Fayruz Benyousef’s first taste of adversity started when she was eight. Born in Tripoli, Libya, she moved to the US with her parents so they could attend graduate school when her father was diagnosed with leukemia. Living in a foreign country, facing complicated emotions surrounding her father’s illness, and trying to fit in among her peers, Fayruz internalized a message: do not stand out or be remarkable.
During the February 9 Freelance Austin meeting, Fayruz shared a different message, one that has evolved over the last 40+ years of her life: tap into your superpowers and showcase your special attributes to experience a life you dream of.
Fayruz – who owns a consulting business that advises international, national, and local nonprofits – arrived at this new philosophy after life threw additional challenges into her path, and she began to embrace her uniqueness, rather than hide it.
Fayruz’s Transformative Journey Back to Libya – and Herself
After years of working for nonprofit organizations, Fayruz changed course in 2010 while serving as CEO of an Austin non-governmental organization (NGO).
As Fayruz explained, “2010 was the year of the Arab Spring,” a time of anti-government protests and tumult across many Arab nations, including Libya. With most of her family still in Libya, including her only living grandparent, Fayruz’s concern grew to panic when Libya’s Internet usage “went black,” and it became difficult to communicate with family. “We received dire messages from family that they didn’t know what would happen,” she said.
When Fayruz’s in-laws returned from a humanitarian project in Tunisia, they shared the horror they had seen there: children were losing limbs due to land mines, people were receiving sub-par healthcare and being terrorized, and women were subjected to violence and rape.
Fayruz’s family acted swiftly, incorporating a non-profit to provide emotional, mental, and physical healthcare support and establishing a team comprising medical experts, a former Navy SEAL, and an explosives expert.
“We went to Libya, and it was a wildly successful project,” Fayruz said. Despite the success, as chief translator, Fayruz listened to “horrific stories” and suffered her own post-traumatic stress disorder.
Follow Your Calling – and Something Amazing Could Happen
Leaving a secure job to go to a country rife with upheaval for six weeks with no work to come back to was not an easy decision, but Fayruz says she felt “called,” saying to herself, “This is your family, you have to go, you will figure it out.”
And then – something amazing happened.
“Just before leaving for Libya, a former client reached out to me,” Fayruz said, for help setting up a new non-profit entity. Explaining to the client she was about to go abroad for six weeks and would not be able to focus on work until she returned, they agreed to work with her remotely while she was in Libya.
Fayruz’s good fortune continued. Another client hired her for some contract work, too, before she left the country.
While she had always dreamed of having her own business, Fayruz fretted about her abilities and wondered, “Why would someone hire me?” But her new clients provided the impetus to take a leap, and she told herself, “I am starting out with these two clients. Let’s see how it goes.”
Now – her company, Benyousef Consulting, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. No one is more surprised than Fayruz herself: “I cannot believe the journey, and I am proud that I took fear and excitement and turned it into something” successful. She also acknowledges the challenges: “There was whole lot I didn’t know, but I figured it out and am still figuring out.”
Turn Challenges into Superpowers
Fayruz experienced more crisis when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, after already surviving a blood cancer when she was younger. Her diagnosis led her down another path of self-discovery. Before, Fayruz had what she describes as a limiting “fear-based outlook.”
It was through the journey of cancer that led Fayruz to finally embrace her uniqueness.
As part of her recovery, Fayruz’s husband suggested she look at Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle exercise, which encourages people to define the following four categories for themselves to find work with passion:
- My Purpose
- My Values
- My Work Philosophy
- My Leadership Style
The exercise helped her see, she explains, “Being me was good. I didn’t need to pretend to be someone else.” Fayruz now sees obstacles in a more positive light. “Cancer fueled me to keep on keeping on. Your challenges and your ability to overcome them are your superpowers,” she said.
A cornerstone of Fayruz’s life now is self-love, self-care, acceptance, and the belief that loving herself is not selfish – in fact, she said, it is “necessary to thrive and be happy.”
To start or recalibrate our own remarkable journeys, she recommends asking ourselves the following questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I love about ME?
- What fuels ME?
- What places in my life can I practice this mindset?
Learning to embrace and love ourselves for exactly who we are may be a lifelong journey, but it is well worth the effort – and it’s never too late to start.
Learn more about Fayruz.
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