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Rising Through Resilience: Sakina Ibrahim On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Identify challenges you have already overcome. Reflect and discover resilience is already in you in some ways. Looking back, you can discover your strength, considering the small things may help you build your beliefs. For example, if you struggle with weight and feel unmotivated to make it to your workout, think about the last time you went to the gym and the benefits you received by pushing through. This happened to me recently, and I did not want to go to a fitness class at all. I had to talk myself into going by thinking about how proud I felt the last time I went. I told myself, “ my goals are non-negotiable, and making it to the gym helps me achieve my goals” . That was the end of the negative self-talk.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sakina Ibrahim.

Sakina Ibrahim is an author, artist, and wellness advocate based in Southern California. Sakina’s work centers on supporting girls and women in identifying, healing, and creating new love-filled narratives for their lives through the arts and wellness. Her work has earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination and commanded the attention of the Essence Festival, Jill Scott’s Blues Babe Foundation, Boston Women’s Conference, The Trayvon Martin Foundation, and many more international educational institutions.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am from a small city, Springfield, Massachusetts. I grew up dancing and performing, which I say changed my life. I didn’t have enough time to get into too much trouble because I was in rehearsal or class.The arts saved my life and taught me to dream beyond what I could see. I am a first-generation high school and college graduate who has always had a love for caring for others and education. My uncle’s tragic accident leaving him paralyzed gave me a deep sense of compassion and understanding towards life and its preciousness. I started writing books after graduate school, which helped my career expand into what is now my business, Stretch and Pray, an art and wellness-based personal growth company that works with individuals and corporations using movement, culture, and mindfulness. My books and classes are tools to help people ignite their passions and walk in their purpose.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting story of my career is when I was driving in my car to meet a friend, and I heard on the radio of an audition happening that same day. I pulled into a CVS to put the address in my GPS only to realize I was exactly across the street from the audition location. I auditioned for a historically notable show named “Beauty Shop” that actress Kym Whitley produced on the OWN network. I auditioned for the lead, but Tiffany Haddish booked the role. A few days later, I got a call to be part of the show as a dancer and understudy the lead role. The whole experience taught me about perseverance and making yourself available for opportunity.

The show was an incredible experience, the audience was star-studded, and the energy on stage felt incredible. This taught me a valuable lesson as a writer and entrepreneur. “When you are in alignment and on the right path, everything that you desire comes right to you; you won’t have to drive far looking for what is all ready for you. You will look up and always be where you need to be.” This perspective has helped me not to worry so much when things are not going well. I do an internal GPS check to ensure I am on the right path and re-route if needed. It also taught me to pay attention to the signs and signals, guiding me to my final destinations.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes my company stand out is my unique ability to hear the needs of my clients, ranging from individuals to corporations, and create customized transformational experiences that allow the client to connect deeper to themselves and their goals through the power of the arts. Using the arts allows me direct access to what matters the most, the HEART. Many people are so stuck in their heads and not in tune with what feels right or what direction they should be going. So whether we are addressing diversity issues, team-building with restorative circles, or a fun movement and mindfulness classes, my gift is helping people find their truth.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful to my mother for helping me get to where I am today. She made all of the sacrifices and planted the seeds to cultivate my gifts and talents. She put me in the right places and always encouraged me to be independent and become a leader. Growing up, when I was following the wrong crowd, she would tell me “be a leader, not a follower.” That very saying has helped me to be comfortable carving my path in my lifestyle and career.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I believe resilience is the ability to continue to move forward despite pain and fear. If pain and fear can’t stop you, nothing will. Resilience is your ability to push through but also being able to pause and lead with wisdom. There is a point in resilience that you have to let go and allow everything to fall into place. I believe the characteristics or traits of resilient people are:

  • Determination: Giving up can not be an option.
  • Wisdom: Having the ability to learn from lessons of the past and be thoughtful about your decision-making.
  • Self-esteem: You have to believe in yourself and have a strong sense of your identity.
  • Faith: You have to believe in what you can’t see as if it has already manifested.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage comes from the heart, and resilience comes from the mind. With courage, you are willing to face the fears to get started, but it takes resilience to keep going. Resilience is the power to focus your thoughts beyond the doubts and setbacks that are bound to come up. Courage helps you to begin the journey, but resilience takes you to the finish line. It doesn’t allow you to give up. Cultivating both of these attributes can make anyone unstoppable in all aspects of their life. No matter what, both courage and resilience are muscles that must be built and strengthened throughout our lives. Everything we want is available for us. It’s written, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, a person that comes to mind is Will Smith. He did an interview where he says he is not afraid to die on a treadmill. His point is about not being outworked by someone who may have more talent, that is, resilience. Whatever you want from life is available; we all get to decide what to do with the cards we have been given.

I choose Will Smith because it appears that he has created the life he desired while still striving to grow past his obstacles and limitations. He seems to allow his public persona to be a teacher for others with his vulnerability and the ways he shares the fullness of his life

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I don’t recall anyone telling me something was impossible, but I am my own worst critic. I felt that becoming a writer was impossible; I was a C writing student and never cared much about writing because my dreams focused on dancing and performing arts. When I had the vision of my first book, it wouldn’t go away. I denied the urge but the words and ideas just kept coming to my mind. Once I started writing, little by little the skill was cultivated over time, and the feeling of impossibility went away, and I started to believe in this new gift I had discovered.

Following the urge to do something new required much courage. I had no idea how to publish a book. It was a very scary process, and I made mistakes, but perseverance led me to gain much success and change the entire trajectory of my career. Like Audrey Hepburn says “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

One of my greatest setbacks was being in an abusive relationship and the struggle to get out. There is stigma and shame around physically and emotionally abusive relationships. It was hard to fight through depression, shame, and guilt. The healing process was longer than the actual relationship. We often hear many stories of girls who don’t make it out of abusive relationships or end up losing themselves or their lives, holding onto false ideas about love.

I bounced back stronger than ever because it taught me how strong I am. Slowly my heart began to heal, and I had to do “the work” to look inside of myself and discover what parts of myself I was betraying. I talk about this in my new book, To Begin: A Journey in Self-love and Healing.

When life-changing obstacles show up in our lives, we can see them clearly in retrospect and discover the moments we betrayed. Bouncing back to me is about truly learning the lessons and being able to move forward freely. That experience has allowed me to discover a strength and fearlessness that I didn’t know was there. I learned to listen to my voice; that is the ultimate form of strength. I strongly believe that every setback is a setup for the bounce back if we learn from the past.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I feel like my entire life has required resilience; my mom was a teenage single mother and my father went to prison when I was two years old. I learned from watching her work hard to create an extraordinary life for my brother and I. She did not want us to fall into the systematic traps that affect Black youth disproportionately. Resilience was instilled in me with high expectations and accountability and by seeing the women in my family stand with grace and confidence. Even if I wasn’t good at something my mom was on me until I got it which taught me not to give up. My family is strong, many things could have destroyed us like, gang violence and illness, but we focus on overcoming as a unit. Our family motto is “Undefeated.”

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Identify challenges you have already overcome. Reflect and discover resilience is already in you in some ways. Looking back, you can discover your strength, considering the small things may help you build your beliefs. For example, if you struggle with weight and feel unmotivated to make it to your workout, think about the last time you went to the gym and the benefits you received by pushing through. This happened to me recently, and I did not want to go to a fitness class at all. I had to talk myself into going by thinking about how proud I felt the last time I went. I told myself, “ my goals are non-negotiable, and making it to the gym helps me achieve my goals” . That was the end of the negative self-talk.
  2. Create a practice of faith. What is your source of strength and power when you feel weak? For me, that is God and having a church family for support and guidance. Creating a strong foundation for the spirit is very valuable. When life is happening, we have to have someone to turn to for encouragement and support.
  3. Strengthen and work on your mind; we all know thoughts are things; therefore, focusing on having thoughts that serve you, your goals, and ideas about life is a very good form of strengthening your resilience. Find a book that you turn to that helps you stay centered, focused, and renew your mind.
  4. Embrace a wellness lifestyle; health is wealth. Our bodies have to be able to withstand the challenges of the environment and health issues. Investing in your health (mental, physical and emotional) is the best investment; when you feel good, you can accomplish and do whatever you put your mind to. Aches, pains, and illness make things harder, especially with the climate concerning Covid 19 and other illnesses. We have to build our immune systems and focus on preventative health to keep our organs and bodies strong and healthy. It doesn’t just happen. You have to be strategic about what you eat, physical practice, sun, water, supplements (because we don’t always get the nutrients we should from food). Wellness is work but contributes to the most important aspect of life, LIFE ITSELF.
  5. Learn from others, be a sponge of information, put yourself around people you can learn from. Listen to videos and read books about the personal development, business, and other interests you have. Take in information from people who have different perspectives on life, gain from the wisdom of others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could inspire a movement, that would be the movement of love and compassion. With compassion, no one would suffer or cause suffering, we would take accountability for each other’s human needs. If someone is hungry, they wouldn’t need to steal food that would be given to them. If someone needed shelter, that would also be provided. There would be understanding for each other’s experiences and that we all suffer in our own ways. There would be no violence because we see ourselves in each other. Because we love ourselves, we also love others. Could you imagine a society where we are treated with love and compassion from other people? How outrageous.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

I would love to eat, laugh, rap, and have intellectual discourse with Issa Rae. I think she is brilliant and extremely resilient in her approach to center the Black female narrative with media and comedy. It is not easy to accomplish what she has done in the media; she inspired an entire generation of “Awkward Black Girls” to accept and be themselves unapologetically. I love her work and am inspired to see what her creative genius brings forth next. We’d have a lit brunch.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my social media @sakina_world, visit my Amazon author page and stay tuned on www.sakinaibrahim.com for upcoming projects and announcements.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente

225 Followers

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor