From people-pleasing zombie to boss chick Artistpreneur, this is the story of how I broke the rules, followed my heart, and revolutionized my life.
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 B.S., 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 fell into a depression. (That’s the thing about life. It’s not a straight shot to the top – even when you’re ‘following your bliss’.)
Along the way, I met and fell in love with my now-husband. Our relationship helped me identify, work through, and recover from some deep-rooted codependency issues (fun!) as we built a life and family of our own. And while I initially resisted the pull of motherhood, embracing it and accepting that I needed some support (hello, it takes a village!) turned out to be the medicine I needed.
Today, I’m living a life that not only honors my soul, but makes me damn happy and fulfilled. And while it took massive debt, two high-risk pregnancies, a hospitalization and postpartum depression to wake my ass up, I eventually slayed my dragons and wrote my own rulebook. Helping you do the same lights me up every day.
Fair warning – once you wake your inner rebel up, they’ll never go back to sleep. (And trust me, that’s a good thing! We want you fully awake.)
I was born into a broken home where my parents divorced when I was only a year old. My father was mentally ill and physically abusive. Growing up, I knew he loved us, but he just wasn’t capable of being a healthy, supportive, positive presence in our lives. 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 most of the time. Even at a young age, I worried about being 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
In high school, my inner rebel came out of the closet. While I was great at sports and well-liked, I didn’t feel like I belonged. The truth was, I took one look at the power and politics of high school and wanted nothing to do with it. I thought the nerds were smart, the jocks were talented, the skaters were cool and the mean girls were mean. While I had zero interest in being labeled, I felt a deep desire to protect the underdogs and call out the assholes on their bullshit. (Imagine my surprise when I was voted Homecoming Queen! Hahaha, joke’s on you mean girls.)
I never wanted to be the queen. I just wanted to be free. And so the rebel was born.
The Gut Punch
The summer before my senior year, my dad died. And while he had battled cardiovascular issues his entire life – and had mostly been an unreliable, often-absent, sometimes dangerous presence in my life – his sudden death hit me like a gut punch. At 17, I regretted not having a real relationship with him.
Losing my dad ignited a Carpe Diem approach to life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it 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 healthy).
My ancestors come from Egypt. And in case you don’t know this, immigrant families are known for a specific type of love – the conditional kind. As an Egyptian, I was expected to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. EXCEPT… I was a creative type, a wild child, a free spirit. So I was caught between two choices:
1. Start one of the aforementioned acceptable careers while being deeply dutiful and religious, get married and make babies.
2. Walk to the beat of my own drum and forever be judged and/or rejected by the only family I’ve ever known.
While I didn’t want to lose my family – and I was still chasing the love and acceptance of my mother – every societal rule I tried to follow quickly 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 attended Cal State Fullerton for college. I didn’t go because I wanted to. I went because I was “supposed to.” And while I dreamed of studying philosophy, or majoring in dance, do you think I had the guts to follow those yearnings? Not yet, my rebel friend. Those childhood messages that my desires didn’t matter ran deep.
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. I knew that no one would be super proud of me, but at least they wouldn’t go so far as to be ashamed of me either. I was lukewarm.
But I wasn’t totally asleep at the wheel. I got my dance fix by joining Team Millenia as a choreographer and dancer (my team eventually made it to America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV). That creativity and self-expression gave me so much LIFE. 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!).
And I found other ways to feed my creativity while being the dutiful child. Poetry readings. Open mic nights. A marketing internship at Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
After graduation, I 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. At a young age, I had allegedly achieved The American Dream – a great job and home ownership. 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.
Three months into my job, I was sexually harassed. When I summoned the courage to tell my boss, he just looked at me and said, “But he was just joking, right? You can still work with him, right?” Holding tears back, I said yes.
Staying at that job stripped away layer after layer of my dignity. I felt like I was complicit in my own oppression. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get another job, or that quitting would look bad on my resume. So I stuck around.
My Rebel Got Woke
Around this same time, I was blessed to have a pushy friend who dragged me to a personal development seminar. By the end of the weekend, I decided to quit the masters degree program I was dutifully enrolled in and instead, try my hand at standup comedy. My life was forever changed.
Comedy and Coaching became my two great loves. And while I initially devoted equal time to both, I eventually felt more called to the world of coaching and transformation. Standup was great – and it was fun being wooed by the likes of MTV, E!, and VH-1- – but changing lives was my jam. Yes, I would always love being on the mic, but only if I could talk about something meaningful.
I did a year-long program at the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching and became a Certified Professional Coach (CPC).
Meeting Mr. Right
During this time, I met the real love of my life, my future hubby Kenny. Our whirlwind romance lit me up like no other relationship had. I had finally found someone who loved and accepted me for ALL of who I was.
Still, a voice inside could not be contained. As Kenny and I talked about marriage, my inner rebel fretted, “But what does this mean for your freedom, Shereen?”
To honor the woman in love AND the rebel within, I wrote my first book The Coolest Quote Book Eva. Writing and speaking on the topic of awakening your inner rebel and following your soul’s calling felt like I was really walking my talk. I loved it.
Kenny and I moved into a super cool apartment by the beach. I took a job that still afforded me the freedom to build my coaching business on the side. I even drove a Mini Cooper convertible and would rollerblade on the beach with my German Shepherd Rambo…this was the life!
Entrepreneurship is no joke
I focused full time on building my business. Like most newbie business owners, I had no idea what I was doing. Which meant I made a lot of mistakes. Like hiring an over-priced, under-delivering business coach who was clearly all about the money.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in investing in yourself (clearly!). I do not believe that you have to sacrifice your soul (or go into insane debt) to receive meaningful coaching that changes your life.
Three months into working with my coach, I was more broke and burnt out than ever. My body was also breaking down. A doctor diagnosed me with gastritis and told me I was at-risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
When I went to my coach and asked for help, she ridiculed me in front of my peers. And while that lesson was expensive and painful, it also taught me the kind of coach I did (and did not) want to be.
I’m on a mission to shortcut your expensive lessons and cut to the good transformational stuff.
(I got you, Boo!)
Awaken The Rebel
Determined and on a mission, I birthed my brand Awaken The Rebel. I also hosted 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 named her Maya (inspired by the great Maya Angelou) and she made me a mom. During that pregnancy, I was riddled with anxiety, depression, and put on mandatory 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.
Bed rest was hard. Pregnancy was painful. And learning how to advocate for myself with my husband – when I never had a model growing up – felt exhausting. Adding insult to injury, I had to sell my badass Mini Cooper and buy the quintessentual 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. By the fourth week, I was contemplating suicide. Yet, in true people pleasing fashion, I told no one. Even at my six week checkin, 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. I came up with all kinds of excuses for why I felt so miserable, but Kenny kept it 💯, telling me, “I think there’s something else going on.”
Breaking Down Old Beliefs
To the outside world, I was married to the man of my dreams, mom to an adorable baby girl, had a great home by the beach. Yet on the inside, I 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.
It took a great postpartum therapist, holistic supplements, and moving my body daily to get me to the other side of that darkness. With the help of my therapist, 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.
Slowly but surely, the old beliefs and paradigms crumbled away. Soon, I adopted new beliefs that supported who I was becoming. I now know that my own deepening is what makes me a better coach, wife, mom, and person. I also know – and celebrate – that healing and growth aren’t always pretty. And yet from the darkness comes the rebel call, the yearning for something different, the demand to break the rules and rewrite your life by your own design.
Luke made us a family
When Maya was 18 months old, I decided it was time to get knocked up again lol.
Six months into my second pregnancy, I went for a check up. My doctor immediately admitted me to the hospital. My baby’s life was in jeopardy. And while I was terrified for Luke’s health and life, in that moment, I knew the only thing I could do to help was relax. Just focus on being happy.
Spending those last pregnancy months in bed to keep Luke alive and healthy taught me the power of feminine energy. Shifting from being a hyper-independent woman who tried not to need anything to becoming a mom willing to receive support to keep her baby alive was a radically healing experience. One that made me realize I had lived most of my life in my masculine, chasing accomplishments and measuring my worth through dollar signs.
Having Luke – who’s now a healthy, happy, thriving little dude – helped me embrace motherhood in ways I’d only resisted before.
By focusing on happiness more than I focused on success, by putting myself first and caring for me, I found gratitude and grace.
Today, I have an unwavering commitment to myself and my life that I never would have found without those dark and dangerous moments. I now know without a doubt that I’m not worth sacrificing. Not for money or fame or success or achievement.
After Luke was born, I got certified in Positive Psychology and got a certificate in The Science of Well Being from Yale.
I use what I’ve learned to ensure happiness for myself and my clients.
Instead of being on a stressful schedule with the Awaken The Rebel podcast, I release episodes when I am truly inspired. This is a quality over quantity approach which I am sure many business owners would discourage, but I now live my life according to my internal navigation system rather than succumbing to what the external deems necessary.
I also synthesized everything I learned into a Happiness Cheatsheet that you can download for free. That way you can join me in cutting through the BS, and shortcut your path to bliss.
My desire has always been to support you in being all of who you truly are. To honor your irrational impulses whether that’s doing stand up comedy, booking that vacation, quitting that job, leaving that toxic relationship or buying a Vespa.
The Here & Now
At this point I’ve been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Spike TV, 97.1 Amp Radio, and many more. I became a bestselling author with the release of my book Revolutionary Woman and have shared a stage with Serena Williams, Prince Harry, Pau Gasol, and Les Brown. I’ve worked with clients from companies like Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Pandora, Slack, CVS, Chevron, Capital One, Credit Karma, Yale, University of San Francisco, LAUSD, Safe Place for Youth, Bresee Foundation, and the Social Justice Learning Institute.
This hasn’t been an overnight success, I’ve put in over ten years and ten thousand hours – and as Drake would say, “We started from the bottom now we’re here.” It all started with the first step which was awakening my inner rebel and saying yes to my irrational impulse to try stand-up comedy. I had no idea that would bring me here, and yet I am forever grateful to my former self for saying yes to that call.
I thought that was my one big weirdo rebel move and that would be it, but nope – there’s more. The new adventure that my soul craves is to learn how to fly a plane. Why not become a pilot before I die, amirite?! We also recently moved from sunny Santa Monica to the Midwest. Even though by all external standards SoCal is “where it’s at,” we were honoring our irrational impulses to live by our intrinsic values rather than what looks cool on the outside.
As you’ll learn from my book and my talk, it’s not only okay… to pivot in your life and career, but it’s necessary. It’s a skill to learn in order to continually self-actualize into the truest version of you.
So there you have it, from people-pleasing zombie to boss chick artistpreneur, this was the story of how I broke the rules, lived my purpose, and found my happy. One thing I can say for sure is that once you wake your inner rebel up, they will never go back to sleep.
Whatever you do in this wild and precious life, I encourage you to always follow that which makes you feel truly ALIVE. Those irrational impulses won’t lead you astray, they will reintroduce you to who you truly are, and help you honor your soul’s higher calling.
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 please reach out. I’d love to hear what part of this story resonated with you most, I look forward to connecting. Xo.
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