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How I Have Empowered Myself to Thrive

International Women's Day 2020

Defense Ninjas

Being 32 and single can be harsh, especially when you also live alone, even more so when you’re just starting your business, which means you don’t have stable income but do have a lot of stress. This is one of the worst possible combination a woman in a progressive world ever has to live with: alone, stressed, and unstable. I lived this life for 5 years and survived it (yay!) so I have a lot of great ideas to share on how I stayed happy, productive, hopeful, and mostly fulfilled 🙂

I just got married a few months ago (also yay!) and it was also only a few months ago when I got my first $7K bill for going to the “wrong ER”, more on that here: My Bernie Story Video – $7000 Bill Emergency Visit to the Hospital! Already being in debt, I had no idea how I would pay that off. So let’s rewind 5 years where I’ll share how I embarked onto this journey and then I’ll share my top activities that helped me survive and thrive during the most difficult years of my life. This article will have a happy ending, I promise 😉

Until 5 years ago, I worked for a giant Fortune-100 software company. I graduated from a good school with good grades, did two internships with the same company and before I even graduated, I had my full-time job offer. I made a six-figure income and although all of this sounds great on paper, the reality was quite different. I was extremely stressed at work, many of the reasons being gender bias and perhaps I can safely say … even sexual and religious harassment. My first experience was when a coworker called me an idiot for not having basic networks knowledge. I wasn’t even 3 months into the job, I explained to the developer that I didn’t learn this in school, and went crying back to my office. I eventually lodged a complain with his manager when his behavior repeated a second time. Over the years, my ex-coworkers have slammed their doors on me, cursed, yelled, pulled my hijab because “this is America and I don’t need to cover my hair”, grabbed my wrist “jokingly” to see how well I can get out of it and if my martial arts training was doing me any good, threw an empty soda can and sticky notes pad at me, closed my office door behind me refusing to leave unless I agreed to take on a task, asked me to run errands before helping me with a software bug, and forcefully asked me to explain my medical situation. Life was rough. I got very sick, took my FMLA leave, and then resigned later.

So now, it’s 2015 and I don’t know what I want to do. I tried applying for several software jobs, but that didn’t pan out. I did a lot of part-time jobs including teaching as a senior martial arts instructor, but shockingly got fired from all of these, including being the Vice Principal of a Sunday School at a mosque. Yes, a mosque. I thought I was doing well. I brought great knowledge of data analysis and process improvement. So I knew that my purpose in life was not doing a job and being with my business teaching women’s self-defense classes. This came with it’s own set of challenges where my roommates changed so often that I had to get a small 600 square feet studio apartment for $1500/month and live on my own while making less than my rent every month in earnings. Luckily, I had saved up a lot and used my savings to get by. Having unstable health and income, along with living alone definitely brought on moments of depression and anxiety, but I knew I had to keep working if I have to make it on my own some day. So here are the activities that I consistently did and they consistently worked for me, uplifted me, and got me through these tough five years of my life.

4. Seeing a Therapist

This is lowest on my list only because she was expensive and I only saw her once every few months. The frequency you see your therapist makes a difference and that’s not a luxury I had. Nonetheless, she was very effective. Every time I did see her was when I was at my absolute lowest and she did give me a big jolt of energy, hope, and a plan to go with.

Frequency: Once in 3 months
Health Score (Effectiveness): 9/10

3. Meditation+

Also low on my list only because it helped me with sleep more than anything else. Getting a good night’s sleep did help me stay energized and hopeful during the day so I didn’t discount that! I’ll take a stretch here and list all the things I did under “meditation” that added immense value to my well-being: 

  1. Creating YouTube vlogs on positive actions.
  2. Listening to Self-Talk Audio I got from a Life Coach.
  3. Listening to Hypnosis podcast – sleep, empowerment, success.
  4. Keeping up with my daily prayers and duas.

Frequency: Daily
Help Score:  7/10

2. Swing Dancing

There are four reasons why this worked like a charm:

  1. Outing: It got me out of the house
  2. Exercising: It got me sweating
  3. Socializing: It got me interacting with people
  4. Laughing: It made me laugh!

If you’ve ever been Swing Dancing or Lindy Hopping, you’ll know that the dance and the music are quite hilarious sometimes and it’s hard not to laugh. It got my brain fluids flowing too so I often found myself coming up with some great ideas later! The only reason this isn’t on the top of my list is that I didn’t usually have the health and energy to keep up with it. It usually left me feeling quite physically exhausted, so much so that it would cause me extreme dizziness and muscle weakness.

Frequency: 3-4 days per week.
Help Score: 8/10

1. Self-Help Books & Podcasts

I read a lot of books from the Self-Help sections especially those written by entrepreneurs to encourage me and help me grow faster and more efficiently. My ultimate goal was to have a successful business. My success would automatically would lead to higher income, semi-stable income, and lower anxiety. These business self-help books did two things for me:

  1. Taught me relevant non-technical skills.
  2. Gave me tools to manage my emotional roller coasters.
  3. Related to my struggles making me realize that I’m not alone in this. Every new entrepreneur who starts a new venture struggles in their early years.

Frequency: 5-6 days per week.
Help Score: 9/10

Socializing was a big part of my healing and success, even though I had very few friends. I played board games and engaged in other activities with my friends that encouraged me and kept me going. This is one of the biggest reasons why I always try to build a community with my students. In class, we practice meditation as part of our self-defense training, and towards the end of class, I listen to their problems and give them empowerment exercises to take home and practice. We also get together outside of class to either celebrate students’ small victories  or gather for Philosophy and Tea where we listen to a podcast on happiness or success, do a brain dump writing exercise, and share our action-based solution to a problem we’re currently working on. Of course, we also sip on some relaxing delicious tea while working our minds 🙂

Now, my life is quite different in some ways, but also quite similar in some others. I still work alone as I work from home when I’m not teaching class. I still struggle with anxiety as my business is still in it’s toddler phase. The TOP 2 activities that work for me now have changed and are:

  1. Hosting a get-together of friends where we play board games or do philosophy and tea, and
  2. Spending time with my partner 🙂

No matter how much of my chaos changes or stays the same in my life; may it be the people who come and go, or the students who do, or how my business succeeds and fails as it rides its roller-coaster up the rocky mountain of success – one thing will always stay true and same: only I can help my well-being. I truly have the power to make a difference in how I feel and what I choose to do. So I’ll always choose to count my blessings, I’ll always choose to help myself with additional supports, and I’ll always choose to embrace the chaos, not resist it, be content, take a deep breath, and always remember to smile 🙂

Wishing you all a healthy and happy life.

Happy International Women’s Day 2020!

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