Episodes Interviews

#9 Interview with Sherin Wafaai: Bath Towels and Boundaries

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It’s not easy to sashay between two worlds, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Sherin Wafaai examines with us her practice for turning anger into compassion, the importance of our own boundaries, and transforming trauma into purpose.

⚠️ This one goes to a dark place not necessarily suitable for kids…

“Where there is no love, put love, and then there will be love.”

Sherin Wafaai

Instagram | Sherin’s LinkedIn Profile | Healers & Guides


Conscious Leadership with Jim Dethmer


Sherin:  It’s the hardest when someone has really wronged you to respond with compassion. When someone has threatened you or someone has, you know, taken something from you, if you respond with animosity or just fear, fear begets fear, right? Um, but if you respond with love, you don’t give that person an option except to soften.

Brian:  Hey y’all, I’m Brian Pagán and welcome to episode nine of Mind Folk: human creativity and mindful innovation, in a podcast. And this episode I’m speaking with Sherin Wafaai, one of the most inspiring people I know. She’s a healer, maker, lover, a thinker and creator. We met in Eindhoven a few years ago and she has been present with me for some pretty pivotal moments in my life and as such, this is a deeply personal conversation.

We’re gonna get into topics like what being in the UX really means, the importance of self care and how we can turn trauma into strength. But heads up, we do get into a pretty dark place, so if there are any children listening right now, it might be a good idea to put something else on. All right, let’s get into it. Enjoy.

Sherin Wafaai:  We keep learning over and over no matter how… like oh yeah, I feel amazing today and then there’s always a lesson. There’s always something that just snaps you back into place and you’re like whoa. What, what ha- what had taken control of my body and my mind that all of the meditation, all of like, all of the self work I do just goes out the window-

Brian Pagán:  Oh yeah.

Sherin Wafaai:  Immediately and but the… but it’s always about how fast we can get back to that, right? It’s like… I mean before maybe you would have, like, you would have been pissed off for a week, but now it’s more like maybe a day or like a few hours or something and that’s huge growth, but we just… I mean the growth isn’t that we never get angry, that’s never gonna happen. Even like Gary Zukav and like ever- like everyone, Elizabeth Gilbert, all of these amazing people, like, they get angry too, but it just takes less time to come back to your soul and to your beauty and essence within you.

Brian Pagán:  When was the last time this happened for you?

Sherin Wafaai:  I think I have it the most when… [laughs] I’ll tell you, it’s like really stupid, okay? Really stupid, it’s almost like-

Brian Pagán:  Be nice to yourself. Words matter.

Sherin Wafaai:  [laughs] It’s, but it’s like wa- so like, my husband, every time he like will… he will like leave the bathroom, all, all the bathroom carpets will be in balls, you know? Like [laughs]-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  Why? Why? Like, I don’t understand. How also, how can this happen? And so every time I go in, like, you know, it doesn’t look soothing, you know? I always feel like, oh, I have to like straighten everything out so that I can go into the-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  To the bathroom in a relaxed fashion.

Brian Pagán:  Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Sherin Wafaai:  But every time, it got to me, every time like ah. [laughs] But now I said, that’s so stupid because I keep, like… I was like, I could tell him, but it… it’s not gonna wo- I’m just going to be like it’s okay and every time I go in, and it becomes a practice. I go in, I straighten them, and then I’m relaxed. And I’ve, I’ve trained myself so that it doesn’t [laughs] bother me that much anymore but it’s like these tiny little things that are so silly but that has taught me a lot. Like, that tiny thing has taught me a lot, like blaming or being like, “Oh, why does he keep doing that?” I’m like, “You know, I don’t give a sh- he can keep doing it. I accept that he’s gonna keep doing it. I’m just gonna straighten the bath rugs. That’s fine.”

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  It’s cool. Life goes on, everything’s perfect. [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  What kind of techniques did you use to, to make this shift?

Sherin Wafaai:  Um, I, I basically explained to myself, it’s like either I can let this bother me the whole time I’m in the bathroom or I can immediately do something about it. Can I do something about it? Yes, I can, I can completely de stress myself for that tiny little thing.

Brian Pagán:  Mm.

Sherin Wafaai:  Um, like, I literally just go in, I see it, my body reacts, but instead of letting that take over, I just go okay. Let’s take a second, take a deep breath, go in, straighten and go on with my day.

Brian Pagán:  Hm.

Sherin Wafaai:  It’s so much better than like holding it in and being like, “Alma, why didn’t you do this? Why di-” like it doesn’t take-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  Any time for me to do it myself. So, like, to stop expecting also people are going to change. Like, I’m just gonna change myself. It’s so much easier to change yourself. So much easier going and yelling at someone [crosstalk 00:04:47]-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  It’s, yeah, I, I love the, I love the story because it’s very clear in the narrative shift that you create for yourself in your own mind.

Sherin Wafaai:  Sometimes it’s better to show rather than tell and that’s what I’ve found, that when someone is… like… it’s the hardest when someone has really wronged you to, to respond with compassion. When someone has threatened you or someone has, you know, taken something from you, if you respond with animosity or, um, just, just fear, fear begets fear, right? Um, but if you respond with love, you don’t give that person an option except to soften and that’s, like, you know, that’s like fighting, you know, kindness-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  Um, when, when you respond with love, especially in a, in a situation where someone is really trying to illicit a terrible response from you and you show up with all the love in the world, first of all it’s annoying as hell for that [laughs]-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  But also, you have nothing to regret later [laughs] and-

Brian Pagán:  Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Sherin Wafaai:  Like when, when there is no love, wherever there, where there is no love, put love and then there will be love, in any situation, where there is no love, you have the opportunity to put love, you can just put love in that situation, all the sudden, there will be love there. Som- it’s so simple. It’s so simple sometimes, but it… you have to have cultivated the loving parts of yourself and awareness. That’s a practice and it takes a long time to get there honestly. [laughs] And anger basically stems from not having clear boundaries.

And, um, I come from a culture that basically says if you have boundaries, you’re like stuck up or something [laughs]. You’re not allowed to have boundaries. The inspiration to actually start thinking about myself was actually one… I mean, in the Netherlands where, you know, where I lived for seven years and where you are, people have super clear boundaries.

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  Super clear boundaries there. Like, you know, they don’t even give you a reason. You’re like, “Hey, do you wanna go for coffee?” They’re like, “No.” This is what I need and I don’t have time for you, so no.

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  And so I learned a lot from that. Like first I thought people were like really harsh, but I just realized it was the complete opposite end of the spectrum than where I came from, where I come from. So I’m like, you know, sashaying in the middle right now.

Brian Pagán:  You talk about sashaying between two different worlds. I think this liminal space is kind of a, a place where you thrive and I’m curious to hear your thoughts about that.

Sherin Wafaai:  Wow, that’s a… I, I love that because I think that’s definitely part of my character, my personality. It’s… you know what? Actually, so I’m reading this book called Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer and the la- the, the, the most recent chapter I read is, uh, your zone of genius. So figuring out what is your zone of genius and it’s like you have a zone of incompetence, competence, excellence and genius. And you know, incompetence you know, are the tasks that you do that everyone can do better than you, so it’s a waste of your time. [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  [laughs] Yeah.

Sherin Wafaai:  And then you have like the zone of competence, uh, where, you know, you can do something, you can do it well, but a lot of people can do it better than you, so it’s probably better to delegate it anyways. And then you have your zone of excellence where you can do things better than everyone else, however there’s still a little bit of energy drainage there, and it might be very minimal, however it is still leaking your energy.

Brian Pagán:  Mm.

Sherin Wafaai:  And then you have your zone of genius.

Brian Pagán:  Oh.

Sherin Wafaai:  Your zone of genius means that’s where you flow. It’s the kind of thing people tell you you’re really good at, but you don’t even consider it a skill because it’s so good and so natural to you. It’s like telling a fish you’re really good at swimming.

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  And it’s like of course I’m good at swimming, what are you talking about? So, I did this exercise, you can go to the book and it’s fascinating and you can do these exercises where you figure out what is your zone of genius and I realized that my zone of genius is speaking and teaching and motivating and I don’t do that much [laughs] speaking. [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  I used to be a teacher, and I motivate people through my Instagram. You know, that’s, that’s what I use, that’s my platform, you know? My, my micro blog, uh, story motivating, uh, aspect of my life.

Brian Pagán:  You as a UX professional probably do UX differently than someone who has something else in their zone of genius and I guess I’m just wondering how those, how those zones influence each other.

Sherin Wafaai:  Yeah, I mean, the word, like, let’s say empathy, I want people to be empowered in the way they use technology or the way they use anything. I mean like design isn’t just online. It’s like looking at a kaleidoscope. You want a team that looks like a kaleidoscope of colors that is also adaptable and it will change and the patterns will change and you will be able to work together and at the, and it still all fits together in this beautiful way.

So now I’m, I’m involved with an organization that helps, uh, with human trafficking online, specifically for kids. Um, and, I just wanna help them more than anything and I’m… right now I’m just doing like… it has nothing to do with UX, I’m just doing like project management for a course that they’re designing, um, to help kids know about like how to report stuff and how to not get lock and how no- not to talk to strangers and helping parents, like, if this happens to your kid what you can do, how to document stuff so that you can put him in jail.

And it’s, it’s… honestly, I have never… I mean it breaks, it breaks my heart into a million pieces because of the… because the amount of trauma that results from you know, this cyber blackmail, um, and I, like, I don’t know how much detail, like, I should go into. Um, but wa- what’s, what’s literally happening because people don’t know and I really need people to understand what’s happening and this is honestly what I think I should be speaking about, um, is that kids will get caught into this blackmail loop with an online predator and think that they’re their friends and the predator will like literally ask them for money and when the kid runs out of money, like, runs out of like stealing all of their parents money and their phones and stuff like that, the predator will start asking them to take videos of themselves doing things to themselves and then selling those videos to pedophilia websites.

And this is… and then, and then there’s something called online grooming where a predator will literally talk to kids for like six months, up to a year, and then will actually kidnap them and put them in this whole human trafficking industry. And this is happening rampantly all over the world and it’s insane. Like can you imagine when we were kids? All we had to be scared of was some like weirdo in the street.

Now, kids need to be scared of thousands, thousands of possible attacks everywhere and if you prevent this trauma from happening to one child, you’re preventing trauma… I mean, can you imagine growing up like that? It’s gonna affect your relationship with your parents, with your siblings, with other kids. You’re gonna feel ashamed your whole life. Like literally one predator did this with 64 kids. Two of which he actually sexually assaulted. 64 kids. How can one… I mean, can you imagine the damage that is being done and we don’t see it. We don’t see it and kids are going through this and they can’t even tell anyone about it and it’s… it’s, it’s insane.

Brian Pagán:  What about this touches you so emotionally?

Sherin Wafaai:  Because of my, it’s probably ’cause of my nieces and nephews. I mean, they’re, you know, my, my 12 year old niece just like got her first Instagram account and like that was when I was like oh my god. Oh no. Oh no. And then my six year old niece was playing a game called Barbie Gram, it’s like a fake Instagram for kids that-

Brian Pagán:  Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Sherin Wafaai:  And she’s like, “Look, look how many followers I got.” And there’s, it’s just a game that’s just like gives you random fo- like, it’s nothing. It’s like you’re… and I saw the obsessed, she’s like, “Look, look I got more, look, I got more followers.” And I’m like, “This is the devil.”

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  The devil. Like, and it’s not… I mean and predators are getting to kids like through social media, but also through games, which is the really scary part. And I’m, so I’m terrified. Like if I can help le- literally, like prevent trauma for… I mean I could prevent trauma for them. Like, these are the kids I love the most. You know, these are my, they’re my flesh and blood but I mean, I saw the videos that the predators were telling the kids to send. Like I saw the kids and I saw, like nine year old like little chubby, little kids, terrified, like the most terrified look in his eyes. That’s not okay. And I can’t unsee that. So I don’t think I can literally continue my life and not be part of that because that’s not fair. It’s not fair and I know life’s not fair, I don’t give a shit about that stupid sentence, but it is not fair for a kid to be abused in that way.

So I can’t… it’s like… it’s im- I can’t shake that and I don’t want to. I, I just, I, I… I want everyone to have like a fair shot, you know? And that, that is like such a big thorn in someone’s life. Like, I was molested as a kid, it was like a five minute thing, you know, like some random dude like, um, followed me up the, the steps to my apartment building and you know, touched me in like disgusting ways and it took me a long time to get over that and that was like a five minute encounter and these kids get stuck in this cycle for months and months and months.

So I can just extrapolate the damage and the trauma and then the, you know, the post traumatic stress disorder that they get after that that continues and continues and continues in their life. So, it… this is trauma that affects generations because, you know, we have trauma from our parents and our grandparents in our, in our bodies, in our genes, in our, in our energy bodies, so preventing trauma is… has a huge impact on not just the kid, but on everyone around the kid and for their kids and their kids because… so in a country with no boundaries like Egypt, not very many boundaries when it comes to, you know, sharing information about your life, so, usually people would like, you know, tell everything about their lives and their family’s lives and stuff like that.

But in, in this specific situation, anything regarding sex has a lot of shame around it. So it’s like we can tell everyone everything, but when it comes to these things, we don’t tell a soul. We do not tell a soul. So therefore, this information doesn’t get out. Like, the… so it’s actually the, like kind of the opposite. It’s like we have no boundaries but when it comes to these specific things that we really should talk about, we don’t talk about them. And then we create boundaries because you know, this will affect our, um, reputation or the way people see us.

And, the, the crazy thing is actually the parents of those kids or let’s say 32, uh, of the parents of… or parents of 32 of the kids, even though they caught the perpetrator that had done it, they were too ashamed to go to the police station to actually report and make sure this guy went to jail and so the judge, can you imagine, arrested the parents with, with… on the count of negligence and forced them to come to the police station to submit a report. That’s how bad it is. That’s how bad it is. That’s how, how much like shame, shame blame, like, you know, shove stuff under the carpet that exists. So it’s like… it’s very strange. So many oxymorons. [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  A lot of victims of sexual abuse also become perpetrators later on.

Sherin Wafaai:  Exactly because another adult did this to you and your parents are ashamed of that, that doesn’t make sense, which is why, like, we need to get this message out. Like, this is not the kid’s fault. We need to empower children with information, with examples, with stories, with tools, so that’s why I was like okay… so I’m not just going to help with designing this course, I’m actually going to create, I’m gonna… so I think the most powerful thing is to use your skills, like oh I’m a, a UX designer, so I’m no- how am I gonna help? You know, how am I gonna help these kids? Well no, you can… I, I thought okay, why don’t I create the, the easiest, uh, website platform tool where it’s like one big rainbow colorful button where they say report instead of all these gray tiny little links that exist in all the social media sites. But why not create the, the easiest, friendliest most compassionate way for kids to actually report these things?

Because a lot of times, like, in this culture, like we’re not just honestly it’s everywhere. Like, it depends on your relationship with your parents if you’re able to tell them or not. So if you can’t tell them, there needs to be another way for you to tell them that, for, for you to report it even if you, your parents might not believe you or they might think, you know, this is shameful to report. But another outlet, so using your, your own skills right now for the most impact to help the world to me is like of course this makes sense, you know? I can use these skills to help in so many different avenues and… um, yeah.

Brian Pagán:  Yeah. I think that’s what you’re doing with your Instagram as well, no?

Sherin Wafaai:  Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, Instagram is like… it’s just so much about like how… you know, like the picture perfect images and stuff and I’m basically the opposite. I’m like here, check out my frizzy hair and my wrinkles and-

Brian Pagán:  [laughs]

Sherin Wafaai:  [laughs] And you know, like, um, I, I’m there to like spread happiness and joy and to, to, to, to, to tell people like what worked for me and maybe that will work for them. Yeah, I’m just using the internet for good, essentially ’cause everything you can use for good and evil. Everything. Even the toothbrush, right? [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Sherin Wafaai:  You can use everything, so you can use social media in the most incredible way or you can use it in the most horrendous way. People sell babies on Facebook. Like, uh, because the guy that I’m working with, honestly he’s like an angel walking on earth. His name is [Romi Gabeli 00:21:46]. He was actually like Facebook’s one of, top 100 influential people in the last couple years because he created this platform to catch people that are doing these, to catch people that are, um, you know, uh, kidnapping kids, to catch people that have, um, that are selling their kids online. Um, and he’s the one that actually brought me into this platform and he is just like… he goes to the, to the police station with the kids to show them the perpetrator so that they can get… so that they can start to feel better about themselves.

He empowers them by showing them you now have justice. Because you were brave and you told your story, this guy’s going to jail. Like, like, this guy is just so amazing that that’s why, I’m like I will help you whatever you need, no matter what, you know? Because he’s doing the work. He’s out there doing it, you know?

So, yeah. Find those people that are, that are saving the world and like latch onto them and help them, you know?

Brian Pagán:  Beautiful. How can people find you?

Sherin Wafaai:  Um, Instagram. [laughs] Sherrybehappy is my [laughs] uh, is my, uh, what do you call it? Handle. [laughs]

Brian Pagán:  [laughs].

Sherin Wafaai:  And, um, also I just started this platform, uh, Healers and Guides, which is a platform making healing accessible in Egypt as a start but, uh, because people do distance healing so you can also, um, reach out to healers, uh, through that. So my email is Sherin is S-H-E-R-I-N. And I would just love to hear from anyone that wants to help. I mean, I’m like… consider me like a hub [laughs] with, with stuff that people need help with so if anyone wants to help in any way, I’ll find an avenue for you. Um, if you want to help, uh, making healing, alternative healing accessible, you can help me do that. You can write for the blog. You, if you are a content writer and want to help get this message out to kids and parents, you can do that. If you’re a game designer, I’m thinking of creating a game for kids that’s like a super addictive game that will teach you about, you know, will be the underlying story will be to teach you about the perils you can find online, so honestly, just give me love and I’ll like give you love back.

Brian Pagán:  Thank you for your love.

Sherin Wafaai:  Thanks for giving me your love, Brian. [laughs] Thanks for this beautiful exchange. Thanks for giving me space, head space, heart space, hug space.

Brian Pagán:  I always enjoy sharing space with you Sherin. Thank you so much. And you listener, whom were you sharing space with? Leave me a voice message through our website, or get in touch on Twitter and Instagram via @mindfolkpod. Keep choosing love, dear one.

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