Selfie Word - Overcomer
Her Inner Light - the joy of being a child of God and being part of a sisterhood of light
Her message to women everywhere - “Love yourself first and the rest will follow.”
Drug dealers, so not cool. Car dealers, snooze. Card dealers, so yesterday. A Hope Dealer, now that's the real deal. Want to spot a Hope Dealer? Meet Christine Shayesteh. She’s got Wonder Woman gravitas, eyelashes that go with her gorgeous curls, a warm smile, and true courage. Stomping around in high heels and slinky multi-layered necklaces, she’s moving forward with her vision where women of diverse backgrounds build each other up in community and become their best selves. She’s a badass who’s all heart, a dealer of hope for women's empowerment.
Christine was a child of different cultures. Born to a Mexican mother and an Iranian father, she was only a toddler when her parents separated. Raised by her mother's traditional Mexican Protestant family, she was surrounded by strong female figures. On weekends when she spent time with her father she discovered his Persian Muslim heritage. He didn't tell her much about himself. Collecting bits and pieces from other family members, Christine would learn that he had remarried and formed another family, served time for money laundering, and lost his business. He was in and out of Christine’s life. Then one day in her early teens he left for a business trip abroad and never came back.
“The abandonment of a father is so fundamental to the development of a girl’s identity,” says Christine who grew up to study psychology and is currently working on her doctorate in marriage and family therapy. Through her study of attachment theory, she saw how her own upbringing shaped her. Even though she grew up with a tight-knit maternal family and church community that provided for her positive childhood, Christine doubted her self worth all along and struggled with body image issues. She did well in school and maintained a healthy social life but couldn’t sustain positive relationships with men. “Without a stable, loving father figure, I didn’t know what it was like be in a healthy, true partnership with men.”
In college when Christine had her first serious boyfriend, there were already troubling signs of abuse. During a heated argument, he put his hands on her. She broke up with him and told herself to never let that happen again. Unfortunately this was only the beginning.
By her early-twenties, Christine had launched her life. She had her own apartment, a car, and a job she loved working with at-risk youths. But she continued to struggle in relationships. She was in and out of co-dependent relationships where she met her boyfriends' needs. She paid for rent, maintained a comfortable lifestyle, cooked and cleaned, all in order to sustain a relationship. “I believed that I had to do everything to keep a man with me. Only then would I be whole. And as long as he stayed with me, I was okay even if he was hurting me.” The more she gave or the harder she tried to please, the more wounds she received. Her partners took her for granted. In anger, they threw things at her. They abused her physically — choking, grabbing, threatening her. “I minimized things,” Christine shared. “I would tell myself that it wasn’t abuse if it wasn’t a direct hit. I made up excuses for the violent behavior. And I worked even harder to preserve my relationships. This unhealthy cycle went on and on. I was deeply wounded on so many levels, I couldn’t see a way out of it.” For several years, Christine lived in relationships with men who tormented her. On the outside, she appeared to be a healthy, well-educated, successful professional of psychology. She had a circle of friends who were all studying therapy. She contributed to her community. She had a passion for beauty, fashion and wellness. But on the inside, she was patterning what she had internalized from childhood. "So much of the hurt that my mother carried from her own relationships with men and in particular with my father, all the fears she was trying to protect me from, I winded falling into them."
With tremendous courage and strength and the foundation of her psychology training, Christine redirected herself toward healing. She made her breakthrough when she came to a realization. “Attachment during infancy is profound, and if a child doesn’t get it from her caregivers, she looks for it everywhere. I sought for attachment whatever the cost. The saying goes ‘You are what you attract.’ I had to heal by being whole first." She left the country, traveling abroad for some time to give herself space and time. By the time she returned, she was ready for a fresh start.
To rebuild herself, Christine began pursuing her doctorate degree in marriage and family therapy with a focus on the mental health of women of color pertaining to objectification and sexualization. She also continued her work as counselor at a college preparatory school for girls from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. For these high school girls Christine is a haven where they can be their authentic selves amidst all they are going through during the teenage years. Christine nurtures them with her empathy, experience and training. Her journey to self reclamation helps her be an effective counselor. “I’m humbled by the powerful work I get to do with young women."
In 2013 Christine founded Sol Sisters, Inc. by combining her professional experience in mental health, her passion for the arts and her creativity as a makeup artist. With the tagline “Enrich, Empower, Evolve,” Sol Sisters' mission is to bring holistic health practices for under-resourced women in the Bay Area. Sol Sisters provides a variety of services in partnership with other organizations. Complete with makeovers, self-esteem building workshops and arts therapy, the full-day Revivals help women embrace their beauty from the inside out. In 2015, SOL Sisters officially received its 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit, and under Christine’s leadership it now has a network of over three hundred women all helping each other to enrich, empower and evolve. True to form to the Dealer she is, Christine reflects upon her personal history of trauma with hope. “My journey has blossomed me onto my path.” Having mended her broken spirit and become a fighter, Christine is growing a sisterhood of light. Deal on!