What is your story of strength?
Imagine a time in your life when you are unexpectedly forced to make a significant decision… The type they call “life-changing.” This decision is entirely on you…There’s no escape from it, and it will steer the course of your life in a new direction. It boils down to two options: A safe yet undesirable one and a more desirable yet very uncertain one. You ask yourself: Should I stay in my comfort zone or take a leap of faith? And the worst part is, you’ve got to make that decision when you feel most broken and lost…
That was my state a couple of years ago when my marriage ended abruptly. I’m normally a resilient person, but the emotional, mental and physical aspects of divorce felt very “dark” even for someone like me at that time. I remember feeling very lonely: my family was away, my best friend was abroad, my friends were busy with their lives and my ex had already left and had stopped communicating. I certainly had support from the people who genuinely cared about me…yet it mostly was in the form of a distant worry rather than being “present” if you know what I mean. It was bizarre in that sense.
Another dominant feeling was “disappointment.” I was hugely disappointed in my old partner and the time I invested in that relationship, which was around 12 years in total. “Best years of my life,” I thought…”are now wasted in the wrong relationship.” I was 33 when I said that. And of course, I was angry, resentful, self-justifying during that time. It was my ego trying to save the day.
Some days I was alive and dealing with all those emotions, and some days I was utterly “numb.” So numb that it felt like there was a hole in the middle of my chest and you could put your arm through it. This is what I call the “zombie mode.”, which feels like, I am and am not in my physical body at the same time.
Anyhow, the natural choice for me was to go back to my home country and live with my parents while looking for a new job. This option would provide me with the safety net that I needed the most while recuperating from the emotional trauma. However, my gut feeling said “no.” I wasn’t ready to leave yet. There was already one thing broken and I couldn’t bring myself to “break” everything else, so I decided to take a leap of faith.
And that decision came with a large package of its unique risks. In the aftermath of the break-up; I had to save money, look for a new place to live, get divorced, find a new job, obtain a residency visa, change my name, all my related accounts and cards meanwhile healing the pain. ALL BY MYSELF. Did I have the strength? No. Did I want it? Yes.
So, over the course of nine months, I did a double shift at work, tried to save as much money as possible, moved twice and finally got a new job. NINE MONTHS. Imagine…it is as long as a baby develops in a mother’s womb. And just like a new life forming, I woke up every morning, unknowing what lied ahead, and tried to motivate myself with hope. A new me with a new life was emerging, and it was a slow progress. I had to be very patient, which was not one of my strengths!
I remember that three things helped me deal with my challenges:
1) Responsibility: I did not blame anyone or anything for that situation. I accepted my reality and asked myself: “This challenge is real. It is MY challenge. What do I do with it now? Do I feel sorry for myself and be the victim in this story? Or do I become the hero? I am not able to change the past, but I can manipulate the outcome.” I thought.
2) Faith: I believed in myself and my potential to jump over this hurdle. “If others could do it, so could I,” I thought. And I gave it everything I had.
3) Hope: Life has its highs and lows, and as you know, it is the lows that teach you invaluable lessons if you can open yourself to see and receive them. I programmed my mind for a bright future and made real effort to create it.
And the best thing of all was the “transformation” that came along…I questioned many things during that phase: my purpose, my life’s direction, what I wanted, what I needed and how I could serve. I read lots of books on self-development and attended workshops…I shared my story with total strangers, listened to theirs…I learned how to ask for help. I learned how to forgive. I learned how to heal relationships. I learned how to accept failure. I made conscious effort to meet my true self; my essence. I asked it who it was, what it wanted and how it could express itself the best. It was an eye-opening journey.
In October 2014, almost a year after all this, I had this phrase written on my birthday cake: “Happy Rebirth Selin.” Indeed, a new baby was born that year, a new me. And that baby is four years old now; still growing up and learning new things.
So, if you are someone out there going through a “low” point in life, I suggest you ask yourself this question: Who do you choose to be in your story: the victim or the hero? Remember, doing something about that crisis is far better than doing nothing. Believe in your power.
What does being a woman mean to you?
This is going to sound a bit grim, but to me being a woman means “struggle.”
You are born into a body that is taken lightly because of its beauty, although it is much more than that, with its resilience to pain and capacity to carry a child. You are born into a society in which the “masculine” way of doing things such as playing it tough in work life, is appreciated while femininity is seen as something else – something less valuable or “soft” since it involves emotions and caring for others. You are born into families or have families in which you are “protected” and “looked after” because people think it is harder for a woman to stand on her own feet by herself. She can be in danger. You are born into communities where basically everyone has a right to observe and criticise what you do in your personal life, how you dress or act. There are rules to obey. If you are a rebel and do not follow the rules, this makes you a marginal, which is not appreciated.
You live a life with fewer freedoms and more hard work to realize your dreams.
Do you know that famous song called “This is a Man’s World” by James Brown?
It starts with this line: “This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world”…and every time I hear it, I think about its validity. And unfortunately, it is true…and it STILL is a man’s world today.
However, that song continues as “It would be nothing without a woman or a girl,” which is also true.
I hope in the near future, the number of politicians and leaders that value gender equality increase and we (men and women) put away those labels in our minds about who a man or woman is and what their limitations and roles should be. We are the same species after all, and we both have a lot to offer to our societies with our unique natures. We should support each other and value “femininity” as much as “masculinity” to unleash its real power. Life is not a competition, but a collaboration and just like Yin and Yang, women and men complement each other in a harmonious way when they are both given enough space and motivation to do so.
Can you tell us about a time when you failed or disappointed yourself?
I cannot think of a specific incident, but I can tell you about a behavioral pattern I had in the past, which was quite frustrating.
I used to lack “assertiveness” in the sense of speaking your mind confidently and saying “no” whenever you don’t feel like doing something. I think that was partly a result of my calm character and partly due to the way I was raised in my family and culture.
As far as I remember, in that environment, other people were usually put first as an act of “kindness,” making a compromise for someone else was championed, and “agreeing” with others was appreciated. So I thought, for me to be accepted and approved by others, I’ve got to shadow them or not cause disagreements by refusing their wishes. I guess I was defining my self-worth by the way I was perceived in my community.
Unfortunately, this confusion or illusion I was going through for many years in my life cost me my “voice” in a metaphorical sense, and I felt very frustrated by not expressing my thoughts and needs properly.
This growing frustration finally led to an “implosion, ” and I lost contact with my true self…my “essence” which is the part of me that shines my real persona and enjoys life. This “lifeless” state lasted for a long time.
Later on, I focused on this issue and started peeling off its layers one by one. The more I understood myself, the less I needed to seek approval and acceptance from the outside world because I realised that self-worth is cultivated within. Eventually, I became a more confident person who can communicate openly with others.
When I look back to those old days now, I feel like I did myself a big injustice by not addressing this issue earlier in life. Assertiveness is actually a significant topic and it is closely linked with how much you value yourself.
Anyway, better late than never they say…
How can women better support each other?