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Letters from Zeynep - Issue #2

Dear friend, As the craziness around the New Year subsided, one thing stuck with me. Jada Pinkett Smi

Letters from Zeynep

January 13 · Issue #2 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dear friend,
As the craziness around the New Year subsided, one thing stuck with me. Jada Pinkett Smith mentioned in her Red Table Talk (a real, raw, powerful show) how she selects thought patterns to work on every year. For example, if she realizes that her self talk has become “Jada, you’re ugly”, she writes down affirmations around how beautiful she is. She sticks to practicing them all year until she feels the harmful pattern has faded.
My first reaction to negative thought patterns is to practice mindfulness. Some aspects of that practice are: Naming: I’m thinking. This is the “xyz” thought pattern. Accepting: I welcome this thought pattern. Non-identification: This is just a thought, it is not me. Investigation: This thought comes from such and such places. Compassion: I take a deep breath and do a gesture of self-love such as putting my hand on heart and whispering “Darling, it’s okay”, or getting a hug from a nearby loving human.
I practice affirmations too. I’m just careful to not violently change my thoughts. It is crucial to pause, allow and love (or neutralize) whatever harmful thought pattern is there first, before we move on to replacing it. For 2019, I followed Jada’s example and selected some affirmations to keep practicing all year long:
  • I acknowledge the fear. I will go ahead and do it anyway.
  • I trust what I have to say. I trust what I have to do.
  • I’m right where I need to be for the work I’m meant to do.
  • I’m extremely capable. I can do everything I set my mind to.
  • I know how to learn. I am loved and supported. I have all that I need in order to succeed.
  • I have all that I need in life. Everything else is nice-to-have. I work hard for the nice-to-have’s.
  • My purpose is to create. Create for the sake of it, create to serve.
  • I create value. Value brings money.
  • I’m beautiful, sexy, attractive just the way I am, with my gray hair and acne.
  • I am understanding, grateful and patient.
If any of these affirmations sound narcissistic or redundant to you, trust me, I say the exact opposites to myself tens of times every day. I allow fear to stop me. I think I won’t make money if I am not self-forgetting. I question if I should make money from the value I create. My reflection in the mirror is all about my acne. I am too focused on what I don’t have… so on and so forth.
I wrote some of these affirmations a long time ago, and that’s okay. It sometimes takes years to change stubborn thought patterns. It’s helpful to put them in multiple places and be reminded frequently. (See the video below for how some appeared in my 2019 inspiration board, for example.)
I hope in 2019 I will believe these affirmations a bit more than before… And I hope my list will inspire yours! If it does, please share with me which affirmations you’ll be working on. I’d love to know.

Presenting some highlights from my 2019 inspiration board to two close friends.
What I've been writing
This past year, I have been writing on and off about marriage. Mostly to keep sane in the months leading up to my marriage. But also with a burning need to be heard, to discuss and to challenge other views. Turns out when I write with so many emotions on a complicated and multi-layered topic, my writing is all over the place, and I simply never finish.
With the intention of pushing myself to finish and to share, I am going to be writing and releasing a personal essay part by part. Here’s the first part. I look at marriage as a social construct, and claim that we forgot it is one.
I will continue next time on the unspoken inequalities around marriage and the importance of examples. Then I will dive into family & friends, the couple and the individual. Stay tuned.
What I've been captivated by
Leadership is about disappointing people at a rate which they can absorb. People don’t resist change; they resist loss. When you help them change their beliefs, habits, loyalties, they will be gaining something and losing something else. If you’re intrigued, read this excerpt on The Adaptive Leadership Framework by Harvard University professors. If you like it, read the book in full, I can’t recommend it enough.
Violent business language. Language is a huge part of wellness. But our business language is full of combat words: attack, take, penetrate are just a few. Researchers found that violent language doesn’t motivate your employees and makes them feel expendable. In this episode of the Rework podcast, Basecamp employees talk about how they practice Non-Violent Communication at work, which is a framework I use everyday on all paths of life.
Leaning In is not enough. These were Michelle Obama’s recent words. Her message hit home for me at a Lean In dinner in Paris last month, where a French woman addressed the other women at the table saying: “We have too many immigrants in France. Refuges, ok. But immigrants, too many. I’m sorry but we’re simply not getting the service we were getting before with our tax money. ” Who were the other women at the table? Five immigrants from Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Benin. Mind you, she knew where we were all from because we had introduced ourselves. She knew we were all working and tax-paying. AND, she was misinformed. Net immigrant population in France has been stable at less than 5% over decades. I came home in shock she spoke such words to such an audience at a Lean In dinner.
Divisive conversations. While Michelle Obama pointed at truth, her words were followed by many divisive conversations and angry attacks on Sheryl Sandberg to the extent of disassociating her from Lean In. I was relieved to read this defense. Sandberg made a significant contribution to gender equality. So many women I know (myself included) benefited from her book 5-6 years ago. Yes, she may need to work more on understanding her privileges (as do we all) but why take her out of the conversation?
Women taking on men’s moral responsibility. When discussing Facebook meddling with US politics and claims on their terrible work culture, a male friend in the tech world said to me “We knew Mark didn’t have the required emotional intelligence, that’s why he paired up with Sheryl, she was supposed to keep him in check.” It seems that Mark’s honesty about having low EQ made him exempt of moral and emotional responsibility, and we expect the woman who works for him to make up for that.
Black girls matter. Please watch the heart wrenching Surviving R Kelly documentary. You will see how a super star was allowed to sexually and emotionally abuse children & women for decades and how he was found not guilty even with so many witnesses. You will shudder when you see a white juror blatantly say “I just didn’t like them… (referring to the black women who testified against R. Kelly) The way they dress, the way they act, I just didn’t believe them and disregarded everything they said.
The burnout generation. In my career of 7 years, I was burnt out 3 times. Petersen claims this is not weird when our days are filled with constant self-optimization: reading more, inbox zero, meditating, exercising, bullet journals and my favorite: “overnight fucking oats”. You will love her essay if you also feel sick to your stomach every time you see a title that starts with “How I achieved X in Y days”.
The storyteller. No matter what your job actually is, it is highly likely that part of your job is storytelling. If so, you will learn a great deal from this essay by the philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin. You will see how we came to value information over experience, why stories are different from news, why stories shouldn’t give psychological analysis and leave room for personal interpretation.
Kilyos'a yürüyüşe gidip çöp yığınlarıyla karşılaşmak
Kilyos'a yürüyüşe gidip çöp yığınlarıyla karşılaşmak
16 liraya çay içtiğim, arkadaşlarımın yurtdışına taşınmasına yardım ettiğim, öğretmen olan teyzemden korkunç sınav soruları dinlediğim, Kilyos'ta çöpler arasında gezdiğim bir hafta boyunca, yakınlarıma en çok Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘den bahsettim. Türlü imkansızlıklar sebebiyle tuvalet temizleyip garsonluk yaptığı yıllardan, kendi şehrindeki bizim gibi umutsuz insanları ev toplantıları ve 5 dolarlık çeklerle nasıl örgütlediğinin, milyon dolarlık kampanya bütçesi olan rakibini nasıl yendiğinin, ve 28 yaşında en genç Temsilciler Meclisi üyesi seçildiğinin hikayesi bana ümit veriyor. Yüksek çıkışları onu marjinalize etmek için kullanılıyor ama kendisi aldığı riskin farkında, ve arkasında binlerce insan var. Ocasio-Cortez yeterli ümit vermezse, bu sene ABD Temsilciler Meclisine seçilen tüm azınlıklara (beyaz, heteroseksüel, zengin, erkek olmayan) bakabilirsiniz. Bozuk bir sisteme karşı yarışan sadece bizler değiliz.
I'd love to hear from you!
I would be happy if you drop me a line on what all this made you think or feel, and how I can make this letter better for you next time.
With love and light,
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