What is your story of strength?
I think the definition of strength is different for everyone. I often hear that I look very physically strong. I am a yoga teacher so I look strong but I don’t consider that to be true strength. I am strong because of all the people around me who have built me up over the years. A lot of that strength came from my family. Not only that, but I think that the way I overcome obstacles (and I’ve had a lot), made me stronger. It’s the way you approach these obstacles and how you overcome them that creates strength.
For example, my father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and that’s been something that’s really hard for me over the years. Of course, I could dwell on it and say ‘this is it’ or you can accept the situation and choose to grow and become stronger. You can give back and volunteer or devote yourself to something you’re passionate about, focusing on service instead of sadness. My mother battled cervical cancer. We, her family, were supposed to the ones with a strong face supporting her but she was so strong through it all. Having women like that in my life (yes she made it through and she is ok!) helped me grow and find myself, but I wouldn’t be me without those foundations.
Now, my strength is in a smile- never missing an opportunity to make other people smile. That’s where I find my strength, helping other people through whatever they are going through. Strength is definitely not only a physical thing.
Can you tell me about a woman who exemplifies strength to you?
The woman I am closest to is my sister, so she immediately comes to mind. She is the definition of strength. She has always been there for me. I watched her as a younger sister go through the stages in her life- overcoming multiple obstacles, applying to university, going to college, having a baby. I got to witness her going through the steps before I got there. I automatically put her on a pedestal, she was on that queen throne. Everything she did, I learned from. Every challenge that she was thrown, she overcame with with ease. It made it much easier for me to tackle my own obstacles after learning from hers. I’ve learned so much and grown from the support system around me.
If an opportunity arises and I’m scared to take it, she will be the first one to tell me the reason that I need to step through the door. I think it takes a lot of strength to fully be there for someone as a support system while also having the wisdom to let them find their own way. Because ultimately it’s my life and my decision. My sister is the one person I can go to in order to get the strength to take that step through the door.
Can you tell me about a time where you feel like you failed or disappointed yourself?
There is so much. It’s been obstacle after obstacle. The most recent example was with my most recent job. I worked for the Health Promotion Board in Singapore. My job was to create the food guide for the country. I am also a registered dietician.
In that job, I felt like there were only so many hours in a day. The job and the research became so difficult so quickly. I felt overwhelmed, asking myself “am I good enough for the job?” “Am I smart enough to take on this huge responsibility?” I was constantly down on myself for not being able to keep up, or for not quickly understanding difficult concepts. I was doubting my personal abilities, questioning whether I was smart enough to take on this role. And as we all know, self doubt can quickly turn into other things. I started getting migraines, I started getting rashes. It was a self inflicted pressure that got worse and worse. Funnily enough, I created it, it was all in my head.
This was the trigger point for yoga in my life. I turned to the mat to find strength and to find a space where I wasn’t doubting myself. I could just explore, and find peace and strength and love and put it back into my body. I brought that confidence from the mat back to my job and started to believe in myself again. I discussed my anxieties with my colleagues and let the feelings out. We ended up finishing the project and after we launched it, I felt so much pride. Looking back, all of the feelings of self doubt were so unnecessary and self defeating. You can’t say “I can’t.” I won’t say it anymore.
Now, I am so passionate about positive talk both in my yoga classes and with myself. It is so important to give yourself a time where you refuse to engage in negative self talk and be kind to yourself. After this experience, I learned not to let self punishment build up. At the time, I didn’t know how to release it. I kept building it up until I turned into this giant 6 foot stress ball. In the end, I learned to find my release.
Know that, whoever you are, even if the situation isn’t okay now, it will be eventually in some form. It’s always going to be okay if you keep your eyes on the horizon, on that final goal.
How can women support each other better?
What I’ve learned about working in the Middle East and yoga (which is a predominantly female field in the UAE) is that women are really competitive and think there are a limited number of seats at the “successful table.”
Women need to know there is space for all of us. If we work together to network and share our contacts we can be so much stronger. All around the world, it’s about who you know. If you have something that’s worked well for you, or for your business, share it with others. Don’t guard it. Send messages to people, reach out, connect with women and look out for one other.
The word alliance comes to mind. We need to create support system that lifts each other up. There is room for everyone. It’s not about the competition. At the end of the day business is business but life is not all about money. And when you’re in a bind, you would hope that others would lift you up too. It’s simple. Meet other women, connect with other women, support other women. It’s about going out of your way to support others- it takes effort. We need to show our caring side, giving back to other women by connecting with each other.