Find Your Tribe

As a person I am passionate and I am very highly driven. Most of the time I follow my heart and my emotions, but I am fully aware of the situations where I need to use logic more than emotions. I make my choices consciously and I embrace who I am, because I simply won’t have myself be any other way.

I dream big and I take risks and I refuse to be scared or to back down. I stand up for myself and I stand up for others, I speak my mind. I am vocal, I am assertive and I am comfortable in my own skin.

I know that I am different, simply because we all are. We are all unique and we are all different in our own ways. I understand that one size doesn’t fit all, and I believe that if I was created and came to be then I have a purpose.

I appreciate my talents, and I praise my strengths, I am aware of my flaws and I embrace my imperfections. I know that my flaws make me human, and that in the imperfections lie beauty and balance. I am real, I am true, and I am me.

Along the path I will evolve and I will develop, I will grow and I will change. Along the path of life my desires, my aspirations, my likes, my dislikes, my passions and my tolerances will vary; change is the only constant in this world, so why would I be an exception to the case.

I believe that how others treat me is on them, and that I deserve to be respected, to be loved, to be safe, to be appreciated and to be acknowledged. I have the right to exist within society and no one has the right to violate me. I am a woman, but that is just my gender, it doesn’t rank me in society as superior or inferior. It is simply a trait assigned to me like my hair color, my eyes, or my age. My gender is simply that, a gender.

I am not strong for a woman, or assertive for a woman, or smart for a woman or independent for a woman; I am just strong, assertive, smart and independent, that’s it.

The one thing that I am also fully aware of is that I haven’t always felt that way. This is a process that took three decades of mental and emotional evolution. It is a process that entailed me accepting so much that I should not have accepted, before I grew into my own skin.

Growing up as a female is hard work, I’m not victimizing us, but this is the reality of it all. I used to think that it’s just part of being an Arab female, but let me tell you ladies and gents, no matter where we are; the struggle is real, the fight is real, and the statistics don’t lie.

As women we are taught that our gender plays a much bigger classification role than it should. We are made to apologize for things that men don’t, we are placed in molds and boxes of society norms, cultural expectations and gender appropriations.

Out intelligence is undervalued, and we are taught to expect a different treatment, people constantly believe that they need to simplify things for us, and that there is this weird and rather unrealistic notion that we cannot handle tough situations. We are viewed as irrational and weak; sometimes told we are too “emotional” and that we need to “toughen up” like being in touch with our emotions is weakness, or that our physical appearance structure automatically places us in the weaker gender column.

Yet us women, are the same ones to blame for men’s inability to use their words and process their emotions when they abuse and beat us. The same women are the ones to blame when men feel insecure when their wives/partners make more than them at work or outperform them in sports and life. The same women are the ones to blame when men are incapable of handling their hormones and their emotions and sexually abuse women.

We as women are blamed for other’s insecurities, other’s incapability and other’s inability to express and handle emotions. Yet, we are the weaker sex and the inferior sex.

Somewhere along the journey of life we are told not to be too vocal, not to be too assertive and not to dream big. We are sold the notion that the biggest accomplishment of our lives is to be wives, and to be mothers and that as women on our own, we are not enough, that we need to be associated to someone, as their daughter, as their wife, as their partner or as their mother to be of value. The labeling was so essential to our upbringing at certain stages.

The first time I was violated, I was a child. I was a little girl in a supermarket aisle, this older man, as old as my father kept brushing up against me. First time I thought it was by mistake, but he kept doing it, and he whispered something about how I shouldn’t be wearing shorts. I was seven, I was a child, I was told that the reason this creepy person was violating me was my fault, because I was in shorts. Every time I was groped, violated or inappropriately touched, I didn’t talk about it, because I blamed myself. I would first go through a checklist of what was I wearing, what was it that provoked him, what did I say, how did I act. I always put myself at fault. We all know, that this is one small part of what happens out there in the world, I don’t need to tell you how horrifying the stories are or how painful it is to read about women being forced to marry their rapists, and even bare their children!

I remember when I started my career, my ex was still in university, it really wasn’t his thing and he just wasn’t graduating. Year after year, I started making career advancements, I started making more money, and I started investing more in my career because I loved the self-fulfillment and the growth, and because I was good at what I was doing.

It was during that period that I suffered most of the mental and emotional abuse out of him, it was the constant putting me down at every chance, the constant feeling of guilt because I was “working too hard”. Before I knew it, I was apologizing for my achievements, I was apologizing for my work, I was afraid to be vocal about my promotions and my advancements. I always felt guilty for developing my own career and my own life. The abuse progressed, and along the lines I always justified it, because I always felt that I was in the wrong doing for wanting a career, for wanting success, for outshining him. The height of it all came when I had to choose between him, and my career, two different choices that had nothing in conflict with one another, but to him, I couldn’t have both. If I wanted to be with him, then I needed to be a stay at home wife, I needed to forgo my dreams, my hopes and my aspirations, he said that I shouldn’t want anything more than to be his wife and the mother of his children. He believed that my association to him should be my biggest dream. Years later when we met and we spoke, he still believed that I was in the wrong for choosing my career, he believed that his abuse was justified and that I brought it upon myself.

I am not the first or the last person in the series of women who have been downplayed, degraded, or abused; and I’m also not the first or the last of a series of women who are taking matters in their own hands now and refusing to conform to the boxes and molds we are placed in. We are the women that are fighting to break through the glass ceilings.

To all the women out there that are fighting for their place in society, their rightful place, thank you. Thank you for being part of my tribe, thank you for inspiring women to keep fighting and for changing the current situations so future generations have it better than we do.

Thank you to the single mothers who decided that they can do it on their own, to the mothers who decided to embark on motherhood. Thank you to the ladies that taught us that it is ok to be single, and that it is also ok to be divorced or separated and to stand up for what you want. To all the women out there choosing careers, or motherhood, thank you for making a choice. It’s not what you choose that concerns me, as long as that choice is yours. To the mama’s raising their daughters to take no shit from people, I am happy to have you in my circle. To the female entrepreneurs and teachers, you are inspirations and guides that have touched more lives than you know.

To all the women who walked away from abuse, who put themselves first, and who chose their wellbeing over everyone else, thank you for setting an example, thank you for re-calibrating the bar. To the women who embarked on careers that were deemed “men’s jobs” thank you for breaking the stereo type. To everyone who pursued what is rightfully theirs, and was never afraid to dream big, I admire you.

They say find your tribe and walk with it, and when I reflect on the women in my life, the circle of women I associate myself with, I am proud to walk amongst them. A lot of the women I have worked with, I have trained with or I am friends with have proven day in and day out to be strong, to be independent and to be someone who has shaped me into who I am today. To all these women, thank you, thank you for walking along this path and not giving up, for getting back up and fighting every time you got knocked down. Thank you for all the lives you have touched and all the lives you continue to inspire.

Happy women’s day ladies! Happy everyday to you, and may you continue to grow, to prosper and to be successful till your last breath.

“Oh it’s nothing”…

“It’s nothing”, “No trouble at all”, “Please, no need to thank me”, these are all examples of toxic responses we can give when someone tries to show us appreciation for going the extra mile

Sometimes it really was no trouble at all, but more often than not, we say it because we get self conscious when someone thanks us and we don’t want to appear too cocky so we downgrade our efforts, and don’t easily accept and acknowledge gratitude towards us.

But with time, if we keep referring to our efforts as nothing, or to people continuously over stepping their boundaries as no trouble at all, and repetitively telling people they don’t have to thank us, people will start reacting to this.

Your extra miles become givens, your space becomes invaded and your efforts are overlooked, and when that happens you are left frustrated and feeling under appreciated

This extends to all aspects of our life, the friends that don’t appreciate your presence or respect your time, your significant other that takes everything you do for granted and expects you to jump through hoops while they exert minimal effort, the coworkers that expect you to do their work for them, or put in all these extra hours or be available around the clock. All this becomes the norm, rather than the exception. What was once a privelage now becomes a given and somewhere along the line you have overloaded yourself and let others overwhelm you with no consideration for your feelings or time

We get so angry at all these people, calling them ungrateful, or mean, etc, but, the real question is, why are we blaming them?

We are the ones that positioned ourselves at this value, because we refuse to believe that it’s ok to be thanked, that it’s not arrogance for someone to acknowledge your extra mile, and that going above and beyond should not be the on-going norm, because no one can survive on overdrive

I’m not saying don’t help out, or every now and then go the extra mile, but what I am saying is, acknowledge to yourself before others that your times and efforts are valuable. That the work you do, the effort you exert or the time you spend is precious; it is never equivelant to nothing.

Be humble yes, but also know your worth. Accept the thank yous, acknowledge the gratitude and most of all believe that you deserve it.

Your worth is what you define for yourself, it is how much you believe in you. How you value your life with every aspect in it, and if you continue to undersell yourself, devalue yourself and marginalize yourself, you will involuntarily reflect that in all your actions.

Stop being a 1 carat diamond that positions themselves as a 1 gram of coal.

When it comes to yourself, be appreciative, be confident, be valuable and be proud.

Be Soft…

One of the most beautiful things I have been told by my yoga instructor was “be soft, for when you are soft, you can bend, but cannot break.” I reflected so much on this sentence, and no advice has struck as sincere and as accurate as this one. 

We live in a very intense world, a world full of expectations, comparisons, restrictions, and very high, sometimes impossible, standards that we set for ourselves or are set for us by others.

The norm stops being what feels right for you, what you want to do, but rather becomes what “you have to do”and how you need to comply and conform to the “norm of society”. We endlessly compare ourselves to others, without knowing much about their journey, or their day to day life. We assess, position and rate ourselves, categorizing ourselves as successes or failures.

In the process of all this, we become rigid, inflexible and hard, mostly with ourselves. We often see any deviation from a plan as a failure, beat ourselves up over any change in circumstances, and are often too quick to harshly judge ourselves and others.

We break our happiness to conform, to fit in, we break our dreams, self-esteem and aspirations because we are so fixated on something.

Rigidity with yourself, your partner, your kids or those around you is dangerous, because we are meant to flow through life. If you don’t learn to be supple, fluid, soft and graceful you will break yourself in the process. 

Being soft is being adaptable, compassionate towards yourself and others, accommodating and forgiving. Being soft, is not being weak, on the contrary, it is the utmost definition of strength. Water can reshape mountains, just like being soft with yourself, can reshape the biggest obstacles and hardest adversities.

We are after all human,  and that is what we always need to remember.

Be soft, be patient, be kind and be human.