The meaning and weight of the word “home” evolved last year. Home became not only where we live, but our workplace, our sanctuary, and hopefully, our safety in a world that felt unstable. For Najwa Zebian, moving to a new country at the age of 16, she felt unstable and adrift in an unfamiliar place. Home was something she learned to build within herself.
You’ve heard from Najwa on the Goal Digger Podcast before, way back in 2017 when the show was just beginning. Now, as we approach the 500th episode of Goal Digger, I feel so honored for the opportunity to speak with Najwa again. She’s here to explore the personal transformation that comes with building a home within yourself. This is a conversation about deep self-acceptance and exploration, and through that journey, healing.
Najwa was born and raised in Lebanon as the youngest of six children. When her family moved to Canada, it was the beginning of her constant search for a sense of belonging and home. She didn’t have the words for it as a child, but she explained that now Najwa realizes that she was constantly defining herself through what other people saw and it didn’t give her a true sense of who she really was.
She shared, “I didn’t know who I was, which meant I didn’t know what my value was, which meant I accepted whatever people gave me, which unfortunately in hindsight turned out to be scraps of love, scraps of attention, scraps of prioritizing me.”
Najwa started to feel like she was stepping into her true place and purpose when she became a teacher, and part of that experience was helping children who arrived in Canada from war torn countries. She saw herself in those students and she wanted to help them realize that they belonged there; it wasn’t something they had to fight for. Inspired by those students and that experience, Najwa started writing and released a collection of writings. It was self-published, but to this day it is her best-selling piece of work.
Now, she’s written a fourth book called Welcome Home. She explained, “It’s all about building a home within yourself. It’s because that whole journey, including writing my three books, was a journey of coming home to myself and it took me that many years to realize that the biggest mistake I had made throughout my life was building my home around other people, as opposed to building that home within myself.”
The Road to Home
Building a home within yourself, and getting to that place, can be a lifelong journey. The first step is gaining an honest understanding of where you’re starting.
Najwa explained, “The road to home begins with you being honest with yourself about where you are now. Just like when I walk into a classroom and I want to teach my students a concept, I don’t just start teaching them based on where I think they are. I do an assessment and I figure out where each one of them is.”
The assessment often begins with asking yourself difficult questions. “Are you living in someone else’s home? Have you spent your whole life defining yourself through other people’s eyes? Ask yourself these questions and figure out what is the most painful thing that stops you from leaving those situations, from breaking that pattern?” she paused and then continued, “What is it for most of us is I don’t believe I’m worthy.”
Najwa walks through the process of finding that road to home in this episode. Press play to hear her beautiful, encouraging advice to begin the process for yourself.
Shallow and Deep Self-Acceptance
Najwa and I discussed self-acceptance as a key part of building a home within yourself, and she shared that there are two distinctly different forms of self-acceptance — shallow and deep.
“The reason a person might be struggling with self-acceptance is that they are trying to get to that point of shallow self-acceptance, which would be accepting the image or the version of yourself that you believe you need to be and that it doesn’t stem from you. The image of who you believe you need to be is usually ingrained within you from others,” Najwa explained.
Seeking that type of self-acceptance doesn’t give us what we’re really looking for, she said, “It feels more like self betrayal than it is self-acceptance because you’re going in the opposite direction. Instead of going within, you’re going without, you’re going outwards.”
Deep self-acceptance begins where you are, not after you’ve created a version of yourself according to outside opinion or influence. She explained, “Deep self-acceptance means that you sit down with yourself and really ask yourself, who am I authentically on the inside? Deep self-acceptance isn’t about creating a version of yourself and then saying, I accept this, this self of mine. It’s about accepting yourself now. Accepting and accepting without pride.”
There’s more to this concept, so I encourage you to press play and listen to the full exploration of deep self-acceptance led by Najwa Zebian.
More from Najwa
Najwa Zebian’s new book Welcome Home is out now. Pick it up at your favorite small bookstore and begin the journey of building a home within yourself.