Today it’s 40 years ago my father passed away. I felt relieved.

Relief intertwined with grief and emptiness; a void of a parent’s love, but also the departure of a troubled figure. It was a complex mix of emotions I felt as I walked out of the chapel after having identified his body.

Carrying a plastic bag the funeral officer had handed me containing my father’s clothes and personal belongings, I walked down the street alone. I had just turned 16.

At the funeral, I carried the coffin to the grave as a strong daughter does. Emotions were numbed and I returned to school and resumed my life, already accustomed to living independently. Weakness was not a part of my identity.

This experience, along with similar events that preceded or followed, became formative moments preparing me for a career succeeding in conquering male-dominated spaces and thriving in crisis zones around the world. I was fiercely independent. Unbreakable. I could bottle up anything life threw my way.

Until I couldn’t.

Over ten years, I embarked on a profound journey of transformation. Intensive soul-searching, peeling back layers of adapted behaviors, embracing vulnerability, finding strength in moments of surrender instead of controlling. Unlimited number of retreats, trainings, educations, therapy sessions, spiritual experiences, psychedelic explorations and more, I emerged on the other side, stronger than ever.

Today, a prevailing belief persists in many fields, including humanitarians, social entrepreneurs, and particularly among women, that self-sacrifice in service of a cause and neglecting our own needs is regarded as a badge of honor.

It’s not. It’s a badge of lack.

Lack of self-respect. Lack of ability to set up healthy boundaries. Lack of self-compassion without which true compassion towards others cannot exist. Lack of ability to live life instead of going through life.

Let’s change the badge.

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