You Always Have A Choice

One of the things that I found to be the most powerful in my recovery journey was realising that I always have choice. For example, I can choose to let my emotions control my behaviour and not take any responsibility for my actions, or I can choose to learn how to master my emotions and process all challenging emotions in a healthy way. I can choose to delve into substance abuse and drink away my problems. Only to find that they’re still there in the morning, or I can choose to speak to a therapist and find a way to process my problems in a healthy manner. All of this is a choice but often if someone is in the mist of emotional turmoil that hasn’t been dealt with then often they’re not aware that they have choice.

You probably know how this sounds “It’s not my fault”, “I’m not that bad”, “But you don’t know what I’ve been through” etc etc.

The thing is that everyone goes through ‘stuff’ and when it’s at it’s rawest, then so are our emotions, and it’s incredibly difficult to see that we have a choice with our behaviour. But we always do.

  1. Start a Reflective Practice

To help cultivate the awareness of choice the first step is to start a reflective practice such as journaling, and to ask yourself ‘Was I the best version of myself today?’ If not, maybe there some things you’re not proud of – what are they and what would you have done differently? By understanding this thought process in hindsight, it demonstrates that you choose that action, and therefore you can choose differently. The trick is to move this reflection into the present moment so that you can catch yourself before you make your choice.

  1. Provide the Opportunity to Receive Feedback

I realise that many friendships aren’t built on brutal honesty, and mine weren’t until I was faced with some raw emotions that took us all into some open honesty. I realised quite early on that I hadn’t created situations where my friends could give me honest feedback and this was mainly because I didn’t want to hear the truth. I’ve since realised that feedback from an outsider who knows you well is extremely valuable to keep you on track to becoming the best version of you.  To create this channel of reflection from my friends I used a trick called the BS card… click on the link to find out more. We don’t use this anymore because we’re accustomed to calling each other out bluntly, but at the start when we weren’t used to this the BS card helped a lot!

  1. Check into How You Feel, and Get Honest About It

Making bad choices that don’t serve us typically doesn’t feel good. Things like excessive drinking, or constantly feeling ashamed of your behaviour, or living in false hope that something will change. If something doesn’t feel good then there is always a reason for that, and it’s up to you to find out what that reason is. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because we’ve been told by society how we ‘should’ feel for years upon years, and sometimes it can be difficult to find out what those answers are. However, after practicing reflection and self-questioning this becomes easier because it’s literally like developing a muscle in the gym – you work on it and it gets stronger.

Realising I had choice was a lightbulb moment to me because it meant that I could steer my life in any way I wanted. Although, it also brought up some feelings of upset and regret as I became aware of the bad choices I’d made before I became aware of choice. I worked on processing the feelings connected to the bad choices, forgave myself and made a commitment to learn and do things differently. I hope now you realise you have choice that you can do the same thing too.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. To teach others how to connect authentically with themselves, so they can connect authentically with others. It starts with learning self-awareness, maintaining a strong value system that serves us, and having the emotional intelligence to move through a whole spectrum of emotions so we can connect without attachment.

If you want the EQ tools to connect authentically with your values and the values of your fellow humans, then contact me directly to see how I can help you. Find out more about workshops, training and tailored coaching packages at www.shereensoliman.com. 

Shereen x

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

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Who The Hell Are You Anyway?

When we speak of loss and grief, we’re usually referring to a person or a connection at least, like grieving the loss (or end of) a relationship. But for me one I the things I struggled the most throughout these last few years was the loss of who I was, my identity, and crafting out a new one can be quite confusing at times.

For most people who go through PTSD I think there’s a bit of an identity crisis of ‘who am I now that I’ve experienced this’, of course that’s usually mixed in with a lot of guilt, blame and other murky emotions from the negativity pit. I’ve also spoke to people who have lost a parent and they’ve said the same thing too, and I know I felt this too but it was hard to distinguish which event was causing those feelings. The heartache also contributed, because it was the first time I’d been rejected which obviously I couldn’t understand in my late-twenties arrogance.

Quite a few years have passed since all those things happened in my life and what’s coming up now, as I continue on this personal development highway is that I find myself grieving the loss of old Shereen. Don’t get me wrong, there are some parts of old Shereen which I’m happy to wave goodbye to, the unawareness, the lack of compassion and definitely the pig-headedness that were not my most virtuous of traits. However, there were also a lot of parts of me which I miss dearly and I’m having to re-craft them back into my life. Traits like – complete and utter belief in myself when it came to doing anything new. This may have mascaraed as arrogance to some but most of the time I pulled off whatever was in question so I truly believed that I could achieve anything. There was also a sense of complete fearlessness that I carried around with me too, and this gave me the freedom to travel, switch careers, be adventurous and completely go for my dreams. The thing that I miss most of all was my carefree positive attitude. I could literally find joy and laughter in anything and I would joke about all the time, and a lot of that went when I got all serious with this healing journey.

What I’ve come to learn recently is that once going through an experience like this, and putting the energy into recover and heal fully, we then have a clean slate in front of us. An identity that we can build up based on the traits we want to have, rather than those we accidentally adopt because that’s what we believe we should be. A flexible identity even, if that’s what we want. Multiple identities that fit different situations if that’s your bag. There’s so much choice, and it’s recognising that you have a choice which makes all the difference. The choice to choose a new you, whoever you desire to be, whenever you want to be it. I think that’s the best way to deal with any kind of loss – recreate, and get creative. Explore you. Flex to your edge and come back to a comfortable mid-point.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing – including values, emotional intelligence, self-care, personal development, and body and mind awareness.

If you feel stuck and you want the EQ tools to move forward again, then contact me directly to see how I can help. Find out more about workshops, training and tailored coaching packages at www.shereensoliman.com.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Is My Freedom The Same As Your Freedom?

Bali is a place known for it’s magic and I knew the minute I stepped foot on Balinese soil that I’d instantly feel happy. I never doubted that I’d feel this way, in fact I was craving to come back here, and I knew I needed this holiday more than anything else in my life. The past three years have been emotional, testing and thoroughly insightful. Every single moment has been completely worth it, even if it meant tears, fears and embarrassing moments. All of it was worth it because it’s brought me back here – to a feeling of freedom. I think this feeling is different for everyone, because it comes down to knowing who you are and how you truly want to live your life. Then it takes courage to follow through with that desire despite what the outside world tells you.

Dr Jenn once said to me “Bravery is the root of happiness. It takes courage to reach into the World and put your mark on it”. I remember at the time thinking how profound it sounded to me, and it was during a time when it seemed like following through with what I wanted to do with my life seemed to go against any plan of ‘normality’ I’d ever known. As I get more comfortable with my own desires, I find myself not caring about what other people think and most importantly not being swayed by what other people want me to do.

To me, freedom is living in a way where I can change my situation if something doesn’t feel good, like leaving Mallorca for Bali in winter because I feel more nourished here during this season. It means building up my skill set so that I can flitter between freelance jobs because I enjoy and am capable of practising multiple professions at once. It means making new friends, and starting them with deeply connecting conversations so I know I can feel connected anywhere, anytime.

I’ve recently been fighting with my desire to feel freedom, as though it was wrong, or that I was running away from commitment. Back in Mallorca I was trying to push various areas of my life into commitment, as if to prove to myself that I could commit to something and break this whole freedom thing. I even booked a return flight… that I almost changed. What I’ve realised since getting to Bali is that travel and freedom is ultimately a part of who I am, it makes me feel alive and anyone who wants to play an important part in my life must accept that. It’s the reason why I’m building up a business where I can work from my laptop anywhere. It’s the reason why the majority of my friend are or have been very nomadic.

Since getting here I feel relaxed, open and positive. My body feels tension free and I don’t feel conflicted with decisions of ‘what should I do next’. I know that everything will just work out one way or another. I mean, in comparison to where I was at emotionally three years ago, I really have nothing to worry about. I also know that the new venture I’m starting is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life – helping others.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing – including values, emotional intelligence, self-care, personal development, and body and mind awareness.

If you feel stuck and you want the EQ tools to move forward again, contact me directly to see how I can help you. Find out more about workshops, training and tailored coaching packages at www.shereensoliman.com. 

Shereen x

Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Jakob Owens 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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

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?

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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo Credit: Shannon Bunn on Linked In.

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.

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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo Credit: Jonathan Simcoe

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.

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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

 

3 Habits To Drop In The Quest For More Meaningful Relationships

I often get funny looks when I talk about personal development, human behaviour or emotional intelligence. As though these subjects are some kind of taboo, when really it’s the study of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and most importantly, how we can do better. In fact, it boggles my mind that so many people go about their lives with a lack of awareness of their behaviour and how they can improve it. I mean discussing these are the things actually help us engage in more authentic and meaningful relationships. Why wouldn’t we discuss them? Craziness. Well, it’s probably because acknowledging these subjects would highlight the amount of work each of us needs to do on ourselves, which in an instant gratification society isn’t the most pleasing scenario. In fact, we’ve run away from it for so long that now that there are some common bad habits that stop us engaging in meaningful relationships all together. Here are 3 habits to become aware of (and limit) if you want to move towards engaging with more meaningful relationships.

  1. Watching TV for the sake of watching TV

Personally I’m not much of a TV watcher, in fact it’s very rare for me to sit in front of the TV unless I intentionally want to watch something. I mean, of course I get watching TV for inspirational films, or documentaries, or even just to chill out for an evening every once in a while. But to watch it unnecessary every evening, just to flick through the channels rather than engage in conversation or go out and do something meaningful is eventually destructive to our social skills. TV itself isn’t bad, but the overuse of it has lead to a lack of engagement between people to the point where we are losing the skills to communication. Skills that are necessary for us to successfully progress in our personal and professional life. Aside from that, I think the whole concept of mindlessly watching TV is kind of bizarre. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But I can’t help wonder why would I pay to sit inside and watch people pretend to be other people in fictional situations when I can go into a crowded place and watch real life unfold for free? Or when I can talk at length and in depth to people and reflect with them about our own crazy-ass situations. Analysing, debriefing and picking up the lessons we learn from our own lives. Mind-boggling.

  1. Getting drunk into the abyss, frequently.

I realise that this is predominantly an English, American and Australian trait as I’ve found that many European and Asian cultures drink for taste rather than effect. It may be relevant to other cultures too – I haven’t travelled everywhere so I wouldn’t know. My question is – why do we do this? Could it be to escape the mind? To numb the mind from particular thoughts? Negative thoughts, inquisitive thoughts or just an overload of pecking thoughts. I think drinking is often used as a subconscious coping strategy to escape ourselves, under the rouse of excuses such as ‘I just drink to have fun’ or ‘but everyone else does’. When people tell me that they don’t drink to escape themselves and that they could stop at any moment, I ask them to challenge themselves to stop drinking for a month, cold-turkey. I mean stopping anything for a month is surely a personal challenge worth taking to watch our progress in life isn’t it? At least to make sure that we’re not being controlled by the mental addiction to a substance that’s messing up the body in the meantime. The thing is that the thoughts we avoid talking about are the thoughts that many of us have, and admitting them is what can help create the connections between us. These thoughts can be what bridge together our vulnerabilities which is where deep and meaningful relationships are connected. Avoiding them literally builds barriers between us, but you don’t have to take this from me Brené Brown did 13 years of PhD research on this very subject which is pretty credible evidence in my opinion.

  1. Not saying exactly what we mean.

What is this about? When did talking so honestly become so offensive? I get told all the time that I’m too direct – really? Or is it that I’m just pointing out the obvious which no one else wants to because they’re cloaked in subconscious fear of not getting validation from the people they’re talking to? I find it really strange that people are so scared of speaking the truth, their truth. Sometimes it even gets to the point where families, friendships and whole organisations can swim around in so much bullsh*t that everyone sees yet no one points out. Then when an honest person does come about everyone gets offended when they’re told the truth. This is a hilarious observation that I make often and it makes me feel like I’m watching a sitcom from the 80’s – with the overacting facial expressions from the audience because it seems that obscene to me. The thing is that when the truth is spoken, it provides feedback. This feedback causes a reflection on the current situation, the opportunity to view problems, talk about solutions and allows for a discussion of how things can be done better. It’s necessary for our human progression and, yes, you guessed it, meaningful relationships because the truth often lies within our vulnerabilities. Or we can keep swimming in the bullsh*t, never actually saying anything meaningful and looking clueless when something goes wrong. Strange human behaviour if you ask me.

Personally I believe that something deeper lies beneath these actions and the clues are in our subconscious emotions. We need to ask why are we escaping through the TV rather than engaging with each other? Why are we choosing to drink ourselves into the abyss so regularly? And why do we avoid speaking the truth, even when we know it’s right? The sooner we start finding out the better, because in the meantime our meaningful relationships are at stake.

The real knack is being able to catch out your own behaviour in your emotion and have the awareness to choose your reaction in a mindful way.  Kind of sounds like something out of the matrix right? Apart from it’s not, it’s just awareness and emotional intelligence. The very tools that help us take control of the steering wheel of our life, surely isn’t that motivation enough to at least question our habits?

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 want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo Credit Michael Ramey