Introduce yourself! Who are you? Hi!! I’m Syeda. I’m a lot of things. I’m a life coach. I’m a first-generation Pakistani Mulsim immigrant. I got divorced really young and now I’m remarried to an Irish Catholic man who’s the love of my life. I’m a mom of two boys – an 11-year-old from my first marriage and an almost 2-year-old from my second marriage. I’m a dreamer, a learner, and a self-proclaimed badass. I love chocolate, karaoke, and a good romantic comedy movie any day of the week.
Did you always know what you wanted to do in life? I always knew that I wanted to help and empower women. But I put that on hold as I had convinced myself that I needed to work in Corporate America as do people do. So in order to fill that desire, over the years, I mentored young women in high school and college ranging from academics to career and even supported other women going through a divorce in my South Asian community. What started off as helping other women experiencing divorce has now resulted in my life coaching practice. It was never part of the plan but I followed this voice in my heart that told me I had to do this and that this was my path. And it was the BEST decision I’ve ever made.
Were you scared to start the process? I was terrified of getting a divorce. There were times that I thought that dying was easier than leaving my marriage. In a culture that doesn’t ‘permit’ a divorce, I felt stuck and so helpless. I had tried to leave several times before but my traditional Pakistani family wouldn’t let me. But having a son changed my life and I knew deep down that what other people said no longer mattered. It was my responsibility to give him the life he deserved and so my 14-month-old son gave me the courage to leave a marriage that no longer served me. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made but the best one for both of us.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way? Listen to your intuition. If you hear a voice whisper if something isn’t right for you, honor that. If you hear that something is a good idea, do it, and take action fast before your fear creeps in. Sometimes we mix up between intuition and fear so it’s really important to distinguish between the two.
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel? To be honest, sometimes I doubt myself, and I think that’s just part of being human. And when that happens, I tap into my why, what my intentions are and remind myself that I’m fully capable of achieving my goals. Then I get very pragmatic about accomplishing them. I break the big goal into smaller goals and identify every task that needs to get done and by when. It’s all about managing fear and overwhelm.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity? In addition to my divorce, marrying outside of my culture and religion was HARD. Telling my Muslim parents that I was in love with an Irish, Catholic man was definitely not easy. It was received with resistance, verbal, and emotional abuse. But I knew that this man was my soulmate and would be an amazing father to my son from my first marriage. I wasn’t going to back down, no matter what. We ended up getting married but without any family by my side. We chose to have a small civil ceremony with my son and Aunt by our side. It’s important to do things that feel right to you and not because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.
What message do you think every woman should hear? Suffering is a choice. You can choose to let people, friends, or society tell you what to do or how to live your life. Or you can say, fuck it, and follow your truth. There’s always a way. There are always options. No matter how “hard” or “impossible” something might be, there is, always a way. And it all starts with your mindset and what you’re telling yourself. Our circumstances (for example, weight, relationship status, job, etc.) are neutral. It’s our thoughts about our circumstances that determine what ultimately ends up happening. And if you’re coming at it from a place of positivity and empowerment, you’re going to take inspired action to yield you the results you desire. And if you can wrap your head around that, then your life is nothing but full of possibility.
Have you always had confidence in yourself? No definitely not. And I would say, I didn’t really step into my power or become confident until after my divorce. I put in a lot of work in deepening my self-worth and confidence so that I would never let anyone take advantage of me again. Confidence is a muscle you can build and something I continue to get stronger with.
As time goes on, how would you like to be remembered? I want people to remember me as the woman who helped normalize divorce. In 2020, there is absolutely no reason for women to feel guilt or shame because their marriage didn’t work out. And more importantly, stay in a horrible marriage because she’s afraid to leave. Marriage is a relationship ending but with more paperwork. We always have options and start by deciding that you are worthy of the life you want. That’s my mission.
Are you still learning who you are? Absolutely! The goal is to constantly evolve and grow. So that means you’re going to change, which requires learning about the old parts of you and embracing the new parts of you. And that’s what makes the human experience so exciting. I full-heartedly believe in a learning mindset and so if you approach life that way, learning opportunities are endless.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward? I’m committed to my daily mindset practice which includes getting my heavy thoughts on paper and shifting those thoughts because I believe that our thoughts create our results. Using Brooke Castillo’s self-coaching model, I intentionally shift my negative thoughts to better feeling thoughts so that I can take actions that will serve me in the long run. This practice has changed my life – my marriage feels like I’m still on my honeymoon, my life coaching practice is thriving, and I’m usually in high vibe because I believe that my life is full of possibility.
Do you have anyone you go to for advice? I start with myself and really try to find the answer within myself. I used to ask anyone and everyone for advice but I realized that just clouded my judgment and oftentimes their advice didn’t pan out. However, with that said, I do recognize that I have blind spots and sometimes I truly do need help in uncovering my truth. When that happens, I work with my own life coach to help me uncover my blind spots and breakthrough patterns that have been holding me back. It’s important to go to an expert for the advice you’re looking for sometimes rather than asking your mom, sister, hairdresser, and girlfriend.
What are you most proud of? I am most proud of standing up for myself and pushing through getting a divorce as a first-generation Pakistani immigrant with deep cultural values of “marriage is forever”. I’m proud of finally having the courage to leave even though I would be disowned from my family and temporarily outcast from my community. I’m proud of raising my son on my own for 8 years and teaching him what it means to be a family without the traditional definition of family.
If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently? I honestly wouldn’t do anything differently. Sure hindsight is 20-20 but the truth of it all is, IF I did even one thing differently, then my current reality may not have happened. I’m grateful for my struggles because they’ve shaped me into the woman I am today. And if it wasn’t for the pain, I wouldn’t be standing here today, helping all these other women overcome their divorce struggles.
What was one of your most defining moments in life? Deciding that I no longer was going to be a victim to my circumstances. In 2015, I was suffering from depression and had self-harming & suicidal thoughts. I remember my young son knocking on the bathroom door as I sat on the toilet with a knife in my hand contemplating what to do. And he said to me, “Mommy, I need you”. That was the moment I decided to get help for my depression, started therapy and meds. This single decision changed my life because it forced me to get real with my thoughts and gave me the space to heal old wounds. Group counseling allowed me to connect with others and I no longer felt alone. There was something about sharing and supporting one another in the thick of our pain.
Syeda Neary is a life coach and helps women get results. She specializes in helping women overcome guilt, shame, and their deepest fears as they move through a divorce.