After years of persuading women in crisis to share their stories, humanitarian Zainab Salbi turns the lens on herself for her new book, Freedom Is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World.
1. In what ways has your extraordinary humanitarian work pushed you to face your own darkness?
What drove me to my humanitarian work was my anger at all the injustices women are facing. Eventually, I realized that if I continued to be driven by anger, I was risking becoming what I was fighting against and risking committing injustice against men.
2. How can we overcome the shackles of shame and secrets to share our authentic story?
We each have two choices: Either keep our secrets of shame—and with that our imprisonment to that story—or take a leap of faith, own the story, tell it, and own our own liberation. The latter may sound scarier, but it will be your route to freedom.
3. What can we learn about ourselves when we embrace our shadow?
In owning our shadow, we become more compassionate, loving, and forgiving of our vulnerabilities, insecurities, and fears. That, in turn, helps us to become more compassionate toward others.
4. How do you engage with people who appear to be opposed to your own truth?
Both sides need to lower their walls of defenses to truly see and hear each other for a path forward. To do that, don’t use labels to describe the other side—they are often offensive. Acknowledge their points, even if you don’t agree with them, to show you are listening. Reveal your own struggle on the issue, even if it’s minor, as a show of vulnerability. And most of all, be authentic in your intention to find a path forward.
5. In the epilogue of your book, there’s “A Call for the New Human Being.” What’s your ideal vision?
The journey starts with each person assessing where they are living in truth or in lies in their life. When our desire to live in our truth consistently becomes our priority, then our economy, our society, and our systems will adjust accordingly. Achieving self-awareness of our complacency and complicity in the world we are living in is the first step to collectively articulate what new value systems we need to arise. —Alma Tassi