Pick Connection Over Convenience

There’s a lot of things I’ve experienced in my 33 years of existence. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world to exotic and remote locations. I’ve worked in a variety of industries from superyachts to office work, through to holding my own workshops. Throughout it all I’ve made a lot of amazing connections and not necessarily in the most convenience circumstances. Most recently I’ve found myself making those in depth connections in the most subtle of moments. From a passing smile exchanged with a stranger that turns into a drink, then a friendly local tour guide. All the way through to a an open first chat with someone which has then created a foundation for a friendship much stronger. All these situations have caught me slightly off guard and if I’m honest I was looking for these friendships, but not in the right places. I’d actually been working in quite a toxic situation at the time where the people around me were guarded, aggressive and became defensive whenever I tried to connect. This left me feeling disheartened until I’ve recognised what I already knew – good connections aren’t born through convenience situations, they’re born through connecting authentically with someone in a moment. They’re strengthened by both parties honouring that connection with respect, honesty and an equal time and energy commitment.

What I mean by this is that just because you spend a lot of time with someone at school, or work, etc it doesn’t mean that you can create an authentic friendship. Likewise a random conversation with a stranger can sometimes turn into a deep friendship very quickly if we’re open to it and it’s this that I’ve been practising now that I’m immersing myself back in the ‘real world’. It’s the openness to smile at a stranger, even though the PTSD part of me is telling me to look away. The openness to offer up the real version of myself and the values that I hold dear, regardless of the fear of rejection that makes me want to keep them locked up tightly. Sometimes I don’t find this so easy and of course anyone who has any kind of emotional wound can relate to this – once bitten twice shy right?

What I’m finding though, is that those moments when I’m open and true to myself are the moments when I’m connecting with the world again and that’s when I’m bringing the right people to me at exactly the right moment. I’ve literally found comfort and friendship in the most random moments when I’ve otherwise been in work/living situations where I’ve felt isolated and alone. What I’ve also realised is when I reflect on my current authentic friendships, the ones which have held strong through the most turbulent moments, I’ve recognised that almost every single connection was made through open and honest first conversations. Interactions where we speak our truth, become vulnerable and share that part of us that connects with another.

While I sit and reflect on this, I wonder how many of us honour the conventional connections which might not serve us? The ones built on old loyalties, empty promises and ease of situation, that deep down don’t feel good but we continue to keep them anyway. Rather than investing in the connections that feel good, challenge us to be the best versions of ourselves but might take a little but more effort to maintain? I’ll take connection over convenience every time thanks.

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 Helena Lopes on Unsplash

When Saying No Has Consequences

The topic of consent has been popping up in my life quite recently. It’s been sparked off by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which is all over the media and even though I don’t follow mainstream media the story somehow infiltrated my life. This, in turn, ignited the #metoo social media campaign which has then sparked off a lot more conversation, around sexual abuse, consent and a certain kind of negative sexual behaviour which is so often dismissed that it’s unfortunately it’s become a normality in our culture.

Firstly – it’s about time we started talking about this because it’s been underground for far too long. In fact, it’s so underground that a lot of people can’t actually believe it’s a thing at all. It’s not their fault that they don’t believe it at first, in reality most of us go through life viewing our personal perception as the general experience of all. To someone who would never dream of sexually abusing someone else, they may therefore assume that none of his friends would either, thus deeming that the reality of this happening is relatively small. Unfortunately this perception isn’t reflective of the experience of a lot of people, and anyone who has experienced sexual abuse will know about the shame and guilt that comes with telling the story. They’ll also have probably experienced firsthand the judgement that comes when they tell people, the questions that automatically assume that the victim is at fault: “What were you wearing?” and “Were you drunk?” were two common questions that I was often asked when I first told people that a man had voilently attacked me to try and rape me. So is it a surprise that we don’t feel comfortable to offer our stories at the dinner table, let alone reporting it? Because of this, these stories aren’t shared as common knowledge, they’re kept inside and suffered in silence because most people don’t feel safe enough to even voice them with their closest friends and family. If you’re reading this and still think that it’s not an issue, then start listening to the conversations of those around you and in a non judgmental manner* start asking people for their stories, what comes back might just widen your perception.

As this story has unravelled, and in the conversations I’ve had especially, I’ve found myself explaining the concept of consent frequently and it’s seems to be something quite misunderstood. There’s some really great public campaigns creating awareness about how important consent is, one great one in the UK which explained it in a metaphor of offering someone a cup of tea and that you wouldn’t force someone to drink a cup of tea against their will if they’d already said ‘no’ – you can imagine the humour in this with a nation that is so polite with the treasured ritual of the famous ‘cuppa’. What it seems to miss out though, is the issue of consent when one person is in a position of power, which they could use against the person with less power if they don’t get what they want. Quite often in situations where sexual abuse takes places there is a power dynamic which is being abused, be it physically or like in the Harvey Weinstein case – the power of one person’s career prospects. To me, consent isn’t just about saying no. It’s about having the opportunity to say ‘no’ without consequences.

Consequences such as the other person reacting negatively like becoming dismissive, moody, even ending the relationship and all that has been built to create it so far.

Consequences like losing out on something external of the situation that a person has worked so hard to achieve, like a career, an opportunity or their reputation.

Consequences like personal safety, that if the person with less power doesn’t just give in and give the person with power what they want that things might just turn that little bit nasty.

I’m not saying that we need to have sit down discussions at length prior to having any sexual encounter because I know how these things arise and nobody what’s to spoil the mood. But what I am saying is that the vulnerable person in the sexual dynamic (the one that has the least power) has to feel safe enough to say no if they choose to and that it’s up to the person with the power to create that safe environment. The only way we can do that is by having this conversation about sex, safety and what consent actually means to us as individuals. And I don’t mean “What do you think about this Weinstein scandal” conversation starter in the office. I mean talking in depth, to those people close to us about the vulnerable details of our own experiences and what makes each of us feel comfortable and safe. Talking to those who we know would have had different sexual experiences from ourselves. If you’re a man, talk to a woman. If you’re straight, talk to someone who has had homosexual or bisexual relationships. If you’re monogamous, why not talk to someone who’s polyamorous? It’s only by widening our perception that we can learn more about the world and other’s experiences, and it’s only through sitting through the discomfort of others painful stories that we’ll start building up compassion within ourselves.

We need to start reflecting about our experiences too. Think about those times that you’ve had sex and it didn’t quite feel right – why was that? Did you not actually want it to happen? Or maybe you pushed yourself on someone and they gave in because of that? If you’re unsure can you open that conversation with that person and get some home truths aired? Don’t beat yourself up for something you weren’t aware of at the time though, because it’s not product to wallow in guilt. Just use this awareness to apologise and rectify the situation if you need to and change your behaviour going forward.

Without this kind of open awareness, reflection and compassion we’re not going to be able to create the respectful and safe world that we all deserve. So keep talking, keep challenging your own opinion and most of all listen, compassionately.

*A non-judgmental manner means to react neutrally to the answer that is given, regardless of how you feel. It means to allow space to listen, receive and for that moment sit in the awkward discomfort with the other person and feel what they are actually feeling. I write discomfort because that’s what it is at best, at worst it can be shameful, upsetting or deeply crushing. It is your obligation as the receiver to listen, without comment as someone expresses what is probably extremely difficult for them. And if you still don’t understand what that means then you obviously need to do some more reading.

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 Hailey Kean on Unsplash

 

Are Empowered Women Empowering Men? Or Are we Suppressing Them? 

I originally wrote this piece for the Good Men Project but I think it has a lot of relevance to trauma emotions like fear, vulnerability and compassion, so I’m sharing it here too. It also broaches the subject of masculinity and femininity in the changing times of these roles. Enjoy…

I grew up as a Tom boy. I was the only girl in the Boy Scouts, spent my days climbing trees and wore jeans and baseball caps. I grew up feeling empowered to do anything that my heart desired and I did just that, especially when it meant beating the guys at their own game. In fact, I took pride in beating the guys. Whether it was swimming in the Scouts, showing my boyfriend how to build a campfire after watching him fail miserably or outsmarting boys on tests. Anything they could do, I could do better and I was sure to let them know.

As I grew older I did start to dabble in some more feminine activities but when I found myself working in the construction industry for my first graduate job, I fell back into my old patterns of showing the guys that I was better than them at everything. In that industry, I felt it was the only way to become successful and sometimes the only way to survive. The thing is that I actually loved being in this environment and I took pride in the fact that these guys got shown up when they got outsmarted by a girl. It was as though I was fighting some kind of war for all the women who had been suppressed throughout history and I was taking no prisoners.

When this approach starting to seep into other areas of my life, especially in my relationships it turned out to be more toxic than successful. I started to notice this when my boyfriend of three years started to experience depression. I didn’t really understand it and after becoming so estranged from any kind of vulnerability within myself I simply didn’t know how to handle this situation. For the next year and a half, I stayed with him out of loyalty but couldn’t help getting frustrated with his situation and watching all his family and friends pander to him when my response was much less sympathetic. As much as I feel ashamed to write this, at the time I saw his depression as a weakness.

I didn’t know at the time but the reality was that I was scared. Scared of admitting those vulnerabilities within myself and scared that I might be the problem. When I couldn’t take it any longer I took an opportunity to do an internship abroad for a few months to give both of us some space. Those months away allowed him to empower himself and work on his depression, without me there to take his empowerment away he managed to pull himself out of that negative space. Needless to say, this lead to us breaking up as I was part of the problem.

At the time I didn’t learn from this experience and spent the next couple of years travelling, running away from any deep connection and any other opportunity to be vulnerable. That was until I fell in love again.

This time, however, I fell in love with a guy who wouldn’t open up because he was so vulnerable after experiencing a variety of traumas in his childhood and adult life. He was like a closed nut with a magical light shining from the inside and I desperately wanted to see more.

My response? To try and prize the nut open.

Back then this was my response to most things. Fight with determination and win, after all, I was empowered. I was strong and vulnerability (weakness as I saw it) wasn’t something that existed in my world. Despite all my efforts, this strategy backfired.

We broke up and the following year I learnt what real vulnerability was, through experiencing my own series of traumas that invited intensely vulnerable emotions into my consciousness from depths that I never knew existed inside me. I learnt that my ’empowerment’ had silenced the men in my life and highlighted them as weak against my own strength of will. I had shamed them for having vulnerable emotions, and my “being soft is weakness” attitude didn’t allow them to show vulnerability in my presence, so instead they suppressed it. For the guys that stuck around, family, friends and romantic partners, these suppressions slowly crept towards depression as these men were frequently rejected by the empowered women in their lives who paraded the same message as me.

What I’ve come to realise since is that as an empowered woman I can suppress men if I don’t show my vulnerabilities as well as my strengths. As women, it’s socially acceptable for us to be emotional as much as it is now for us to fight our corner and as empowered women, it is important that we do this to break down the shame that surrounds vulnerabilities. If we don’t acknowledge those vulnerable emotions then we don’t create the safe emotional space for men to do so either. That’s when our empowerment silences men, rather than empowers them.

In order to help empower the men in my life, I’ve taken it upon myself to make the first move and show them my vulnerability. It’s not easy and there is a lot of work to do, especially after the way I’ve acted for such a long time. Sometimes it leaves me feeling quite exposed and awkward but mostly it leads to an emotionally safe space where we can both talk about how we feel and release the silent loads that have weighed us down.

Since I’ve started this approach I’ve seen the men in my life grow and build closer connections in their own relationships and friendships. I’ve seen them become more confident, dynamic and authentic in their way of addressing life. I’ve watched them become more empowered with me, rather than opposed to me. The only thing that needed to change, was my attitude.

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

Be Real, Be Human, Be Crazy

Something which I sometimes find myself doing after these traumas is holding back on being vulnerable, especially when it comes down to telling someone how I truly feel about them. I’ve touched upon this before in a previous post about being vulnerable and opening up but I think there’s more to explore here.

It actually came up in conversation this week between a friend and I as we exchanged crush/love stories. This friend confessed to acting ‘bat sh*t crazy’ in front of his date, when he was actually just expressing his feelings towards said date. I can relate to this, the feeling of wanting to do or say something ‘crazy’ but holding back in case I get rejected or shamed for sharing my truth. I’m sure many of my friends will remember a similar story of how I acted ‘bat sh*t crazy’ when I sent letters to the man who I was broken-hearted over, week after week pouring my heart out, enclosing short stories which would later form part of my book. The thing is that I did listen to them for the most part but what was overwhelming for me at the time was to tell him how I felt, whether it was crazy or not it was something that felt good to do so I did it. I was expressing my feelings, as I am on this blog and I truly think the world would be a better place if we all embraced this.

The thing is, that this ’emotional expression’ thing, it’s actually a condition that many of us suffer from. It’s called being human. (Have a look in the mirror to see if you have any of the below symptoms: Two eyes, in a head, looking back at you… Yep, doomed. You’re one of us).

My question here is, how have we got to a point in the human experience where expressing an emotion is now seen as ‘bat sh*t crazy’? And I’m sure you’re reading this laughing… Until you think back to that time, when you reacted really emotionally to something and probably berated yourself after for being so bat sh*t crazy yourself. For telling that person you adore them, sending that drunken message or just putting yourself out there. Obviously, this isn’t applicable to everyone out there, you know, those extremely unemotional people who may just be the ideal well-balanced stable pillars of the human race (or they could be robots, I don’t know) in which case, good for you. Well done at not expressing emotions, I’m sure your life is very interesting and all your Worldly desires are met.

However, for those of you who do act ‘irrational’ sometimes, who throw your feeling out there and can hold both your hands up high and scream ‘bat sh*t crazy and proud!’ – I applaud you. YOU’RE AWESOME because you know what that means? It means that YOU’RE A HUMAN BEING! Welcome to the experience, sit down, have a beer and enjoy the ride. Do not, for one second, self deprecate or excuse yourself for this beautiful expression of life.

I need to point out here that although I fully support the expression of emotions, whether positive or negative, it’s important that it’s done in the right way. Blaming, shaming and imposing negativity on someone else because of your feelings isn’t a healthy expression of emotion (and trust me, I know, as many PTSD suffers will do too). But telling someone calmly that you’re feeling angry, and finding that vulnerability or discomfort beneath is a good start to getting on the path of emotional intelligence.

Maybe you disagree and think that we shouldn’t break through our socially conditioned walls and express what’s going on inside, and of course, you’re totally entitled to your opinion, but where might that lead us? Is it a happy life? A connected life? One where we share things and build on our experienced together?

I don’t think so. I think it leads to assumptions of expectations, lack of compassion and emotional ignorance in the fear of being ‘seen’.

And by not being seen, it’s almost as if we don’t exist at all.

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,