Posts in self-confidence
Life is a Domino Effect
Estimated reading time: 2'30

Estimated reading time: 2'30

As I was visiting LA for interviews, I caught up with a friend who had just directed his own short film.

We chatted about his passion for movies.  

- "I have always been interested in the movie industry, but originally on a superficial level. I did a couple plays in high school, and one day a friend introduced to a photographer who took some model shots of me, which led me to job opportunities. He was showing the pictures to agents who would say "Who's that guy?'. It was a snowball effect, that contact led me to participating in dating shows, commercials, a telenovela... Until I acted in a movie. I realised this was what I wanted to do with my life.
At that time, I was 29, about to turn 30, and felt that I was drowning, back in Miami. When I decided to leave for good, my girlfriend wouldn't believe it because I was talking about it for so long, and she had been holding me back. But I did not have the patience to wait for her to follow me anymore, so I packed everything and drove away. 
At first I was naive, shy and not acclimated to the Californian culture. I did not have this laid-back mentality as I came from Miami where people have the latino blood. I did not know anyone and did not know about the bar diving culture as a way to meet people. One friend introduced me to it, and from then on, I created my network, which led me to more opportunities, by word-of-mouth.
I started to take things more seriously and work towards my goal: I took acting classes, got myself an agent and decided to move to Hollywood. But it wasn't it. I did commercials for 10 years, and nothing major happened,
I wasn't focused. I wasn't trying hard enough.
So as things evolved and as I started to believe in myself more and try harder, I got into a couple more movies and music videos, first as an extra, and then as small parts. Now, just like Ben Affleck and Matt Damond did, I've decided to take it to another level and show Casting Directors a product. So I drafted my own script, and teamed-up with friends to do a short film, in which I could display different facettes of my acting skills. 
I truly believe that everything in life happens when it is supposed to. There is a domino effect. I worked in a certain bar, met certain people etc, which led me to where I am now. I still have a long way to go, but if you had told me that I would be an actor in Hollywood when I was 18, I would have thought you were crazy. 
There is an expression saying that if you keep looking at the sky, you won't see obstacles. My dream is to have an Oscar, and that's what I keep in mind everyday. I won't give up, no matter difficulties, and no matter the time it will take, until I finally hold it in my hands".
It''s Never Too Late, Trust Me
Estimated reading time: 1'30

Estimated reading time: 1'30

I met Liaf while waiting in line at a bakery in Stockholm, Sweden. He advised me which cake to take (you know how french people can be fussy about their desserts!).

"- My name is Liaf, it is a Norwegian viking name , it means "son of the lion" in Arabic. 

I used to be involved in Journalism, traveling the world (incl. the USA, Portugal, Tanzania, Cap Verde...) and meeting some of the most influential people in the political and entertainment scene, particularly in the States. At some point, I was approached by the CIA to become an agent, but I refused.

- Cool, I am also in the journalistic field, I said.

- Do you want to become the next Brandon Stanton?

- No, I want to be the first Helene Clabecq. 

- Trust me, it's never too late to start. 

I've had a rich life full of adventure, but at 69 years-old, I got a stroke and had a choice to make: either be old and scared, or do something about my mental and physical health. 

Obviously, I wasn't gonna let myself die. At the time, my daughter was taking a degree as a Pedagogue, and since the teacher seemed to push all the work and supervision to parents, I decided that I might as well study for that diploma too. I got it at age 72, aside to studying gender equity. Shortly after, I started a travel agency for seniors, and took 2500 of them to Portugal".

I expressed my awe.

"69 is the middle of life, it's nothing impressive! You need to take care of your "cabeza*" or you will slowly die"

This discussion reminded me that we are the ones setting limits to ourselves. Not only it is never too late to reach for our goals, but most of the so-called obstacles that we think stop us, are just excuses we give ourselves.

The sky is the limit.

_______

* "Head" in Spanish

Do you set limits to yourself? Which one(s) are you going to get rid of today?
Life is a Game
Estimated reading time: 9'

Estimated reading time: 9'

If I had to choose a person in my entourage whose path has impressed me the most, I'd pick Hanine.

Hanine, the guy who, in less than two years...

- Participated in TEDx and other conferences in front of thousands people, but who used to shake in front of his sheet of paper at the board at Uni,

- Trains 3-5x a week and ran a marathon in 4 hours, when he did not understand the point of playing sports a year and a half ago,

- Can go out alone at night and head home with 10 new numbers saved in his phone and make girls fall under his spell with the right one-liners, while upon his first attempts, he was unable to string two words together to a stranger,

This is the guy for whom everything is possible, provided that you see life as a game, don't take things seriously and go full speed.

How did he start his transformation? I asked him directly when I came back to Lille, France, for the holidays.

 

"I did a lot of work on myself when I originally moved from Morocco to France, and I've been a personal-development enthusiast ever since I was 18. I was reading all the books and watching all the videos and documentaries I had at hand.

I wanted to improve my social skills, my EQ and gain self-confidence. I prepared myself before going out for example... The first hits gave me more confidence and it became easier and easier.

Maybe you can now picture me as an extravert or a ladies man, but it has not always been this way :)

The learning process was complex because every time I was working on my social skills, it did not work out in the long run: I was completely dependent on my mood swings. If I had the chance to wake up fresh and energetic, I would work on myself and push myself. On the other hand, if I felt lazy or tired, I would not get anything done.

My energy level was key.

One day, I read one of Tony Robbins books explaining how nutrition can impact your energy levels. It was new for me as I'd only associate healthy food with "weight loss" or "muscle gain", and never thought that it could impact my mental abilities.

At the time I was eating a lot of industrial food. I started each day with 4 or 5 chocolate buns and a soda. Then I'd swallow 5 or 6 coffee cups and vitamin C tablets throughout the day, to try and get those energy levels up... I was looking for supplements to be energetic, without realizing that I was fueling myself with the wrong gas from the start.

That's when I decided to give it a shot and stop eating sugar for a month. No need to take it to the extreme, just one month, to see how it would go.

On the 3rd week, I started to practice sports more intensely. On the 4th week, I started to meditate & stopped watching news.

If I'd describe my life before, I'd go to work, come home, watch a movie and order pizza. On the weekend, I'd get hammered and spend days recovering. If I was depressed during winter, the problem was not just the lack of light, it was also my physiological state. And if I could strengthen it with the proper food, rest and workout, I wouldn't be as impacted by external factors. All of a sudden, after I stopped sugar, I would come home and want to do more meaningful activities.

When I took sugar for the first time again (and I still do, exceptionally), I noticed the switch in my energy and it confirmed that it was the trigger. It gives me a brief peak of energy that then falls back and makes me even more tired during the digestive process.

Think about it.

If I prevent you from sleeping and eating for two days, and I make you watch a masterpiece, say your favorite movie. Are you going to enjoy watching it?

No. Because you aren't physiologically healthy. It's like swimming against the tide.

That's how my 365 days challenge started.

Every day, I'd wake up and think: "what can I do with this excess of energy?"

It wasn't a boost like after a coffee cup, it was a continuous and stable level of energy.

I started googling activities: dance classes, exhibitions, guitar lessons... & eventually gave myself the challenge of doing a new activity each day for a year, and started blogging about it.

People tend to think that the lack of time is the issue. It's not.

I used to waste 25 hours per week watching TV. "I don't have the time" literally means "I don't have the energy". That's the difference between those who have time for their career, friends and family and can be awake for 18 hours, and those who feel like zombies.

If you want to change your situation, see life as a game.

Somebody is likely to have had the same problems as you, so you can look it up. For example, at work: how can you sign more deals? How can you negotiate a raise? Change your perspective and see those obstacles that used to bring you down as fun challenges... That's how I tripled my salary in a year.

In my opinion, the fear of failure is also a fear of losing energy, and it goes back to the basics. You are worried of losing energy if you don't have an unlimited amount of it.

When I look back, I was the first one of my classmates to get an permanent working contract, paid twice the minimal salary, despite being an "immigrant", while others were simply looking for a fixed-term contract, remunerated the bare minimum. It happened because I knew that if I did not find anything, I'd have to leave the country, so I became more creative and staked it all. I accepted rejections and analyzed them to get better. In fact, winning 10% of the time is a huge statistic.

Friends I used to hang out with would say "look at X, he has a Master's degree and is a cashier, I'll never find a rewarding job either..." Those people did not even try and ended up like that too. I did not believe that I was better than anyone else, but I was thinking "they might be right, but I am the producer of my own life". If I got rejected at an interview or with a girl, I'd think "let's rework this and that". I never question myself for who I was and thought "they rejected be because I am Arabic". If you have a limited belief system, you'll limit yourself.

Self-knowledge is probably the best starting point if you want to make changes in your lifestyle.

I see myself as a train that stops at different stations. For instance, if the girl I am attracted to steps on the train, she is the right person for me and this is the right timing, is not, she simply is not and I let go of her, I am not an Uber, i’m not changing my destination, I keep driving until the next station.

The second most difficult part of personal development is acting out. People love to read tips and imagine how their life could be, but once they put their book down, nothing major happens and life goes on at the same pace. I personally have to display originality and creativity on a daily basis, hack my brain so to speak, to be able to take action.

When aiming for personal goals, we usually have plenty of intrinsic motivations, but not enough extrinsic ones that are stimulating (for instance, a boss that will fire you if you do not show up in the morning, competition with your colleagues). So one way to make the process fun  and random is to introduce hazard. At some point of my 365 days-challenge, I put a bunch of ideas in a box and would pick a "mission" to fulfill randomly in the morning. I literally felt like a kid on Christmas Eve!

Also, make sure to have fun. You'll spend more time "on the road", going from point A to B. As long as you have fun on the way, you can go very far, you won't stop at difficulties because you won't be only attached to results. This is what makes the difference between people who give up and those who keep it up.

Finally, prepare for the times you'll be less motivated. I call the doubtful side of me the "little Hanine", and the bolder version of me the "big Hanine"! For example, if I want to wake up early in the morning to work out, I'll prepare my outfit by the bed, socks included, as if I were to prepare items for a four years old. I'll also place my alarm downstairs (I live in a duplex), in case I lose my motivation when 6 AM strikes. Once awake, I'll put my clothes on without even thinking. If you start thinking, that's when you weaken and think: "it's fine, I can miss the gym one time, I'll go tomorrow". 

There's also people who are going to doubt you, or situations that will make you feel like giving up. One thing that boosts me is reading biographies of people I admire, and get inspired by the way they've handled challenges. A good example is Elon Musk, who had to figure out how to pay his employees, in millions of dollars, kept going when everybody thought that he was insane...

I keep on challenging myself every day and am working on an app* to help others do the same, because I truly believe that once you understand how the brain works and start seeing life as a game, anything is possible".

I love the idea of getting outside of our comfort zone to reach our goals. And when looking at Hanine's example, I've understood that it only takes a small step. Wether it is stopping sugar for a month, going to the opera for the first time or saying hello to a stranger, this creates new patterns in our brain that allow us to test new things and get excited rather than scared, and grow. I've actually tattooed a butterfly wing on my wrist that symbolizes just that - the butterfly effect.

Each small step you take may seem insignificant, but it brings you closer to your goals and to a better version of yourself, one wing flap at a time.

There's a quote saying "losers have an objective, winners have systems"... Here are some tips for getting outside of your Comfort Zone successfully:

- Audit your life and find ways to improve your energy levels

- Know yourself

- See life as a game

- Start easy and gradually increase the difficulty

- Act out by implementing various motivational techniques (extrinsic motivators, hazard, planning ahead for weak moments)

- Have fun on the way!

___

*N.B. an app that helps people get outside their comfort zones by sending them daily challenges.

Hanine's blog -> bit.ly/GoodbyeComfortZone

Which challenge are you going to take today to get outside of your comfort zone?
If it Doesn't Feel Right, it Probably Isn't
Estimated reading time: 3'

Estimated reading time: 3'

 

We've all seen a lot of publications around sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and general disrespect of women lately, with the #Metoo campaign.

I come a little bit late in the game, but I am tired of witnessing red flags and seeing men behaving like predators. I am tired of having to stand up for myself as a woman, having to set limits because they've been crossed, and having to comfort my girlfriends for the same reasons.

So I've decided to share a few examples of red flags (true stories), from my experience, from soft to risky:

Situation 1: you are on a date. Your date spends more time looking at your breast and your bottom when you turn around, rather than listening to your conversation. And when a bunch of girls passes you, he literally turns his head back. No surprise there. Oh and in case you wondered, it was not a Tinder date. And I did not wear revealing clothes.

Situation 2: you walk up the street with heavy bags from the supermarket. A car stops. The dude asks you to come closer so he can talk to you... You naively think he wants to offer his help. Instead, he tells you (warning - raw language): "Don't move, I will come back to break your legs and lick your pussy until you scream". You're so confused you forget to note down his license plate.

Situation 3: you are interviewing for a job. The HR advises you to not look under the table. 

Situation 4: you apply for a model gig and meet the 70 y.old manager in a cafe. He asks for your cup size for the bikini you are going to wear, and before you have time to answer, he swiftly grabs your breasts to "measure himself". 

Situation 5: you book a massage online. Turns out the massage takes place in a private home, and the therapist spends an awkwardly long amount of time massaging your upper thighs. 

Situation 6: you are in a cab in Mexico, middle of the jungle, no network and no soul in the streets. The car driver puts his hand on your leg. You push him away and pray.

I have experienced a million small situations like that. But despite the red flags, I kept going for it. I saw this guy again, I kept seeking those jobs, I stayed in the car.

And worse, most times, I did not speak up.

Why? Low self-esteem? Probably. Fear of making the other person uncomfortable? Definitely. 

At the moment, I knew exactly what to do, I knew exactly what to say. I was screaming inside of my head.

But I got paralyzed. Shame was taking over. I thought I had misunderstood. It thought it was not real.

Earlier in January, three of my friends confessed having been raped.

But that's not what shocked me the most.

What shocked me the most was that they KEPT HANGING OUT with the predators. They did not see themselves as victims.

They blamed themselves for not having known better.

For having accepted their drinks.

For having trusted them to take care of them and respect them as they were saying no. As they were crying. After they blacked out.

And the only thing they wanted to do in the morning was to hide away and pretend it did not happen.

A pure walk of shame. 

So I am begging you ladies to go ahead and speak up. And if you can't do it on the spot, it is never too late. Trust your instincts. Remove toxic people from your life. Respect yourself and do not let anyone enter your intimacy without your consent.

There are too many stories of disrespect towards women, abuse, and sexual harassment.

My trick is to count the red flags:

- One red flag: be on your toes. Speak up.

- Two red flags: just walk away.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Which red flags do you look for?
Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
Estimated reading time: 6'

Estimated reading time: 6'

Pamela is a girl that I met back in London. She was one of my clients, back when I had to work as a babysitter and cleaning lady aside to my full-time work, to be able to pay for my expenses.

She had two children and confessed how having the first one impacted her relationship.

“Having a first child, and in our case, twins, is the best moment to have a crisis in your relationship. You don’t have time to go to the gym, you don’t have time for each other…

You cannot surprise your husband at the door with sexy lingerie, spend the weekend at the spa, nor go on a spontaneous escape. You have your routine, you don’t try new things anymore.

So when this colleague approached me and started to flirt and compliment me non-stop, I fell for it.

I had become a mum, and needed to feel desired as a woman.

 

The first phase: attraction

First step. You idealize the lover. Everything he says, does, his projects sound perfect.

You think that if you are attracted and start having feelings for somebody else, you cannot turn back, and that your husband is not the right one for you, because what you get at home is not enough, since the new guy gives you something new that your husband doesn’t. Compliments. Attentions. Gifts.

You contemplate leaving him. This guy in question was a serial-lover. He had had conquests from 18 to 50 years-old. He knew exactly what he was doing, and how to do it.

He was an expert in seduction. He was well-dressed, cultivated, charming, mature, straightforward… A real Christian Grey.

 

The second phase: disgust

The honeymoon phase starts fading and you see the lover’s true colors. You understand you were blinded.

In my case, that guy was egoistic, and after 6 months, I started to see that. He had no problem fucking me, but if I would leave everything behind for him, he would not want to take the responsibility and he would let me deal with the mess alone. It would be convenient so that he could see me more often, but he would not be a support...

While I was crying every day, devastated because he was messing up with my head and I had no perspective of the future, he would be whistling around, feeling grateful for the moment we had had, and for having seduced a girl almost half his age.

I was an emotional wreck, and all he had to say was “don’t worry it’s gonna be fine”.

He would meet other girls and tell me about it. Not to make me jealous, rather to make it clear that there would be nothing “serious” between us.

To protect myself, I kept thinking “do not react in the heat of the moment”. Every single thing I do is thought-through. I never take any decision that could be a turning point hot-minded. I'd rather leave the room, wait, one, two days, breathe, have a good cry, meditate, think…

I understand where he was coming from though. He had been married. He had had a lot of relationships. He wanted to feel free and was afraid of the routine and commitment. But that’s not was I was looking for. I wouldn’t leave everything I had for something haphazardly, and I understood that I would lose so much more than I would gain if I went down that road.

Also, even though I was fantasizing about him, and I was feeling waves in my body when he was around, when he finally kissed me, it felt wrong.

I got disappointed and though: “don't you see that you're jumping into something that you're not even going to enjoy?!”.

It broke the spell.

When you kiss your husband and have your way, you know what each other likes after ten years, it is hard to find this somewhere else. Same with love in general, my husband knows me by heart, and we just clicked from the beginning.

Once, I told him to tease him that someone else had admitted his feelings for me. He said” nobody will love you like I do”. At the time, I thought “yeah, right”, but afterwards I figured it was true.

The last time I met the guy at his place, I thought “I’d rather be home right now”, as things were starting to settle back from my side.

And that’s how I knew it was over.

Now when I cross path with him and I have to hug him, I feel completely neutral. It’s over.

 

The third phase: switching focus

Just like he used me for instant gratification, I used him for the lesson he had taught me.

He was complimenting me all the time, boosting my self-esteem.

I felt more desired and it started to impact my relationship with my husband. I started to feel more dary, more sexual, at ease. I broke down my barriers, physically with my man.

I’ve always been an adventurer, while my husband had a more traditional education. Especially after we had our first child, he could not combine "the mother and the whore". So, I had to take things a step further to feel sexually fulfilled, especially approaching 30, when you are reaching your sexual peak. I needed that.

This little adventure, I did it for me, not against anyone.

But at that stage in my life, I did not want my children to blame me later on for not having tried harder. For having destroyed their lives before giving my marriage a proper shot. So, I did everything I could to make it work, and it did. It brought us closer.

Funnily enough, Christian (the lover), had told me right from the beginning that our little affair could actually save my relationship, because it had happened with other women. At the time, it sounded silly...

Of course, I don’t know what will happen in the future, maybe one day I will freak out and feel unsatisfied again. But right now, I am happy.

And I will always remember that lesson, of that time when I had doubts and managed to pick myself up.

And even if I suffered, I do not regret anything. Because he taught me so much, he changed me for the better, and it changed my relationship. Because sexuality is the strongest bond in a relationship.

Some people say: "you need to leave before you cheat". I disagree. I don’t think it's worth ruining your life for a stupid side-story, to end up disappointed. I think that faithfulness is also coming back. And I also think that we shall keep our secret garden, there is no point in breaking someone’s heart to ease one’s conscience. Our secrets “make” who we are".

Patricia is the first person I met who managed to use her desire for somebody else, to bring passion back to her relationship with her husband.

A lot of people don’t try hard enough and that’s why there are so many divorces. But if you believe that you are with the love of your life and that there is still a chance, do everything to save that. Give 200%, try anything, it is never over.

Just like a businesswoman: did you try everything to not let the company go bankrupt?

If you want things to change, you need to pay attention to things that your husband or boyfriend complains about, and change yourself instead of expecting him to do the work (and the other way around, obviously).

Some men do not communicate, they are just in a bad mood, and we have no idea of what we do wrong. You’re always alone in life. Even if you are in a couple. Don’t count on anybody. If you want things to change, change them, and be determined. And you need to be two to tango, so the other person needs to be responsive.

What’s your take on that? How do you deal with your sexual drives?
Self-Love is the New 30
Estimated reading time: 4'

Estimated reading time: 4'

When my sister turned thirty, I gave her a card that read:

"Turning 30 is a celebration of the free-to-be-yourself decade:

Feeling comfortable in your own skin,

Realizing you can do whatever you put your mind to,

Being surrounded by loving friends and family,

Knowing your deserve to be happy".

I am 29, so I was curious to hear her feedback on that description: she agreed 100%.

"As time passes, the more I know myself, and the better I feel about myself," she says, "it's not related to age. It's a journey.
Everyone is not necessarily comfortable in their own skin at 30. But what is certain is that time has a positive impact on our well-being.
We know what we love, and we choose to do what makes us feel good. We take more time to think about it and act upon it. It becomes a lifestyle, a wisdom almost. And if something does not please us, we change direction.

It seems simple, so why do so many of us remain in situations that do not suit us? A job? A relationship? Toxic habits?

I think the trigger was my independence. Most people have this revelation on average at 30, once they are out of school, have a stable situation, become financially independent. Relationships to our environment are freed from all these constraints and focus on the emotional, we preserve the long relationships, we have deeper, even more spiritual discussions.
For example, instead of investing only in ephemeral things as before (perfume, shoes, etc.), I also invest in sustainable things, like an apartment, it's quite revealing. When I eat, I try to eat well, whereas before I was swallowing potato crisps on my way home. I went back to sport ... So on. 

I see. It is the age where one chooses one's life.

When I had my teenage crisis, it was difficult for me to differentiate between my desires, those of others and those of society. And how to get there when we do not recognize ourselves as individual, when we are still part of a group? At 30, we take independence from our social circle and our well-being is refocused on oneself .
On the other hand, attention not to be confused between being an individual and being an individualist! Others are essential to our happiness, be it in love, in friendship, or for any type of relationship.
The other day, I was listening to a podcast with sociologist Durkheim, explaining that the suicide rate was very low in united communities. I concluded that selfishness does not make happiness. To think about, know and accept oneself makes happiness, and once you've done that, you can direct your thoughts towards what the outside brings you and appreciate a good book, a painting, a meal, a person, or the contemplation of a landscape.

Self-love allows you to appreciate external pleasures better.

I have a small relaxation and beauty ritual that I practice every night without fail, for at least 45 minutes to do good to my body:
I start with a good hot shower with music, then I remove all the makeup and I put cream on every square millimeter of skin, from the toes to the neck, through the tips of the hair and the eyelashes, I stretch out, I make yoga greetings, I relax ... 

Self-love is taking time for yourself.

The other day besides, at my yoga class, we were doing a stretching position and I was focusing on my body in motion and my breath.
The teacher said," Look at Pauline, she's in mindfulness!" He approached, crossed my feet behind my head and walked away.
Well, I found myself stuck and had to call for help (!), but the bottom line is that being satisfied with yourself and your body shell helps relieve tension as well!
To give a contradictory example, another participant was only giggling, scratching, dressing up, and so on. She could not let go, she could not just be there, feel the good waves, be satisfied with this moment of relaxation or the sun on her face.

Self-love is also consciousness of one's body.

Before, my happiness was defined exclusively in the intensity of the moment. Now I've realized that happiness is a global equilibrium, a sum of moments and emotions that fluctuate.
My relationship to time is different: when I was 15 years old, one year was 7% of my life. Today, one year is 3% of my life, it has nothing to do!
I am not afraid to grow old, but I am aware of having to develop and optimize my time. I do not want to waste it, so I become demanding.
I focus on the quality of relationships with others, and I surround myself with people I find exceptional. Of course we do not always have discussions of intellectuals, we also take pleasure in passing superficial moments! And sometimes we can not talk to each other, but just be together, and feel good".

Self-love is awareness of time.

In conclusion: you have to be the person you want to talk to... I would like to have the chance to be my best friend or my boyfriend, or my sister ... (laughs) Helene, do you confirm ?!☺ "

Are you a person you’d like to meet? What is your own definition of self-love?