From people pleasing zombie to boss chick entrepreneur, this is the story of how I broke the rules, followed my heart and created a lifestyle by MY design.

Hey! I’m Shereen and here are all my dirty secrets lol.

Long story short I was a disgruntled cubicle monkey who followed the rules believing they would make me happy. Spoiler alert: they did not.

Realizing that white picket fences are sometimes made of BS, my inner rebel got woke, broke out of the 9-5 and became a stand-up comic/entrepreneur. Finally living my truth was addicting – until I went into debt, got burnt out and developed depression. So hot.

With the help of my new husband, I started to recover from some deep-rooted codependency issues (fun!) as we built a life and family of our own. Even though I resisted the pull of motherhood at first, giving into it- and accepting that I needed some support – turned out to be the medicine I needed.

It took debt, two high-risk pregnancies, a hospitalization and postpartum depression to wake my ass up, but hey, codependency is a bitch so it wasn’t easy to slay that dragon. Thankfully now I’m in a place where I feel happy, supported and like I can live a lifestyle that truly honors my soul.

I know what it means to awaken the rebel within. But fair warning – once you wake them up, they’ll never go back to sleep.

The Beginning

I was born into a broken home. My parents divorced when I was only a year old. My father was mentally ill and physically abusive. This was very confusing for me since I knew he loved us but wasn’t capable of being good to us. He was a well intended dude, and yet he was also the villain in our story. This was the beginning of my obsession with human behavior, though I didn’t even know it yet.

After the divorce my newly single immigrant mother was tired and tapped so I didn’t want to be a burden. I remember getting a D on a project in the 4th grade because I didn’t want to bother her for help. This desire to take care of other people’s needs over my own started young – and so the codependency was born.

 

The Birth of a Rebel

As I got older and went to high school I never felt like I belonged. This made no sense because I was great at sports and generally popular, but I still never felt like I fit in. I couldn’t buy into the power and politics of bullshit popularity contests, and when people got bullied it tore me up.

I thought the nerds were smart, the jocks were talented, the skaters were cool 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 the system. 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. And so the rebel was born.

The Gut Punch

My dad died the summer before my senior year. He battled cardiovascular issues his entire life, but it was still unexpected. I was 17, and mortality hit me like a gut punch. Even though my dad had major issues, he was still the only dad I got in this lifetime. I regretted not taking whatever opportunity I could have to have a relationship with him. I saw how my apathy towards him robbed me of the opportunity to have a relationship with my one and only Dad.

My perspective shifted, and I was all about that Carpe Diem. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this also turned up the voltage on my codependency. Knowing that at any moment, I could lose someone I loved and feel that pain again made me want to hold on even harder (even if the relationship wasn’t a healthy one).

Old Programming

As an Egyptian I was expected to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. And immigrant families only offer one type of love – the conditional kind.

I was a creative type, a wild child, a free spirit. So I was caught between two choices:

Start one of the aforementioned acceptable careers while being deeply dutiful and religious so I can get married and make babies.
Walk to the beat of my own drum and forever be rejected by the only family I ever had.

What was a young Shereenie to do? I wanted to finally feel like I belonged in my family. I wanted to gain the love and acceptance from my mother that I so deeply desired. I wanted to be seen as acceptable in the eyes of my community.

But every societal rule grated against my soul and made me feel trapped.

I literally had no idea how to be me without disappointing everyone I loved.  

The Lukewarm American Dream

I went off to college at Cal State Fullerton because I knew if I didn’t go to college my mother would disown me lol. I didn’t go because I wanted to, I didn’t go because I had any clarity on my purpose. I went because I was “supposed to.”

I was so disengaged in my own life that I had a friend pick out my first semester classes. I dreamed of studying philosophy, or majoring in dance but didn’t have the guts to do what I really wanted. I learned early on that my desires didn’t matter, so why would they now?

I ended up majoring in Human Communications Studies. It was slightly more normal than dance or philosophy, but not as arduous as law or engineering lol. I knew that no one would ever be super proud of me, but at least they wouldn’t go so far as to be ashamed of me either. I was lukewarm.

Thinking about it now makes me want to vomit. But at the time it was the best I could do. I got my dance fix by joining Team Millenia as a choreographer and dancer (before they made it to America’s best dance crew on MTV). That creativity and self-expression gave me so much LIFE. My major was also decently interesting so that was good. I got certified as a mediator and started to mediate small claims at the Fullerton Courthouse ⚖ (which was the beginning of my fascination with conflict resolution – so juicy!).

I still found ways to dabble in my creativity while I was being the dutiful child lol. I would go to poetry readings, throw open mic events for the dorms (I was a Resident Advisor my 4th year), and I even got to dabble in marketing as a college rep for the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim program.

I didn’t have the balls to major in dance or philosophy, but clearly my creative side couldn’t be stifled. She always found a way to come through. Eventually, I graduated, did the quintessential Europe trip and quickly landed a 9-5 job in advertising 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, I had allegedly achieved The American Dream. So why did I feel so empty inside? Other people seemed thrilled with their office jobs and white picket fences. I just assumed there must be something wrong with me lol.

#MeToo

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. 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 was pretty jolted by this, but I played the tough girl and 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.

Staying at that job every day after that incident stripped away layer after layer of my dignity. I felt like by staying I was complicit in my own oppression. It’s like I was saying, “It’s okay to disrespect me, I can’t do anything about it.” I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get another job, or that quitting early would look bad on my resume. So I stayed. 

Intervention

My apathy for life hadn’t changed much since college. And it wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for a pushy friend of mine who drank a mad amount of Kool Aid at a personal development seminar and insisted I do the same. I blew her off for months before I finally gave in, and right after signing up I immediately regretted it.

The first day, I walked in with my arms crossed and asked for a refund. 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. Whatever defense mechanism of apathy I unconsciously operated with was busted up.

MY. REBEL. GOT. WOKE. I immediately quit a master’s degree program and started to do stand-up comedy – my life was forever changed.

The Rebellion

For the next few years I did every class, seminar and retreat this personal development company offered while continuing to do stand-up comedy.

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. And after years of ignoring my intuition, I was done not following my truth even if it meant I had to let go of big opportunities.

 So I stopped doing stand up and decided to get certified in coaching. I did a year-long program at the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching, became a Certified Professional Coach (CPC), I also went through two Neuro Linguistic Programming programs because apparently I didn’t get enough the first time lol.

I still liked to be on the mic, but only if I was able to talk about something meaningful, so I started hosting at Afterbuzz TV. I did an Oprah Winfrey recap show, offered my first motivational workshop, and took the leap to quit my job. Freedom and dignity were mine for the taking.

Disillusionment

I found a new job, hated the boss and quit. I dabbled in network marketing and real estate investing while reading the 4-Hour Work Week and Rich Dad Poor Dad. I was changing, but without a stable income I couldn’t keep it going. Instead of massive amounts of miracles unfolding, I accrued mad amounts of debt. I moved back into my childhood room at my mom’s house and went into a deep depression. This supposed to be my road to freedom — so why did I feel so trapped?

Sometimes Your Soul is LOUD

After taking a good hard look at my finances, I settled my debt, got a job in sales and moved in with a roomie in Beverly Hills. I also met my future hubby Kenny at this juncture, and we started dating. I didn’t like my job much (and it was barely enough to put food on the table), but at least I was “normal” again. Less of an embarassment.

One night during my first week of training I couldn’t sleep a wink. Which is highly unusual as I am the Sleep Queen lol. I once fell asleep at a Vegas slot machine lol. When I’m tired, nothing can keep me up. But not this night. The whole evening I was plagued by one thought: “What if I live a boring mundane life and never write a book?”

This thought was on a loop, it plagued me and wouldn’t let me rest. I had NEVER thought of myself as an author before. And yet, it was clear my soul wanted to live an extraordinary life and write a book. BAD. While this was an unpleasant experience, it was extremely illuminating and informed me of something I clearly couldn’t live without.

Party Time

As a result of this clarity I prioritized becoming an author. While I worked my cheesy sales job, I wrote my first book The Coolest Quote Book Eva as a way to “hack” the manifestation system and become an author more quickly. Clearly I watched The Secret one too many times and thought that becoming an author quickly would help me vibrate on that level. What a nerd 🤓

Soon after publishing I was featured as an author at UCI and was able to speak to their college students about truly following your soul’s calling rather than being a cog in a wheel. It was a glorious moment.

I was still pretty scared to take the plunge and commit to entrepreneurship, but eventually, my dabbling grew into a full on side hustle. I did more workshops, worked with more clients, got 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 all 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. I got a different job that gave me a bit more money and freedom so I was able to do even more workshops and coaching. My life was starting 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 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 a year of working that new job, they let me go. It was a blow to my ego but my inner spirit knew it was an opportunity to finally grab my lady balls (or ovaries rather) and commit to entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is no joke

Because I had no idea what I was doing, I did the thing all the newbie entrepreneur books recommended and hired a mentor. She was disgustingly expensive, but I had all the hope in the world that she would save my life, show me the ropes and usher me into a greater way of contributing to the world that made my soul sing.

About three months into her program I was more broke and burnt out than when I started. 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. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was depressed and starting to develop some concerning health issues.

That year, I was diagnosed with gastritis and told that I was at-risk for Type 2 Diabetes. I don’t blame my health issues on the mentor, but I do believe she lacked the depth and nuance needed to deal with a struggling client like myself. I mentioned my health and burnout issues on a group coaching call and asked her if she had any similar struggles when she started out. Instead of the relatable answer I desired, she said: “There is a difference between selling and talking about selling.”

I was crushed and embarrassed. In asking for her to keep it real, she shamed me for not selling more. Right then and there I knew she was not the right mentor for me. I was too chicken shit to bow out of her program, so I continued to pay her $1,700 per month for the next three months. Even though it was a massive financial strain, that experience taught me exactly what kind of coach I did (and did not) want to be.

Building the Brand

I started to work with another exorbitantly expensive company that did branding and was recommended by my good old mentor. They quoted me $10K, but it ended up being $20K. “Oops! It just took more time than we thought!” they said.

Once 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.

My co-dependent pattern was so clear. 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. My old pattern of doing what other people wanted me to do at the expense of my own needs was still there.

I had transformed so much up to this point. I ditched the apathy which was huge progress, but the codependency was now the bigger problem — and it was time to break free.

Awaken The Rebel

 My brand, Awaken The Rebel, finally came to life. It was a beautiful reflection of what my soul desperately needed to thrive in my own skin. I needed to awaken my own rebel and break away from old, unhealthy patterns. I did a tele summit called the Cubicle Monkey Revolution that was all about rebelling against the 9-5 to live an extraordinary life.

This put me on the map, built my email list and connected me with thought leaders in the conscious community. For the first time, I felt like I belonged. Around this time, Kenny and I got engaged, and life began to feel like it was truly blossoming.

Marriage & Preggo-town

Kenny and I got married and had our first baby that year. We name her Maya (inspired by the great Maya Angelou) and she made me a mom — but she also beat the shit out of me from the moment she was conceived. During that pregnancy, I was riddled with anxiety, depression, and on bed-rest because I was at-risk for preterm labor. This exciting time of launching a business, getting married and having babies quickly turned into the demise of my freedom.

It was hard. I had to stay at home on bed rest for 5 months straight. Kenny and I would fight because I was jealous he had his freedom and I didn’t. My body was being inhabited by a little human who sucked out all my energy and bandwidth lol. I was slow, huge and emotional – I just didn’t feel like myself. Adding insult to injury I had to sell off my badass mini cooper convertible and buy the quintessential mom SUV. Oh hell no.

The Baby Blues

Maya was born four weeks early, but totally healthy. Even though I was head over heels in love with her, I could never have anticipated the painful combination of a colicky baby and undiagnosed postpartum depression.

The sleep deprivation alone was unbearable. The isolation was insane – I felt so detached and alone. By week four I was thinking of suicide. Looking back now, it was so fucking obvious that I had postpartum depression. But people said it was the baby blues, and I wanted to believe them.

I didn’t really tell anyone I was having such dark thoughts. I just kept them to myself. Even at my six-week checkup I convinced the doctor that 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 nine more months of spinning and suffering. Finally, my husband saw it. He called me and through tears I said I thought I would be happier if I just made more money in my business. He said, “No babe. I think there’s something else going on.

Breaking Down Old Beliefs

He was right. Finally, I went to a postpartum therapist, got on some holistic supplements, and started working out daily to combat depression. It worked, and I realized that I needed to be higher on my own list of priorities.

I also realized how all the think-positive propaganda from watching The Secret or being a coach had kept me stuck and depressed. I wasn’t creating space for my true feelings, I was trying to bypass them as a lot of us do. As my mother did, as my old mentor did. I was just doing it to myself.

I relied so heavily on my own ability to self-motivate that I thought something was wrong with me if I couldn’t fix my moods. I needed the help of a therapist to get through some very serious struggles, not to talk myself out of having the feelings in the first place.

So after finally going to get help I realized that the old paradigm of honoring other people’s needs over my own wasn’t going to cut it in this new mom life. I was crumbling and I needed support not only for my own health but for the health of my family.

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. The juxtaposition of the joy I was “supposed to” feel vs. the darkness I actually felt was mind blowing. 

The crumbling of old beliefs and the confusion that came with the degradation of my former self was very disconcerting. But slowly I adopted new beliefs that supported me in this version of life and rehabilitated me out of the darkness.

In a lot of ways, I think this deepening made me a way better coach, wife, mom, and human than ever before. I used to think I had all the answers. But after going through this struggle, I realized that life and people are way more complex than I had ever imagined. I was experiencing the growing pains necessary to evolve into the next version of myself, and that was another little dirty secret – healing and growth aren’t always pretty.

Luke made us a family

When Maya turned 18 months old, I decided that it was time to get knocked up again lol. And even though the circumstances around this pregnancy were eerily similar, I was thankfully, more equipped to handle it.
I was on bedrest for six months. It was hard, but since I had already done the whole momma identity transition I was more relaxed about the whole thing. I knew I needed to ask for more help, so I talked to Kenny 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 was a game changer, and I always make sure to explore these dynamics with my clients. ♥

The big scare that forced me to ditch codependency

When I was six months pregnant, I went to a regular check up. The doctor was so afraid that I was about to go into labor that he admitted me to the hospital immediately. At this point in a pregnancy, the baby can either die or have such a failure to thrive that it would be devastating.

I realized that the one and only thing I could do to help save my baby was relax. Rid myself of all the stress of the world, and just focus on being happy to keep this baby in. This experience taught me the power of feminine energy. To relax and allow people to support me was a massive life altering lesson. From being a hyper independent woman who tried not to need anything to being a mom who needed help with everything was a radically healing experiment.

One that made me realize I had lived most of my life in a masculine manner, celebrating accomplishments and measuring my worth through dollar signs. This was an invaluable lesson that helped me heal from feeling like I wasn’t deserving of support.

Prioritizing Happiness

There was something about this pregnancy that made me understand that 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 put myself first. I cared for me. I let people help me and 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 I was trying to manage both at the same time. I realized that stability is not overrated, and while I was still a freedom lover who needed to run wild, I also needed to feel safe and secure. Nothing would come before my health. Not freedom, not money, not success, nothing.

I wanted to solidify what I was learning with research and data because I am a nerd like that 🤓. So I got a certificate in Positive Psychology, and completed The Science of Well Being through Yale. Now instead of trying to keep up with the Jones’ or doing what I’m “supposed to” – I use what I’ve learned to ensure happiness and thrive. I created a Happiness Cheatsheet feel free to download it if you feel that information would support you on your journey as well.

Lifestyle by MY design

The clarity gained from this time in my life helped me reframe the way I saw entrepreneurship. I would continue working for myself as a creative rebel, 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 of being a sell-out. 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 my unhealthy hustle energy and enjoy sharing my gifts and philosophies with the world regardless of the setting.

I also started getting back into stand up comedy, hosting and learning to play the ukulele. My creativity doesn’t feel separate from my work now, it actually fuels it. 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. I’m also finally writing the Awaken The Rebel book which is a dream come true, now I don’t have to lose anymore sleep! 😂

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 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.

I also offer one-on-one coaching for people 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.

Stand-up comedy is something many people want to do but are afraid to do, and it was such a massive catalyst in my transformation. So we also offer Comedy Camp. It’s a 6 week experience that ends with you performing a show at a big comedy club. It’s the perfect hybrid of my love for creativity and transformation.

I’ve also hired a solid team to help thwart overwhelm and make sure my little rebel world can still grow. Now I get to stay in my lane, and do the things I love while feeling like the business can keep progressing. I have shifted my work and career to truly support my happiness rather than chasing money, success or fame to validate my existence.

The Here & Now

As you can probably gather, I’ve come a long way in the past few years and I’m still learning every day to prioritize happiness, health and family over keeping up with the Jones’.

Kenny and I are always working on maintaining the balance, and as the kids get older it gets easier (thank God lol). I actually think all of these struggles were meant to heal old familial wounds, so I’m grateful for them. I know they paved the way to much of the happiness I feel now.

I do what I need to be happy because my kids and hubs not only need me, but they need the best of me. This is why I also pulled a ridiculous move and purchased a Vespa! 😂

It may seem irrational, but it’s helped me release resentment about selling off my bad ass mini cooper convertible (which represented my freedom and independence). Now I have the mom car AND the fun scooter. Life feels balanced again. There is room for my sweet adorable family and me ♥.

I truly believe that women run the climate of the family so it’s important for us to make our needs a priority. 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.

My Story contact form

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The Here & Now

As you can probably gather, I’ve come a long way in the past few years and I’m still learning every day to prioritize happiness, health and family over keeping up with the Jones’.

Kenny and I are always working on maintaining the balance, and as the kids get older it gets easier (thank God lol). I actually think all of these struggles were meant to heal old familial wounds, so I’m grateful for them. I know they paved the way to much of the happiness I feel now.

I do what I need to be happy because my kids and hubs not only need me, but they need the best of me. This is why I also pulled a ridiculous move and purchased a Vespa 😂

It may seem irrational, but it’s helped me release resentment about selling off my bad ass mini cooper convertible (which represented my freedom and independence). Now I have the mom car AND the fun scooter. Life feels balanced again. There is room for my sweet adorable family and me ♥.
I truly believe that women run the climate of the family so it’s important for us to make our needs a priority. 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.

11 + 3 =