Habiba Jessica Zaman Helps You Become "Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You”
Even at the tender age of five years old, Habiba Jessica Zaman could deeply embody things she couldn’t understand. So it’s perhaps no surprise that she would ulitmiately dedicate her life to working as a counselor with people in hospitals, group homes, abuse shelters and private practice. Now she is sharing her wisdom on a wider playing field with her book "Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You."
In a recent one-on-one interview, Habiba told us about her background as a Bangladeshi-American. “My grandparents are from Bangladesh and my birth mother is Caucasian. I was born here, then I spent six or seven years in Bangladesh with my grandparents, along with all my cousins. There were children constantly running around and playing. My father thought growing up in Bangladesh with my extended family was going to be the best thing for me. I was very much loved. I had a lot of cousins to play with. I came here [to the United States] when I was eight years old and I’ve been here since.
At a very early age, she could feel deep connections to people. “I was the advocate: I was the family advocate, the neighborhood advocate, I would fight injustice – and I was five years old. The difference is, I have the words for it now. What I knew, felt and sensed then; I just have the terminology for it now.”
Her desire to understand people only grew with time, “Feeling so invested in that world, I was always curious as to what made people do what they did. Why do people think and behave and choose what they did? And part of that was from me too: My parents were divorced. I didn’t know my birth mother and I didn’t know why. I wondered why I didn’t have my parents.”
She chose her ultimate career path because she was inspired by her 8th grade school counselor, Mrs. Bunch. “It was a dark moment in my life,” Habiba admitted. “I had never spoken to her, but I had known of her. It was a tiny school in Avery, Texas. I was walking down the hallway and she grabbed my arm. She just paused and looked at me. I was internally freaking out. She took my hair and tucked it behind my ears so she could see my face, she looked into my eyes and she said, ‘Whatever it is won’t matter in five years. None of this will matter. Just hold on for a while longer.’ I was dumbfounded because I had been seen. I had spent so much time trying to be invisible and she just saw through me. Whatever superpower she had, I wanted and that’s what I became.”
Habiba also had very important reasons for choosing to focus on the specialty of trauma. “I’ve had a very difficult time accepting and loving myself for who I am, accepting the existence that I’ve had until now,” she conceded. “I want my readers and clients to have an acceptance of themselves. We spent so much time judging where we’ve been. I refuse to let my clients sit there. One of the lessons I like to follow is: No matter how far down a path we’ve gone down, we can always turn around. We’re not trapped in these images and narratives. The decisions we made back then were a result of who we used to be, but we’re not that now. We can move towards where we want to be.”
After attending Georgia State University for both Undergraduate and Graduate studies in the field of psychology and professional counseling, Habiba participated in many forms of counseling through working in hospitals, group homes, abuse shelters and other private practices. Ultimately, she I took all the knowledge she had gained that were in alignment with her values and started North Star of Georgia Counseling “to be able to provide comprehensive care to my clients as well as to have the flexibility to be the kind of mother I wished to be to my two children.”
Her process is one of “acceptance through awareness.” As she explained, “In acceptance of ourselves, we can learn to love each area that defines us. It will also highlight the areas that we would like to make a shift. These changes can be lasting or seasonal depending on what we are looking for at the moment and also who we are at the moment. Once we are aware of how and what we are looking for, we can start taking small, intentional and active steps to making these ideas into reality.”
In addition to her one-on-one work, Habiba has written seven books and 13 publications in total. But her journey to becoming a writer started in an unexpected way. “I would have never imagined I would be labeled as a published author if anyone had asked, even five years ago,” Habiba acknowledged. “Writing the first book, ‘Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You’ was thrust upon my by a colleague and dear friend Shalon Irving who is the other author of this book.”
Habiba recounted the genesis of the project, “Shalon and I had spoken about the need for growth and knowledge of self in order to achieve any kind of change in our lives and how this understanding may be a common belief, and yet how to achieve it is what eludes all of us. We learned a lot about each other and how we have used our knowledge and experience in my field of mental health and her field of public health, and she was excited and determined to collaborate on specifically what it means know one’s identity and the ‘how to’ of achieving it.
Habiba continued, “She was tenacious in this pursuit as she believed the message we have the capacity to share, should be readily accessible to the masses. She would be in my waiting room in between sessions, or after I would be finished with work, and she convinced everyone in my office that this should be the path to follow. She believed in me, my work and my specific way of teaching, so she did not stop until I acquiesced. This book for me, will always be associated with not just the fun, challenging and intimate process we went through but all the love, faith and belief she had for me as a person.”
The book take readers through a journey to get a more comprehensive understanding of who they are and the factors that have contributed to their current state of being. Habiba explained, “I prefer my writing to be a raw, exposed and vulnerable window into the human condition. I wish to use a very honest and authentic voice, and my hope is that readers will be able to relate to my experiences and realize that they are not alone; others have walked a similar path and have not only survived but thrived. I always incorporate an element of psychological theory to show that it is not merely my opinion but rather also a scientific approach to these stages that we go through.”
The author says that this empowerment memoir “fills the gap left by many ‘self-help books’ and addresses the needs of readers by instilling in the reader a sense of understanding and perception of support based both in evidence-based techniques as well as in real life experiences. Moreover, the format of the book not only tells you what you should do but also includes guidance and suggestions on ‘how.’ Following a therapeutic process, the reader is guided along a path to gain a more comprehensive understanding of who they are and the factors that have contributed to their current state of being. Each section represents a different, yet interconnected, stage along this process that includes the following: a therapeutic or theoretical explanation of the given stage in the process, one or more techniques identified to help reader successfully navigate the process, and at least one vignette that represents a time in the lived experiences of one or both authors which exemplifies either our struggle or successes during our journey.”
Ultimately, Habiba and Shalon (who sadly passed away passed away three weeks after the completion of the manuscript and was not able to see it come to its fruition) hope that readers will relate to their experiences and realize they are not alone. “Others have walked a similar path and have not only survived but thrived,” noted Habiba, “This book and the style in which it is written manages to fill a gap left by many 'self-help books' and address the needs of readers by instilling in the reader a sense of understanding and perception of support based both in evidence-based techniques as well as in real life experiences. Moreover, the format of the book not only tells you what you should do but also includes guidance and suggestions on 'how.' Readers of self-help and personal development books want change, and I am confident that our approach can help them achieve that ever-elusive lasting change.”
To learn more about Hababi Jessica Zaman and get your copy of "Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You” visit her official website.