Along the way with Shohreh Davoodi, Founder of Shohreh Davoodi Coaching
This week, as part of my Along the Way Interview Series, I’m talking to Shohreh Davoodi. As the founder of Shohreh Davoodi Coaching, she empowers women with wellness coaching that defies “diet culture”.
She’s sharing with us what it takes to leave a career behind for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
The Along the Way Interview Series features kick-ass women who are putting their heart and soul into achieving their dreams. Rather than talking to those who have already “made it,” this series focuses on learning from those who are right next to us in the daily hustle.
If you want to follow Shohreh, you can find her here:
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Without further ado, let’s chat with Shohreh about how she pursues her vision.
How did you decide to stop practicing law, and start Shohreh Davoodi Coaching instead?
I never planned to start my own business. When you take the LSAT, spend three challenging years in law school, and stress out for an entire summer while studying for and taking the bar exam, you assume you'll be practicing law for the long haul. Unfortunately, I just didn't find the work fulfilling enough to make the long hours and difficult personalities worthwhile.
I had made up my mind to leave the law before I ever had any idea what I wanted to do next. There was a pretty scary period of time where I felt lost and like I would never find the right career for me. I was researching a ton, having conversations with my husband and therapist about it constantly, and really trying to tap into what I wanted out of a job. I eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted to start my own business so I would have more freedom to mold my future.
At that point, I had been strength training regularly for six years and was the go-to person among my friends for questions about exercise and nutrition. I had also seen almost every woman I know struggle with body image, and that broke my heart. I thought that maybe I could develop my business around those areas and help women really step into their power through improving their wellness and beliefs about their bodies.
So I got my initial personal training certification while still working at my law firm and started to read everything I could about running a solo business. I left my law firm at the end of December 2016, and with that, Shohreh Davoodi Coaching was born. It took a full year of trial and error from the business's inception to really hammer out my message, goals, and coaching philosophy, but I have so much clarity now in coaching intuitive eating, joyful movement, and body image resilience.
You talk about how we, as women, are always trying to fit into this mold of what a “perfect woman” is. How do you stop caring about these societal expectations?
As a recovering perfectionist, I know how damaging it can be to strive to be "perfect" all the time. I think step number one is that we have to accept that the perfect woman doesn't exist. She's a fabrication of the media and marketing companies to make us buy stuff. If we believe that "perfect" skin, or a "perfect" body, or a "perfect" home life are the markers of our value as women, we will spend our lives trying to attain those status symbols at the cost of other things (time, money, energy, relationships with other women, etc.). It's a genius marketing strategy. If you make women think they need something that is unattainable, you'll have a customer base for life.
I think the next step is to do the (admittedly hard) work of figuring out what things you are doing because you think you should or have to do those things, and what things you're doing because you actually want to and they're in alignment with your values. It's important to do this with all parts of our lives from time to time, from our beauty routines to our wardrobe choices to our careers and the division of household labor. We are all products of our socialization, and it can be difficult to unpack our limiting beliefs about our lives. If you need help with this, I highly recommend finding a therapist or coach to assist you in this work.
Lastly, I have found that one of the best things we as women can do to get out of the comparison trap and come into our own is to focus less on how we look and more on how we feel. We are taught from an early age that our worth stems from how closely we can conform to certain standards of beauty, but the reality is that we have inherent worthiness. We have value just by virtue of being alive and human, regardless of what we look like. Shifting our main focus from what our bodies look like to what our bodies can do is a powerful thing. It reminds us that the things that matter most in life have nothing to do with whether or not we have six-pack abs or long and lovely lashes, but instead are related to our character and our contributions.
And even if you do all of the above, there will still be days where you have to confront the societal expectations you're trying to move past, leaving you feeling less than. And that's perfectly okay and valid! But I try to remind myself that life is short. Do I want to spend it miserable and playing by somebody else's rules in a game I don't even like? Or do I want to shine in all my glittery rainbow unicornness and create my own damn game? I think you know the answer.
What are your biggest challenges? What are your biggest rewards?
My business is just over a year old, so my biggest challenges in this stage are (1) money and (2) not having assistance. I reinvested everything I made last year (and then some) back into my business, and while I'm glad I did that, it means that money has been tight. Thankfully growth has been steady and things are starting to look up on the cash flow front, but I certainly look forward to being on a more solid financial footing in the future.
Further, as a solo entrepreneur, right now I do everything. I am my own content creator, editor in chief, social media manager, bookkeeper, videographer, graphic designer, financial advisor, PR firm, marketing agency, and more. I work a whole lot of hours, and wearing so many hats and trying to seamlessly switch between them isn't easy on the best of days. I look forward to being able to hire my first Virtual Assistant down the road.
Thankfully the rewards of my work far outweigh the challenges. The biggest reward of them all is the impact that I have on the lives of my clients. I'm constantly amazed by their stories and testimonials from their time working with me. I have already had a hand in helping so many women move past their food and body image issues to start living fuller lives, and I've helped a lot of women reconnect their minds to their bodies after years of feeling disconnected. I'm so grateful I get to do this for a living!
Another big reward of running my own business has been getting to be unapologetically me. When I worked as an attorney I constantly felt like it was required of me to act like someone I wasn't. Now I can happily live my life in comfy leggings and tank tops, work by a schedule that suits me, get as many tattoos as I damn well please, and speak my mind on all the issues that are important to me.
What is the last mistake you made? And what did you learn from it?
Because I'm an advocate for Health At Every Size (HAES) and I take a body-positive approach to my coaching, I have begun to do the work to elevate the voices of, listen to, and advocate for those who live in marginalized bodies. In the body-positive space, this is often referred to as "fat allyship." I like to approach these important topics with my community, so earlier this year I sent out a newsletter to my list broaching the topic of fatphobia. I received an email from a reader who had lived experiences with fatphobia who was hurt by the way I approached the topic.
While it was not my intent to offend, the impact was what mattered, and I screwed up. I so appreciated my reader calling me out for it and having a civil discussion with me about it so that I would know better and be more careful the next time. Since then I have continued to further educate myself on issues of fat activism and body politics by following even more leaders in those realms on social media, reading their books, and even taking a webinar course on how to be a better fat ally. The nature of allyship of any kind is that you WILL screw up. Probably a lot. I've learned that you absolutely have to stay open to critique from those who you are trying to support so you learn how to do better. And instead of burying your head in the sand when you get called out, you need to first apologize, then actually DO better the next time.
Being an entrepreneur can feel like a 24/7 hustle. How do you relax and rejuvenate?
Since the majority of my clients and business are online, I do tend to spend a lot of time sitting, so movement really helps rejuvenate me. I strength train, practice (and occasionally perform on) trapeze, take my dog for walks, and do active adventures with my husband like hiking, indoor rock climbing, and kayaking. I also find that TV can be a nice way to get absorbed in something other than my work for a little while. Some of my favorite shows on TV right now are Jane The Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Good Place, and all types of HBO insanity (Game of Thrones, Westworld, etc.).