Salma, 34, Egypt

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What is your story of strength?

It all started when I was a child. My parents didn’t argue in front of me but I always had a feeling that things weren’t going well at home. I would always blame myself and because I have this character (that likes to be in control and be responsible), I felt I had to be strong for my siblings (although I was younger than my sister and only a little older than my two brothers). I think it started from that point where I felt I had to be strong and hide my feelings. When I grew up, it just became part of me. Somehow I won’t take any negativity from the outside world and refuse to stay in a dark place. It may mean taking some time to go through sadness but not for a long time. I would push myself, distract myself, do things I love and most of the time I have to block my emotions and step forward. It sounds harsh but I have to step on my emotions sometimes. I feel lucky that I have this background. Not having my dad around when we were young built this in me. Of course, I would have loved him to be around but he wasn’t so I had to be responsible and take initiative. I even remember the moment, we came back from school and my mum told me “your dad has left the house.” I asked, “what do you mean?” she told me to open the cupboard, and there was nothing. I remember clearly standing in front of the cupboard. I would go to school, cry alone before other kids would arrive wondering why and asking “was it because of me?” I would go to my sister and ask her “are you sad? Because I’m really sad!” she would say, “Yes, I’m really heartbroken.” We were little girls and she would start crying. Although she is older than me, I would take her in my arms and comfort her. That was the worst time in my life. Going back, I don’t know how I did it but this was when I was younger. When I think of now, I think of when I got divorced. It was a pure example of being a strong person. We were married for 8 years and 8 years from my side of complete loyalty and love. I gave up everything for him and I don’t regret it. I could not of done anything more but the moment I had to take this decision, I took it with very clear thinking. I knew I had to move on. I couldn’t waste more time of my life and I had to start doing things that I would like to do for myself. It was clear and you get this strength from within. You get tired of trying to make everyone else happy. It was too much. When you do things to make yourself happy, it shows on your face and actually everybody is affected by it and positivity spreads.

One last thing, that also made me strong, is my brother Akram. My brother is epileptic and also autistic. When we were young, it was not that obvious and we did not know. We had never even heard of epilepsy when we were young and none of us knew anything about it. I remember the first time seeing my brother having a seizure, that’s when we realised. I had no idea what was going on. My brother is so kind and would not hurt a fly. He is my everything, I would give him my heart and he is my source of strength. I have done courses to learn how to care for him. When he gets a seizure now, I know what to do and hold him in my arms. I assist him after even though he is heavy compared to me. I will work my ass off to make sure he has everything he needs. He is smart, he has an engineering degree but he cannot find a job because he gets seizures everyday. This affects him and his self-esteem. I told him, this doesn’t make a difference to us, I want you to be happy. Whatever you need, you will always find it.

What does being a woman mean to you?

I love womanhood. I love being a lady on all levels. I am sister, a daughter, a friend, a colleague and I can be a great support to so many people. We wear so many hats! On one level, when you are with your partner you become this feminine queen where he will do anything for you. Women can have a huge impact on men and drive them to either good or evil, I really believe this. A woman plays a big role in men’s life. If you are evil you can influence him to be evil, if you are an angel you can influence him to good as well. Men change for women and this is something I love, I have power. That is with your partner, now with your girlfriends, you talk about everything! We get strength from one another. We are there for each other. As a daughter, when your parents grow old you tend to take care of them. As a sister, you are a best friend. At work, you are an earner and have to manage business. And most importantly you have yourself; you have to love yourself as a woman. I love myself; if I saw myself in another body I really think I would love that woman. You have the ability to be anything you want: feminine, smart, strong, sexy, and I hope everyone can see that. We have influence in so many ways. We are so strong.

Can you tell me about a time when you felt disappointed in yourself?

I felt really disappointed when I was once in a relationship before I got married. I changed my whole character for that person. I didn’t know who I was at that time but I knew it wasn’t me. When things didn’t work out, I was so disappointed in myself to have changed for someone. If he didn’t accept me for who I am, how could he accept me for someone I am not? Another example, I gave up a chance to be a mother for someone else.

Sometimes you see a person, you don’t know the source of their strength. It can be something bad or good, but the outcome is strength, which is really great. Never judge people because someone can be going through a horrible time but be unable to talk about it or don’t know how to talk about it.

How can women support each other more?

One sentence: do not judge. Be strong, be positive, do not change for anyone, and be healthy. Although I am personally against plastic surgery, but if a women wants to adjust something in her body for herself and that makes her happy, I am with her 100%. If I see a woman going out with someone, I would be happy because she is happy. However, if I felt uncomfortable about that guy I would tell her. I would just highlight my concerns maybe I am wrong but we need to look out for one another. Basically women need to speak up. If you keep things to yourself it can ruin you from the inside. If you have a best friend, talk to her, if you have a family member or someone you trust, talk to them.

All women should stick together. No one understands women like other women. Guys they are completely different and work in their own ways but we can understand one another. If you see a woman going through a tough time, be with her, remind her you will go through it together. If a woman does something great, lets celebrate that! Women are great leaders and I don’t think the world can survive without women. Also if you see potential in another woman, talk about it. Some women are shy and we can help pull each other up.

 

 

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