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Get to know the author of The Stylish Psychologist, Shameema Siddique

Psychologist and author, Shameema Siddique tackles toxic work culture in her debut novel, The Stylish Psychologist. We had the opportunity to engage her as our author of choice at The Glamour Book Club - Durban Edition, where she shared her creative process, and dropped some nuggets. Here, she opens up about her journey to becoming a published author, the reception to her offering, and adds her voice to the mental health conversation.

Glamour: Please introduce yourself to our audience?

Shameema Siddique: Greetings, Glamour Family. I’m Shameema Siddique the author of the GLAMOUR reviewed novel, The Stylish Psychologist. I’m not new to writing itself. In fact, it’s my collection of notes, messages, speeches and poems, even essays and psychological reports that set the path for me to seriously write. We don’t realise the extent to which we are unconsciously practising a skill with purpose, for a larger moment. For me, it was scripting and jotting things down that made it feel real. Who am I? I’m a being that’s equally spiritual, as I am worldly. I enjoy the company of people who amaze me with their authenticity, despite the superfluous world we are surrounded by. I’m starting to love the moon, appreciate the stars as visual reminders of magic and often spot white butterflies crossing my path. I trust and follow my intuition like a scientist on a mission. It never fails me. I counsel and coach clients as a private practice psychologist when they enter my world. I’m in a long - term relationship with style.

Glamour: Let's talk about your journey to becoming a published author?

Shameema: When I started the first paragraph of The Stylish Psychologist, I sat at Gloria Jeans Café at Gateway Mall, a steaming latte nearby desperate to dismiss the pangs of post-partum. I had no assumption about where my story would go or how my book would reach my target audience. All I knew in that moment was that my pen moved, creating words that built a story which became a novel. The power of being present, should never be underestimated. I recall a distinct thought, as I paused to take a sip of my macadamia nut latte. What if this marks the beginning of a new career for me? And there began my dream as a novelist one word at a time, one sip at a time, one breath at a time.

Image: Shameema Siddique

Such simple tools needed to change the world – a pen and a notepad. Writing a novel is a mental and creative stretch that taps into planning, plotting, character formation, tone, setting, nuance, grammar, metaphors, insights, credibility, relatability, editing, refinement, change, narration, finding the perfect word and adding authentic humour – to name a few. The idea of being published was baffling to me. I didn’t quite know when that exact moment was. I suppose it’s when your book is available for purchase to the public and being read. Although in my case, it may have been the first unveiling of my book to 84 media personalities at SA Fashion Week Autumn/Winter Collection ‘23 at Mall of Africa. What a novel way to launch a novel, I thought. I love that this process felt like a new era experience for me. It made me feel like the only author in the world, which was an epic feeling.

Glamour: What surprised you most about the process?

Shameema: Writing taught me lessons such as the value of time. I mean we think we know its worth until it teases and tests you to fully awaken to its personality. Time you see, is an illusion. It’s simply there, spaceless, yet ever so real. It’s the gauge for finite and infinite. The truth is that we don’t know how much time we have left do we? We only hope its long enough to allow us to figure out who we are at our best and what sets our soul free from karmic bonds, generational curses and instead thrusts us towards our inner genius that lives within us all. Yes, we have only 24 hrs in a day, but we have the gift of it on repeat daily until one day, in an instant, it ends.

When you write 70 000 words you start to see time differently. This was my experience. I saw it as a life hack, justifying my existence. Time will pass whether you write that book or read that book. It doesn’t wait for us. I was also really surprised by the amount of discipline and patience required. This is a perfection game and only your inner voice can guide you on the direction the story should take. It’s amazing to witness myself in a state of pure bliss whilst simultaneously deepening the art and science of writing. Humans are capable of creative intensity. This is what we are born to do. The fact that I discovered this after penning one novel is illuminating. I would not have imagined my potential being unleashed to this degree through the conception of a novel. And while I acknowledge this is only my first baby, I’m psyched at the experiences I will endure in upcoming projects.

Image: Shameema Siddique

Glamour: What did you learn about yourself in the process?

Shameema: I have tenacity to complete very involved work. It made me flex my comedic instinct. I am apparently, funny. Well, I know I am a humorous person but discovered it’s also peeking into my writing style. I can story tell and incorporate elements of fashion and politics with friendship and fertility with ease. I realised that completing the book was all I needed to prove to myself. It was an internal dare I made to my spirit and now the wins are the sales, reviews and lit conversations, which is a natural progression for any invested project. I was curious to see where the story goes and discovered that I have an affinity to self edit. I also think about my audience and strive to make it as provocative as possible. Pain expressed, opens space for pleasure to feel welcome again. I have a writers soul and this is my pathway to all levels of freedom and success.

When you’ve invested fully in something, you’ve been lucky enough to appreciate the elusive currency of time. You may be wondering why I’m making reference to time. As I share this, I realise something profound. Time is linked to numbers on a clock, a watch, a phone, an iPad yet words written down on paper is almost the only means of capturing time. Numbers + Words. It’s a portal into a magic and a conduit to legacy. Words written are mantras, chants, spells denoting the first energy vibration. It’s when the words are read, that a frequency is created. Visualise one million women reading “The Stylish Psychologist.” If that’s not vibrational power, I don’t know what is. So, perhaps the biggest self discovery is how powerful my words really are and how it’s all interconnected with universal stardom. I like the challenge of acquiring quiet success more than attaining loud fame.

Glamour: As a first time author, what are some of the lessons you will carry with you as you continue to occupy space in the literary world?

Shameema: To deepen my literary prowess. Write boldly, add nuance, make it raw and real. To know when to detach from the book. It’s wildly tempting to revisit chapters and tweak. This becomes a never-ending fetish. As a creative, it’s important to know when to stop. We live in a digital realm with endless possibilities to create a brand for your books. With the right agency and team, a great book can be sold successfully from your own publishing house. I created Purple Brain as the home for my written work. It was never my intent to necessarily self publish. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t grasp what that meant. I assumed you simply have an established big five publishing house take over while the author enjoys royalties. This certainly exists and a route I may consider however it’s much more fun and organic to create your own tipping point and collide with wonder.

It may be a rickety road however you learn about your potential uniquely. I chose to satisfy all my daydreams by aligning my launches and soirées to SAFW, Forever Rose Cafe in Dubai and Mindgames Escape Room. There’s something about the element of a dream converting into reality out of your own will that’s utterly gratifying. We live in a multivariate era that allows one to captivate from their own social media platforms and build their own writing and publishing empires. How wonderful. Bookstagrammers and Book Tok Reviewers are the new decision makers and set the pace for entry into mainstream bookstores and literary platforms. Surely, this is a lucrative portal into a hybrid approach to getting your book read around the world. Other lessons include not being coy about asking for help and guidance. There’s no limit to being enquiring and there are human angels ready to assist. Never underestimate the power of community and word - of - mouth marketing. That’s how The Stylish Psychologist gained interest. Overall, my boldest insight is to find a synchronised balance between following in others steps while creating my own footprint.

Image: Shameema Siddique

Glamour: How has the reception been?

Shameema: Excellent! Heartfelt! True! The reviews have been encouraging. After launch date, its a space of long waiting periods, as the book is being read. I’ve been amazed at how inspiring my writing journey has been for people in my network and community. I expected nothing from anyone which made any response a bonus. It was a very personal process for me without an inkling of commercial dreams. Okay, I may have envisioned my book being converted into several languages but that was inherent to my grasp of global reach. Beyond that I simply wanted to see the book read and heal that part of a woman that’s wounded by harsh corporate tactics.

So, when I witnessed the sincere reaction of delight from others, I felt compelled to start looking at the promotional aspect with more seriousness. As I read my book years after writing it with a different gaze, I realised what a great story I had scripted. As a debut novelist, I’m all heart chambers open to feedback. But more than this, I relish in women approaching me and sharing personal stories that resonate. This is why I write. It leads the way for release and healing. So far, Im enjoying the angle each reader adopts offering a perspective aligned to where they likely are at, in their emotive journey. That’s special to me because a book morphs, as you grow. I am on the hunt for a literary agent and/or distributing channel to turn this book into a best seller with international placement too.

Glamour: And for the people who haven't read your book, what can they expect?

Shameema: Expect a chick lit narrative with all the fun and girly drama infused into this charming genre combined with deep messages laced with wit, grit and humour. It’s a fictional story based on harsh truths that live overtly and subliminally within the working world. The setting is a fashion accessories empire with female cohorts that seek to systematically debunk the protagonist’s arrival and stay.

Azra the lead, is gorgeous, smart and bullish about peaking her psychologist career. Instead she discovers the sinister plots in place to derail her fervent attempts at brilliance for the organisation for fear of her talents being revealed to key players. The jealousy is ugly at times exposing the true narrative behind competition and the egoistic thirst for meteoric corporate climbing. Any hint of a threat imposed, offsets a professional war. It’s a prototype of a story that is hyper focused on victimisation in the workplace but in this book for demonstration of gravitas and competence. It flirts with the issue of unwanted male attention and blurred boundaries. It also speaks to the painful realities women face at work while enduring personal medical procedures. In this particular novel, fertility is explored with a careful balance of facts and feelings. It’s a book for every women whose encountered a dodgy boss situationship and bitchy peers, whilst holding onto their own value and femininity.

Image: Shameema Siddique

Glamour: What do you hope that people can take away from engaging with your content?

Shameema: A good laugh at serious corporate perils. Knowing that you are not alone. Accepting that you sometimes can’t change circumstances. Noting that you are meant to learn lessons through pain and resistance. Appreciating beautiful women. Acknowledging the power of style. Insight into scenarios that seem otherworldly but are embedded into mainstream day to day work function. I hope readers take away any and all messages intended but most of all they connect and relate to shenanigans which allow them to heal their own pain. Corporate life can be hardcore and cold. This book strives to offer sameness and in doing so affording truths we can also make sense of and move forward from. It’s an eclectic chick lit that borders on women’s fiction, feminist blogging, classic envy and contemporary issues. My sincere hope is that my reader appreciates the candid, vulnerable inner dialogue of Azra who does her best to step into acceptable corporate personas but shows her guttural realness that we often don’t see. The less pronounced message although inferred is that talent cannot be hidden if you remain focused on your gifts. And lastly, there is no ideal conclusion to a bad situation. Each person gets to decide what their revenge looks like even if its widely unpopular, like choosing peace over war.

Glamour: How would you describe Azra?

Shameema: Azra is the lead protagonist who epitomises style, confidence and intelligence with a hint of clumsy amidst her general graciousness. It becomes evident that she is a human rights lawyer at heart instinctively fighting for justice. She chooses her battles carefully and leaves much to chance, striving to focus on her lofty career goals. She stands her ground unwaveringly with the right amount of ignorance enabling an edge to her wins. She’s a caliber every woman intuitively aspires to be. She’s cute, funny and girly yet sexy, intellectual and womanly. She’s the dream girl and best friend who can conquer almost any situation with superiority. Her presence is a delight to those who vibrate with her energy and a disruption to those who can’t compete. She is in her divine feminine state yet oozes humility. Her effortless demeanor is impressive. Azra is a business psychologist character about to enter her 30’s, secretly yearning for a baby. She’s the quintessential woman who cannot accept mediocrity. Brilliance is a way of life for her and everyone else needs to catch up. She’s ahead of the times, lucky and the universe is on her side, even if she thinks it isn’t so. She can read a room like a Queen sussing out her future daughter in law to the throne. She senses intuitively and is acutely aware of oddities. Her maniacal analysis becomes a story within the story, revealing the warm and effervescent heart of Azra.

Glamour: Who is Azra in relation to women navigating the corporate world?

Shameema: She is a wise yet slightly naive career woman blinkered on her rise to success. She’s eager to make magic happen, initially oblivious to the jealousy she is facing. She is unapologetic and righteous in her way as she knows no other approach. She deems this to be professional. Highly educated, with superior image management she ramp walks into her office building to the dissatisfaction of other style challenged and less formally educated co-workers. Azra isn’t on a mission to devalue or discriminate yet finds her reality quickly compromised when she has to accept her office being stolen by an entitled employee. The fairness field doesn’t exist in this organisation. It’s an environment with no boundaries or repercussions for bad behavior, something Azra finds unpalatable. She is savvy in acquiring the support of seniors despite having to contend with an insecure boss. Meeting the approval of executives and directors is her ticket to relevance however her peers are guns blazing refusing to accept that she qualifies as their successor. Azra is the woman navigating egos within a toxic environment yet remaining fearless.

Glamour: What's your message to women who are struggling to navigate a toxic environment?

Shameema: Read my book and follow my social media @intuitive_science_psychologist on IG for upcoming posts planned for 2024 on this. This is an intricate topic that deserves attention and focus. It’s a psychological and emotional rollercoaster to be in an environment that is embedded within toxic cycles. Just as a rollercoaster is designed around peaks and troughs so too is the unhealthy corporate space; a series of dips and highs from office parties to disciplinary enquiries, team building activities to deadly gossip. You’re not going crazy or a poor culture fit which is what you may be told. These are terms used to condition and control your identity. While one can tolerate that an organisation must exercise some restraint to achieve targets, it does come with a hefty price on mental well-being.

To women in particular encountering difficulties, feeling trapped and starting to lose grip on their reality, allow me to share that you are not alone. Being in this toxic pattern knowing others are in the same space can be oddly comforting. The idea is to observe the behaviours that are winning or coping better at work and strive to emulate this. This is how you can survive. However, to thrive you need to glow up your spirit by building your psychological capital, which includes aspects such as resilience and optimism. Commit to engaging an emotional intelligence expert and elevate your coping strategies. There are ways to combat the toxicity to a large degree, function effectively in your position and be a happier human.

Image: Simo Mchunu

Glamour: Please describe your Glamour Book Club experience?

Shameema: From the moment I heard news that the Features Editor and Editor - In - Chief of GLAMOUR SA approved my debut novel, The Stylish Psychologist my soul soared. I found my placement as a new author. It became my vector towards notoriety knowing fully how powerful and established a brand I was being endorsed by. When iconic brands align with newfound talent, it’s a beautiful duet. GLAMOUR became my sky and I was the twinkling starlet. It was the stamp of validation I needed to progress my book. In a world of growing publications, it’s critical to spotlight your own work. There are many captivating stories that remain in a quiet reverie while others because of sheer exposure become global heirlooms.

The event itself was well attended by genuine souls who indulged in the beauty of the gathering. Panel talks and painting, oysters and caviar set against the backdrop of the Indian ocean was nothing short of spectacular. The hazy glow of sun and sipping basked over the lounge setting on the pool deck of the Umhlanga Radisson Hotel. I recall feeling blessed and completely in my flow on that magical day of 11|11 at 11am. Guests were embraced into an ethereal vibe quenching a thirst for literary moments, laced in artistic magic, sprinkled with boujee glam. There were lots of sweet smiles, cosy book signings and selfies with a purpose. In my view, Glamour Book Club Durban Edition was an award winning event. I will be following its onward journey.

Glamour: What's your take on the initiative?

Shameema: Glamour Book Club is the curated experience for literary enthusiasts looking for a community connect. A perfect blend of glamour and intellect, celebrating authors and books. It’s an event that I daydreamed about when I became an author. Typically, book events are held in a section of a book store with dress-code not even mentioned on the invitation. It’s about time, writing and style meet and Glamour Book Club has created this opportunity for your shoes, handbag and ensemble to feature as much as the storyline. Fashion has always been a universal language, so it makes creative sense to feature with the brainchildren behind narratives. Attention economy is required in a more ostentatious display for author recognition. There are upcoming authors, debut novelists and poets burning their literary self to impart wisdom and this initiative is a potent way to celebrate the literary arts within humanity.

Image: Simo Mchunu

Glamour: Are there any other conversations you'd like to table? Who are you inviting?

Shameema: The conversations I’m eager to table are the ones that propel The Stylish Psychologist into pronounced popularity. This is the natural progression for a powerful book. I welcome script writers who can pitch this story to Netflix. It’s a total chick flick waiting to happen. I’m already visualising the premiere, style moments and awakenings that will emerge from this. It will create platforms for real discussion to unfold around day to day struggles women face in the workplace. I’d love to connect with TedX. It’s time I did one of those and the messages within The Stylish Psychologist are perfectly positioned to make for a powerhouse delivery.

My vision is to enter every corporate and share insights within a free professional talk, in exchange for purchased copies of the book. Every working woman should receive a copy of “The Stylish Psychologist.” These are not seasonal themes relevant to Women’s Month. It’s an all year, around the clock set of realities that need debate and resolve. Suitable podcasts and mainstream radio and tv appearances would be a good move. While the book is available for purchase on Loot and Amazon, it would be convenient and attain more reach once made available for purchase at Exclusive Books, Wordsworth and Bargain Books locally. Internationally, I foresee the book featured within Oprah Book Club, possibly Mindy Kaling’s Book Club and definitely Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club as this novel resembles elements of the blockbuster “Legally Blonde”. I’m in awe of the thriving book community in the UAE. My next tier dream is to occupy space here and build a community. And lastly, I’m considering a few top notch collaborations with style influencers to promote the book, above and beyond. This is only the start and what a beginning it’s been. I can only imagine what the final chapter will be for The Stylish Psychologist.

Image: Sino Mchunu

Glamour: Please add your voice to the conversation around mental health?

Shameema: It’s time to see leave structures include days off for mental health to avoid burnout, depression and overall lack of satisfaction. Presenteeism does not equate to productivity. As part of my corporate speaking engagements, planned for 2024, I’d like to advocate this change for women in the workplace. I invite HR Directors, other leaders and change agents, to adapt policy and add 3-5days per year of mental health restoration leave. The BASIC CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT ACT needs to contemporise. To avoid turnover intent when jobs become intolerable, short of sending them to a retreat which first world countries like Sweden advocate, allow them to just chill, reflect and rejuvenate. In doing so, it immediately serves to demystify mental health problems. That’s a huge part of the issue, that no one can speak up and say I have a psychological flu.

Mental health is more than scrolling through smart memes and viewing reels of tips. It’s a personal stage of bouncing back to self, to no longer feel anxiety about the future and sadness about the past. The brutal truth is that humans lose their identity and souls purpose in their job descriptions. They are conditioned to become robotic even non - feeling to survive. Success metrics and key performance indicators are not aligned to mental nourishment. It would be wise for corporates to not overlook the need for mental health restoration.

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