The Light That Shows Me the Way

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| This is the 414th story of Our Life Logs |


I was born in 1980 in Hackney, Inner London in the UK, as the oldest of four children. My family owned a leather factory which they had run for over 30 years after my uncle emigrated to the UK in the 1940s from Pakistan. My parents followed later, planning to work with him and start a family. Hackney in the ’80s was as impoverished as it was dangerous, and the streets were riddled with violence, gangs, and drugs. I remember one time my brothers and I had to avoid drops of blood splattered on the pavement that followed our path to school.

Leila-baby photo 1980
When I was a baby, 1980.

Although my family were hard-working, an economic crisis hit in the 80s that made the business suffer. Financially struggling, we lived with our extended family to get by. While it was a beautiful Victorian home, my mum, brothers and I were forced to live in one cramped, dingy room. We ate and slept within those four walls, and my mum bathed us children in the sink.

Living in such close quarters brought a lot of tension into the family dynamic and being so poor only made things worse. I unfortunately endured the brunt of the stress through both emotional, and physical abuse from various family members. Sometimes, I’d be asked to help with the business, but it always gave me massive anxiety. I was once asked to count the linings for the leather jackets, and I was terrified that I would make a mistake and get a whack upside the head for it—or worse.

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Growing up, misogyny was prevalent on the streets and in my own home. Around my family, I felt unwanted, like I wasn’t good enough. My parents, especially my dad, had wanted a son, and he couldn’t get over the disappointment of having a daughter instead. I never felt his love, and while my mum loved me, she had a strange way of showing it. She would get violent with me and then follow up with a hug or kiss. I never understood what was going through her head.

It seemed my mum was often annoyed with us, especially me. As a little girl, I was expected to be quiet, polite and learn to cook and sew. But I had heaps of energy. I was bit of a tomboy who preferred climbing trees or riding bikes with my brothers to cooking or sewing. For that, my mum was disappointed at me. She taught me that women couldn’t be successful and have their own careers because their “jobs” were to be housewives and care for their children.

Leila around 1990 in family garden
Me at our family garden, c. 1990.

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The abuse I dealt with at home trickled to the outside when I was eight years old. We were taking the bus. My mum and brother were in the seat in front of me while I sat alone. Seeing me alone, a man on the bus took a seat next to me and started sexually assaulting me. I screamed and cried for my mum who was terrified because she couldn’t speak English. She told me to tell the driver, but the driver wasn’t really listening to me. The man quickly got off the bus, never to be seen again, and I was left scarred and mortified.

We got off a couple of stops later, and my mum looked at me, “This never happened, okay? Don’t tell anyone or mention it ever.” Still shaken and upset, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I became furious that she’d make me keep it a secret, but I’m sure she figured that there was nothing we could do now that he got away. In her mind, the only thing to do was forget about it and move on. But I couldn’t get that horrible moment out of my head no matter how hard I tried.

It became even harder to forget after our trip to Pakistan when I was 10. My parents had finally managed to save up enough to visit their family back in Pakistan. I was actually quite excited to see the place where my parents grew up. But that happiness was quickly drained after one of my uncles began sexually abusing me. After that experience, I’d had enough. I became completely withdrawn and distrustful of men.

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By the time I was 12, everything emotionally smothered me. My little body and mind were too shattered from all the violence I endured. My mum had just recently given birth to my baby sister and they had no time or energy to deal with how I was feeling. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t see how I could carry on living, and I tried to commit suicide. Yes, at age 12.

Thankfully, I was not successful. I thought of my baby sister enduring any of the abuse I had, and I knew I needed to stay alive and fight for both of us. So, after that failed suicide attempt, I resolved to change my life. I refused to let the sexual abuses and all the trauma my family inflicted on me to control my life anymore. I vowed that I would get out and build my own life.

When my school found out what was going on, they got me counselling, and that helped. I started to think more positively. I wrote down quotes that inspired me in a little red notebook. This was the start of my personal development journey.

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From there on, school became my escape from everything that was going on at home. It was also a time when I felt free to dream and be myself. I read books which opened my mind to new ideas and the possibility of a better life. I learned that women could be successful, and I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to prove my family wrong and show them women could have careers. I didn’t want to keep hearing “we can’t afford that.” I wanted to be independent and be someone they could rely on when they needed help.

As I got older, I dreamed of getting a degree in teaching—I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. I was determined to do whatever it took to get away and improve myself.

After high school, I went to university and trained to be a language teacher. I taught in schools in France and England, before becoming the assistant head of a secondary school. During that time, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. But through counseling, meditation, and trying different self-help techniques such as tapping and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), I was able to rebuild my self-esteem and in turn, a new life.

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I always felt inspired to teach disadvantaged children in inner cities because that was also my background growing up. Whilst I was teaching, there were a few incidences which made me feel like “I’ve got to do more to help others – not just the children, but adults and parents too.” I wanted to reach more people and teach them how to use their talents and to transform their obstacles. In 2013, after much soul-searching, I became a life coach.

This eventually led to the birth of Life is Today Academy! It’s a business I set up to help ambitious women to activate their inner potential and learn to love themselves. Helping others this way has in turn healed myself. I feel that it’s my duty to share my miracles with the world so they can overcome fears and reclaim the truth of love for themselves like I did. I used to hate being alive, but through my coaching business, I feel more and more alive each day.

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Me doing a life-coaching session, 2017.

On top of the academy, I wrote a book titled 101+ Ways to Overcome Life’s Biggest Obstacles! A Guide to Handling ANY Problem with Ease, published in 2017, to help as many women as possible. But I didn’t just stop there. When I discovered a shout-out for gifts/donations for events, I emailed my interest. I was floored to find out that my book had been selected as a gift for Ellen DeGeneres’ 60th Birthday and 50 celebrities during the 2018 Oscars Weekend at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverley Hills. Since then, I’ve written three more books and had a coloring book of motivational quotes designed. I think my 12-year-old self would’ve been proud.

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Today, I use my experiences to coach women who have been through childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence. I am passionate about supporting people who want more out of life, who no longer want to be held back by their past, who just want to be themselves. I did it, and everyone deserves to have that chance.

Since I got out of the toxic environment that was testing my mental health, I’ve seen so many miracles happen in my life. I know that I would not be this alive and happy if I had not looked within for my answers, if I had not made a change and worked to overcome the obstacles placed on me upon birth. In a world where we can become consumed by information and distractions, it can be difficult discover our own inner purpose, but I believe life coaching helped me not only find my purpose, but develop a sense of self-worth I never had growing up. I am now able to see that my past has shaped me as a person; I had to go through the dark times to be able to enjoy the light, the light that shows me the way to the land of success and happiness.

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This is the story of Leila Khan

Leila Khan is an author, public speaker, self-mastery expert, teacher, and mentor of personal transformation. Growing up around abuse in Inner London, UK, Leila had a bad self-esteem and even attempted suicide at the age of 12. But once she broke away from the toxic environment, she was able to love herself again and find a desire to teach others to love themselves too. She has written four books and designed a coloring book, and runs her own life coaching business called Life is Today Academy. Leila’s first book 101+ ways to Overcome Life’s Biggest Obstacles was written because she wished she had read something like that when she was going through tough times. She also has self-published a book called My Little Red Book of Wisdoms which contains a mixture of her own quotes called #leilaswisevibes, quotes from other teachers, and advice from some of the world’s best thinkers. A highlight of her business journey was when she shared a stage with Tony Robins and spoke in front of thousands of people. Leila is currently working on updating and improving her blog to inspire others!

Leila 2016
Leila, 2016.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on April 27, 2019.

| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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