• A little bit about yourself and where you are in life right now

Hello ladies, my name is Hala Bakir and I am a Counselor and Educator and the founder of Hala Developing Lifestyles. A practice aimed at providing Counseling services as well as Educational Consultations and Lifestyle Development Coaching to people of all ages, backgrounds, and needs.

Through both my professional and personal life, I have had the privilege to live, study, and work in different parts of the Middle East and Australia. This has shaped the person that I am today, and made me someone who values and appreciates the essence that unites us as humans, and as women particularly, it also made me a firm believer in the uniqueness and individuality of each and every single human being. For this reason, my approach when working with any one of my clients is always Person-Centered, because I truly believe in the importance of catering to each person’s needs and goals in a way that is tailored to them.

This has always been my mantra, even prior to receiving my Masters of Counseling, when I was a teacher working with children. My aim was to cater to each child’s learning needs and abilities while creating a safe space and environment for them to learn, grow, and shine in their own way. It is for this reason that I have included the Educational Consultation service to my practice, because I continue to believe in the importance of listening to our children, giving them the space to grow, learn, and express the way they want to and need to as they see fit and to the best of their abilities.

Listening is something that I believe is taken for granted, we hear things all the time, but do we actually sit and listen, properly listen to understand and not to respond? Well, it’s for this reason that I decided to start my practice, yes in part it was due to the lack of job availabilities during lockdowns which happened around the time I moved back here. But more importantly, it’s to create a space for people of all ages, backgrounds, and needs to come in and be heard first, and to be provided with the tools that they need to help them overcome the obstacles in their way too.

  • What was your recent breakthrough and how did it help you

Starting my own practice has definitely been a huge breakthrough for me, especially since it happened during the most uncertain times. I had just moved back to Abu Dhabi, lockdowns started just weeks later, and I found myself like everybody else, feeling lost, confused, frustrated and trapped. However, I chose to turn all that around to help others who were going through the same thing I was too. This was not a step I thought that I was ready to take, but I found myself in a position where I had to choose whether to do something or to do nothing. This step has helped me deal with a lot of the effects of the lockdowns; it also helped me deal with my own insecurities and abilities to start something on my own without prior experience. I had always worked somewhere, and not working, let alone working for myself, was so foreign to me. However, just knowing that I was able to turn things around, try something new, and help others throughout it all, has been my greatest pleasure. Especially because, it gave me greater insight into how our inner critic gets in the way and how it works either to push us forward or over the edge, not just from a professional understanding, but through personal experience too. I’m still finding my balance, so that I am not intimidated by how much or how little I am doing in the eyes of my inner critic, but most importantly, that I didn’t allow her to stop me from taking this step and starting up my own practice.

  • Can you explain to us what does inner critic mean?

Our Inner Critic develops from our childhood. When children are met with scrutiny, judgment, rejection, and harsh expectations; their Inner Critic forms, develops, and grows within them. It remains within you throughout your entire life, and affects every aspect of it, from the most insignificant decision, to the greatest decision you’ll ever have to make in your life. The inner critic is there, judging, shaming, and scrutinizing every word you say, every thought you have, every emotion you feel, and every choice you make. This voice that you hear in your head and the doubt that you feel in your heart, that is constantly telling you that you are not enough, not doing enough, not meeting expectations, etc. is a major reason why people overdo things or don’t do anything at all. This fear of failure, of success, even the fear of happiness, can all be linked to the works of our inner critics, which has been a part of you and is being fed by you, by external factors, and by situations and experiences. Until you learn to how to tame it, the effects of its works will manifest, as it has been even without your recognition, into every word, action, thought and emotion that you experience.

  • How do you tame an inner critic? Why do we have it?

Learning how to deal with your inner critic requires time, effort and patience. You will literally be learning how to discipline it and teach it how to be kinder, more understanding and more empathetic. Essentially you are working on learning how to love yourself, look after yourself, and how to be honest with your self. The reason we have inner critics is because there are certain parts of us that were met with unkindness, judgment, and scrutiny, as a result of various incidents and experiences, that have then mutated into limiting core beliefs, and our inner critic is that voice, reminding us of that and overwhelming us through our thoughts and feelings.

Your inner critic, could possibly and probably is trying to warn you, protect you, and is trying to push you towards achieving your goals and dreams, or trying to protect you from the risks of pursuing them. Either way, the approach is harsh and unkind; it is actually quite unjust as well. Because it takes away from your ability to enjoy your accomplishments, or stops you from accomplishing anything you wanted. Therefore, even in its pursuit to help and protect you, it is draining you and hurting you. For this reason, working on healing your inner critic, is imperative if you want to, as I imagine all of us would, want to be liberated from that.

  • How do you deal with negative voices in your mind?

The first thing is recognizing that this is just a negative thought, that if you allow it, it can overwhelm you and take over your life, alternatively, you could take power and control over it, by not letting it occupy more space than it needs to in your head. It’s just passing through, hear what it says but don’t listen to what it’s trying to do; which is to distract, disturb, and confuse you. Think of it this way, when we are kids and introduced to problem solving, we were taught how to read the question, and how to take from it what we need and ignore the rest. Same thing applies to negative thoughts, maybe there is a message or a warning that your inner critic is trying to pass along, so hear it out, reflect, and if there is something relevant there, then you can focus on that, and only that in order to solve it, however, everything else is irrelevant and is just there to confuse you, much like the questions on a hard test. However, this is something that requires, practice; it is a skill that is taught so that it is accurately and appropriately applied, and furthermore, this is a strategy to deal with most negative thoughts that we all experience on an average level, however, negative thoughts that are far more toxic and invasive, require various appropriate interventions.

Furthermore, one other effective strategy that I use and I encourage my clients to use, is using that time to engage in activities that help them feel good and energized, because negative thoughts can be very draining. Therefore, using that time for active engagement in skills, talents, hobbies, and activities that we love, helps us express our thoughts and feelings, which creates space for clarity, understanding, and effective expression and reflection. Personally, I enjoy writing or dancing for expression and reflection, and I find it very helpful, enlightening, and liberating.

  • What are simple & easy ways to overcome inner critic?

Some simple ways to overcome the inner critic is understanding and accepting that it requires understanding, care, love and attention. The inner critic is a part of you, a part that feels like it lacks all that and feels the need to express that need through criticism, because that is all it knows. So when dealing with your inner critic, take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and affirm positive mantras that are best suited to you and what your inner critic is telling you. You could try talking to her and say something like “You are being too harsh right now come back when you have something kind to say” “ I hear what you are trying to say, but I think it can be said in nicer way, let’s try this again” “I think you are being too critical” “I don’t appreciate your tone, I’m going to take some quiet time now because we both need it, let’s talk when you are able to highlight both the good and the bad kindly” Many people may find this a funny exercise but it is effective, you don’t have to use those exact words, just talk to your inner critic like you would like to be spoken to, like the inner child who was criticized  would have liked being spoken to.

  • How do you motivate people to build a positive mindset during these challenging times?

For starters, I would like to bring to everyone’s attention, that in order to build a positive mindset, you need to let go of any misconceptions regarding what a positive mindset is. it is definitely not ignoring reality and seeing the world as a garden full of roses. Having a positive mindset means that you are aware of your reality, but instead of focusing on anything that brings you down and holds you down; you recognize that you have the choice to deal with them in effective ways that help you turn the situation around, in however much or little way that you can, to serve your greater good.

This starts with practicing gratitude and appreciation for all that you are, all that you have, everything that you have endured which has led you to the place you are in now, a place where you are finally able to come to terms with this reality, and doing everything you can to make the best and most out of it. If there is something you feel like you need to change, be grateful for that awareness, be grateful for going through this experience that will have you come out of it more enlightened, more aware, and more experienced.

I would encourage you to be motivated through reflection and by taking steps that improve your wellbeing; physically, emotionally, and mentally. Stick to daily morning and evening routines when you wake up and before going to bed, get into the habit of repeating positive affirmations, become more conscious of your thoughts and feelings, and engage in activities that bring out the best of you.  And most importantly, don’t ever compare or allow anyone to compare your journey, experiences, feelings, to anybody else; a positive mindset, means focusing on yourself, acknowledging that it is your right to do that, it is not selfish, and that it is a necessity.

  • What keeps you going? What is your motivation? 

What really keeps me going, is both my professionalism and dedication that are embedded in my passion for helping others and sharing my knowledge and experience with them to help them lead healthier lives, recognizing their true potential, and overcoming past traumas and experiences. My experiences as a teacher here in Abu Dhabi and as a Counselor in Australia before coming back here and now that I am back, have truly deepened my love and commitment to helping people, listening to them, and giving them the support and guidance that they need.

I can also say that I feel motivated now not only when I’m working with my clients, but it’s also there whenever I post on my Instagram page though stories, posts, or videos, and receive messages that tell me that my page and/or services are helping them in one way or the other, or that a post resonated with them, or when they share a thought or pose a question. I was never really active on Social Media I would say, so this experience is both new and rewarding, as I use my small platform to help others feel like they are not the only ones going through this.

Although starting out on your own and setting up your own practice is tough and comes with its own set of rewards, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and difficulties. Which at many times can seem like a recipe for demotivation, however, I remind myself that I am doing this for a reason and with purpose, and that slow progress is progress and that it’s okay to have off days which don’t make me feel like I am getting any closer to my goal. But I don’t let that stop me from trying, and trying, and trying again and trying things differently. I also remind myself of how amazingly rewarding it feels when I work with my clients, and how in those moments, the struggle of starting out alone vanishes completely and I am reminded of the reason I took this step. I think that this is an important message to anyone reading this, that its okay to not feel and be motivated 24/7, just take the time that you need to reset and readjust, and keep trying and keep working on figuring out what it is you want and need, and go after it, because if you don’t, then you’ll never know.

  • What advice can you share for someone going through fear and anxiety during this global change?

The first thing I say is that you are not alone, we are all going through this together, and perhaps its true that it has affected each one of us differently, but we have all been affected by this one way or the other. I would also like to add that as difficult as it may be, but try to not worry about what is going to happen just yet, because that will only feed your fears, negative thoughts, inner critic, and anxiety. Instead focus on your present moment, practice mindfulness, and work towards taking the steps that will help you overcome these fears and deal with your anxiety.

My advice, is focus on yourself, recognize the impact of your fears and anxiety, and acknowledge that overcoming them means looking after your self, indulge in activities and tasks that will help you focus on the things that are beneficial to you, that make you feel great, and the help you think away from those fears and anxiety, and lead you to new opportunities and possibilities, which the fear and anxiety are stopping you from realizing and experiencing.

Furthermore, since the global change has affected us on personal and professional levels, then I suggest that you look into your personal and professional interests and see what prospects are out there for you to take part in; because just like everything around us has changed and is changing, we are changing too, so take the time to learn and unlearn, and I am certain that many things will fall into perspective and come to light, just give yourself the chance to explore that.

Another thing that can also be beneficial to some people is joining a group or community where people share similar interests and experiences, which can be helpful as usually the purpose behind these groups is for everybody to support each other. And finally, I highly recommend that you find ways to express your fears and anxiety in effective ways, you could also try reaching out to any family and friends that you trust and feel comfortable talking to, and you should definitely consider reaching out to professionals, who can guide you and provide you with the right tools and strategies to overcome your fears and anxiety, especially when you feel like they are taking control over your life.

  • What is your favorite quote?

“When there is a will, there is a way”

This is something my father always tells me, and the more I grow, learn, and experience, that more I believe that. Especially because I always tell myself, others, and my clients; that you always have a choice, even if you don’t have a choice or control over the things that may happen to you, but how you choose to deal with it and what you choose to do with it is entirely up to you. So choose wisely, passionately, positively, and effectively. Choose to do the things that you want to do, because if you don’t, then you are choosing an excuse, over finding a way!

  • Share with us your 5 top life tips

Don’t be too hard on yourself; you are a constant work in progress and that is amazing

Small progress is progress

Whatever you choose to do, do it with kindness, good intention, and passion

Don’t waste your time worrying about what others think of you, that’s their business not yours. What matters the most is what you think of you, so think well

You are one of a kind; don’t compare yourself to anyone else because you are not like anybody else



Join Hala’s upcoming workshop : DEALING WITH SHAME