From disgruntled employee to boss chick entrepreneur – this is the story of how I broke the rules, ditched codependency and created a lifestyle by MY design. .
Hey! I’m Shereen Thor and apparently I like to air my dirty laundry lol. So here we go…
I was a disgruntled cubicle monkey who followed the rules until my inner rebel got woke, and broke out of the 9-5. Entrepreneurship was my jam and I was addicted. It was the ride of my life until I went into debt, got burnt out + developed depression. So hot lol.
With the help of my new husband, I started to recover from some deep rooted codependency issues and we built a legit ass life & family of our own. Then the real journey began when I became a mother because entrepreneurship was hard enough when I was single so with the added demands of motherhood I knew I had to do it differently this time around.
It’s crazy that it took two high risk pregnancies, a hospitalization and postpartum depression to wake my ass up. But codependency is a bitch, so it was no small task. Here is the story of how I finally learned to have success, fulfill my purpose, advocate for myself and live a lifestyle that truly honors my soul.
I was born into a broken home. My parents divorced when I was 1 because my father was physically abusive. I quickly learned that my single immigrant mom was tired and tapped, so I became super independent. I didn’t want to be a burden. I also learned that while my father was well intended, he suffered from mental illness and was deeply flawed. This was the beginning of my obsession with human behavior, though I didn’t even know it yet.
I never felt like I fit in in high school. This made no sense because I was great at sports, and generally popular, but I never felt like I belonged. I couldn’t get into the power and politics of bullshit popularity contests.
I thought the nerds were fascinating, and the skaters were cool. I thought the jocks were talented and the mean girls were pretty. I liked people for who they were not what power they possessed. This system of stratification seemed wrong.
So, I decided to opt out of the popular group, and they hated me for it. I was a weird rebel girl, and while I had all the makings of someone who could have been accepted, I wanted no part of it. Oddly I was voted homecoming queen which is pure comedy because I couldn’t have cared less. I never wanted to be the queen, I just wanted to be free.
The Gut Punch.
My dad died the summer before my senior year. I was only 17, and it was shocking. It’s still shocking to me now, and I feel the urge to cry as I type these words. Even though my dad was deeply flawed, he was still the one Father I got in this lifetime. Mortality hit me like a gut punch, and I was forever changed.
I knew that as an Egyptian I was expected to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. That’s what all of us do, but that wasn’t me. And if you know anything about immigrant families it’s that they only offer one type of love – the conditional kind.
Fall in line or be rejected. Be successful (in the way they define success) or be an embarrassment. Secretly, I was a creative type, a wild child, a free spirit. All these rules grated against my soul and made me feel trapped. This system wasn’t for me. I was caught between two choices:
1. Become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Be deeply dutiful & religious. Get married & make babies.
2. Walk to the beat of my own drum. Dance, sing, create, explore, be an artist, be an entrepreneur, be free, be adventurous, unbridled and untamed. Feel that soul satiation you get when you truly know who you are, what you want, and you don’t apologize for it. Be the truth.
What was a young Shereenie to do? If I chose option one, I would finally feel like I belonged in my family & culture. I would gain the love and acceptance from my mother that I so deeply desired, and I would be seen as acceptable in the eyes of the community. I literally had no idea how to be ME without disappointing my family and feeling rejected. So…
I would love to tell you that I chose one or the other, but unfortunately I decided to just skate down the middle and go unnoticed. To get a C+ at life. Knowing that no one would ever be super proud of me, but they also couldn’t go so far as to be deeply ashamed of me either.
I was lukewarm. Thinking about it now it makes me want to vomit lol. But at the time it was the best I could do. So instead of majoring in dance I majored in Human Communication Studies at Cal State Fullerton. It was definitely interesting and answered many questions I had about human behavior. I got certified as a mediator and started to mediate small claims at the Fullerton Courthouse. It wasn’t my wildest dreams, but it was good enough.
Adulting so hard.
I graduated, did the quintessential Europe trip and quickly landed a 9-5 job where I felt like a caged monkey in a cubicle. I lived in my dad’s old house that I now owned. And aside from the marriage and babies according to most people’s standards I had achieved The American dream.
But why did I feel empty inside? Why did I look around my life and feel a deep sense of disenchantment that haunted me all the way to my bones? Other people seemed happy with their office jobs and white picket fences so I figured there must be something wrong with me.
Three months into my job I was sexually harassed. This work environment celebrated the girls with big racks, and small voices who did what they were told. My voice was huge, and my rack was small, so once again I didn’t fit in.
A male coworker who didn’t seem to like my sassy personality would jokingly make comments about how I needed to tone it down, and I would always snap right back. It was an ongoing contentious banter.
One day I was sitting at my desk when he walked into my office, closed the door behind him, hovered over me and said, “If you don’t lose your attitude, I am going to bend you over this desk and spank you.”
I played the tough girl even though I was pretty jolted by this intimidation tactic and quickly told him to get out. I ended up telling the superiors and the CEO in no uncertain terms said, “But he was joking right? You can still work with him, right?” And holding tears back I said yes.
Every day after that – staying at that job felt like another layer of dignity being stripped away from me. But I was afraid to leave so early for fear that I wouldn’t be able to get another job, or that it would look bad on my resume. So I stayed. It was the slow death of my dignity & self-respect.😢
Luckily a friend of mine had just drank a mad amount of Kool aid at a seminar she went to and was obsessing over me having the same experience. I blew her off for months but the people pleaser in me couldn’t bear to say no to my bestie one more time so I finally gave in. I registered for it, and immediately regretted it hard lol.
When I finally went, I had my arms crossed and was all pissed about how I didn’t want to be there in the first place. I asked for a refund and their policy was that I had to attend the entire weekend, but if I didn’t get anything out of it at the end then I could get my money back. So, I stayed.
Thank God for that refund policy. Whatever old school immigrant programming I had about following the rules and abandoning my truth was busted up. After the seminar I quit a master’s degree program and
started to do stand-up comedy. How’s that for being an embarrassment mom? lol.
For the next few years I did every personal development class, seminar and retreat that this company offered. All of the ALIVEness I felt from this new version of life was transforming me in a way that my soul deeply craved. I also continued to do stand-up comedy alongside all of my leadership development training. Comedy and personal transformation became my two loves. Right when I started getting scouted by MTV, E! and VH1 I felt the ache in my heart to go all in on coaching.
So I stopped doing stand up & took the next step to get certified in coaching. I did a year long program at the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC) and became a Certified Professional Coach (CPC). I also did two certification programs in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). I still liked to be on the mic, but only if I was able to be authentic & talk about something meaningful, so I started hosting.
I did an Oprah Winfrey recap show on Afterbuzz TV, offered my first motivational workshop, and took the leap to quit my job. Freedom and dignity were mine for the taking.
I found a new job, hated the boss and quit. I dabbled in network marketing, real estate investing, read the 4-Hour Work Week and Rich Dad Poor Dad. I was changing…
Unfortunately, without a stable income I couldn’t keep that shit going lol, so I swiftly accrued mad amounts of debt and creditors were calling me non stop. I moved back into my room at my mom’s house & went into a deep depression.
But wait? Wasn’t this supposed to be my road to freedom? Then why didn’t I feel free?
Sometimes Your Soul is LOUD.
I settled the debt, got a job doing sales and moved in with a roomie in Beverly Hills. I also met Kenny at this juncture, and we started dating. I didn’t really like my job very much, and it was barely enough to put food on the table but at least I was “normal” again. Less of an embarassment lol.
One night during my first week of training I couldn’t sleep a wink (I am the sleep QUEEN, so this was weird).
The whole night I was plagued by this ONE THOUGHT, “What if I never write a book? What if I have a boring normal life and never realize my dream of becoming an author?”
What? My soul wanted me to write?!? I had never lost sleep over anything before, so this became a guiding factor for me.
While I worked my job, I wrote my first book The Coolest Quote Book Eva. I started to dabble in hiring help on Upwork to get my shit created rather than doing it myself (and never getting it done). I was featured as an author at UCI which was a highlight for me because I was able to speak to these students about the concept of truly following your soul’s calling rather than being a cog in a wheel. It was a glorious moment.
I was still too afraid to take the plunge and commit to entrepreneurship, but my dabbling grew into a full on side hustle. I did more workshops, worked with more clients, got more testimonials and got to do my own talk show on an international network called CSAT.TV. I would jokingly call myself the Egyptian Oprah, but jokes aside it was a dream come true.
About a year and a half later I moved in with Kenny to a super cool beach apartment in Venice, and got a different job that gave me a bit more money and freedom so I was able to do even more workshops & coaching. This was a life that started to resemble the one I was losing sleep over just a year and a half ago.
True love, a bad ass beach apartment, an interesting career where my soul felt truly expressed and I got to make a positive difference in the world. I even drove a mini cooper convertible stick shift and felt fancy free. I would rollerblade by the beach with my German Shepherd Rambo…this was the life.
After 1 year of working that new job (which allowed me to side hustle so hard), they let me go. Of course this was a blow to my ego but eff the ego. The ego is an unwise asshole lol. My inner spirit knew that this was a sign and an opportunity. An opportunity to finally grab my lady balls (or ovaries rather) and do coaching + entrepreneurship for real.
Entrepreneurship is no joke.
I hired a mentor (because God knows I had no fucking idea what in the hell I was doing). And honestly, I don’t think I really trusted myself to be able to do it without guidance. My whole family was all employees so I had no examples of anyone in my life who had become a successful business owner. And DEFinitely no one who was in the personal development industry.
She was disgustingly expensive, and I had all the hope in the world she would save my life. I thought she would show me the ropes & usher me into a greater way of living where I finally made what I was worth while contributing to the world in a way that made my soul sing.
3 months into her program I was broker than when I started and burning myself out like never before. When no money is coming in unless you sell something, IT’S STRESSFUL. And when you work hard and see no reward it’s stressful. So, I burnt out FAST.
I remember crying when I realized we had run out of toilet paper and I needed to go to the grocery store to buy some (for those of you who don’t know, this is a sign you are depressed). I didn’t know it at the time, but I was depressed and burnt out, and I started to develop some concerning health issues.
I got gastritis and became at risk for type 2 diabetes. I certainly won’t blame it on this mentor because it wasn’t her fault, but I believe she was lacking the depth and nuance needed to deal with a client like myself who was struggling so hard.
We were on a group coaching call and I mentioned the health issues + feeling burnt out and asked her if she had ever struggled with newbie entrepreneur burnout and she said, “There is a difference between selling and talking about selling.”
I was crushed (and embarrassed). I was basically asking for her to keep it real with me and relate with me on having struggles, and she shamed me for not being strong enough or selling more.
Right then I knew she wasn’t the mentor for me. I needed someone with more emotional depth, who would support me in paving a way in entrepreneurship that wouldn’t hurt my health. Someone who could be more sensitive to me when I was in a time of darkness. After all, I became an entrepreneur so that I could thrive. Not so that I could struggle to even survive.
I was too chicken shit to bow out of her program (and break my commitment) so I continued to pay her $1700 per month for the next 3 months even though I was completely checked out (WTF?!).
Building the Brand.
I started to work with a company that did branding (another exorbitantly expensive one that was recommended by my good old mentor). They quoted me $10K and it ended up being $20K. “Oops! It just took more time than we thought!” they said.
But again I was too chicken shit to just say no. I paid them and had to borrow money from momma to do it. Not my proudest moment.
Do you see the pattern? I couldn’t say no. I couldn’t disappoint my old mentor, or this branding dude in the same way I couldn’t disappoint my mom or the Egyptian community.
While I was paving my way, and building my rebellion I still had this old pattern of trying to do what other people wanted me to do at my own expense.
And now that I was an entrepreneur I was seeing how this not only costs dignity & personal power, but it was now costing me my money & my health.
Awaken The Rebel.
The rebel brand came to life and it was glorious. A beautiful reflection of what my soul desperately needed to thrive in my own skin. I NEEDED TO AWAKEN MY OWN REBEL. First from my mothers’ expectations and now from the financial obligations of people who didn’t have my best interest in mind.
I did a tele summit called the Cubicle Monkey Revolution. It was all about rebelling against the 9-5 to live an extraordinary life. This put me on the map.
It built my email list. It connected me with 30 thought leaders in the conscious community and for the first time in my entire life I felt like I belonged.
This community of people who were into growth, ethics, morals, love, and changing the world for the better. Certainly, there were the crooks and hucksters lol, but at least I was on to something.
Kenny and I got engaged when the brand & summit were launching and life started to feel like it was truly blossoming.
Marriage & Preggo-town.
I was planning a wedding while doing the tele summit. My entire life was coming together. My purpose, my business, my sense of belonging, love. All the questions I asked myself my entire life felt like they were finally being answered.
Kenny and I got married and had our first baby 6 months later (yeah you can do the math lol). Sorry mom haha embarrassing you is my jam!
Maya was our baby, she made me a mom. She also beat the shit out of me from the moment she was conceived lol. My first pregnancy I was riddled with anxiety, depression, and on top of that I was on bed rest because I was at risk for preterm labor. So this exciting time of getting married and having babies really turned into the demise of my freedom.
This was hard. I had to sell off my bad ass mini cooper convertible and buy the quintessential mom SUV. This was symbolic in so many ways of how I feel my life had to change to become a mom, and I can honestly say I wasn’t ready.
I resented it. My pregnancy sucked. For the first time Kenny and I
experienced some serious fighting since he had freedom and I didn’t.
I felt trapped at home, while I watched him live his life.
Maya made me a Mom.
Maya was born (4 weeks early, but totally healthy) and I never could have anticipated the pain and suffering that happens when you have a colicky baby and undiagnosed postpartum depression. The torture and sleep deprivation were unbearable. The isolation was insane. By week 4 I was thinking of suicide. I felt so detached and alone. Looking back now it was SO FUCKING OBVIOUS that I had postpartum depression but they said it was the baby blues, so I believed them.
I also didn’t really tell anyone I had those thoughts…I just kept them to myself. At my 6-week checkup I made the doctor think I was great. I wanted to get an A+ on the “How are you doing at motherhood and life?” exam. And I did. At my own expense. That A+ costed me 9 more months of spinning, suffering and sucking at this thing we call life. Finally, my husband saw it.
He called me and through tears I said, “I think I just need to make more money in my business” and he said, “No babe. I think there’s something else going on.”
Breaking Down Old Beliefs.
He was right. I finally went to a postpartum therapist, got on some holistic supplements that help with happy thoughts, and started working out daily to combat depression. It worked. I realized that I needed to put myself higher on my list of priorities. Sure, this was chemical or hormonal, but it was also the perfect storm. I put my kid, my husband and my business before myself. I was 4th on my own list of priorities. It was a recipe for disaster.
For the first time in my life I also realized that coaching hurt me. I relied so heavily on my own ability to self-motivate that I kept thinking there was something else I should DO. I thought something was wrong with me if I couldn’t fix my moods. I needed the help of a therapist, not a coach.
I also didn’t ask for help from my family, husband or friends when it came to the baby. My old programming from when I was young of not wanting to be a burden just DIDN’T WORK in this new life. I was crumbling. So, I needed to find a new way to “be” that allowed me to receive support not only for my own health but for the health of my entire family.
My definition of success also needed to change. Oprah and Marie Forleo
had been my model for what successful female entrepreneurs with a
creative streak looked like. But my life now looked different than theirs.
They didn’t have kids of their own. Would I never be successful since I did?
I had to find new models for what success looked like that would include motherhood.
I also realized that all the ads selling making money in your sleep on the beach were a lie too. You could make money in your sleep, but you couldn’t necessarily thwart tough times in life or guarantee happiness.
At this juncture I lived by the beach, married the man of my dreams, had my first child, and STILL felt darker than I had ever felt in my entire life. This was a mental health conversation not a coaching conversation, and that changed everything for me.
From thinking I had all the answers to realizing that life was WAY MORE COMPLEX than I thought. In a lot of ways, I think this was the deepening that made me a WAY BETTER coach, wife, mom, and human than ever before.
The juxtaposition of the joy I was “supposed to” feel vs. the darkness I actually felt was mind boggling. So as you can imagine the crumbling of tons of old beliefs and the confusion that came with the degradation of my old self was very disconcerting. But slowly I adopted new beliefs that supported me in this new version of life and rehabilitated me out of darkness.
One main belief that had to get deconstructed was the belief that it
wasn’t okay to experience negative emotions. There is often an energy
in the coaching world where they encourage you to bypass uncomfortable
emotions and just KEEP. THINKING. POSITIVE. I think this is largely a result
of everyone watching The Secret and not wanting to “attract negativity”
into their lives.
This is also extremely destructive. Life cannot be 100% positive, and if you are striving for that then you are missing out. Negative emotions are a valuable and necessary part of the cycles of life so if you avoid them you are avoiding a big part of the experience. Our soul’s need space to breathe, they can’t be suffocated by this neurotic need for constant positivity all the time, so this was a huge lesson for me.
Luke made us a family.
Once Maya was 18 months old, I decided that it was time to get knocked up again lol. I was on bed rest for 6 months with my second pregnancy which was hard, but luckily since I had already done the whole momma identity transition, I was more relaxed about the whole thing this time.
I had already been a mom for a year and a half, knew I needed to ask for more help and shattered my coachy bull shit. This time I wanted to do it differently. I talked to my husband about us supporting each other more. Instead of our old model where he got to live his life and I felt trapped because I always had to watch the kids (Win-Lose dynamic), we would slow down. Talk it out, and proactively decide what was best for the
entire family. We would be intentional about having more of a
Win-Win dynamic. (This is something we explore at my retreats).
The big scare that forced me to ditch codependency.
When I was 24 weeks pregnant (6 months), I went to a regular check up and the doctor was so afraid that I was about to go into labor that he admitted me to the hospital immediately. At 24 weeks a baby can either die or have such a failure to thrive that they may be better off dead.
It was November of 2016 and this is when I realized that the one and only thing I could do to help ensure a healthy baby was to relax. Rid myself of all the stress of the world. And just keep this baby IN.
This was when I realized the power of feminine energy. To relax and allow people to support me was a massive life altering lesson for me. From being a child who tried not to need anything to being a mom who needed help with EVERYTHING for the health of my unborn baby was a radical experiment in learning to receive support.
I started to embody feminine energy and appreciate feeling supported by the masculine. Something that was foreign to me given that I was raised by a single Mom. It was a healing experience. I realized that I had lived most of my life in a masculine manner celebrating accomplishments and measuring my worth through dollar signs, yet it occurred to me that the feminine was magnetic. She relaxes and lets people come to her like a Queen. She makes tons happen, but she doesn’t necessarily do it all herself. This was an invaluable lesson that helped me heal from feeling like I wasn’t deserving of support.
There was something about this pregnancy, all I had been through prior and my desire to do it differently in the future that made me realize I needed to embrace motherhood in a way that I was resisting the first time around.
So I did, and what ended up happening was magical.
I focused on happiness more than I focused on success. I focused on making MYSELF happy more than others. I put myself first. I cared for me. I let people help me & expressed gratitude. I discussed and negotiated with my husband to illicit his support rather than doing it all myself and being resentful. And as a result, so much became clear.
I realized that entrepreneurship and motherhood were both very chaotic and unstable (at least in their infancy stages) and both happened for me
at the same time.
I realized that stability is NOT overrated, and while I was still a freedom
lover who needed to run wild and free, I also needed to feel safe and
secure like nothing would come before my health. Not freedom, not
money, not success, nothing.
Lifestyle by MY design.
From the clarity around my needs for freedom + security I decided that I wanted to do more of an entrepreneurship hybrid model. I would always work for myself doing my own creative rebellious stuff, but I would also freelance as an executive coach and enjoy the ease, stability and legitimacy of working in partnership with others in my industry.
At first I was afraid that this was me selling out since I had done so much work to break out of the 9-5 and become a rebel entrepreneur. But I quickly realized that my rebel perspective was exactly what organizations needed to honor themselves and their souls while doing great work in the world. It was a beautiful Win-Win.
This helped me ditch the hustle energy and enjoy sharing my gifts and philosophies with the world in different settings. Sometimes at my rebel retreats, and sometimes within an organization aiding in leadership development.
I also started to open back up to my creative side by getting back into stand up comedy, hosting and learning to play the ukulele. My creativity now doesn’t feel separate from my work, it actually fuels it. It just effortlessly raises my vibe and I’m able to be the best coach, wife, mom & entrepreneur that I can be.
So now it’s part of my practice to do creative things and integrate them into my lifestyle. One way I’ve done this is with the Awaken The Rebel Podcast. It gives me a space to feel self expressed and like I have complete freedom. I get to speak as much truth as I want, about whatever I want with whoever I want, and I love it.
Retreats are my JAM. The freedom that comes from detaching from technology and the noise of society is more magical than any book or seminar could ever be. I offer women’s retreats here in California bi-annually (one in the mountains & one by the beach) and it’s a lovely experience to immerse ourselves in nature and ditch the dutiful life.
Stand Up Comedy is something many people want to do but are afraid to do, and it was such a massive part of my transformation. So we also offer Comedy Camp. It’s an experience where you can check comedy off of your bucket list, feel more alive than ever and do it in a safe container that makes it all possible. It’s the perfect hybrid of my love for creativity + performance and my love for healing + transformation.
I took a course on Positive Psychology which is all about what truly makes humans feel happy & thrive based on scientific research. This has helped me tremendously to balance the desire for success and weigh it against what actually makes people happy. So now there’s a more grounded approach to how we coach our clients.
We offer coaching for both men and women who desire a more intimate version of support. This helps people to navigate their lives according to their souls, because quieting the noise can be hard (especially when the noise is in your own head lol).
To help thwart overwhelm & make sure Rebel World can still grow I hired an associate coach, a podcast producer and have a team to support the movement. This makes it so that I get to stay in my lane, and do the things I love while feeling like the business can keep growing even when I bury myself in a book for a few days or insist on frolicking in the woods with my uke.
I have shifted my work and career to truly support me in the ENERGY I want to have in my life rather than chasing money, success or fame to validate my existence.
The Here & Now.
I still miss my mini cooper convertible lol, so I am looking into purchasing a Vespa to feel the wind in my hair (and avoid LA traffic lol). It feels good to be living in a way that will honor what truly gives me LIFE in this life rather than just following the “supposed tos.”
Kenny and I are always working on maintaining the balance, and as the kids get older it gets easier. I actually think all of these struggles and hard times were to heal some old familial wounds so ultimately it’s been for the better. And when shit gets tough, there’s always couples therapy lol.
I play in a soccer league on Sundays, and Kenny plays flag football on Saturdays which keeps us having fun, getting outside and feeling active. Soccer is like a moving meditation for me. I get completely out of my head and into my body, it’s pure magic.
I’m also co-hosting The Brian Moote Show with my comedy radio friend which has been super fun and allows me to be in my creativity yet totally authentic at the same time. I still suck at the Ukelele lol, but I love that I now know how to play and I can keep learning :D. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s balanced. Now there’s room for my family, my career, my creativity and me.
I am taking better care of my health, and keeping myself higher on my priority list. I do what I need to be happy because my kids and my hubs not only need me, but they need the BEST of me.
I truly believe that women run the climate of the family (and the world – thank you Beyonce) so it’s important for us to make our needs a priority. I am into women advocating for themselves so that we have a more balanced family & society. And I believe we are all learning how to do that better together (men and women alike).
Awaken The Rebel is my effort to help us honor our souls rather than just following societal rules that may not serve our greater purpose.
If you have made it all the way to the end of this page thank you for going on this journey with me 🙂 This contact form goes directly into my personal inbox so feel free to connect, say hi, ask a question or tell me how you relate. I am looking forward to hearing from you, xo.