next time rip it out of my book?” I questioned, again trying to say the right thing and not really knowing what that was

“Don’t write down bad things about people” He said “When you say something in the moment, you can apologise and take it back, but writing it on black and white is more permanent. And showing off is not a good characteristic to have Shereen”

I went silent at that point and then the memory fades. I know that what he said was so poignant that it made me think about my behaviour and why I’d decided to act that way.  I wasn’t homophobic, in fact my best friend at the time was homosexual but I hadn’t thought about the words I was using in the moment. I was just trying to be the funny kid who was showing off to impress my friends.

From an early age my parents started to get me thinking about my behaviour and expected me to self-police. When I messed up they would give me the time to think about why I did what I did and then evaluate whether or not I was proud of those values I was living by. Not only did this strengthen the moral compass of myself and my brother but it made me realise that if we question ourselves then we can find out why we behave the way we do, leaving “I don’t know” as an unacceptable answer. I realise that this is not a common parenting method these days and sometimes I wonder if my parents would find it amusing to play little experiments on my brother and I, in order to enforce critical thinking. We’re both well behaved citizens so it can’t have gone too wrong.

I used this skill when I had post traumatic stress and my hyperviligant ego would cause me to react in all sorts of crazy ways. Sometimes I couldn’t reflect and question straight away but over time I started to do this quicker and when I acted in a way which may have accidentally hurt someone I would dig deep to find out why. When we act upon our fears we can attack people, often blaming them for the way we feel when really that feeling is our own to be responsible for. The more we reflect and question our behaviour, the sooner we can get to the route of it, take responsibility for it and learn the lesson from the event. The final step is the apology. Not some half-arsed ‘I’m sorry’ in a whatsapp message after you’ve cheated on someone but a real apology that adds up to the weight of the action. One that expresses remorse and is honest. One that isn’t scared to feel the shame which identifies that our behaviour conflicted with our morals. One that acknowledges the action fully and accepts all the pain caused by it.

I’m 31 now but I recently got the chance to apologise to Mr Brown. It turns out that he owns the allotment across from my Mum’s and one day last summer we bumped into him. He didn’t remember my name but recognised me face and knew that he’d taught me somewhere in his 40 year career.

“I’m sorry for being a little shit and causing you so much grief in science class” I said

“I don’t really remember that” He said back with a bemused look on his face

“Well in case it comes back to you, I’m really sorry in advance” I told him

It goes to show that no-one’s perfect and as humans we’ve always got the potential to mess up in the moment. We also always have the potential to reflect, learn and apologise too.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Simcoe

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

What Is Integrity And Why Should We Care?

The word integrity gets flashed around a lot these days, but I wonder how many of us understand what it means and really know what it means to practice it?
To me, it’s like a constant questioning of my intention. A questioning that gets increasingly harder to answer as I delve into the various layers of emotional depth. The stronger my fear is, the more it’s running the show and often it’s only after that I can reflect and say ‘that wasn’t the best version of myself and it’s not who I want to be’. That necessary reflection is usually kicked in by a feeling of shame. A necessary feeling. If you read my word often you’ll know that I’m a huge admirer of Brene Brown and her work on shame, vulnerability and emotions in general and something that I think that is often overlooked in her work is the necessity of shame and how important it is that we feel it. It’s literally our signpost to align us back with our moral, our integrity.
I feel like there’s a convoluted message in society these days, as though we’re all striving for perfection to be the best human that we ‘should’ be. Appear to have integrity. Look good. Make money. Say the right things to please people. But along the way have we forgotten that we’re human? That the trick isn’t to act how we ‘should’ constantly, and thus avoid ever feeling shame. But instead, to look out for that feeling of shame (or guilt which it sometimes can be), acknowledge what it that’s triggered that emotion and reconcile what wasn’t aligned with our values.
The thing is that this constant awareness is actually a daily struggle and it takes a whole lot of self policing to stay on top of it. Was that me or my ego? Am I sabotaging or acting intentionally? Am I happy with the person I am right now?
It’s difficult for me. I’m still very much run by fear somedays. The fear that I’ll get hurt emotionally or physically and the stronger the fear, the more conflicted my emotions. At least with the questioning and reflecting I can look back and decide which version of Shereen I like best and make reconsiliations if necessary. To me that’s the real meaning of integrity. But as always I’m open to comment, call outs and debate. After all, I’m still only learning.
Photo Credit: Massimo Mancini
Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

A PTSD Recover’s Guide To Dating Online

Online dating is high on my vulnerability list. I haven’t dated in just over a year and the last time I did it was with a guy who was passive aggressive and scared me enough to recluse back into the hole I’d crawled out of. Now I’m venturing out into the new territory of online dating, and my my, what a minefield it is.

From a woman’s point of view we get inundated with messages, some creepy, some lovely but lots of them, often. From a guys point of view I’ve heard they get ghosted, preyed upon (hello cougars) and viscously demonised from women who’ve been hurt in the past (ouch, sorry dudes). Some of the online dating world seems to be a full on fight until the death. But some of us are ducking the bullets and waving the white flag as we search for authentic beings who are acting from their heart and not their ego.

Once out of the battle, things get even more confusing as we move into whirlwind of what seems like a dating world on speed. As one of my friends explains she’d gone from being in a relationship, to being dumped, to having a date, breaking up and then having a tentative date cancel and spring her back into the heartache of singledom all over again. And this was just one week. I don’t know what this is doing to our dopamine and cortisol levels but I can imagine that such fast paced highs and lows are unhealthy. Surely there has to be a better way to find love in these technological times? After much discussion and trying out various tactics we’ve come up with some guidelines to help create authentic dating experiences in what seems like an incredibly falsified arena.

  1. Slow things down

In the world of instant gratification that we now live in, it can be difficult to take things slow. Especially when we have that buzz of excitement when we find out someone who we like, is also interested in us. Suddenly we can race away with thoughts of our first date, and what they’re like and before we know it we’ve created a whole world based on a few pictures and some black and white text. An imaginary illusion created by our own expectations of someone who we’ve never even met before. Even when we do meet them, we can continue to race into the fantasy of what we’ve created without even knowing whether they’re on board. When we find out they’re not, our hopes crash and burn leaving us feeling dropped from heaven in a sad little mess. And over what? Someone who don’t actually know that well, but who we heavily invested in the illusion of. To escape the rollercoaster of these intense ups and downs the trick is to slow things down. This allows us to see the reality and take every message and meeting for what it is – an opportunity to get to know someone. It takes quite a while to get to know who someone really is and when it comes to dating it more important than ever to take the time to get to know a person, especially if we are looking for someone to share marriage and having children with. These big life decisions take a lot of time and energy investment so doesn’t it make sense to spend time collecting the knowledge to make an educated decision? Keep checking in with your feelings regularly to figure out if you genuinely like the person or if you genuinely like the idea of them.

You will only truly know someone if you take the time to get to know them truly.

  1. Don’t present an image of yourself, let them find out who you are

This is a tricky one because all the dating sites have an ‘about me’ section and this can leave a lot of temptation to describe who we think we are. Try to avoid presenting an image of who you think you are and instead let that person find out who you are. You know, like back in the day when we all used to meet up a few times over a long period and let each other’s personality unravel naturally. There was none of this ‘I’m this kind of person, and I do x, y and z’. Instead we just used to have conversations about stuff and hope that we had something common to chat about (given that we’d probably like the look of each other if we’d already been drawn to conversing). Stick to talking about the things you do in your life and what you like. The person on the other end will start to figure out who you are based on your attitude and your actions. If they like what they hear/see they’ll stay, if not let them go and move on to the next. If anything that’s the beauty of online dating – lots of variety right at your finger tips.

  1. Focus on the experience, not the results

Online dating is not a transaction. It’s not like we’re at a cattle market measuring up the animals against our never ending check list of what we’re looking for. As a western society we need to step away from this idea that there is this perfect result at the end of the game for us, whether that is the house, car and 2.4 children or any result in fact. Online dating, like all of life’s lessons is about enjoying the experience regardless of the result. Have a laugh with it and take it for what it is – a place to meet, converse and potentially find a person to enjoy new experiences with. If someone doesn’t message you back, try not to get upset over it. If someone messages you who you’re not into, tell them ‘thanks but I’m not interested’. Yes it’s a shame when we hope to find love instantaneously and it seems like we’re not getting anywhere fast but focus on enjoying the experience and the journey will seem shorter.

  1. Have fun and show your playful side

Imagine this, you’re in a bar and there are some sexy people who you like the look of at the opposite end of the room. Some have stern faces and seem to make snide comments at people who approach them. Some are smiling and laughing, generally having fun and looking approachable. Some are staring right at you with needy looks on their faces, longing for you to approach them. Who would you go and speak to first?

Personally I’m going to approach the smiling, laughing fun group, because they look like fun to hangout with. Well, online dating works on the same principles – people will approach you based on how approachable you seem to be. Obviously this is subjective to each person but for me this starts with a smile, because to me that shows that the person is enjoying life, because if I’m going to spend my time with someone then I want to do it with someone who would add to my life not take away from it. I also like messages from people who sound fun and approachable too because it makes me want to converse with them, rather than questions that make me feel like I’m being measured up against a check list. I think like this with my own profile too, fun pics of me doing things I enjoy and light hearted conversations that are usually full of banter. You’ll always attract what you put out, so if you’re not getting the type of responses you want, start with looking at what you’re sending.

  1. Don’t take things personally

People will always bring their own shit and most of the time they won’t be aware of it. We all have our own shit. Them, you and me too. The trick is to try and be aware of it so we don’t bring it to the dating table and to also not take it personally when it heads our way. That’s not to say that we should accept maltreatment or not call people out when they treat us bad (if you’ve read any of my other blogs you’ll know that I’m the first to call out low moral standards). What I’m saying is that it doesn’t do us justice to attach our own self worth on the opinion of others, especially someone who we barely know. We live in a culture that judges quickly based on little information and on the battlefield of online dating there are some twisty daggers at play. Negativity and resentment can build up pretty quickly if we take every little thing personally, so don’t take it on board and move on to someone who sends you the kind of messages you do want. Eventually you’ll attract the person you want with the positivity you shine out.

To really step into authentic online dating, it helps to take it out of online realm as soon as possible because you will only start to really know someone when you know how you feel about them. You know when you get that subconscious inkling of ‘it just feels right’ or ‘something is a bit off here’. This doesn’t mean violating rule number one and running into a dating scenario fast. It means gathering more information in a face to face situation so that your subconscious can pick up on things that your conscious might not, then you can be more true to yourself.

This isn’t the easiest guide to follow in the world, and as with all my blogs it requires a great deal of self awareness and mindfulness. It is achievable though and there are authentic and conscious people using online dating platforms,with this guide I hope you find them. Happy searching.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com