I’m Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, the owner of Be Here & Now Counseling. I specialize in working accomplished women, who yearn for love but feel lost in romantic relationships. I help them heal, connect to their own emotions, develop intuition, and be ready to connect on a deeper emotional level with loved ones.
Growing Up in Former Yugoslavia on the Banks of the Beautiful River Una
Thank you for checking me out. My name is Dalila (pronounced phonetically). I hope that my short story can inspire you. I was born and raised in Bosnia, former Yugoslavia. In this part of the world, there are so many cultural influences. Throughout history, our region was plagued by many wars. We have been occupied by many conquerors including Romans, Turks, Austrohungarians, and Germans. After World War II we became a socialist country, but much more open and independent in comparison to Warsaw Pact countries.
Life was pretty good. I grew up with the ideas of equality and hope for the future of our civilization. We didn’t have big mentions or expensive cars, but we lived quite well. We went on winter and summer vacation every yer. It was good until the civil war started. I was fortunate to escape the atrocities while away in college. However, I was unable to see my family for several years.
A Young Feminist Perplexed by Contradicting Messages
The reason why I describe a brief history of my life and my country is that it’s related to my life-long passion, helping women find their voice and happiness. While growing up in our egalitarian society, something rubbed me the wrong way. While girls and women were encouraged to participate in the education and economy equally, they were still expected to stick to the old gender and societal roles stemming from the variety of religions in the region. Thus, women were working full time and also expected to do all the chores around the house, while husbands were relaxing reading the newspaper. Also, young girls, such as I were expected to be home on time, while boys had more freedom. For instance, although I was older than my brother, I had less freedom than him when I hit puberty. Before that age, they didn’t care that much. It was obviously an attempt by my parents to protect the female child from developing sexuality. This hypocrisy didn’t sit well with me. I’ve become a young feminist and a rebel in my family, school, and town.
How to Be a Woman in This World?
We, women, are judged for all our choices regardless of where we live. If we are stay-at-home mothers but not working on our careers, we receive messages that we are inadequate. Similarly, when we focus on our intellectual or career pursuits, we are judged as selfish or lacking family values. We get numerous mixed messages from the media on a daily basis. We are encouraged by some hard-core feminists to demonstratively throw our bras and burn them, while marketers appeal to our insecurities and try to sell us products or services that will supposedly make us feel better. Finding the balance between all of these values has been a challenge for me, as it is for many women.
Growing up and facing my deep emotional desires, I’ve come to understand that we women are very complex. We have a natural yearning for love and connection and are influenced by different cultural demands and expectations of how women should behave, feel, love, etc… I feel women are influenced by all these conflicting societal messages around the world in similar ways. Most of us naturally want deep emotional connection in romantic relationships, a loving relationship with our children, successful careers, etc. We are also pressured to look good, be sexy, and yet be humble and demure. We are judged for how we dress or don’t dress. No matter what choices we make, there will be someone who will judge us for it. And, the worst of all, we often feel inadequate trying to meet all these expectations. We wind up being our own worst critic. My quest is to help women find inner peace and satisfaction with who they are and what they want.
Divorce Forces Us to Reexamine Our Values and Seek Authenticity
Divorce is one of the most difficult transitions in women’s lives. I’ve gone through it myself. Very often when we get married for the first time, we make choices in a partner based on these external influences. We are often young, and we are conditioned to think of ourselves, what we need, and who’s a good partner based on what our family and society tell us. My quest is to help women stand on their own two feet after divorce, find out who they truly are, and help them live beautiful authentic lives. Believe me, life can get much better when you figure this out. And, I’ll tell you, you can definitely do this.
I was once where you are now. I’ve gone through the confusion, anxiety, depression, struggle, grief, and soul-searching. It’s always a work in progress of course, but it’s so much better when you work through all the issues. Besides doing my own therapy, I practice yoga, enjoy the outdoors, hang out with horses, travel, and write. These activities help me get in tune with my internal self in relation to the rest of the world.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
As already stated, we women are complex beings. What do you expect me to be like after hearing I’m a rebel and feminist? You may think that romantic relationships are not important to me. Well, this was one of my deepest yearnings in life. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s one of the most important aspects of the majority of women I work with. I want you to know that you can work through your trauma, grief, anxiety, depression, and insecurities that prevent you from having a happy relationship.
My Education-Could’ve Been a Silicon Valley Engineer
I’ve always wanted to be a therapist. Since I was a child, I was reading psychology books. At the time when I was thinking about my future career, it was not so easy to get a job in psychology field in my country. Thus, I chose a high school geared towards mathematics, programming, and natural sciences. While I was preparing for the entry exams to the best colleges in former Yugoslavia, I’ve realized that this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided to go back to my old love, psychology. Although education in Yugoslavia was free, getting into psychology program was very difficult. When I think about this, I want to praise my young self for doing it. I was able to pass all the exams and be one of the few chosen for the program. Although I haven’t finished this program, I enjoyed my student days until the war started.
I’ve arrived in the USA in 1996. Although I started working on my Psychology degree in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, I had to start my college education from scratch here. I needed to complete ESL (English As a Second Language) courses here, and then continue pursuing my bachelor’s and master’s degree in Psychology. I graduate from UCLA Summa Cum Laude and Departmental Honors for working on a scientific research project in health psychology.
After that, I went to Pepperdine University and obtained my master’s degree in clinical psychology. Now, when I look back I think I was crazy to do all of that in a foreign language. What was I thinking? I could’ve been an engineer or a fashion designer. But, I’m proud and happy that I pursued my most important interests. It goes to tell you that you can do whatever you put your mind to. When I just came to the country I spoke very little English, and now I have a degree and license in the profession that requires very high verbal skills. I just hope that this story inspires you to pursue your dreams as well. We succeed when we decide that there is no other option and then pursue our goal. Similarly, happiness can be learned. There are skills involved in this, and you too can learn them.