I was born in Tehran, Iran. I immigrated to the U.S., specifically Houston, Texas, at the age of 10. I completed my undergraduate degree, medical school, and pediatric training, all in Texas. I consider myself a Houstonian. I am a board-certified pediatrician. Additionally, I am an entrepreneur, co-founder, and managing partner at ABC Pediatric Clinic in East Houston, serving the low-income Hispanic community. I have an amazing and supportive husband of over 20 years and three incredible children. My parents live within a 5-mile radius, alongside my sister. Needless to say, I have all the love, support, encouragement, and connection in my life.
At the age of 40, I had reached the American dream, checking off all the boxes on my vision board: CEO, physician, mother, wife, and investor. I should feel nothing but fulfillment, pride, and joy. Yet, instead, I was angry, tired, and resentful, with no energy and no drive.
My initial diagnosis was cancer. I took matters into my own hands and ran a million-dollar workup. All my attempts led to normal results. So reluctantly, I self-diagnosed myself with R53.82 – chronic fatigue unspecified. I guess this is just midlife.
I continued my days with the same routines, same patterns, same beliefs, and same behaviors, but the fatigue became more unbearable. I read all the books and made all the necessary changes: I optimized my sleep, reduced my working hours, took on fewer projects, delegated more, limited my kids’ activities, cut out red meat, stopped caffeine, and avoided alcohol. Nothing worked. I was still plagued with fatigue.
My daughter saved my life. One night at dinner, my kids were trying to convince me to buy a dog. I stood firm, as I couldn’t imagine having to care for another living being. My youngest daughter, 11 years old, casually turned to me between her bites of lasagna and said: “Mom, how come I never see you smile? It’s like you don’t have love in your body.”
I froze. For a parent, those are hard words to swallow. My instinct was to rage and storm off the table, but for the first time in my life, I chose to pause.
You see, as an overachieving type A, competitive, driven, controlling workaholic, pause meant cease, halt, abandon, end. I had functioned my entire life meticulously planning, executing, grinding, pushing, and winning. I measured my self-worth based on two things: the level and intensity of my productivity and my results – the bigger, the better. So, to pause was to be weak, to pause was to surrender, to pause was to quit, to pause was to fail, to pause was a death sentence – a life in prison, imprisoned within myself and my mind. But what I didn’t realize was that all along, I had been standing stagnant in the prison of my unconscious thoughts, my limiting beliefs, and controlled by my feelings. I had no idea who I was anymore. I had given my power away to conditioned thinking and learning, to societal expectations, to the external demands of the world.
My chronic fatigue didn’t require a million-dollar workup. It required me to pause and be present with myself, my thoughts, and my feelings. It required me to stop running away from my feelings. It required me to reconnect with my true self.
I wanted to become aware of my unconscious thoughts, which are the driving force of my behaviors and, hence, my experiences. I wanted to identify with my feelings instead of hiding in my work. I wanted to love myself without self-judgment and self-loathing. I wanted to acknowledge my self-worth detached from any external means.
Something had to change, and that was me. As an entrepreneur, I always embraced change, open to new technology, introducing innovative ways to practice medicine. I was a true visionary. I utilized change to make progress, but in my personal life, I couldn’t uphold the same values. This personal change required a practice of mindful living, a care plan with a simple prescription of a daily dose of awareness and acceptance. I will no longer follow a mindless, habitual, patterned lifestyle constructed by the outside world. I will pause and change and go within to find the answers that align with my own truth. Hence, I began my inner journey.
What feelings are you burying and avoiding that are holding you back?
What self-narrative is creating your experience in life?
What beliefs do you have about yourself that are getting in the way of truly loving yourself?
When was the last time you celebrated yourself?
How do you define “self-care” beyond facials, massages, and yoga?
Sogol Pahlavan is a board-certified pediatrician, co-founder, managing partner, and CEO, ABC Pediatric Clinic. She, along with her sister, Silen Pahlavan, has grown their two-physician private independent pediatric clinic, serving 10,000 patients in East Houston, which is an underserved Hispanic community. After struggling with burnout, Dr. Sogol embarked on a journey of mindfulness and became certified as a mindfulness physician business coach. She is a TEDx speaker and a podcaster, hosting Mindful Living with Dr. Sogol. She is also the co-founder, SOULpreneurMD, which helps female physician entrepreneurs create profitable, hassle-free businesses, and can be reached on LinkedIn.