My name is Katrien and I am the new CEO of Faithful to Nature. My team have encouraged me to share my story with you, in the hope that its uplifts and inspires those that are feeling challenged in anyway.
Growing up in an Afrikaans, conservative society it was impressed upon me from a very early age that getting married and having children was of the utmost importance. It appeared this was only achievable as a girl if you were Barbie pretty and
very thin. Like many girls I grew up with body, food and self-esteem issues. I was always competitive, trying my whole life to be a better version of myself and to be the best. It’s exhausting. You never really reach a stage of contentment. Once you achieve one goal you just reach further.
After many years of working on this, at the age of 34 I reached I point where finally I felt pretty. I had Botox, fillers and hair extensions, and I was very hungry.
What I didn’t realise, even though I always tried to be a good person at heart and kind to those around me, is that I was testing myself badly.
I never measured myself by the standards I had for others. I measured myself against a different crazy set of standards whereby only my appearance, performance and my great career counted. My heart and my mind were left undervalued and uncared for – especially after years of working 12-14 hours days. It was hectic, working 14 hours a day and squeezing lash fills and gym in between.
When It All Fell Out
At the age of 38, I was working in London as head of brand for Vodafone UK. I was very proud of what I had achieved, but moving to a new country all alone and having to perform at your max and look your best was becoming incredibly stressful. At the end of my time at Vodafone I started getting very tired, I used to always wake up early, like 5am, pray, run and then work a 12-hour day. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was exhausted all the time.
My hair started thinning, I had lesions(sores) on my head and in my ears. But I could still hide it, so I carried on. In the space of 6 months, it all finally caught up with me – all my hair had fallen out and I was covered in sores from my scalp down to mid-waist. I looked sick, tired and disgusting.
Then I was made redundant at Vodafone. What followed was the most traumatic 2 years of my life. Stuck in the UK not being able to work, waiting 18 months for a VISA that didn’t come. I ran out of money, I lost everything, including my hair, any self-esteem I had left, and sadly many friends. When you struggle and suffer, sadly friends sometimes think this is contagious, so they step away. I also became super sensitive and was in complete victim mode, so I also made some mistakes. I was in a very (very) bad place. Everything I had built my life on was gone.
Growing From Strength To Strength
Fast forward to returning to South Africa, needing to look for a job. Most of the sores had cleared, so I was OK to do interviews with a wig and lots of makeup. I saw the opening at Faithful to Nature and applied. I remember looking at Robyn (founder of FTN) on social media and I made the gut choice to go wigless – completely bald by now – for the interview with her. I just knew she would appreciate the authenticity. I was extremely grateful that I got this position.
When you lose everything, you are forced into introspection. You are forced into humility, authenticity and appreciation. For much of my journey I looked at my past, fabulous (although at times very superficial) life, and longed for the days where I had beautiful long hair, was thin and had a great wardrobe all propped up with Botox, lashes and hair extensions. I started to realise how wrong my approach to self-worth was.
At Faithful to Nature, I wore my wig in the beginning, scared of not being accepted. One afternoon after a long week, I just took the wig off, it was itching and hot and irritated the remaining sores on my scalp. A colleague said, “You look beautiful without your wig” and then another and another. Everyone started giving me advice on products and treatments. In about a week of internal struggle, I showed up at the office, walked into the warehouse with no wig. The staff started clapping.
What a very special moment, one I will treasure for the rest of my life. The joy I found in authenticity. They appreciated WHO I was, not WHAT I was. I have never put the wig back on.
I started using products from Faithful to Nature, such as Fire Tonic, turmeric tablets, collagen, shea butter, and CDB oil to name a few. My health started improving significantly. In January this year I did veganuary and my skin and health improved even further.
At the end of February, I was finally diagnosed correctly with Lupus which is an auto immune disease. The reason eating vegan made me healthier is that meat based products are like poison when you suffer from an auto immune disease. CBD oil has been proven to even alleviate symptoms of AIDS and cancer, so not strange that it improved my health significantly. I also have a heart condition and suffer from very bad circulation, something the CBD also fixed – no more swollen feet or bags under my eyes!
I now use conventional medicine in addition to all the wonderful natural products. My skin has cleared completely, and my hair is slowly growing back. I have gained weight from the conventional medicine and it bothers me, but I would rather be healthy than thin.
The strange thing is – I’m almost sad to get my hair back. It allowed me to be vulnerable in a way I am naturally not. It also allows you to see if others are sincere. I could not have dreamt for a job that would have supported my journey to self-discovery of authenticity, truth and health any better than FTN has. What a privilege. I am grateful every day for the struggles I have had, and I can look back and know that even though it has been unimaginably tough, I am all the better for it.