27: World Peace Warrior Linda Coussement
Linda Coussement is a corporate business consultant turned world peace warrior. She has made it her mission to make acts of compassion and empathy as normal as brushing our teeth and she does so through portraits, books, programs, and workshops. She’s the creator of the blog, How It Is to Be You & the ebook: The Everyday Guide To World Peace. [Full transcript below]
Links: Linda Coussement
- Website | https://howitistobeyou.com/
- Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/howisittobeyou
- Twitter | https://twitter.com/lindacoussement
- Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/howitistobeyou/
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Welcome to the Lavendaire Lifestyle, the podcast on lifestyle design for millennials. I'm Aileen and I'm here to guide you to become a master artist of life. Every Sunday you'll get new insight and inspiration on how to create your dream life. After the episode, the conversation continues in our Lavendaire Lifestyle Facebook group, so I can't wait to see you there. Life is an art, make it your masterpiece.
Hi everyone. It's Aileen, your host of The Lavendaire Lifestyle. Today we're back with a new guest for the show. Her name is Linda Coussement. Linda is a corporate business consultant turned world peace warrior. She's made it her mission to make acts of compassion and empathy as normal as brushing our teeth, and she does so through portraits, books, programs, and workshops. She's the creator of “How it is to be you”, the website and also the ebook, “The Every Day Guide to World Peace“. You can find more about her at howitistobeyou [dot] com.
Aileen: Hi Linda!
Linda: Hi there!
Aileen: How are you?
Linda: I'm really good.
Aileen: Good, and you're calling from Amsterdam, am I right?
Linda: Yes, you're right.
Aileen: So Linda, I want to hear about your story. You said you used to be a business consultant, and now you're a world peace warrior. Where did that come from? What happened?
Linda: I guess I've gone through a struggle my entire life. Something that I've been writing about and talking about is that I've always felt like I was missing a manual to life. Everyone “got it” except for me, which is rather annoying, because it always felt like I was on the outside looking in.
Aileen: No, I've felt like that.
Linda: Which is obviously not very comfortable. But I figured, “Well, let's just try to be as normal as possible and go through high school and go to university, study business, have the career, have the car and the house and everything.” And at a certain point, I had everything and I realized that I wasn't quite happy, that something didn't feel quite right, that it was something missing in my life, something that was more meaningful even though I wasn't able to express that at that time. And it was also around that time that I started doing yoga and I moved to Amsterdam. And I met a lot of people in the spiritual scene, and it sort of developed from there.
But I've always kept the business consulting and the spiritual part of my life separate. They were two different streams in my life, and at a certain point I just felt like this doesn't make any sense anymore and the business thing isn't making me happy. It doesn't give me the energy that I want to. So I decided to simply rent out my house and pack my car, and go travel through Europe for a year and ask all sorts of people the question: “How is it to be you?” So without a plan or an agenda or anything, just out of curiosity.
Aileen: And what made you come up with that question?
Linda: Well, that goes back to that manual of life. At a certain point, I felt that I might be able to write that. And then half an hour later, I realized: okay, I might not be the perfect person to write it because I'm just one person in seven billion. But I could figure out how it is to be someone else. How people experience life, how they experience emotions, what they struggle with. And that's where the question came from.
Aileen: So you wanted to collect experiences, the human experience.
Linda: Yeah, that, and I really wanted to consciously connect with other people, without any judgment or really going beyond my judgment.
Aileen: Okay, and go on. After you started asking people this question, what happened?
Linda: Well, I was doing that and I was traveling throughout Europe, living in Berlin and Budapest and all sorts of really great places. And it was around that time where the Paris attacks happened. There was the winter of 2015 where I realized that even though it was great, what I was doing, I felt it needed to be bigger, still. And that dream or ambition around world peace, that was something that I really needed to pursue. I realize that world peace was something that I wanted to actively work on, and that's when I decided to write the “Everyday Guide to World Peace”, which was really difficult…
Linda: I mean how…where do you even start thinking of how to get to world peace? On the one hand, the problem was how to get there, how to voice it in a way that makes sense to people, that it is something relatable and something that people might want to get behind. And on the other hand, there was this very personal struggle and insecurity of me being just me, or at least that's how it felt. I'm just a Dutch girl. I haven't studied anything in that area. I hadn't worked for any NGO. I haven't experienced war or trauma or anything, so it felt, yeah, out of place in tackling this topic. So I had to overcome that first, as well.
Aileen: Yeah, I mean, once you wrote it–can you tell us a little about what's in it?
Linda: Yeah, of course. Even though world peace sounds giant (and it is), I really doubt that we'll ever get there, or at least in our generation. But the point is, is that it starts with us, that we can experience peace within ourselves, within our lives in the relationships that we have with people close to us, with the cashier in the supermarket, with people driving a bus. We experience peace there, and if we live happy lives, it will become easier to let that happen as overflow and spread, and that we can inspire other people to be happy and peaceful too.
Aileen: I agree.
Linda: So that's basically the foundation, and the question “How is it to be you?” is also from the mental, because I really think that asking yourself this question, “How is it to be me?” on a regular basis, will give you insights in yourself that you might otherwise not get. And asking this question to other people will help you understand people better, and it will help you realize that you're not the only one that feels that way every now and then. I've experienced that it's amazing that everybody's just as human as I am, as everybody is, and it really helped me value our unique differences instead of fearing them or judging them. And that's how, I think, we can actually get to peace.
Aileen: Yeah. Can you give some examples of answers that people would say to how it is to be you? I'm just curious.
Linda: It's very broad. Some people immediately go “Yes, it's great to be me because I love my family. I love that I'm able to take care of my family, and that I have friends that I can talk to.” They're very content with who they are. And then there's a friend of mine, I asked her this question. She's one of the first people I asked, and she said, “Well, it's really not that great to be me at all, but that's not what people want to hear. So yeah, in general, it is okay.” And she really wanted to move into this positive version of herself, whereas that wasn't the truth.
So it really differs and–but all in all, the conversations I have on this question are incredibly in-depth and insightful and rather vulnerable as well. There are many people who struggle with insecurities and fears and not being able to make the most out of life, and yeah, apparently that's something that we all do.
Aileen: Yeah, I agree. I think if we all could sit down at a table–if you sit down at a table with someone with completely different views from you, I think if you can talk it out and share your experiences, at the end of the day you could still be friends. Everyone can still connect on a human level. You know?
Aileen: That's what I believe. If you truly share your authentic self and your struggles, whatever you're going through, anyone can relate.
Linda: Yeah, definitely. But it's also very scary. It's incredibly scary to be vulnerable because it could very well be that, even though you try to be open and go beyond your own judgments, that other people might judge you and hurt you still.
Aileen: Yeah, exactly.
Linda: So there's this weird disconnect, that we're all looking for this human connection that's so open and so raw and so vulnerable and so meaningful, and yet we're afraid of it as well.
Aileen: I mean, we're afraid because we're afraid to get hurt, because when you open up your heart, there's a possibility to get hurt.
Linda: Yeah, definitely.
Aileen: But it doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it.
Linda: No; my motto–or it's not my motto, but something I say a lot–is that I, at least, or myself will not let the things that scare me stop me.
Linda: So in my business, I blog and I try to blog about very open and personal things, though I don't always succeed. But I want to vlog as well, so go on videos. And when I do interviews online, on video, that's perfectly fine because I'm relating to someone else and answering someone's questions. But I've been having so much trouble just getting beyond that camera on my own and let my conscious free flow around a certain topic. It feels too, too close to me. That's an example of the vulnerability that's so hard to show and to share even though this is obviously what I do and what I try to inspire in other people as well.
Aileen: Yeah. I mean, I'm sure you've come far in your journey. In the beginning, you weren't ready to share anything and now you're sharing a lot online so do you have tips for people who want to become more vulnerable and share online?
Linda: For me, it really helped to start with people I trust, and maybe not immediately go online. But have conversations and perhaps take a personal growth-type workshop or two, or three first, so that you learn how to share yourself in front of someone else, in front of a group, and if you experience the joy and the safety and the energy you get from that, how that experience is worth so much more than not doing it. Once you've experienced that, it will become easier and easier, because you know what you got to win. So you focus on what you have to gain from sharing yourself instead of what you have to lose, or what you have to fear. So that's one.
The other thing is to just do it. That's what I did with blogging and it's still hard, and sometimes I still think, “Oh, this might be too much.” Or I get stuck in myself and I can't really share myself which frustrates me to hell. But it's just a matter of trying, and keep going out there.
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Aileen: I love it. So just a recap for our listeners: you first said, “Start with sharing with a small group of people that you trust, or possibly take workshops.” Get your practice because the gains that you get from sharing your vulnerability is so much better than not sharing. Secondly, just do it, which I love.
Linda: Yeah, pretty much. One of the things I'm working on now is developing a peace workshop, and I've done, obviously, a lot of workshops in the business world but also in the personal growth world. And now I'm good in front of a group and that I can facilitate the best of them, but I also know that one of the things that I sometimes do is that I get into this rational mode where I think, “This needs to be done, this needs to be done.” Then it's me in my heels and my pencil skirt just organizing everything, just like I used to do as a business consultant. But in these peace workshops, it's all about vulnerability. That has to be the core of it and I'm designing an entire program, but I already know that that can change immediately if the energy or the group asks for something else, or if something else is necessary to get that vulnerability out there. And that can only happen when I'm as vulnerable as possible, which is, of course, scary.
So what I'm planning now is a test workshop with close friends who I trust and who I know I can share myself with, but of whom I also know that they'll be, not so much critical, but very constructive in their feedback. They're not afraid to tell me like it is, but in a very loving way.
Aileen: That's good.
Linda: That's something that I do and that very much helps me as well, move forward and go deeper into sharing myself with the rest of the world, because I do feel that that's a necessary thing.
Aileen: That's wonderful. I'm curious because, especially today in our culture, the inauguration of the US President just happened. There's all of this stuff that's changing and a lot of tension, a lot of uncertainty. And I want to ask you: what is your best advice for people like us, just normal, regular people? What can we do to be peace warriors? How can we improve the state of things?
Linda: I guess you can go two directions, first of which is what we've seen last weekend (which was amazing): just go out into the street and express your frustrations and your anger in a peaceful way. But, one of the things that I've been wondering, myself, obviously as well, that yes, of course, the systems need to change and the structures need to change. There's the economy and the education system and the political minefield that obviously needs to alter in a way that makes much more sense to everyone. But I've got no clue where to begin. I don't think anyone does, or of course, there's some people who think they do. But it's rather doubtful that they know everything or are able to do everything.
So instead of focusing on those things that you can't really change, and instead of pointing fingers out of frustrations to people who are way out of reach and who are not willing to listen to you, take the responsibility for your own peace and your own happiness into your own life and into your own hands. And start reflecting on yourself, on that which makes you unhappy, what you can do to make yourself happy and joyful and peaceful. And I know that's not always easy, especially when you don't have a job or when you're not living in a country or an area which has an infrastructure that's very supportive.
But especially for us in the West, the lucky ones I guess, we have the luxury to be able to do that. And we have the luxury to change our lives and redirect our lives in such a way that it does bring us happiness, that we don't do what society asks us to do, or that we don’t do what our families have told us to do, but that we can do what we love to do, what makes our eyes shine and what makes our hearts swell up each and every day. Because when that happens, you will instantly inspire other people to do the same and it will be very slowly, but that is the way that we can spread peace around in a more effective and ultimately structural and constructive way.
Aileen: I love it. I think you answered the question perfectly, because peace really starts from within. It starts with yourself. If you want to help create world peace, you have to make sure you have inner peace first. And if you're living a happy, peaceful life, you're going to affect your community around you, which slowly trickles into the rest of society. It's not easy. So if it starts with every individual trickling into their own communities, then eventually we'll be at a better state. I think that's beautiful. It's always good to remember to keep peace and love first, rather than getting all caught up in the conflict and the craziness of what's going on in the world.
Linda: Yeah, and also: your happiness should always come first.
Linda: I know how–I mean, my heart goes out to anyone suffering. I mean, I can't…if I think about that too much, or if I open myself up to that too much, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed at all.
Aileen: Wow, yeah.
Linda: Because I want to be able to help everyone, and I can't. I just don't have the space within myself to do so. I really have to learn that my happiness comes first, because only when I feel happy in myself, when I feel good in my life, when I'm strong and healthy and I have my own clarity, that's when I can actually help. That's something that a lot of people–especially women–tend to forget. We tend to help other people first. But it's like, you know, in an airplane: when the oxygen masks come down, you first have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can put it on to your child or whoever sits next to you. That's really how this peace thing works as well
Aileen: Yeah, I agree completely. You have to help yourself before you can help others. And I agree: your own happiness is first.
Linda: Yeah, yeah.
Aileen: Okay, I have a couple last questions and they're short ones. I'm curious, do you have a current favorite book or resource, whether it's a podcast or blog that you love?
Linda: I am a giant fan of Ash Ambirge. She runs TheMiddleFingerProject [dot] org, and she's really all about sales and marketing and building business for online entrepreneurs, but she does it in a way that is so authentic and so real and so human that her blogs are just a joy to read because she's so open. And she really hits the spots between humanity or being human, and being a business-woman or -man as well. It's incredible. She's one of the most authentic people out there that I've discovered so far, on the internet.
Aileen: Great, I'm going to ask you for that link and I'll post the link to her page in the blog post of this podcast. Awesome, then do you have a favorite quote?
Linda: I think the first one that springs to mind is used a lot, but it remains a good one. Plus: I'm a big fan of Star Wars, so that would be: “Do or do not. There is no try.” from Yoda.
Aileen: Okay, nice, nice. Alright, lastly: where can our listeners find you online?
Linda: As you said in the beginning, I'm on howitistobeyou [dot] com. I have a Facebook page that is of the same name. Just search “how it is to be you” on Facebook. I'm on Twitter as well, under the name “Linda Coussement”, which I'm sure you'll link to later. And I also do Instagram under the name “howitistobeyou”
Alright, thank you so much, Linda. It was such a pleasure to speak with you and I hope everyone out there enjoyed this as much as I did. Everyone go out and be a peace warrior.
Linda: Definitely. Thank you for having me.
Alright, that's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for listening to The Lavendaire Lifestyle. If you like the podcast, please show your support by leaving a review on iTunes. It helps me so much. It also helps other people find the show. You can also catch me on YouTube and Instagram at @lavendaire, where I have even more content for the Artist of Life.
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