Everyone has labels assigned to them. I was “the smart kid” growing up; I got straight-A’s without much effort.
I was also extremely shy and naturally introverted, so I spent a lot of time hanging out in my own head. I identified with my mind completely — I believed my value as a human being lay in proving my intelligence through one achievement after the other. I had a need for perfection and was terrified of failure.
My childhood dream was to study at an Ivy-League university. This would be the ultimate validation of my intelligence and worth as a human being.
Well, I’m here to tell you that I am one of the lucky few who has achieved their childhood dream. And it wasn’t at all what I expected.
Hitting Rock-Bottom at the Top
In 2016, I started my Masters in International Management at the London School of Economics. It involved an exchange term at the Yale School of Management.
I’d already been questioning my life choices at that point. It was slowly becoming clear to me that despite doing everything I thought I was supposed to be doing — being “smart”, a “high-achiever”, and having a life that looked great on paper — I was becoming more miserable by the day.
After I got to Yale, I sunk into a full-blown existential crisis as I realized that even after achieving my childhood dream, I was the most unfulfilled and confused I had ever been.
I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life. Elite business schools herd their students down one of two paths — investment banking or management consulting. As I looked at the rest of my classmates, I felt like we were all nothing more than high-performing sheep.
I was burnt-out: intellectually, emotionally and physically. I had an autoimmune illness that left me in constant pain and with little motivation to do anything else other than lie in bed all day. All I knew was that I was repulsed at even the thought of having the kind of high-powered corporate career that I’d always imagined I would have.
In order to figure things out, I decided to come back to my family living in Oman (it’s next to Dubai for anyone who’s not sure where that is).
I then spent the next few years deeply examining my old values and beliefs about life. After having experienced the existential emptiness of achievement for achievement’s sake, I began to question everything I had once held important.
I started studying psychology and philosophy to find out what makes life truly meaningful.
I realized the responsibility lay with me to unknow all the crappy beliefs I’d internalized over the years. I shed my belief that my value lay in being intelligent and appearing competent at everything — that I had to “know it all”. This helped me reduce my perfectionism and chronic procrastination. My shyness and social anxiety also resolved itself. I learned to embrace a growth mindset to everything about myself and about life.
All of this deep inner-work combined to give me a rock-solid sense of self-worth and fulfillment — one that is not dependent on any kind of external validation. I am now happier and healthier than I ever imagined being.
Writing and Coaching
In 2018, I started writing to share with others all the things I had learned so far. In 2020, I started a life-coaching training program accredited by the International Coaching Federation. Since April 2021, I’ve been a Certified Empowerment Coach.
Before, I had a life that looked good on the outside but left me feeling hollow. Now I have purpose and fulfillment in sharing what I have learned and empowering other people on their own journeys.
Reach out to me if my story resonates with you. I’d love to see if I can help you!