Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Habiba Zaman. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Habiba , looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Was there a moment in your career that meaningfully altered your trajectory? If so, we’d love to hear the backstory.
My journey as a writer began in the most unexpected way. I would have never imagined I would be labeled as a published author if anyone had asked, even 5 years ago. Writing the first book, Beautifully Bare, Undeniably you was thrust upon my by a colleague and dear friend Shalon Irving who is the other author of this book.
We met at a conference many years ago and she was part of other outreach programs I had offered for women’s empowerment off and on for about 2 years. In that time, we had spoken about the need for growth and knowledge of self in order to achieve any kind of change in our lives and how this understanding may be a common belief, and yet how to achieve it is what eludes all of us.
We learned a lot about each other and how we have used our knowledge and experience in my field of mental health and her field of public health, and she was excited and determined to collaborate on specifically what it means know one’s identity and the “how to” of achieving it. She was tenacious in this pursuit as she believed the message we have the capacity to share, should be readily accessible to the masses. She would be in my waiting room in between sessions, or after I would be finished with work, and she convinced everyone in my office that this should be the path to follow. She believed in me, my work, and my specific way of teaching, so she did not stop until I acquiesced.
I am one of those humans who prefer pen to paper over typing which led to the process taking forever! She would laugh and tease me in that I belonged more in the 1920’s than modern day in my reluctance to embrace technology. The ability to edit in real time in the google drive boggled my mind when I first saw her changing words that I had just written as she was sitting just across from me! That is how our process went for the first few months until she had enough of the number of changes I would make every time I would read a chapter I just finished. I can easily say that I wrote three different versions of each chapter until she took over. There were times when she told me to just speak to her as I would with my clients in session and she was my stenographer. This was our process when we were together and when I was working alone, she was determined that I would write a chapter and then immediately submit it to her for editing and that was that. From then on, every book or article I have written has been with that mindset; pour out my thoughts, teachings and emotions onto paper and never look back.
The process of writing this book and creating a number of these techniques also pushed me to change and grow through these steps in a similar way to how the readers would also be experiencing it. I started the process unsure of everything that was not my knowledge base- psychology and explaining the human condition was not an issue- it was believing in my voice and the story I had to share, my confidence in teaching in a way that those reader would find value and worth in what they are investing their time in. Who we were when we started this book was not the women we had become by the end of it and that in itself was the greatest gift and lesson I have received in my journey into becoming an author.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Honestly, I am immensely proud of all the collaborations I have had the privilege to be a part of and share my voice though them. As much as all of my writings have a specific history and significance in my life and where I was as I shared my narrative, the books I have written and experiences in writing represents so much more than simply sharing knowledge. It is a physical representation of what it takes and what it took to recognize a need to make a change in one’s current existence, to the person and life we are wanting to create. It is similar to the phoenix rising from the ashes where the uncertainty, doubt, and fear can seem excruciating and yet, once the process is complete, the core of who you are can never be shaken again. I did not just write the books, I’ve lived them, worked tirelessly through them, cried for them and my heart bled for them.
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
Acceptance of oneself is perhaps the hardest challenge to overcome in a world where we are constantly being told what we have to offer is not enough. It is a message that is internalized from early childhood through the grades in academics, competitive games where the worth is measured in achievements, societal norms for beauty, body shape and appearance, or at times by our families or caregivers that often unintentionally give the impression that acceptance (which children equate to love) will come from meeting the expectations they set and define for us. I wish there were an easy answer that would erase all of those messages we carry within that hinder how positively we see ourselves.
My only word of advice would be that no matter where we have been or the choices we have once made or the path we have taken, we can always turn around and start anew. We are NOT trapped in those decisions or images we have created for ourselves. We made the choices based on who we were and the needs we had at that time, and it does not have to be who we remain. The only person that can give you a sense of stability and security is YOU. As much as it pains you now to face these fears, know that it is taking you one step closer to the life you do want. One that reflects your needs and values so that those existing within your world, can be there effortlessly. You will work, grow, learn, and laugh together. There will be shared experiences and shared understandings where you will not have to fight to be heard, seen, or accepted. There will be a simplicity in existing so all of your energies can go towards undiscovered adventures enveloped in love. For in honoring and loving yourself, you can then create a world to give AND have the same efforts given back to you.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
Even as a child, I could deeply embody things I couldn’t understand at that point as a child. I could feel deep connections to people. I was the advocate: I was the family advocate, the neighborhood advocate, I would fight injustice – and I was 5 years old. The difference is, I have the words for it now. What I knew, felt and sensed then; I just have the terminology for it now.
Feeling so invested in that world, I was always curious as to what made people do what they did. Why do people think and behave and choose what they did? And part of that was from me too: My parents were divorced. I didn’t know my birth mother and I didn’t’ know why. I wondered why I didn’t have my parents.
I chose counseling ultimately because of my school counselor, Mrs. Bunch. I was in the 8th grade. It was a dark moment in my life. I had never spoken to her, but I had known of her. It was a tiny school in Avery, Texas. I was walking down the hallway and she grabbed my arm. She just paused and looked at me- I was internally freaking out. She took my hair and tucked it behind my ears so she could see my face, she looked into my eyes and she said: “Whatever it is won’t matter in 5 years. None of this will matter. Just hold on for a while longer.” I was dumbfounded because I had been seen. I had spent so much time trying to be invisible and she just saw through me. Whatever superpower she had, I wanted and that’s what I became.
I’ve had a very difficult time accepting and loving myself for who I am, accepting the existence that I’ve had until now. There’s a reason why I’ve chosen trauma. I want my readers and clients to have an acceptance of themselves. We spent so much time judging where we’ve been. I refuse to let my clients sit there. One of the lessons I like to follow is: No matter how far down a path we’ve gone down, we can always turn around. We’re not trapped in these images and narratives. The decisions we made back then were a result of who we used to be, but we’re not that now. We can move towards where we want to be. No matter how far back I go, I know I will always be led to this field in one way or another.
In my work as a young therapist, I have participated in many forms of counseling through working in hospitals, group homes, abuse shelters, and other private practices. I took all the knowledge I had gained that were in alignment with my values and started North Star of Georgia Counseling to be able to provide comprehensive care to my clients as well as to have the flexibility to be the kind of mother I wished to be to my two children.
I believe in acceptance through awareness. In acceptance of ourselves, we can learn to love each area that defines us. It will also highlight the areas that we would like to make a shift. These changes can be lasting or seasonal depending on what we are looking for at the moment and also who we
are at the moment. Once we are aware of how and what we are looking for, we can start taking small, intentional, and active steps to making these ideas into reality.
- Website: www.habibazaman.com, www.northstarofgeorgia.com
- Instagram: @habibti_zaman
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/habiba-zaman-b1623561/