Ten lessons I wish I knew when I was younger
International Woman’s day is a time where many celebrate the achievements of women across the globe. A day where we are reminded of the work ahead to make equality the norm instead of an exception.
The systemic change is a much-needed one so women can feel free, safe, and secure to take up space in this world by being true to who they are.
At the same time, women’s day is also about vulnerability and scratching below the surface. When I look back at my life, that naive 21-year-old girl who started to work for NATO in a foreign country, I wish I had someone who spoke about the unspoken. Someone who helped me navigate the shadow side of human nature, which is present in both genders.
I often felt lost and alone in a sea of adversity and challenges and learned how to cope the hard way. At the same time, I appreciate all the experiences I had as they made me who I am today. Many people may resonate who have had similar experiences. They know that when you have been through so much you ultimately decide to break open instead of breaking down. You blossom from a tight bud trapped within her leaves into a beautiful desert rose, regardless of your gender.
At Thrive with EQ, I like to do things differently. I am sharing my most significant vulnerability as a superpower to inspire all women, especially the younger ones, to reach for the stars as they wait for their grasp.
Are you ready? Here we go!
Who knew that twenty years later, I would never recognize myself in you. So much has happened, and so much has changed. You believed that you would retire working for NATO as at that time it was the money you were after. That’s what you were taught as a young child. Without money, happiness is elusive.
You know better know. And as Maya Angelou said: …when you know better, you do better. For international women’s day, I am writing you a letter to inspire many other young women like yourself to embrace who they are. Remember their internal power base and rise and shine like a diamond cloud in the skies.
You are enough
I wish you had embraced this belief at a much earlier age. As a daughter of an immigrant family, you never felt enough, nor were you ever accepted by your environment. On top, you felt so shy and never spoke, so no one wanted or knew how to be your friend. Instead, discrimination and bullying prevailed, unfortunately. I wish you knew that your past does not define your beautiful soul. Instead, it shows the strength of your character and the flame of your spirit. People do what they do based on who they are and the information they had at that time.
Your self-worth is a given by birthright, and you should never feel less than enough because you are more than enough. And every time you feel as if you don’t fit in, embrace that you were born to stand out. History shows that this world’s outcasts turned to be some of the greatest legends of our century.
Never be ashamed of who you are
You are quite a sensitive being. You feel everything and everyone at a much higher intensity than the average person. I wish you knew that there was nothing wrong with you. Instead, your nervous system is just more receptive and tuned in with all non-verbal cues. They call this being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and/or an Empath.
Obviously, working in a military institution like NATO, you struggled. You were made to feel as being too sensitive, as taking things too personal, and always made to feel inferior.
I wish you knew then how your sensitivity is a superpower. Your creativity levels are at an all-time high because of your ability to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues and see connections where others don’t. Your ability to write and design scenarios that are human and so authentic anyone can relate to is a gift you finally embraced at a later age in life. And you will be pleased to know that you lead your business with kindness, empathy, and boundaries. You finally learned to teach people how to treat you.
I still wish you would have lived the principle that no one can make you feel inferior without your permission!
The world revolves around the sun, not around you
A side effect of feeling everything around you is that you are prone to emotional codependency. Meaning you needed others to feel good, so you can feel good. You decided how you feel based on how external behaviors influenced you.
That was a big energy drainer right there! You also suffered from the Imposter Syndrome, feeling like a fraud and always feeling judged, fuelling your addiction to compare yourself with others.
I wish you knew early on in life that the world does not revolve around you but around the sun. It has really helped you heal.
So chill, relax and just focus on doing you. Expanding and growing without harming anyone. And the higher you go, the more haters will show up.
These are not really haters, but people who either gave up on their dreams and you remind them of what could have been. Or you reflect back on something unfamiliar to them, and thus they may feel uncomfortable. So they tried to make you feel small, so they can feel big. And some just don’t have a life and stick their noses in other people’s business as a hobby.
Whatever it is, you don’t control it; you can only ignore it. Focus like an Eagle and continue on your mission to dominate the world. And yes, I am very proud of your crazy levels and your ability to dream big and go big.
“Only those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world actually do. ” Steve Jobs.
Never put anyone on pedestals
You were taught early in childhood that some people are more important than others because of their status and title. Well, I wish you knew that your identity has no correlation with your functions. Presidents may have different functions, but they still go to the bathroom.
You are doing yourself and others a great disservice by putting others on a pedestal. Energetically you are communicating that they are better than you. They are not, they have different functions, but at the core, humanity is the same.
I also wish you knew that inevitably, you will piss people off in the process of loving yourself more. Simply because they are no longer the object of your attention, nor are you giving them what they want. The moment you healed from the disease to please was the moment you lost many people in your life and was also the moment you made space for new people.
You love humanity in small doses, so you are happy now with a few good people in your life who are part of your inner circle. You are also satisfied when you are alone as space and independence are essential to you, and you no longer feel ashamed. You strike a nice balance of being social, taking up space online, and enjoying your own company. Besides, I am glad you did not know that your greatest gift in life, your son, has energy levels your mind is still unable to grasp. It would definitely have deterred you from getting pregnant!
Finally, you understood that the difference between arrogance and confidence is humility. No one is better than you, and you are not better than anyone. At the end of the day, people mean well and are trying to live their potential. We are all at a different time in our journey, and it’s ok when people don’t like you. As long as you like yourself, you will never feel rejected!
Replace judgment with curiosity
Human nature is to judge when there is a gap in our mental perception. When we lack information or don’t have the full story – we make up our own. These stories become our truths that cause a particular behavior. It is related to the need to feel in control, safe, and secure by closing the gaps. So we judge others and ourselves, and even though it is painful, it feels familiar. The emotion with that behavior is part of our behavioral repertoire and sure was at the heart of many experiences and interactions with others.
You will be pleased to know you no longer judge, but you became curious. You try to understand. Sometimes it takes you some venting, cursing and soothing your ego before embracing this Mother Theresa quality. Still, your quality of life is so much better.
Especially with yourself. You embrace all of your imperfections. When you make a mistake, you focus on learning the lesson, apologizing only if necessary, and moving on with more wisdom. This brings me to the power of journaling.
The power of journaling
One of the main reasons for depression is our ability to get lost in our negative thinking and stuck in our grim realities. I wish you knew that people have around 70,000 thoughts a day, and only five percent are new.
So imagine with your background in life’s sh*t holes, you had some pretty dark thoughts. And because no one taught you how to process these thoughts linked with intense negative emotions, they remained stuck in your mind.
The human brain is a processor, not a container. You need to write things down so they flow out of your brain into the pen and on paper. That’s when you can use your analytical part of the brain and detach your emotions so you can move forward with the experience. And the experience without emotion is called wisdom.
The good news is that you have a lot of wisdom because of your past, and many love to hear you speak and learn. Some don’t and wish you would just shut up, which is also ok and their right. Just know that you were born to take up space and share your voice with the world. Never forget that!
Shame and guilt are futile
My dearest Nadja, you wasted so much energy and life force feeling shame and guilt for who you are because of other people’s perceptions, insecurities, and their own drama. Shame and guilt are perhaps the most futile emotions that exist because they don’t change what happened. Instead, they keep you stuck in negative energy and prevent you from growing into your best version.
I wish you knew that you are not responsible for saving anyone, for people’s emotions and feelings, and for people’s opinions of you. You may be responsible for triggering them, but they need to deal with their mommy and daddy issues themselves. We all have mommy and daddy issues; some also have teachers and bad bosses issues. These are lessons so we can learn and grow our character to navigate life’s ebb and flow.
You apologize, again ONLY IF NECESSARY AND WHEN YOU FEEL YOU DID SOMETHING HARMFUL TO OTHERS, and move on. Everyone has a choice to be a product of their circumstances or their decisions.
And besides, if you place external conditions on how you feel – you will always live in a self-inflicted prison. People are fickle human beings. One day they are happy; the other day, they are not. They may have loved to make you responsible for that, but you know better now. Let it go, be present with the experience, learn the lessons, write down how you will do things differently should this happen again, and MOVE ON.
Problems are opportunities to grow
In a world where problems are overrated and, human agency is underestimated, you got anxious quite fast. Your ability to worry about anything and everything was remarkable. Waking up already fearing what the day would bring, what your boss would do, what kind of office politics would play out, who would try to throw you under the bus now, and so on.
I wish you knew back then that problems are opportunities to grow. They teach you how to use your excellent problem-solving skills and creative ability to see beyond the current moment. Life never gives us what our soul can’t handle. At least that’s what I believe. And looking back, you have overcome some of the darkest, difficult and challenging problems with grace, humility, and fire. You have this innate ability to fall and rise like a Phoenix, which makes you a mystery to many, actually.
Stop worrying, everything always works out, and you always know instinctively how to navigate any situation. Feeling the discomfort, the pain, and the negative emotions are part of your human experience, my dear. Life is not a flatline of events, but it is ebb and flow. You are the mountain. Solid, stable, and secure. Nothing will break you. You may lose a rock now and then, but it’s worth the sacrifice!
If you can be anything, be kind
Working in a command and control culture where hard security prevailed, you believed that being kind is a weakness. On top of it, so many people took advantage of your kindness, so you thought that being kind has no purpose. You could not be more wrong, Nadja. If you can be anything in this world, be kind. Everyone has a positive intention, and their behavior gets lost in translation. If you react to their behavior the same way they project their insecurities and problems onto you, you lose touch with who you are.
Live with intention, understand your core values, and always ask yourself before any situation or interaction: Is this in line with my intent?
This seemingly trivial change is so significant to live a life aligned with your authentic self. That’s when you feel freedom and energized. Because you can go to bed with your integrity intact and your anxiety dissipated. People may disagree with your intention, but ultimately this is your story, and you are the author of your script and the master of your ship. Just remember that!
Don’t take yourself too seriously
I wish you had more fun and embraced your weird sense of humor. I love your sense of humor now, not everyone does, and you are ok with it. Most people do, and they feel lighter and better when they meet you. You help them relieve their anxiety, stress, and worry by laughing and bringing perspective into life.
You used to care so much what other people thought of you. You used to fear making mistakes as you are the queen of typos. You used to hide your sense of humor in fear of offending anyone until you learned that some people live their life looking for reasons to be offended. So don’t take yourself too seriously.
What you do and the value you offer to your clients, to the world is to be taken seriously. And I am very proud of your neurotic levels sometimes when you go above and beyond because excellence is part of your core values. You never do things halfway, always bigger, better, and bolder. People and your clients love you for that.
But you are so much more chill now. You laugh at your own jokes, which is quite funny. You publish your blooper videos to inspire others to not take themselves so seriously. And you have so much more fun in the little things, with your son who is quite the comedian and drama queen!
Live more. Laugh more. Feel more. Let go and surrender to life. Say yes to life, and life will say yes to you!
These are my ten lessons for you, Dear Nadja, and I hope you will take them to heart. Life is too short, and you die only once. But you live every single day.
So get up, appreciate all that is, and go conquer the world!
It may take a while, but your passion is undeniable, and you are a force to be reckoned with. Never forget that and never let anyone tell you otherwise. You are perfectly imperfect, whole, complete, and enough just as you are. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone.
Your Wiser Self.