What is your story of strength?
My story of strength starts at a very young age. I was born and raised in Jordan and we came from very humble beginnings. We were a big family and my dad had a small moving company. My parents prioritized education and learning over everything and I saw what they went through to send us to the best schools in Jordan and the best universities in the US. They both sacrificed so much for us to have those opportunities. My mom in particular was adamant about letting us travel and see the world, even when money was really tight, she did the impossible to make sure we didn’t miss out on school trips and language exchanges abroad. All this enriched our lives so much and helped shape our character.
I watched my parents through the years and knew what their expectations of us were: that we were in charge of our lives and should not rely on anybody to help us or do anything for us. They taught us that that was the way to accomplish our dreams. Personally I found strength in knowing I had to pave my own way in life. Since I’m more of an introvert, this was never easy for me, but it feels so rewarding when I leave my comfort zone and take charge. My story of strength is still in the beginning; I have so much to learn, and remembering what we went through and everything my parents sacrificed, that is what pushes me to be stronger everyday.
Can you tell me about a time you failed or disappointed yourself?
I really hate this question, but it’s important to talk about. Nobody ever wants to share their failures and disappointments. Nobody wants to say them out loud. I feel just like everyone else, I disappoint myself and I fail almost everyday. Little things – not being aggressive enough, not speaking my mind, not being kind to someone.
If I had to pick one significant example, last year I had to postpone going to grad school because I didn’t feel like I was ready for it. I feel disappointed in that because it was always in my plan to get an MBA. Most of the time I just let myself be disappointed and try to make peace with it. Other times, I try to see the silver lining; I ended up taking a year off and it was an amazing year. I traveled a lot, got healthy, volunteered, took classes and learned a lot of new things, and spent invaluable time with my family. It was a mental health break that I didn’t know I needed and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I went to grad school. It’s still in my plan, but when the time is right.
Can you tell me about a woman in your life who embodies strength?
I’m grateful that I was always surrounded by strong women – my grandma, my mom, sisters, teachers, mentors, and managers. The most influential one in my life has to be my mom. Even though we lived in a very male-dominated society, she was actually very outspoken and aggressive. She had to be. She raised us in an unconventional way. She empowered my sisters and I as well as my brother to be very independent and speak our own mind, to find our own way in life. She used to always say an Arabic proverb that made us laugh; اللي له لسان ما بضيع. It means he or she who has a tongue will never be lost. Basically, you have to speak out and fight for what you want. You have to speak to people and be open to solutions because that is the only way people will be open to you. She always taught us to find solutions through people. I always looked up to her and wanted to be as strong as she was in that way.
How can women better support each other?
Being honest about our journeys, including the difficulties and the failures. There is this need to always be perfect and show our perfect lives on social media. I see all these stories of women starting their own companies but they never show the challenges that they faced. They just show the positive parts of their journeys. It doesn’t really inspire me or inspire me to achieve my dreams. We should do a better job supporting each other and normalizing vulnerabilities. That way it will push women to lean on each other more and pursue our dreams.