Hi Sadaf, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My story begins in early 2020 when I moved to San Francisco with the hopes of joining one of the many mental health startups rising in Silicon Valley. A few weeks after I settled in, COVID-19 hit the Bay Area and everything changed. Offices started to close and the city became quiet as people moved out. I watched everyone around me struggle to adjust to a new WFH lifestyle and being an Enneagram Type 2 (“The Helper”), I wanted to do my part in helping people cope with the uncertainty of our new future. As you can imagine, dealing with uncertainty is a topic that already comes up a lot in therapy — add in a global pandemic to the mix and the conversations become even more difficult.
I started by offering free virtual workshops on topics that I knew my friends and family were struggling with — things like emotional eating (as kitchen tables turned into work desks), insomnia (the 24/7 news cycle was intense), relationships (feeling disconnected from others) and self-care (not just the candles-and-bath kind). One workshop led to another and I began to receive requests from people all over the world for more resources (from New Zealand to the UK). Interestingly enough, the majority of the people that reached out to me were ambitious young professionals who were so used to being on the go that they didn’t know how to slow down and just *be* during when lockdown started. My brand, Being, was initially created as a response to this need. Because all of my work was happening remotely, I made the decision to leave the Bay Area and head somewhere a little warmer — I’m currently in Los Angeles and loving it.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Once I decided that I wanted to create mental health content, I began to brainstorm ways that I could share knowledge and reach more people at once. I started by creating a professional Instagram page and a personal website. That was challenging because it was the first time I really tapped into my creative side. I designed my own website and logo, picked brand colors, and tried to curate content that was thought-provoking enough to help people become more self-aware. Then, I started to convert it into digital products for people to utilize in the form of workbooks, self-care planners, meditations, and wellness kits, most of which can be downloaded for free on my website. Taking the lead on the business side of things was also new to me as I kicked off my private practice. I think back to some of the “how to’s” that I Googled in the past few months and can’t believe how much I’ve learned: “How to create a website,” “How to create an LLC,” “How to create invoices,” and the list goes on! While all of these things were a learning experience, the most challenging aspect for me was working individually. In my previous roles, I collaborated closely with a group of colleagues or in teams where I was able to bounce ideas freely. Learning to trust my own intuition has been a powerful experience but I would love to eventually expand the brand in hopes of adding more value and diversity.
We’ve been impressed with Being, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Being is a mental health brand that I created to explore our emotions through the lens of science. My goal is to use evidence-based methods to help explain why we think, feel, and behave in certain ways so that we can take better care of our being. I see a lot of tips and tools out there that may appear “fluffy” on the outside but are actually backed by scholars, psychologists, or other researchers — I want to make sure that people understand the validity behind messages like living in the present, the power of slowing down and taking care of yourself from the inside out. My graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in Mental Health Counseling emphasized wellness through a public health approach so I learned to always use current research to support my work. I’m a cognitive-behavioral therapist by training, but I like to think of myself more as a mindfulness mentor. I believe that people can improve their wellbeing by focusing on personal growth and development through a better understanding of their emotions.
Through Being, I have a private practice (currently virtual) where I provide individual and group sessions as well as design wellness workshops for organizations on topics such as work-life balance and using emotions to make logical decisions. I encourage my clients to be authentic and vulnerable so they can truly grow — whether that means better understanding their inner child, exploring their identity or finally having that difficult conversation about how their fear impacts them. My passion for this field stems from my own experience of being raised in a South Asian culture where I witnessed many people in my community ignore their mental health and further contribute to the stigma around help-seeking. Because of this, I’m passionate about increasing accessibility to mental health services, especially among BIPOC communities as they’re more likely to experience psychological distress. In an effort to normalize the experiences all human beings go through, it was important to me to create content to raise awareness and provide psychoeducation through my Instagram page (@your.being).
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
I love this question. My biggest supporters have been my close circle of family and friends who were patient with me as I sent them ideas in the middle of the night or looked at a million versions of my logo (only for me to go back to the first one I sketched out). Some of my friends were even willing to sit through unofficial “strategy sessions” where I talked through my goals and the learning curve I was experiencing. Maybe it’s because I consider myself to be an extrovert, but I really thrive off being able to share my ideas and dreams with people who care enough to listen — and I never want to take them for granted!