How Suzanne Overcame Career Anxiety And Became a Yoga Teacher
When Suzanne and I met, we were both enrolled in Marie Forleo’s b-school, back in 2015. I remember a post in...
When Suzanne and I met, we were both enrolled in Marie Forleo’s b-school, back in 2015. I remember a post in the group asking if any b-schoolers were located in Belgium, and sure enough, Suzanne and I were! We quickly connected, and have kept on checking in with each other regularly over the years. It’s been wonderful seeing Suzanne grow into the entrepreneur that she is today. Her soft and gentle nature, intelligence, patience are some of the qualities that I appreciate most in her. Spending time with Suzanne feels like a warm Spring day, where everything flows and is easy. Her courage is undeniable, and her wisdom mountain high. Here’s how she did it.
What was your big dream, and what inspired you to go after it?
I’ve always pictured myself in a successful career, ever since I was a little girl. However, at age 30 I still didn’t know what that was going to look like for me. I was full of anxiety about my career path. When I say successful I mean that in a very personal way, not what it may mean or look like to the rest of society…
For me it’s about finding balance between all the areas that matter to me: a creative job that gives me purpose and satisfaction, being in control of my schedule, having a lot of free time for all the activities that I enjoy doing, being financially stable and able to support myself and my loved ones, being able to give back, and having the time to take care of my health.
So being creative, I started countless creative quests: working as an architect, graphic designer, illustrator, furniture designer and maker,… But I could never find the balance or the success that I was looking for. At the time, yoga was the only source of appeasement in my life.
One day, while sitting on my mat waiting for class to start, I was examining my yoga teacher and she seemed so genuinely happy and relaxed and I had a vision of myself like that. Since that day, the idea had sprouted in my head that maybe I could also teach this amazing practice to others. For some reason, it clicked.
What made me take action on that seemingly crazy new idea was my drive for more purpose, and my frustration with my present life. I’m not the type of person that can just complain about my situation and not do something about it. It may take me awhile to realise what’s wrong, and I may complain in the meantime, but when I know, I need to take action. Because the only alternative would be to start blaming myself or others for my own unhappiness. But that just leads to no change and feeling bad about yourself.
What could I lose by trying? I guess it’s my strong desire to thrive, feel aligned and find my purpose eventually led me to go after my dream.
Did you always have this dream?
Yes and no, I always had the dream to be an independent and successful woman, but I never knew what that looked like for me. It was hard unpacking the beliefs and ideas that others had for me, the path that others expected of me. But I gained more clarity by trying out all these different jobs and side-projects.
It’s so easy to think that I wasted years of my life pursuing all these different things but in fact, following all these different paths is what lead me to be where I am today. I needed that clarity. The actual dream of becoming a wellness expert and entrepreneur emerged only a couple of years ago. But the dream of being a boss babe, a strong, fierce independent woman, has always been there.
What was one of the first things you did to get you started?
I was practicing yoga but knew nothing about it. The first thing I did was research yoga schools, programs, locations and duration. Overwhelmed with the amount of choice, I decided to go for something practical. I wanted something that I could do quickly, close to home (to limit the budget of traveling) and that had good reviews. I found a yoga ashram in the Netherlands that had a one-month training in Summer and went for it – even though it seemed expensive to me. Even though it used up all of my holiday days. Even though I thought I wasn’t good enough at yoga to be a yoga teacher…
I had many excuses not to do it: time, finances, my own confidence. It made the goal seem hard or unachievable. But you have to get past the excuses.
So I did, because the voice inside me was telling me to go, and that I would learn and grow and be perfectly imperfect.
When I finally was training at the ashram, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I could not wait to go home and transmit the wisdom I had learned. I felt so inspired, motivated and full of purpose that I couldn’t wait to start teaching.
I started researching again: this time for spaces to teach yoga!
Anytime I do something, I research it, find what I’m looking for, let it macerate in my head and then take action.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in working toward achieving your dream?
A lot of doubt and questions about my worthiness. Am I good enough to be a yoga teacher? Will I have any students? Will they like my classes? Why aren’t they coming back? I’m tired, maybe I can’t do this? I’m still working full-time, maybe I’m not a real entrepreneur or yoga teacher and so on.
It takes a lot of motivation and commitment to keep going when you have all these questions running around in your head, or worse, when they’re being voiced by close ones.
Thankfully, having committed myself to my students, I just couldn’t not show up! That accountability is probably what kept me going at times when I felt like staying on my couch 🙂
I was serving others now, it wasn’t about me anymore. All I can say is that out of all those times when I wanted to stay at home, I never once regretted going out to teach. I always came back grateful and filled with so much appreciation and motivation for what I do. Magic happens when you serve your clients and live on purpose.
What do you wish you would have done differently? What would you warn others about?
Putting less pressure on myself. I’m a high-achiever and a perfectionist. I get very impatient. I want results quickly (who doesn’t these days?!).
I would put a lot of pressure on myself to be further than where I was. I thought that I should be running retreats already, doing more workshops, and be trained in this and that. Basically I want to do it all, not giving myself time to enjoy the moment, the newness, the beginning, the journey of being an entrepreneur.
I would work myself to near exhaustion to be further ahead. That’s not the idea of balance you might think of for a yoga teacher. Ironic isn’t it, that the yoga teacher is burning out? But that was the reality. Thankfully I realised it before it was all too much and I made a mental shift.
I’m now trying to focus on the journey more than the “shoulds” because everything is a process. As time matures wine or cheese, I believe it’s the same with my business. The more experience I get, the better my classes are, which means that more students like them or benefit from them. The bigger my client base is, the easier it becomes to create a workshop or a retreat that will sell out.
It’s all a process, a journey and this, by definition, needs time. It takes time for people to get to know you and trust you and it also takes time for you to evolve, get clear and learn. So don’t rush things. Accept and enjoy the journey.
As I say to my yoga students, you’ll only be a beginner once in your yoga journey, so enjoy it.
Would you say you’ve achieved your big dream yet?
Not entirely but I’m certainly getting closer every day. And I am ok with that.
Because the big dream is also shifting and transforming itself as I grow and get closer. I think my big dream will always be slightly out of my grasp, which is good to keep me thriving but it’s also crucial to notice all that I have accomplished so far. Noticing the distance you’ve traveled is so important because that’s when you realise you’ve probably already reached one or more of your dreams or past versions of it. That’s great and needs to be celebrated. It also builds resilience for the next endeavours.
What do you think helped you achieve it?
Accountability! Having mentors, coaches, building relationships with people going through the same struggles, battles and challenges as I am. Getting support from people that understand and can relate and giving support back. Basically having a community of supporters. This is something you might have to build and create for yourself.
I built a community because I didn’t know any yoga teachers before I embarked on this journey. I had no entrepreneurial friends around me, and certainly no online entrepreneurs. It’s hard to share your ideas and vision with people that just don’t get what you’re talking about. Finding role models, inspiring entrepreneurs, getting a coach or having mentors is so important. Then making your goals public or known to get accountability.
What’s the best advice you have for others who want to follow their big dreams?
Fear will be your biggest frenemy. I say frenemy because fear is good and bad.
Fear lets you know that this dream or project is scary and maybe even risky, but that’s why it’s worth doing. It acts like an indicator of what you should pursue. Fear wants to keep you from going out of your comfort zone but growth and change only happens there. Fear is good because it tells you what will challenge you and make you grow.
Fear becomes negative when you let it rule you and it keeps you stuck, paralysed, dead in the water. So listen to the fear to let it guide you towards the scary project or dream, then tell it to take a back seat because you’ve got it. Take action asap, even small baby steps because getting into action will help to dissipate the fear or it’s held on you. It will create momentum.
It’s important that you’re moving forward no matter how slowly or how small the steps are, as long as you’re not staying stuck in fear. This is a mental game. Fear will come back again and again and you have to create the mindset to keep it in check. I believe you can develop this strength with action because it builds your confidence.
You start believing that you can, in fact, achieve your dream because you’ve already successfully taken steps towards it.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Murielle, you’ve been one of my mentors and I thank you so much for your presence, your words and your work. You’re an inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others.
More about Suzanne – simplysueyoga.com
Suzanne Ibrahim-Fay is a multi-passionate creative soul and a caring yoga teacher with big dreams to change the world into a better, happier and healthier place. She loves eating, travelling and outdoor adventures and is dedicated to fighting climate change.
She decided to transition from a career in architecture to one of a yoga teacher after she fell in love with the practice a few years ago and experienced first-hand the restoration and spiritual powers of yoga. Indeed, yoga helped her to overcome some rough emotional times, get through a chronic illness and overall, find more balance and peace in her life, while getting fitter and happier. Having never felt as good as she did now, she knew that if yoga could transform her life it could transform so many others’ lives too and she wanted to be a part of that.
Suzanne’s favourite quote is:
My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
– Maya Angelou
Suzanne’s big dream for the world is:
I dream of a world where all beings are treated equally. Where women are strong, fierce, playful, and respected. Where all girls can get an education. Where our Mother Earth is preserved and loved for everything she gives us. Where every human being feels loved, free, safe and at peace. I want to help spread love, compassion, fulfilment and health to as many as I can, because I believe that when we’re at peace with ourselves we can create a world that reflects that. I believe that we have to work on ourselves first to be able to serve others from our state of highest being. Only when we’ll find inner peace will the world we live in be at peace too.
If you want more inspiring stories of Big Dreamers, I’ve got great news for you! This story is part of an interview series, you can find all entries here.
Hi, I’m Murielle. I created the online course Soulful Productivity™, a 6-week program to redefine productivity and help you get from overwhelm to flow, and I have a private coaching practice where I help ambitious, multi-passionate creatives and entrepreneurs start, grow & scale businesses, and create their freedom lifestyle. PS: I love Instagram. Let’s connect!