Susanna Jussila is a poet, personal trainer, yoga teacher, marketing professional and an (ex)-activist with two academic degrees. And, of course, also many other things. She has explored the world and different ways of living and found a lifestyle suitable for her after experiencing two burnouts. By combining bits and pieces from the things she loves doing, she has designed a career and a lifestyle that makes her feel fulfilled.
I came across her poems and posts on social media without realising that I know this person. At some point, I realised it’s the same Susanna that I met years ago when we were hanging in the same friend group. Now I was reading her posts and thinking that a lot of what she writes resonates with me. So, I reached out to her and we ended up having some wonderful conversations.
I find Susanna to be an inspiring free spirit who is a great example of a person doing her own thing. But she had to learn that the hard way. Susanna went through two different types of burnouts before stopping and looking inside. That’s when she started to figure out what she wants and needs from life.
Searching for the best way to make a positive impact
Susanna is an explorer who wants to make a positive impact in the world. Her inner philanthropist woke up during the university years. Susanna was studying social sciences and realised how privileged she was. She was born in the Nordic welfare society and had so many opportunities. She felt like she had to do something useful for the world.
Her inner flame to help took her to Latin America. Her first adventure was a six-month volunteering post in Costa Rica during her student years. The Latin American vibe and Spanish language opened a new world for Susanna. Her heart started to open.
The next trip led her to El Salvador. She got another six-month experience while working as a United Nations trainee in San Salvador as part of UN Women’s “Women’s Economic Agenda” project. While the crime and safety situation in El Salvador was quite different from Costa Rica, the rich culture and friendly, open people stole her heart. If she went there thinking of a good-looking mark in her CV, she came back with much more than that.
“I think in some ways my heart and soul opened more in Latin America. Even though El Salvador was very divided, there was poverty and violence; people still enjoyed life. The mentality in living everyday life was different. Here, people perform their lives. While there, people are present and enjoy their lives. This is something I’ve wanted to bring also in my own life”, Susanna tells.
After Latin American adventures, Susanna did an Erasmus-trainee program in Brussels in a global feminist network taking a deep dive into feminism and activism. After that, she worked for an NGO in Finland, Pro-tukipiste RY, that is working to improve sex workers’ and human trafficking victims’ rights. The heavy issues that she faced in her homeland around these topics got under her skin and led to her first burnout, which she describes as an emotional burnout.
A philanthropist cloak in her shoulders she gave too much without having boundaries. It was time for a break.
Susanna was still enrolled at university and finalising her Spanish studies, so she decided to do a six-month student exchange program in Barcelona. No activism, no contributing to the world, just helping herself. While chilling, meditating and doing her yoga practice, Susanna reflected on her life and decided to try something else for a change.
Sports and wellbeing were the next steps. She was an ex-athlete and felt that there was something in this path that she needed to see. She did her personal trainer and yoga teacher certificates and started her own company. She realised that there are many ways of making an impact and doing good. She could help people on an individual level instead of being a full-time activist. For a change she also had an opportunity to take care of herself. But something was nagging in the back of her head. She had two degrees from the university, and she felt she’s not doing enough.
So, she tried the standard life one more time. She ended up working for another NGO only to burn out again. Heavy workload, stress and rush destroyed all the wellbeing and peace she had reached and led to another hard stop.
Using burnouts as guides to build an authentic life
The second burnout was the final turning point for Susanna. It was time to blow up her old life and old beliefs. She started testing how she could combine coaching and training work and still make an impact. After several coincidences she ended up working with the community of “Hidasta elämää”, that’s promoting wellbeing and slow life in Finland. Susanna works for them as a part-time marketing and communications manager through her company. She also has her own coaching business that’s focused on wellbeing. She makes sure to also have time for writing and creative work; in early 2021, she published a book “Kotona kehossa”, together with Emmi Ohraniemi. It’s about forming a stronger connection to our bodies.
The new lifestyle has felt good and right. Susanna feels like she has found the right balance and her ways of making an impact on different levels. But finding her path has required trying different things and also facing painful experiences. It’s been about finding her boundaries and learning to be honest with herself.
She sees her burnouts as gifts in the sense that they have guided her to create a deeper connection with herself. She has gotten to know herself and started listening to her body. This connection has played a key role in her recovery.
“Afterwards, I’ve felt that it’s been a process to find and set-up my own boundaries. I’ve tried to put myself into this standard high performer box and sometimes even felt guilty about not fitting there. It’s taken time and exploration to see what fits for me. My burnouts have guided me closer to myself, and I’ve found a rhythm and a lifestyle that suits me”, Susanna tells.
Susanna also brings up that she needed to deal with some of the past pain and shadows to move forward and heal. That’s how it often goes; in order for us to grow and start authentically expressing ourselves, we need to deal with our past pain and wounds. Being honest with ourselves requires that we recognise our patterns and shadows. When acknowledged, we can start healing and building a new foundation for our growth.
I think Susanna should be proud of herself. She has managed to build a lifestyle that is truly hers and makes her happy. She has learned to understand and appreciate her sensitivity and use it as a strength. Now she is planning her future, knowing what fits her and what doesn’t.
“I’ve become very allergic to this praise for overachieving. I just don’t like the feeling of forcing and grinding. For me, it’s important to be able to work from a peaceful state where I can be present. That’s the key, even if the tasks wouldn’t be perfect”, Susanna says.
Measuring success at the heart level
The mission for Susanna has been doing something good for the world and contributing to others. During her journey, she has learned that there are many ways and levels to make an impact. It’s been a key for her to understand that she needs to take care of herself before she can truly contribute and give. Her own wellbeing is a priority, and everything else comes after. And that makes sense, that’s the only sustainable way of doing anything.
Writing is one of her tools to make an impact. Through her poems, she wants to invite people to form connections with themselves and their souls. She feels that the hectic and performance orientated lifestyle doesn’t give space for our souls, which can have a long-lasting negative impact on our wellbeing.
“I don’t think that people can feel good if there is no space for their souls. It’s so essential part of being a human. I don’t think this busy lifestyle is a sustainable way for anyone to live and be well. Why are we wasting our lives”, Susanna asks.
These days, her definition of success is that she can lead an authentic life and be of service. Susanna measures success at the heart level. It’s about doing her best and feeling peace in her heart when growing old. It has very little to do with tangible achievements or external validation.
Adjusting intentions and dozing the journey with humbleness
When we talk about different qualities and aspects that have helped Susanna in her path, she brings up being aware of her intentions. What are the motivations behind and what drives you forward? When she thinks about her activist years, she sees that she was driven by guilt and unworthiness. She felt guilty of her own privileged situation and was after getting approval from others. Her self-worth was tied to socially accepted CV-marks and other people’s opinions. But not anymore. Since the burnouts and inner work, she has stopped being hard on herself. She has started checking her intentions and taking action from a place of love.
The other important factor in her journey has been learning humbleness. By getting humble, she has learned that she doesn’t need to be so self-sufficient and independent all the time. It’s ok to ask for help.
“I got humble when I realised that my resources were overconsumed, and I was burnt out. It also requires humbleness to admit that this path doesn’t work out right now for me. I’ve let go of the idea of needing to carry this superhero cloak and be some kind of a superhuman”, Susanna says.
I think what Susanna talks about is also highly linked to vulnerability – embracing your imperfection and short comings – taking them as learnings rather than failures. That requires a humble attitude, showing up to the world with our wounds and errors. That’s exactly what makes us real and human.
Other important characteristics taking her forward have been passion, curiosity and the ability to surrender and get into things full-on. She has learned to create her boundaries and understood that sometimes things take time to realise, perseverance is needed. Dreams have their own schedule, and the right things come to us at the right time. Courage, however, led her to explore and try new things, even to be a bit lost here and there. Sometimes wandering around is needed for the pieces of the puzzle to come together. Finally, forming a strong relationship with her body has been an essential step in her path. That’s something that she recommends to everyone.
“We try to solve things rationally, but we have so many emotions stored in our bodies; our intuition lives there as well. Things can start opening up from the body, things that you could not connect in your head alone. If our internal guidance is missing, we can start looking for it from our bodies”, Susanna encourages.
So, what can we learn from Susanna? Something comforting; that it’s ok to be a bit lost. Wandering around can lead us to the place where we are supposed to be. Susanna has experienced a lot and learned heaps just by trying different things and stepping out of her comfort zone. On the other hand, she has learned to take it easier, stopped going above and beyond and created healthy boundaries. So, it’s a beautiful balance of doing and taking time to be still. By creating empty space, we can start hearing and seeing things that wouldn’t appear otherwise. Things that can take us to new worlds.
Our intentions are also super important. What drives our actions; are we seeking external validation and doing what looks good instead of acting from a place of love and pursuing things that feel good? By adjusting our intentions and adding a dose of humbleness to our attitude, I believe unexpected and marvellous doors can start opening for us.
One of my favourite poems from Susanna, in original language and then my free translation to English:
jos tiedät jonkin
älä anna kenenkään
Kierrä vain radallasi
kuin kuu ja päätä itse,
minne siltasi rakennat.
Ei sinua niin vain haeta.
if you know inside
something to be right
don’t let anyone
to disorient your star map.
Just move forward in your orbit
like the moon and decide yourself
where you build your bridges.
No one cages you that easily.
Read Susanna’s poems on Instagram (available only in Finnish) by following account @sielun_sopukoita