EP: 136 Free To Be: The Journey To Reclaiming Your Soul With Shirin Etessam

BWW 136 | Free To Be

Here’s a quick personal update. It’s official. I have a kindergartener and a middle schooler. It’s interesting being a mom of kids that are 6 ½ years apart and seeing their different transitions. Just like other moms know, you get a handle on one season and think, “I’ve got this” and then another season comes. And we’re in one of those new seasons in our household. If you are in one of these new seasons, whether it’s with parenting, at work or personally, have compassion and grace with yourself. That’s what I’m planning to do this summer as I navigate tween conversations. Walk up and down the aisles of Target to buy all the school supplies, and cry as my little one goes off to the big school.

Thinking about transitions, have you ever had one of those moments in your life where you get to where you thought you wanted to be and said, “Is this it?” I’m successful, I’ve reached my goals, now what? Why am I not happy? And what do I need to do to get happy?

My guest, Shirin Etessam, and I are going to talk about that uncomfortable realization when we realize we have followed our parents’ or society’s programming. And hit the gold stars but realized we weren’t happy and need to reclaim our souls and who we are. It’s a topic that I don’t think we talk about enough.

During my chat with Shirin, we discussed:

  1. What led Shirin to write her book, Free to Be: A Six-Week Guide to Reclaiming Your Soul.
  2. What soul work means and why we need it.
  3. What spiritual bypassing is and is not.
  4. How Shirin identified the categories for reclaiming your soul and breaking them up into six weeks.
  5. What info-xication is, and how does it fuel our feelings of disillusionment and discontent? How does it impact our productivity?
  6. What a spiritual coma is and how to avoid one.
  7. How spiritual work relates to your professional life.

Listen to the podcast here

Free To Be: The Journey To Reclaiming Your Soul With Shirin Etessam

I’m so glad you are here. How are you doing out there? Let’s start with a quick personal update. It’s official. I have a kindergartner and a middle schooler. It’s interesting being a mom of kids that are six and a half years apart and seeing so many different transitions. Like other moms, I know you get this handle on one season and you are thinking, “I have got this. I am awesome,” and then another season comes. We are in one of those new seasons in our household with both girls. I have two daughters. If you are in one of those new seasons, whether it’s with parenting at work or personally, I’m going to welcome you and challenge you to have compassion and grace with yourself.

That is exactly what I am planning to do as I navigate these tween conversations, walk up and down the aisles of Target to buy all the school supplies, and honestly cry a little before my little one, Olivia, goes off to the “big school.” Thinking about transitions, have you ever had one of those moments in your life or at work where you get to where you thought you wanted to be and said to yourself, “Is this it? I‘m successful. I have reached my goals. Now, what? Why am I not happy? What do I need to do to get happy once again?”

My guest, Shirin Etessam, and I are going to talk about that uncomfortable realization when we see that we have followed our parents, our friends, our colleagues, and society’s programming and then hit all those gold stars but we realize we are not happy. We need to reclaim our souls and who we are. It’s a topic that I don’t think we talk about enough.

During my chat with Shirin, we discussed what led her to write her book, Free to Be: A SixWeek Guide to Reclaiming Your Soul, what soul work means and why we need it, what spiritual bypassing is and is not, and Shirin corrected me, which I appreciated because I had a different thought of what spiritual bypassing was. How Shirin identified the categories for reclaiming your soul and breaking them up into six weeks, what toxicity of information is, how it fuels our feelings of disillusionment and discontent, how it also impacts our productivity, and what a spiritual coma is and how to avoid one because this is a departure from some of our content at the show.

I asked Shirin. We are tying it all in. We talked about how spiritual work relates to your professional life. We want to know that. Here is more about Shirin and her background. Shirin Etessam is an entrepreneur, seasoned media executive, and transformational speaker. She has produced films, original television series, and specials, created several companies, and led campaigns for some of the world’s most recognized companies. Some of those companies include BBC, CBS, Discovery, BBC, Facebook, Apple, Intel, and many more.

As a proud member of the LBGTQIA+ community, Shirin founded OML TV, a popular platform dedicated to streaming and cultcurating quality female queer video content, and OML Originals, a femaleled production company telling diverse female stories through a vast spectrum of film and television genres. Shirin is also a regular contributor to Rolling Stone and Forbes. Shirin guides seekers in her six-week program, Free to Be, to disconnect their human “being from their human “doing to find true and lasting fulfillment. She lives in California with her wife and two children.

Before we get started, if you are enjoying the show, as I always share, please make sure to leave a rating and review in Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you have already left a rating and review, I thank you so much. I’m giving you that virtual hug and high-five out there. Your support of the show means the world to me. It gives me that little boost to keep on creating great content for you. Thank you. Before we get started, I wanted to announce I still have 1 to 2 spots available for one-on-one leadership and career coaching with women.

If you are a working woman and would like help with professional confidence, asking for what you want, and negotiating pay and benefits that feel in line with what you are contributing to your company, then overall, let’s get you to the next level in your career. You can jump on over to my website BraveWomanAtWork.com, to see if coaching is a fit for you. My promise to you is it’s a 30-minute free discovery call. No pressure. If it doesn’t work, that’s great. If it works, that’s awesome. I want to make sure you get the help and the resources that you need. Let’s welcome Shirin to the show.

BWW 136 | Free To Be

Shirin, welcome to the show. How are you?

I am well. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

I’m glad that we got connected. We are going to talk about your book, which I’m excited about but before we do that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background story and how you have gotten to where you are?

It’s a little bit of personal with professional mixed in. I was born in Iran and I came to the States when I was nine. I’m quite Americanized by now. I grew up in West Coast, California, and Washington State. I went to school for film. I majored in Film and minored in Broadcasting. I spent a couple of decades refining my expertise. I made a couple of features and executive produced some TV series. Right around 2008, I started going more online and creating digital content and then moved to the agency world, which has been great, fun, and all of that.

I went through a major breakup at the end of 2013 that sent me on a deep soul-searching journey. After about six years, I felt good, whole, and right at my ship. I realized that others could benefit from the process that I had gone through. I also realized what I learned in those six years. I figured out that there was a process to be had and then wrote a book about it, which is coming out.

How did you do that? You went through six years. I appreciate your vulnerability because often if we have a crisis, a breakup, or a huge life change at least in the US since I don’t know in other cultures, it feels like we are pushed to move on quickly and that it’s not going to be that big of a journey. You took six years, and I’m not minimizing that. That was a long time. I don’t want to steal from the book we are going to talk about but how did you do that, 6 years into 6 weeks? Can you explain how you packed all that into your process?

Thank you for saying that about breakups or life events that are traumatic, especially in the West. We are pushed to get on with it, whether it’s a divorce or a loss. You look at any other country. In Iran where I’m from, there are 40 days of mourning. Sometimes it’s a little over the top but you pretty much don’t do anything but mourn. It doesn’t stop there in those first 40 days if you have had a loss of a loved one. There are other things that happen also with divorce and such.

In this society, and I don’t know why, friends and family may give you a little bit of time but that’s how you supposedly show your strength, “She’s let go and moved on,” but the truth of it is if we don’t sit in our despair or our grief, it comes along with us. We end up gifting it in all sorts of weird ways. We may be on with it but we haven’t truly healed from it. I see that all the time. I realized fairly early on that it wasn’t a matter of a broken heart. It was bad because of the loss of my relationship and also my family as we knew it. We have two small kids who were 5 and 7 at the time. They are now 15 and 17.

I realized that everything was broken. It was confusing for me because I didn’t understand. It wasn’t like I was down and out. It wasn’t like I was I had all the worldly goods that we want. We strive for houses, cars, positions, companies, community, finances, and all of that. They shouldn’t have been affected but they were. I felt empty inside regardless of what I had acquired. That confused me. I’m like, “Why?”

That question propelled me into the soul-searching that I did. I didn’t want to be asked. I’m like, “This is it. First of all, I don’t want this to be how my story ends.” I’m sitting there broken and trying to put on mask after mask to hide what I’m going through. I wanted to know, and I knew that there was something far greater beyond everything I felt. I always say I do the best work on my knees. Rumi says, “The wound is where the light enters.” I truly believe that. I was torn open and I was like, “Let’s do this.”

I call myself a half-assed spiritualist. There’s a lot of spiritual window shopping like going to retreats when it’s convenient, wearing Tibetan jewelry, and om-ing and namaste-ing but not diving in. I realized also very early on that spiritual awareness is truly an off-on switch. You can continue to turn it off and on but you will not get lasting benefits if you continue doing that. I stopped being a half-assed spiritualist and dove in without knowing what I was doing. I call it bobbing for spiritual apples.

Spiritual awareness is truly an off-on switch. You can continue to turn it off and on, but you truly will not get lasting benefits if you continue doing that. Share on X

I bobbed for a long time. I did go to a lot of talks with therapists, weekend workshops, weeklong workshops, silent retreats, sitting with monks, reading book after book, and having deep conversations. I was also amazed that some of the friends that I thought would be there for me fell into the category of, “Pick your chin up,” silver lining, or the toxic positivity, which we can talk about later on, which I so didn’t need, especially in the early days. There were other friends who came up out of the blue and were so there for me and friends that I wasn’t expecting.

In the early days, I truly had no idea what I was doing. My motto was #BetterThanThis. The thought was that if the next minute, hour, day, week, or month was better than the last, that was an improvement. There were tiny steps and a few missteps along the way. I explored. I would like to say that it was awe-inspiring but there were so many times when I was doubled over on the floor or in the corner of my room talking with a friend for three hours. It was not pretty.

The process was sometimes dark and scary. I mentioned that in the book. There needs to be some expectation setting or resetting because when people think about spirituality, and I don’t even like that term, or when they think of anything spiritual, I can sit on my soapbox a little bit later on and talk about redefining spirituality, it often gets confused with the woo-woo or religion. What I share in the book is practical spiritual wellness or spiritual health.

It’s interesting to me because if you want a new diet as in eating well, feel that you might be having some mental issues, or work out your body, you go to the gym or a therapist. We research the best diets and try them but then when it comes to “spirituality,” it’s like spaghetti at a wall, “Did it stick? Let’s try that.” There’s no method that people use. Some do but most like spirituality when there’s time as I did.

People think that it’s about om-ing, sitting on the mountaintop, going into an ashram, or something. Everybody is wavy gravy. You feel good all the time and all of that. That is not the case. At least mine was the very sloppy version. It is for people. I also had a lot of major a-ha moments, which I share in the book. It’s truly meaningful deep work that I didn’t even know that I was ready for but I was like, “Here it is.” I did it all while single parenting and running the companies, the campaigns, and all of that. I call it my magical mystery tour.

The book is called Free to Be: A Six-Week Guide to Reclaiming Your Soul. It’s coming out here soon. One thing I like about what you said is in the book or the preface, you referenced it as soul work. You have talked about spiritual work. I don’t know if it’s the same. You will have to tell me. One thing I like about what you said is that you are normalizing or you are attempting to normalize this. Going back to our culture in the US, I don’t know about other places in the world. We are not taught as kids when you have to grieve or when you have such a big wound in your soul, your spirit, and your emotions.

Let’s take it more practical. You let go from a job. It’s a grieving process. We are not taught to go into soul work. We are not taught to do spiritual work in any way, shape, or form. One thing that I’m getting interested in is somatic healing and somatics as a study, which is the idea that the body keeps the score. When we don’t go through this work, it almost feels like we are covering up a layer of hurt over and over with all these band-aids. It doesn’t work when it doesn’t work. I appreciate you normalizing the idea of soul work.

Thank you for saying that. I have so many thoughts about that. First, you are correct that we are doing our children a disservice by not teaching them and establishing or ingraining a spiritual practice, whether in school or outside. We also don’t teach emotional intelligence in schools. That is a mistake as well. There are some Eastern European countries that have begun doing so like Finland and benefiting from it. We don’t do that.

I was watching a documentary on a megachurch. There’s a lot of confusion. “Spirituality” gets confused, or at least the way it has been used gets mixed or confused with either religion or all things woo-woo. Truly, it’s neither. You ask whether soul work and spiritual wellness are the same things. They go hand in hand. The way I describe the soul and what I believe our soul is our true essence or our inner core. You could call it spirit, universal energy, Buddha, Allah, or whatever you want to call it. It is what connects all of us universally.

Truthfully, the work is the dance between the soul and spirit. The soul is uniquely ours. Nobody has what we have or our soul makeup, which is amazing. It’s our unique star. What happens at a very early age is this. This is not just me talking. There are major studies behind what they call disassociation. Somewhere between age 0 and 5 or age 0 and 7, for whatever reason and to whatever degree, we disassociate from this true essence or our soul. It could be because we don’t feel worthy enough or we don’t feel safe.

We realize that how we have been doing life and the cues that we have been receiving from our core are not necessarily what works in the world. Instead of taking our cue from our true essence, we start taking our cue from the outside world. You could see it in babies and toddlers. They don’t have to put on the joie de vivre. They are beaming with it.

We disassociate and slowly start taking our cues from the outside rather than relying on our core essence to guide us. There’s another layer and another layer. We are taught to play by the rules and get grades so we can get degrees, get jobs, and climb the corporate ladder. All of that messaging is from the outside. We act accordingly and get to the place where I was. Suddenly, all that added up doesn’t mean crap because you are hollow inside.

Truthfully, the soul work that I talk about is the excavating of the schmutz that we have acquired since we disassociated. I can talk about it when I talk about the book because I deliberately structured it the way I did so that we do the excavating and clearing of our canvas so that we can get in touch and reclaim our soul that’s always there. It’s waiting now. Once we have connected and reclaimed, it’s what we do with it and how we begin working from that space again.

Let’s go there. You identified these categories in the book for reclaiming your soul. You say, “I believe it’s always been there.” When you are reclaiming your soul, you are saying, “I‘m here. I recognize you soul.” It’s always been there. It’s not like it goes away and comes back. It’s always been there patiently waiting. I want people to buy the book if this touches them. I want you to go out and buy the book, read the eBook, or listen to it because this is so important.

A sidebar here is that you might be wondering, “How does this work? How does this impact me at work?” We talk about being a brave woman at work. You take your soul with you everywhere. This is critical for being the utmost professional. It may not be traditional. You don’t learn it in grad school, college, or anything like that but it’s important.

I had this conversation because I’m also beginning to give talks at companies, retreats, and such about the book. What I find interesting is that it’s become very clear, especially with the Great Resignation that positions and salaries are not enough to keep people there. When we put ourselves out there to see if we are going to take on a position, there’s often the talk about cultural fit.

One of the ways that we could reframe our approach to that isn’t, “Is this company culture what I want? Do I feel like I belong there?” More so is, “Is there a culture of openness in this in this company so that when I enter with my values, which may be somewhat different from other people’s values though I’m sure that they will be the common core, I can affect the culture, lift the culture, and make it better?” It becomes a matter of personal accountability rather than looking at the company. That becomes powerful. I know we side-barred.

No problem because it is all important. Let’s go back to the book. Can you help me with how you identified the categories for reclaiming your soul? We still haven’t gotten to this. I do want to touch on it so we don’t forget. You may have been like, “God ordained me to do this work.” You went through this for six years, and now you broke it up into six weeks. I still want you to comment on that because people might be like, “Can you heal or reclaim your soul in six weeks?” Let’s address that too. The first part is the categories within the book, and then the next piece is the six weeks.

I want to make it also clear that I do not mean that you do these six weeks, you put the book away, and you are good. Hopefully, you will be good but that does not mean that the work ends there. If you are truly going to practice spiritual wellness, the Buddhist call anyone practicing Buddhism practitioner, and there’s a reason for that. I’m not particularly Buddhist but I believe that you practice the same way you go to a gym, see a therapist, or follow a certain diet and such that it becomes a practice for you, whatever that practice looks like.

You practice spiritual wellness the same way you go to a gym, see a therapist, or follow a certain diet. It becomes a practice for you, whatever that practice looks like. Share on X

It was also important for me in writing the book to make sure that it is very practical not just because I want spiritual wellness to be practiced in the here and now but also so that it’s easily integrated into a busy mom’s life, into a busy executive’s life, or into a busy mama who happens to have an executive’s life. The book is in two halves. It’s 21 days and 21 days, 6 weeks overall. It’s 3 weeks and 3 weeks. The reason I did that was that there are some studies that show that you can make or break a habit within 21 days. It’s not as cookie-cutter as that but that’s a good time range.

I wrote the first half of the book to begin working through habits because we are creatures of habit that no longer work for us. The second is establishing good habits that do. The very first week is called brain detox. Remember, the first half of the book is all about creating that clearing. Think of it as excavating. I start with the brain because our minds are the biggest culprits.

There are multiple studies on the fact that we have something like 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. Up to 80% of those are negative, and up to 95% are repetitive. We have mostly negative thoughts that repeat in our heads, and then we end up consuming content all day long. The majority of that tends to be negative too. You can see what our mind does. There truly is no break for the mind. The only time there’s a break is when we sleep. Frankly, so many of us wake up in the middle of the night. What happens? The very first thing is the mind goes crazy with all the to-do lists, all the things you haven’t done, what you said in 2017 that you should have said better, or whatever that is.

The mind is going to do what the mind does. We can’t stop thinking. There’s no way to stop our minds from thinking. What we can do is choose what we allow in and what we shut out. If it is content that we are consuming, I talk a good deal about that. I talk about content overload, which is called infoxication. Infoxication is truly a state of having consumed so much content that you can’t think clearly. I would argue that a lot of us can’t think clearly anymore because we are moving at warp speed. There’s the content that we consume but then there are also our minds.

I talk also a good deal about being able to create a separation between our thinking and ourselves, which is the definition of awareness or consciousness. It’s the ability to step outside of our thoughts so we have the realization. By realization, I mean the realization one has when we learned balance when riding a bike or the realization that we are not our thoughts and that we have thoughts. Thoughts do not have us. Frankly, in my process, that was one of the biggest a-ha moments.

The quickest way to that is meditation but not everybody is a meditator. I have other ways of getting to that place. Every chapter or every week also has daily exercises. I have something called the daily purge, which I can share quickly. It’s six minutes of purging or vomiting any negative thoughts you may have about yourself and others. You could do so by doodling, writing, or shouting it out. I often shout, sing, and dance it out, whatever works to let go of whatever is circling around.

Think of it as it those 60,000 thoughts, the negativity, and the repetitiveness. Instead of it cycling, you spew it out, how that spewing looks like to you. You could do it for up to ten minutes. After that, it gets a little tedious. That act alone is so liberating. It sounds silly but that’s another important thing to point out. I deliberately made the book so that it is experiential and immersive. It’s the difference between having thoughts about skydiving and skydiving. There’s a difference there. It’s thinking about mountain climbing and mountain climbing. There are a lot of oh-shits and a-ha moments when that happens.

There are a lot of oh-shits when you skydive. I have never done it but I‘m sure there would be. The first half you talked about is very much about the brain, the purge, and letting go of some of the toxicity. What is the other half of the book about? I don’t want to steal the thunder but I want to hear from you on that.

Here are the two other parts of it. I will go through it quickly. Week two is dedicated to our hearts. When we think about our hearts, it’s often vis-a-vis a relationship. This is truly about taking care of one’s heart and protecting it. By protection, I mean not everybody is your people. It’s finding the courage to figure out who belongs in your life and to what degree. I have a system for doing that, which I could talk about later, which is called Taser, Shield, Filter, or Hug. You put everybody through that.

Not everybody is your person. Find the courage to figure out who belongs in your life and to what degree. Share on X

It’s also a matter of not tasking the heart with the wrong thing because we often confuse the heart and the soul. Truthfully, they often call it your inner child. I call it our inner puppy. The heart truly wants to be loved, cared for, seen, and acknowledge. That is it. It’s also very persnickety. It’s finicky and fussy. It wants one thing in one hour. It wants ice cream in one hour. It wants to take a nap and all of that, which is all great. We should feel all the feels, which I talk about extensively but don’t ask it to do what the soul should be doing. That’s that.

Week three is all about the body and shifting our relationship with our body as our only vessel through this life. That’s important because we tend to do two things with our bodies. We either ignore it, or we are abusive to it. We are ignoring it by overworking it, overstressing it, not sleeping enough, not eating right, not exercising enough, or being abusive in that we wouldn’t talk to our friends the way we talk to our bodies. The reclamation of the soul becomes a byproduct of you doing the work that you are doing.

The second half of the book begins with my very favorite chapter, week four, which is all about play. I’m a huge advocate of play for adults. I could talk about that more extensively later. There are eight different personality types that were defined by a gentleman named Dr. Stuart Brown whom I had the privilege of speaking with. I spent an afternoon with him. He has an amazing TED Talk on play. Look him up and listen to his TED Talk. He identified eight different play personality types. Depending on your personality type, there are all sorts of play activities.

I am the combination of three of those person play personality types, and there are some that do not resonate with me at all. I talk about that. I love playing. I have a few playmates, which may sound funny but I truly do. Week five is the most woo-woo part of the book. It’s defining the soul and spirit and how they dance together and the importance of that. I talk about the tribe of us because when we detox the heart, body, and mind, learn how to treat them well, and then connect with our soul in a quadrinity of sorts, we still need to tap into the universal consciousness. That also becomes a byproduct of the work that we do. It’s in week five that we define that.

Week six is super exciting, especially for those who are creative but for everyone, it’s about rewriting or redesigning your life and your life story based on everything that you have learned. Everything in the book is meant to be very practical. It isn’t a chapter on, “Here you go. You reclaimed your soul. Go for it.” There is some of that but I have a Venn diagram of how you can go about doing it, which is important to me because I read some amazing books but I was so often like, “How do I do it?” I wanted somebody to hold my hand and do it.

You wanted someone to teach you. This is your way of teaching others how to do the work you did. That’s helpful. You were like, “I can’t find it. I‘m going to create the resource for other people.” It’s what it sounds like. We appreciate you doing that. There’s one other thing that is a term in your book. I believe I know what this means but I want to make sure that other folks do as well. It’s called spiritual bypassing.

I’m going to ask if this is a form of spiritual bypass. I was so busy for so long. Before my burnout, I didn’t have time to think, let alone feel or tap into my heart or this soul or spirit work you are talking about. I‘m much more into it now, and I’m happier as a result but for the longest time, I didn’t do that. Is that spiritual bypassing? What does that mean to you?

That’s what most people feel. We are so overworked and overspent. Somebody asked me, “Who’s the book for?” Truthfully, it’s for anyone who feels like they are living a muted life, “There must be more than this. I checked off all the boxes but I feel muted inside.” That’s different from spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing is like, “I’m spiritual. I’m good.” There are different ways of doing it. I mentioned that spiritual wellness or spiritual health is an on-or-off switch. You can switch it off and on but I highly recommend that if you do switch it on, you keep it on and not bypass it.

Frankly, there are people who have been in that world for so long. I also talk about not going into a spiritual coma. You are so in your process that you forget that you live on this planet. This life is neither full of butterflies nor rainbows. It’s challenging. It’s difficult. It’s truthfully how you dance with it all. It’s not by pretending it doesn’t exist. Here are examples of spiritual bypassing.

The one that people talk about the most is toxic positivity. Somebody is coming to you and saying, “I’m heartbroken. I had a loss. I am devastated by such and such.” Your response is, “Look on the brighter side. Here’s the silver lining. You will shrug it up soon enough.” You are minimizing the other person’s pain by thinking that you are being positive and spiritual.

As I talked about before, I had done what I call spiritual window shopping when it’s convenient. It’s picking up a book here and there, going to retreats, visiting an ashram, drinking pressed juices, going to yoga classes, and thinking you are spiritual. All those things are fantastic but they don’t add up to you practicing spiritual wellness unless you have a true practice that you are practicing.

Another one is following a guru blindly. I have to preface this in that I do believe that there are many people in this world and this life that live at a higher level of awareness and consciousness. Those people make excellent teachers but those same people would tell you not to follow them blindly. You see that with the various cults that happen and such. If somebody else is doing your work for you, that should be a huge sign, “Yes to whatever this person is saying.”

Question everything. Question what I’m saying. Look deeper. Figure out what it is that truly works for you. I hope that all parts of my book resonate with people but there might be a part that resonates and other parts that don’t. That’s how I have acquired, structured, and built my spiritual practice. It’s through figuring out what resonates with me. Others should do the same. I name other ways of spiritual bypassing but those are the few that come to mind.

Do not follow people blindly. Look deeper. Figure out what it is that truly works for you. Share on X

Thank you for sharing the differences between them with me. There’s a spiritual coma. We can take this one step further and close the gap here. Does that mean when you aren’t living in reality? Is that what that means for you when you are not awake?

The scary thing about that is those in a spiritual coma often think that they are awake. You could go on a weeklong retreat or a month-long retreat. You could live in that ashram for six months or whatever works for you but truthfully, I believe the work of the work is done in the here and now. It’s when you are doing the dishes, vacuuming, dropping off the kids, sitting on a boring conference call, or whatever it is. It has to be integrated with the here and now. If we are removing ourselves from life’s challenges and especially what we are responsible for to go spiritual somewhere else, that’s great for the time that you are doing it but your life is still in the here and now and needs to be in the here and now.

That makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s go back to play because I wanted to hear about this. You light up. I wish people could see your face. I do talk about personality typing and things like that. I don’t know if you covered that in your book because you said you are a mix of three. Is this a whole different personality typing assessment in regard to play?

Do you want me to go through some of the play characters?

I want people to know. They might be like, “I want to learn how to be a better player. How do I find my play personality?” If you can tell us where we can get that information, that would be awesome.

In my book. I don’t own it. Dr. Stuart Brown created it. You could look it up. I do suggest watching his TED Talk. He’s such a sweet man. In the play personality types, I am a mix of three. I had to feel it out. The first one is Creative. In my entire life, I have been creating. I’m a content creator of sorts at different levels but that was an easy one. That could be anything from writing to spoken word to painting to dance or whatever it is that fires you up. It doesn’t mean that you have to be good at it. It could be a sloppy painting, doodling, or whatever feels creative.

The other one is the Joker. I love to joke around. I don’t like to punk people. There are certain things I don’t like to do but I love jesting, playing with people that way, making things lighthearted, and telling jokes and such. The other one is the Explorer. I love traveling and discovering new things, whether it’s discovering a new area or going to an art gallery, which feeds both my Creative as well as exploration or travel.

I love traveling. It’s a form of play for me but the Explorer could be immediate. When we are talking about playing, you don’t have to go anywhere else. It could be cartwheels in your backyard. I love swinging. There’s a huge swing where I live. I don’t know who put it up there but it’s on a big tree branch. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. You feel like you are flying into the bay. I can’t get enough of it. My friends and I will go to a playground and get on a seesaw.

It’s interesting to me because I do believe that it will happen. Once we normalize the idea of adult play, I don’t think that will seem so weird. If you saw somebody walking down the street and talking to themselves years ago, you would be like, “That’s a crazy person.” It has become so normal for somebody to be in a car talking to themselves or walking down the street. You assume that it’s Bluetooth. Once there is the basis or the mainstreaming of the concept of play, then it won’t look so weird to have two adults laughing their butts off on a seesaw.

I wanted to add that the reason I think play is needed is that we don’t do it. Our idea of play is going out and meeting friends at a bar or a restaurant, which leads to alcohol consumption, which I’m not foo-foo-ing but that could also have its repercussions. What do we end up talking about, work or relationships? Where’s the play in that?

There’s not a lot. The eight of them that I read are called the Collector, the Competitor, the Creator/Artist, the Director, the Explorer, which I know is one of yours, the Joker, which you had mentioned as well, people that like to move like athletes and the Storyteller.

There is nothing in the Director that speaks play to me. All day long, I’m managing, coordinating, and all of that. The last thing I want to do is do that as play. That’s the important thing to get. Does it bring you joy? Does it set your soul free? Does it make you feel like you are in your flow? If it feels like you are doing it for a reason or because you feel like you are tasked to do so, that’s not playing. Playing is playing purposefully or intentionally without purpose and intention.

Here’s one other question on play before we move on. They have famous people they were giving examples of. With the Collector, they were giving Jay Leno. He’s a comedian but he has an amazing, famous car collection. In terms of the Creator, they were giving Michelangelo. That was his job. His calling was to be a famous creator. Do you think that your play personality directly feeds into your work? Can they be separate?

I frankly don’t know how anything that I mentioned can be separate. Truthfully, you are all in. Even when I am very serious, that doesn’t mean that my play personalities are gone, or I don’t want to play. It’s just not the time for it. My point is that when we start living from the inside out, get back in touch with our true essence in the reclamation, and live from that place, it’s all in. Musicians talk about it. They say that they are in their flow. Once we become reconnected with our souls, we are constantly in that flow. I don’t mean that you don’t have bad days and such but it’s very much knowing balance. You can’t unknow it once you know it. It’s immediate.

BWW 136 | Free To Be
Free To Be: When we start living from the inside out, get back in touch with our true essence, and become reconnected with our souls, we’re constantly in that flow.

I might be open to this in the future because we did not have time to cover a whole other section of what you dangled out there. I‘m like, “I would like to talk about this but maybe next time.” You talked about the different relationship strategies like the shield and some of the people that you have to be careful of as you are doing this work. We won’t have time but I can call on you or your people. Maybe you can come on again, and we can talk about some of the other things that you mentioned.

As you probably can tell, I like deep and long conversations. When I go on TV interviews, it’s hard for me because I know that I’m supposed to speak in sound bites. I’m like, “I want to tell a story here.”

There will be a part two. I don’t know when but you will hear from Shirin again on some of the other things we talked about because I don’t like loose ends. I want to make sure people get the full picture. They would enjoy a second conversation.

I can come back monthly if you would like. No problem.

Thank you. For wrapping up this session, I ask all of my guests this. I would love to hear your thought on it too. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?

The number one thing that comes to mind is having the courage to show up exactly as you are. Many things are virtual but I remember stepping into my work building and talking to myself, “Shirin, pull it together. Go in there.” Now, if I was to do that, I would say, “Come as you are.” I also would say it’s realizing that we as women tend to step in our way. Shush that monkey mind and do it anyway. There’s no imposter syndrome. All the stuff that is so specific to women starts in our minds, repeats, and gets louder. Shush it up, have it go to the back of the bus, and do your thing.

Do it anyway. I like that one. Action leads to more action, everyone. Don’t stay stuck because that’s not going to help you. Where can women find you? Let’s repeat the book. It’s Free to Be: A Six-Week Guide to Reclaiming Your Soul. Where are they going to be to find the book, you, and your work online?

BWW 136 | Free To Be
Free to Be: A Six-Week Guide to Reclaiming Your Soul by Shirin Etessam

The book is available on various platforms. The most common ones are Amazon and Barnes & Noble but they are in a few others. Also, look at your independent bookstores because I’m pushing my distributor. It’s distributed by Simon & Schuster. They have a pretty decent reach but I am pushing them to be in as many independent bookstores as possible.

Online, anything associated with me as an author is on ShirinEtessam.com. My social is also @ShirinEtessam on Instagram and TikTok. My website is ShirinEtessam.com. I love hearing from people. If you have a question or a thought, please DM me or reach out through the website. I do get back to people personally. I hope that I can continue doing that. It might not be immediate but I do it.

That’s wonderful. I will reach out to you so we can schedule part two of our conversation. I love the passion you bring to this. I thank you for turning what could have been a private struggle and a period of transition in your life into a guide for other people that Im sure including me can learn from. Thank you for creating this work.

Thank you for the conversation.

That does it for my chat with Shirin. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up, reclaim your soul, and be brave.

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BWW 136 | Free To BeShirin Etessam is an entrepreneur, seasoned media executive, and transformational speaker. She has produced films, original television series and specials, created several companies, and led campaigns for some of the world’s most recognized companies (ABC, CBS, Discovery, BBC, Facebook, Apple, Intel, Virgin, and many more). A proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Shirin founded OML TV, a popular platform dedicated to streaming and curating quality, queer female, video content and OML Originals, a female led production company telling diverse female stories through a vast spectrum of film and television genres. Shirin is also a regular contributor to Rolling Stone and Forbes.

Today, Shirin guides seekers in her six-week program, Free to Be, to disconnect their human “being” from their human “doing” to find true and lasting fulfillment. She lives in Marin County, California, with her wife and two children.

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