Omar Sherif: Mindful self-induglence

Welcome to the second post in a series of blogs about health and wellbeing.

This post follows on from my interview with Tayla Hunter about empowerment through fitness – which has had a fantastic response.

I’m shifting my focus from physical fitness with Tayla to mental wellbeing with Omar Sherif,  an aspiring entrepreneur and business development specialist, who has recently set up a podcast called Mindful Self Indulgence. 

The podcast provides a beautiful insight into social behaviour and mental health in today’s world. It covers topics from cognitive psychology to mindful chats with guests. Not only are the subjects fascinating, I find the podcasts soothing to listen to, especially when I’m feeling frazzled. The gentle background music and Omar’s voice are so relaxing.

I was excited to hear how this podcast came to be and discover a little more about the creator behind it. I hope you enjoy it too.

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Omar’s podcast began as what he describes as a personal learning project. It all stemmed from opening up about his own mental health on Facebook.

I would sometimes write a status and then delete it, this time I chose not to. Once I posted the status; the support and interactions just blew my mind.

I think many of us can relate to the feeling of wanting to open up  about our suffering but fearing judgement or shame. What if they think I’m weak? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m just feeling sorry for myself? I’ve been there and I’m sure you have too.

Like many of us, Omar has suffered at the hands of anxiety and depression. Fortunately, he has been able to control some of his anxious feelings to become a happier and calmer person. For Omar, this meant understanding the why behind these anxious thoughts and challenging them. This process is something he wants to share with others through the podcast.

There is still so much work left to do in normalising the chat about mental health. About men being able to talk about their mental health. I decided that I want to be a part of this journey.

In the last year, I’ve noticed a lot of young men suffering tragically with mental health and the stigma surrounding it. In 2018, 784 suicides were registered in Scotland and an astounding 74% of those were committed by men. There has to be a link between these troubling statistics and the lack of safe spaces for men to actually talk about mental health.

I wondered if Omar could offer some insight into why the men around us seem to be suffering so deeply in silence.

Anyone who has been told their whole life that they need to bare strength no matter what. That they have responsibility that will bare them down but have to carry on and has had to watch or see their parent figures do the same will find themselves facing a problem when mental health issues arise.

In an effort to open up that stigmatised conversation, Omar embarked on his podcast journey with the intention of creating an ‘audio hug’ (inspired by one of his favourite podcasters, Blind Boy from the Rubber Bandits).

The aim is to bring the listener out of their world and into a hug-like audio bubble where they can relax or even meditate.

What about that title? Mindful Self Indulgence. I wondered if in today’s world self-care has become an indulgence or a luxury? When I asked Omar about this, he explained that the burden of poor mental health can make self-care feel like an indulgence or a luxury for many people in this fast paced world. We both agreed that this attitude needs to change and mental self-care should be given the same priority as physical self-care.

If you don’t take care of your self, your health will deteriorate until you develop an illness.

Omar’s podcast is just one tool among many which could be used to combat a fear of self-care. By looking at human psychology, Omar hopes that listeners can better understand why they behave or react in a certain way and, ultimately, start to unpack the stressors and triggers in their life.

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As I mentioned, Omar is a business development specialist so he has plans to use the podcast as a platform to discuss mental health in business. I was curious about how this would play a part in the wider discussion he’s having.

Business is where human beings interact with each other and place their passion more than any other aspect of their lives. Our employees, employers, directors, managers, customers, share holders, etc. have a huge impact on our mental health.

So what does Omar see as the solution to poor mental health in the workplace?

Many successful businesses (mainly ones with a modern management outlook) are looking more and more at what motivates us to be efficient. How to set out their business model so that they can get the most out of their employees through passion and personal commitment rather than compliance. […] If we do not learn how to tackle our mental health issues in work (this includes being a student or learning something that has to do with your career) we will end up creating and facing more problems and issues than need be.

I’m excited to see how Omar’s podcast is going to evolve with time and which avenues it is going to go down. The most recent episode I listened to looked at the psychology of colour and the cognitive impact colour can have on us. It’s a fascinating discussion and provided a much-needed audio hug for me during a tumultuous time.

Visit Mindful Self Indulgence here


Omar’s advice

  • I am a big fan of self-help and self-therapy. This may not be what works for everyone but it was a huge help for me
  • I recommend people look at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and speak to mental health professionals about other self therapy techniques
  • I would love to advise meditation as the benefits of it are unbelievable but again, different things work for different people
  • The one thing that is a constant across everyone is that we need to be kinder to ourselves. We need to understand that we base so much of our self worth on perceptions and assumptions and man-made concepts that are sold to us as being the essence of our lives. They are not!
  • When you go to sleep at night, don’t ask yourself if you have made tomorrow easier, don’t ask yourself if you fixed what you broke, ask your self if you are happy. If you are generally at peace there and then with everything as it is, as it has turned out to be and as it continues
  • Aim to find your peace here, right now, right this second as you are reading this

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How to be a Badass and Win at Life

I’m really excited to welcome another guest blogger to The Fourth Month. Karishma has written an insightful how-to guide to boosting your self-confidence with inspiration from scholars to Queen Bey. Follow these top tips if you’re needing a boost during the dark wintery nights and the assessment period at University.

There is a TONNE of material out there that highlights the importance of self-confidence in helping you achieve your dreams and I have read, watched and listened to most of them…Yep, I was once plagued with a lack of self-love, fear of failure, inability to speak to more than one person at a time and general anxiety where my brain repelled every positive thought like it was poison.

OMG, he stared at me for a whole two seconds. Is something wrong with me? This will haunt me for three years!

I think I want to change my style up a bit and try out some new clothes. But wait, I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be cool… 

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Sound familiar? Even if these aren’t your particular fears, you can probably relate to the feeling of being so unsure of yourself that you’re terrified to even try. Take a minute and think about how CONFIDENT you are in yourself? Now rate yourself between one (lowest) and ten (highest). Before you do this, you might ask:  what is confidence anyway? Why is it so important? Does being confident result in success? If so, can I become more confident and how?

Time for a little psychology lesson. There are a wealth of different theories out there but we’re going to use Albert Bandura’s (1977) definition of the term “self-efficacy” which despite the distinction he made can be interchangeable with the term “self-confidence” and describes “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” Let me put it this way, if you had an opportunity to perform with your favourite artist on stage, would you take it because you believe that you can handle it? Or would you refuse because you’re too scared that you might end up making a fool of yourself? If your confidence rating is under five, then it’s safe to say you would probably pass up this awesome opportunity. But fret not if you have a low rating because you can improve all the way up to a ten!

One of the mistakes I made during my journey to a more confident individual was confusing self-esteem with self-confidence. A lot of sources tend to use these terms interchangeably but self-esteem reflects your personal worth – it is a judgment and attitude toward oneself. How inherently valuable do you think you are? Do you think you deserve happiness? Do you think you deserve forgiveness? Do you like yourself? Self-confidence, on the other hand, is based on ACTION and related to external accomplishments. You can have a low sense of self-esteem but be highly confident or vice-versa.

For example, if you’ve always been a popular individual – straight A student, smokin’ hot and told by everyone that you could definitely be the next Taylor Swift – then this could result in self-belief fueled by approval which you tragically become addicted to. Now, you may have achieved self-confidence but because you seek external validation you have low self-esteem.

On the other hand, you can read all the fluffy Tumblr quotes about loving yourself as you are and make Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” your anthem song but it won’t help much with self-confidence unless you strive to actually achieve something concrete. Ideally, you need both self-confidence and self-esteem to be high so you can live the best quality of life possible. But, self-esteem is a deep and complex topic that I shall leave for another day.

So why should you bother with the effort to become more confident? Because confident people are attractive, interesting, more likely to be successful and generally more fulfilled individuals! Self-confidence is POWERFUL and leads to EXTRAORDINARY living.

It doesn’t have to be a temporary feeling provided by alcohol or other substances. It can be grounded in reality. It is a skill for you to achieve.

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Below, are the eight practical steps you can try (short and long term) that work for me in building and boosting self-confidence.

  1. LIVE FOR YOUR EULOGY, NOT YOUR RESUME

    Figure out who you are and then set goals that align with your strengths, personality, and interests. WRITE them down and stick it in a place where it is the first thing you see every morning and work on it every day or as often as possible.

  1. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD

    This is a bit of outside-inside thinking. I feel better about myself when I eat well and workout. People who put effort into their physical appearance seem like they’re well prepared and ready to conquer the day! Looking confident on the outside makes you feel more confident on the inside.

  1. THE WONDER WO(MAN) PLUS THE MIRROR TECHNIQUE

    I encourage you all to go and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on “Fake it Till You Make it” – it will change your life. She is a social psychologist who talks about how “power posing” – standing in certain postures regardless of how you feel before it can increase testosterone levels, making you more confident and even affecting your chances of success. Every morning, adopt the wonder wo(man) power pose: stand with feet apart, hands on your hips, and chin tilted upward, look deeply into your own beautiful eyes and say positive things to yourself for few minutes. Be it empowering lyrics, feminist slogans, or just plain old self-affirmation that “I can do this”.

  1. TO FAKE IT OR NOT TO FAKE IT?

    It depends on the situation. As a nurse or a doctor working in an emergency setting, faking confidence in your job will probably result in a patient’s death. It’s obviously better in certain situations to realise your limitations and ask for help. But, say you’re a teacher who needs to give a presentation on a subject you’re knowledgeable about but lack confidence in public speaking, then go ahead and pretend you’re Martin Luther King Jr. all you want.

  1. ADOPT A GROWTH MINDSET

    Your mindset determines your belief about your own abilities. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, identifies that people can have either a “fixed mindset” – belief that one’s ability is stagnant and cannot improve, or a “growth mindset”- belief that ability of any kind is not fixed but rather subject to change and growth. You can become your ideal self: smarter, faster, or even to be able to play the recorder with your nose. What type of mindset do you have?

  1. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

    Confidence, I’ve learned, is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. You need to cross that bridge of discomfort because the only way out is through. Repeat as often as you can whatever it is that you’re scared of attempting – be it dating, swimming, or talking to strangers – until you’re comfortable with it. In the famous words of Beyonce:

I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.

  1. COMFORT ZONE CHALLENGES

    Your psychological response to a situation also affects your confidence. Despite mastering the necessary skill – say now you can play the recorder with your nose and want to do a little street performance- you find that you become increasingly nervous or are constantly worrying about what other people think. Comfort zone challenges are one way to minimise fear and maximise courage. It is a contemporary form of exposure therapy and is also where the popular “Lay down on the street for 30 seconds” challenge originates from.

  1. CUT OFF NEGATIVE PEOPLE

    According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, you are the average of the five people you most spend time with. Do you respect the friends you surround yourself with? Do they inspire you? Even if they don’t necessarily bring you down, if they don’t contribute to your growth as an individual, let them go. Instead, develop a community of like-minded people – ones that encourage you by example to aim high.


What do you guys think? What kind of fears are holding you back and what will you do about it? Do you have any suggestions to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s discuss! Tweet Karishma @karishma_roy and follow her blog This Curious Girl.