Don’t be the victim oppressor

Every decision we take has an impact on us, and on those around us.

If we only consider one side of that equation, we’ll either become victims by denying ourselves of what we need in favour of pleasing everyone else, or we’ll become oppressors by pleasing ourselves and denying the rights of everyone else.

Finding a balance between the two brings us closer to experiencing joy in our lives.

When we find that we deny ourselves of what we need, it’s because we’re waiting for someone else to convince us that we’re worth it.

When we deny others what they need from us, we’re convinced that they don’t deserve us.

Both mindsets lead to an emptiness that is hard to understand.

Fulfilment and joy in life is found in striking a healthy balance between the two.

If you’re struggling to find that balance, check out my books, or connect with me for affordable life coaching sessions.

Video sessions available to wherever you are in the world.

More details on my website at zaidismail.com

#embracingME #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthrecovery #selfworth #selflove #selfawareness #selfrespect #mindfulness #inspiration #ownyourshit #ownyourlife #theegosystem #balance #gratitude #joy

Coming Soon: Launch of Life Coaching Practice

My life’s calling has always prompted me towards this project. Throughout the years, despite my focus in my professional career having been in the information technology and management consulting arenas, I was always drawn to the human story behind good or poor performance. Unlocking potential in people who had a very limited view of what they were capable of has always proven more fulfilling than the highest paying roles that I’ve filled.

I walked away from a seven figure salary to pursue this dream of mine. The people around me thought I was crazy, and many still do, but I know what I’m passionate about. That is, empowering people to rise above the constraints of their upbringing! In a nutshell, that is my calling in life. To inspire and guide others towards embracing the enormous potential that they have within them.

My approach differs considerably from the norm, but having been doing this for no fee for many years now on a part time basis, I have proven that breaking the mold of traditional psychotherapy and life coaching, and finding a balance between the two is the most effective way to reinvent yourself. Some brief examples of unconventional successes that I have had over the years include:

  1. Career Coaching – Transforming individuals from entry-level jobs to highly sought after technical specialists without them having a tertiary qualification
  2. Life Coaching – Guiding individuals out of a chronically depressed state to being motivated and inspired to pursue their dreams
  3. Marriage Counseling – Restoring balance and respect in homes that were disrupted by external influences
  4. Health and Wellness Coaching – Helping individuals identify the causal relationship between their emotional state and their health, and guiding them towards overcoming it. (Especially effective for chronic conditions also known as lifestyle diseases.)
  5. Anger Management – Guiding individuals towards realising the source of their anger and effectively resolving it so that it does not hinder their growth or happiness in future
  6. Personal Trauma – Anything from divorce, to abusive relationships, childhood trauma that still deeply affects adults, and other forms of emotional abuse has been successfully unpacked and processed to release the hold that it had on the victims of such circumstances

My coaching approach is best described as a holistic approach. My first book titled The Egosystem dealt with the core of the human condition and how it shapes our lives. My second book will focus on practically applying those insights into your life so that you can find your balance and point of grounding to be successful, both in your personal and professional endeavours.

In the weeks to come, I will share more information about the service offering, rates, payment options, and the format that the coaching sessions will follow. My website will also be updated to allow for online booking of sessions, including real-time payment, and resources to make it more accessible for everyone. I will also be offering virtual coaching sessions so that it is accessible from anywhere in the world.

The Path You Take

Share your story. A prompt that suggests so much. It suggests that we have a story worth sharing, but equally so, it suggests that there is an audience interested in our story. We all have a story to share. So much so that it is an accepted cliché when seeing untoward behaviour from some, or a lack of ambition from others. We remind ourselves and others that we don’t know their story and therefore should not judge them harshly. That has its merits to a point.

Something not so often contemplated though is the story versus the storyteller. I’ve witnessed many times how a great story is dismissed simply for being told by the wrong storyteller. Not because they did a bad job of telling it, but because the audience saw that person as someone other than a source of credibility, wonderment, or inspiration.

The stories of our lives consists of the people and characters that we most often know first hand. Be that online or in real time, our first hand interactions with them shapes their perceptions of who we are and what they believe we are capable of. It is that perception that defines how our story will be received or how our advice may be taken. Good advice is always good advice. It only becomes tainted in our minds because we contaminate it with our perception of the advisor.

True emotional maturity and a healthy self esteem is defined by our ability to accept the truth, or criticism, regardless of its source. That probably speaks as much about the conviction we hold for objective truth (if such exists in normal human interactions) versus our subjective truth regardless of the facts that may challenge our views. But all this is beside the real point, and instead simply alludes to a much more important point that escapes most of us.

When we choose to change the definition of who we are, or how we are preceived (which is a natural consequence of the former), we forget that others are not as invested in the change that we wish for ourselves. For most, it is more convenient for them to maintain their firmly held beliefs about who we are or what we represent, because it gives them predictability and assurance about their views on life and others. They need that predictability or stability especially when their self image is based on how they compare to others. I think this is an important point.

When we realise how much the way we are strengthens the self esteem of others, we’ll realise why it is that the support that we expect is not forthcoming when needed. Their self esteem could be bolstered by believing that they’re better than we are, or by their association with us if we have admirable qualities that they want to be associated with. It is easy at this point to assume that they do not want us to be successful or ambitious, but the truth lies closer to the fact that they are not ready to reevaluate who they are relative to their changing reality.

When we assume that it is about us, rather than recognising that they suffer from their own feelings of insufficiency, we feel deprived or betrayed by their lack of support. Right there is the struggle of leadership. True leadership, not pseudo leadership associated with an office or title. Leading in your chosen field of passion or influence. Following a calling that demands more than just fitting in or complying with the norm. When you choose that path, one of your closest companions will likely be isolation.

Isolation is an inevitable outcome of influencing change. By definition, change means to be set apart from the norm. You cannot lead from within the masses, or by subtly hinting at improvement while maintaining the status quo to avoid disruption. Unless of course minor incremental changes define the limits of the leadership that you wish to provide, or the change you wish to see realised.

I guess it is therefore more accurate to state that disruptive leadership is a courtship of isolation. Only once the value of your vision is experienced by the rest can you hope to feel any sense of inclusion. However, by that time the harm or discomfort of isolation by those you expected to be your staunch supporters often results in so much damage to the fabric of your relationship with them that their inclusion or support no longer holds any merit. Ironically it becomes a reversal of the point of departure. You risk becoming the one not willing to reevaluate your perception of others because of a moment in the past, rather than accepting that they needed tangible evidence to overcome their cynicism or doubt about what you were striving to achieve and the value that it offered them.

Either way, when you choose your path in life, inclusion will leave you constrained and unfulfilled, while conviction will risk disruption that will set you on a collision course with the people that you hope to keep close through the journey ahead. If you have such people in your life, the ones that grow with you on your journey, cherish them. However, on this point I believe that not a lot of cherishing will be done, because not many earn such respect or gratitude through support and encouragement.

Perhaps it is just my jaundiced view based on a jaundiced relationship with a jaundiced society.

That Half Full Glass

Do relationships end because people change, or because they finally realise who they’re with? Or is it closer to going in with a belief that growth is possible, only to discover that their partner was uninterested in growth? Or maybe the possibility of growth spawned an immature competition between the two, and they grew apart instead of growing together?

I’ve seen and lived through my fair share (and then some) of bad relationships. The haunting reality of every single one of them was the amount of self-denial if not self-destruction that was insisted upon by one or both parties. In my mind, I visualise relationships as a glass half full. No, not that glass, another glass. We’re all semi-filled glasses of water in a way. Any person that claims to be entirely fulfilled by their own endeavours and independent of the contribution of others to feel completely whole is a liar.

Back to that glass. We hold on to many glasses in our lifetimes with each glass representing a major area of interest, or passion in our lives. When it comes to relationships, our relationship glass is half full as we invite others into that space. We only invite those that hold the promise of adding to that half full glass so that we can top it up, realistically only trying to approach the brim while knowing that getting it to overflow is rarely, if ever possible in this lifetime. This world was simply not created for such perfect fulfilment.

Nonetheless, when we invite others in, we hold an innate expectation that they will contribute towards that glass which will serve as inspiration for us to contribute to theirs. Sometimes, we’re not aware of how full or how empty the glass of the other is. We assume, based on our own perceptions and life stage, that those that appear similarly inclined have glasses filled similar to our own. This assumption, based on superficial interactions, inform our decisions to invite them in or pull them closer, all the while looking to draw on those expectations we never realised we had. It all seems natural until it’s put to the test.

The gaps that exist in the souls of others only become evident when they’re exposed to the prying eyes of one who appears less vapid. Often, this awareness is news to them as well because in our efforts to protect our vulnerabilities from the world, we’re easily convinced of our completeness in the face of adversity. Believing that we’re victorious over our adversities steels us against the harsh reality of our weakness or neediness. No one wants to appear weak, except where such appearances promise to solicit the affection of those we seek.

It’s quite the charade. When we desire the embrace of another, we’ll easily allow our weakness to show if there is reason to believe that such weakness will be perceived as tenderness, rather than impotence. Similarly, we go out seeking such weakness if we wish to be perceived as strong and dependable. But almost always, unless we’re self-destructive by inclination, we look for one that counter balances who we are. Our strengths must complement their weaknesses, and their strengths our weaknesses. Otherwise we encourage competition in a space where we seek harmony, and so the cycle plays out in varying permutations, all the while reflecting nothing more than the glass that needs to be filled, just in different ways.

When our expectations are failed, we respond in one of three ways. We cut our losses and focus on our investment in our own glass, protecting what little we’ve accumulated over time by extricating the drain on that precious life source that gives us reason to pursue a new day leaving the empty glass to find another source of affirmation from which to fill its voids.

At other times we compensate for what is lacking by complementing our lives with the contributions from others that are not fully invested in our intimate relationships, but fill the gaps of the plutonic needs that remain unfulfilled by the ones closest to us. Some see this as infidelity, depending entirely on your cultural or religious subscriptions, while others see this as a balanced reality that can’t be avoided. Again, entirely dependent on how you view the innocence or deviousness of such an effort. What it does do for the ones closer to us is it eases the burden of expectation that we place on them because we effectively buy ourselves time while waiting for them to catch up. We see their weakness and trust their sincerity to improve their state, so we offer them support while we nurture ourselves through other means in the hope that such alternate nurturing will be temporary only. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it taints us to the point of needing such variety of nurturing as a permanent feature in our lives.

The third response is the most destructive of them all. Pride, ego, commitment, or simply a rigidity informed by all of the above drives us to allow that drain to suck the life out of us as we wait patiently for the other to catch up. Their glass slowly filling up while ours drains, eventually resulting in them feeling emboldened in the face of our growing weakness. Their newfound confidence leading them to believe that they’re worth more than the spent soul they see before them, convinced that they were not the problem to begin with. In allowing ourselves to be exhausted in so many ways by contributing to a vacuum, we become the masters of our own demise. This is only ever possible if we feel responsible for the poor choices of others.

As I mentioned in my thoughts about unconditional love, sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others in fact denies those that are worthy of your full contribution to begin with. Allowing your glass to empty because of some irrational commitment to an outcome that causes more destruction than it contributes towards a wholesome life is not martyrdom, it’s foolishness. Worse than this, it is reckless and selfish, because that moment of self-indulgence, when we reduce the purpose of our lives to propping up those around us at the expense of our own well being is nothing more than a statement of ingratitude for all that we are, and all that we’re capable of being.

My glass will never be full, but I will never willingly allow it to be exhausted by others either. It’s the least I owe to myself, and to those that have a legitimate reliance on me to contribute towards their glasses as well. Anything less is unacceptable.

Finding Balance (Part 2)

I need to step back from my life in order to regain an objective view (if that’s possible) of whether or not I am investing my time, energy, and resources as effectively as possible. Recently I’ve been contemplating how easily distracting it is to be coping well while losing sight of the fact that in coping we end up reacting, rather than owning.

Life happens based on what we perceive as being a priority. As we invest in those priorities, be they people or material outcomes, they increase or decrease in value for us. When we find ourselves enjoying success in any of them, we invest more. If we find a sense of fulfilment or joy in them, we invest more. Eventually, we focus on the success and the outcomes and how that makes us feel, while forgetting to question whether or not the investment is still in line with our original purpose for making the investment. In other words, we end up investing in our ego as the priority, with the original objective becoming a secondary concern.

It’s this cycle that I’m weary of. I pause for brief moments at times, and sometimes I’m caused to pause by health or other events, and in that brief moment I notice how little of my life is firmly in hand. Not from a controlling perspective, but from a deliberate investment perspective. How much of what I do am I doing because it is what I intended or needed to do, versus how much of it is purely because I am responding out of obligation or habit?

Part of the challenge of surrounding yourself with people that either don’t know you as well as they need to (often through no fault of their own but because of how inaccessible certain parts of us are) is that we have less sources of objective but meaningful criticism. This is exacerbated when we find ourselves surrounded by those that are at a life stage that we may have passed, or because they respect or admire us so much that they see no fault. When this becomes the make up of our social circles, be it significant others or professional acquaintances, we risk becoming heroes in our own minds.

The balance that eludes me is that despite being significantly productive by average standards, I am nagged with thoughts that I am not achieving nearly as much as I am capable of doing. The clutter, the noise, the distractions, and even the productive moments are so loosely strung together that the thread is almost invisible. Gaining visibility of that thread that pulls it all together will allow me to determine if its my own thread, or am I just a bead on someone else’s necklace? [That’s a weird analogy but I’m going to leave it there for now].

I need my own string of pearls. Costume jewellery (or junk jewellery as I prefer to call it) is far too easy to acquire and model into designs that are sparkly in appearance but lacking in true value. I need to ensure that the design of my life is in line with my understanding of the higher purpose that I profess to serve. Living responsively pacifies the yearning for movement in life, but it does little for the need for purpose. It’s for this reason that we sometimes find ourselves swamped with responsibility and inclusion, with no shortage of social contribution or familial relations, yet feel empty or unfulfilled.

More than being appreciated, I think we each have a deeper desire for leaving a legacy. That legacy is not materialistic in nature. Materialism satisfies the ego, not the spirit. The legacy has to testify to the improvement of the quality of life of others, or else our existence remains a commodity, or entirely inconsequential. Being inconsequential tears away at souls more often than we realise. It comes disguised as lacking in influence, or waiting for love, or even hoping for specific outcomes that are beyond our realistic reach. When our will to acquire that which remains elusive eventually fades, that’s when the feelings of being inconsequential set in; followed promptly by depression, self-loathing, lack of motivation, and often self-harm (not always with a blade either).

To avoid these pitfalls, I need to take time to step back, to observe and to account for the way in which my life is being expended. I see it as a traditional scale with the weight of my contribution to others on one side, and my extraction of benefit or personal gain on the other. The former must always be heavier, but never so heavy that it bottoms out. If it bottoms out, it means that I have failed to show due appreciation for myself, and for the abilities I have to contribute towards others. It means that I’ve become a martyr rather than a champion, or a pawn rather than a participant. And if the latter is weighed down, it means that I have become self-indulgent, quite possibly seeing others with contempt, ungrateful for what I have or receive, and a liability rather than an asset to society.

The quiet moments are needed for this to re-form to a shape that is wholesome and beneficial without detracting from the reality of my life. The outcome cannot be a dreamy one. It cannot be so superficial or esoteric that it offers little to no tangible value to those around me, or me. Instead, it must be substantial enough to encourage a recalibration of those areas of my life that are excessive in nature, or investment. It must provide a semblance of solace, and a tone that harmonises, without detracting from the responsibility that I have to act under circumstances that are not of my choosing nor of my preference.

Finding that balance, in many ways, embellishes the purpose of life. In fact, without it, there can be no purpose worth pursuing.

Finding Balance

When I was a kid, I remember my only concern when I got sick was how soon could I go out to play again. Recently though, each time I feel a severe illness setting in, my mind wanders towards considerations of this being my final moments. To date, the panic has not yet set in. Inevitability, although I may resist it initially at times, I find myself more inclined to embrace it and consider the options for my response instead.

Often, I try to trace my steps back to where I lost the balance in my life that led up to this moment of disruption. Illness, for me, has always been a sign that something is out of proportion in my life rather than being the victim of some external force in the universe. Yes, there are times when something deliberate external to my being afflicts me, but at those times I find that if I maintain my focus on balance, the impact with which it affects me is significantly less than most others that are exposed to similar circumstances.

More than anything else, I’ve found that acceptance of my contribution, or lack thereof, towards a given situation dissipates the unhealthy internal stressors that threaten my health or emotional wellbeing. The unnatural but common response is to defend ourselves against possible guilt in a negative outcome. So when we find ourselves faced with trying circumstances in our lives, we are most often inclined towards asking that repugnant question of ‘Why me?’. I could never figure out the logic that warrants such a question.

When we ask ‘Why me?’ we automatically imply that we’re underserving of what we’re experiencing, which suggests that we have an assumption of innocence. Worse than this, we also imply that it is perfectly acceptable for it to happen to someone else, because again the assumption is that they must be more deserving of it than we are. It assumes that we’re angelic in our ways, eternally sincere in our commitment to every relationship we participate in, and fully informed of the choices we’ve made, all of which have been made with utmost benevolence and wisdom. Yeah right.

We’re self-indulgent and selfish by nature. We look to the world and demand that it creates for us what we need, without first considering what we need to contribute to the world so that it has the capacity to offer what we all need. Wow, that’s up in the clouds even by my standard, so let me try to make it more practical than that. Choice is that horrible thing we have when it doesn’t work out in our favour, but it’s something we jealously defend when it does. Right there is the crux of balance.

Acceptance of the outcomes of the choices that we make, regardless of how good or bad those outcomes are, determines how healthy our response will be to the impact it has on our lives. Balance doesn’t just come from being a good person while not considering where you’re investing all that goodness. Nor does it come from living passively and waiting for others to uplift you. It comes from appreciating what we have, and then consciously utilising those resources and opportunities towards achieving a better state than the one we’re in. Towards achieving a better state than the one we’re in. That is what is important.

Far too often we focus on utilising what we have to simply protect or defend what we have. Then we bemoan the fact that others keep getting the good breaks in life while we continue to struggle just to keep our heads above water. We embrace fear before we embrace our strength because the repercussions of negativity are always more tangible and memorable than success. When we succeed at something, unless it is of a particularly notable achievement, we assume that it was merely deserved or expected.

It’s as if we have a desired circle of influence that we define for ourselves. The healthier our self-esteem, the larger that desired circle until our self-esteem outgrows our abilities and that circle then reflects our arrogance instead of our influence. This is similar to what we see with misguided political leaders that destroy countries in their insistence to wield the power that they have been flirting with for so long, while refusing to acknowledge that they lack the competence to do so effectively. The same principles apply in our own lives.

Theory aside, balance escapes us when we try to escape reality. The fear of accountability drives our behaviour more than we realise. That fear is not always an aversion to accountability. In fact, I’ve often witnessed it being an inclination to assume accountability for the choices of others. This is a double-edged dagger for many reasons the most important of which is that it results from either a self-loathing, or an inflated ego. The self-loathing drives us to assume accountability for the negative outcomes that result from the poor choices of those around us, leaving us to question our significance in their lives because we couldn’t influence them differently. The inflated ego tells us that we are accountable for the success that others enjoy simply because we played some miniscule role in setting them on the path that they eventually pursued.

Finding balance starts with being self-aware. That self-awareness must be accompanied by a sense of accountability for the current state we find ourselves in relative to the choices we made that caused us to arrive at this point. Once we get that right, our choices become more informed, and more effective because suddenly we’ll be focused on choosing to act in ways that we have good reason to believe will be effective towards achieving a consciously chosen outcome, rather than simply choosing to respond to avoid a negative outcome.

Our bodies are vessels of expression before anything else. Whether you consider the soul to be independent of the body, or you consider your seat of intelligence to be in the brain, either way, that source of intelligence and intelligent choice directs the body to express in due proportion. When we turn that intelligence into a harsh self-criticism, we effectively instruct our bodies to act against ourselves, which results in ailments that are a result of our own thought processes rather than external interference.

What we often miss is the fact that when we live under duress of our own minds, we weaken our ability to resist the harmful effects of the environments in which we exist. This completely undermines all our efforts to want to improve the state of our lives, while we sabotage ourselves before even setting out, eventually believing that fate dealt us a bad hand. Fate is what we make of it. If we didn’t have the power to choose, or for rational thought, we could justifiably blame fate for every woe in our lives. However, I believe that coincidence is not a chance occurrence. It is the fortuitous alignment of events that result from the collective choices of us, which presents opportunities that we would otherwise not have access to. How we perceive those opportunities, relative to our belief in our ability to influence its outcomes, determines whether they are wasted experiences, or moments that add value to our lives.