Getting to know…Me

Good morning!!! I am extremely excited to present to you a memoir written by Guest Inspiration, Alexandra Claudio. She was the first Guest Inspiration to share her story on the Nickkie&Co platform with her Self Care memoir, Our Greatest Investments Start Within https://nickkieandco.com/2018/03/04/guest-blogger-alex/ .

Today, she is back again still advocating for self-care & talking about her individual journey in getting to know herself. Continue reading to learn more about her pursuit in getting to know & love herself more; it is truly inspiring.

If you are anything like myself, you also like to shy from those moments where it finally makes sense why a parent has laid a jewel on you. My shiny ruby in this case would be, “Don’t rush into dating Alex, you barely know yourself”.

Ever since I was the bright-eyed 13 year old, I’d always wanted to be the girl in the romance novels that I’d have my nose in during lunch periods at school. I wanted to be that heroin that had it all – the thriving family, the successful career and a doting husband. SO with that being said, I’d always be less than satisfied with my mom’s reply to my whiny questions of “Ugh, when can I have a boyfriend???” – I mean because, how can I get that thriving family started without one, am I right? Fast-forward, major heartbreaks in and years the wiser I find myself finally saying “Aha!” It all started one rainy Saturday when my emotions were running high because “Netflix and chilling” with my business plans and glass of warming Chardonnay was just was not doing it. I got fed up and took to Google.

Never too proud to read a self-help blog or two, I came across information about a 30-day challenge for self-love. I laughed to myself because I thought why would people need to be challenged to love themselves? Then I began reading through the blog and eventually decided to participate. Each day there was a different self-love related task to complete. Some tasks were written, some done via role-play, meditation and reflection. My “aha” moment came on Day 7 of the challenge wittedly titled “Getting to know you”. I was challenged to write about 3 to 5 perfect dates. They could be romantic, fun – whatever I wanted. Then I was to imagine/visualize going on these dates for the very first time while remaining extremely detailed, I had to write the typesq of dialogue I would have as well as behaviors and actions – all as if I was having these dates completely solo. This challenge was so difficult for me! So I backed off of it for a day and then had to reflect on why it was actually challenging me. Then, here it comes “Aha!”

In and out of so-called “relationships” since age 15, I now at nearly 15 years later completely understand how at the time my romantic journey began I was far too young, vulnerable. The stresses while dating young greatly affected how I thought relationships were supposed to be, who I was supposed to be. I just knew what any girl knew then, how to keep a boyfriend around: please them, have common interests,be attentive, neat, funny, interesting etc. these skills I have mastered but, had I given up the journey of getting to really KNOW myself for wanting to be “ready” for that oh-so-meaningful relationship? I believe this is why it was so hard for me to imagine truly enjoying my own company – I am so used to having someone show me approval, affection, and attention from outside of myself. To render this I have since decided to take my challenge a step further – rather than looking externally for these satisfactions I will first look to myself! I know my worth, more importantly I know what type of heart I have and what I deserve, so who better to treat me than me? To amp up this challenge, taking it past 30 days I recycled a shoebox and inside I have cut and folded pieces of paper. On each paper I have listed a date idea, dates that I have always wanted to go on or try and ones that sound like quick getaways. Each start of the month I will shake up the box and choose a date! Whatever I choose I will make plans for it right then and there because I will no longer put myself on hold. The exciting part too is that I never know what I will pick and it will all be fun, classy, sexy ideas that I love. As I continue to self-date through out this challenge and experience, I know that I will begin to truly know myself after all.

…nearly 15 years later, I completely understand how at the time my romantic journey began I was far too young…

Faith Tank

Faith is the act of believing in the things that are unseen. As humans it is only normal for us to want evidence or fact to back up what we believe. However, some of the excitement in life is having the ability to believe in something that has not tangibly come to pass. It is about believing that something exists or will happen even when there is nothing that is telling us so. For instance, faith has allowed me to stand in the midst of my storms knowing I could get through it. It is how I know that God exists & is protecting me. Faith provides me comfort in knowing that before my last day comes, everything is going to be ok. The things I once stressed about would have already resolved itself & because of that I am at peace.

Faith has given me that peace.

Faith gives us something to look forward to; something to believe in. Because of how faith manifests itself in our lives we are able to live. Many of us get through life because of faith. We start off with dreams that we eventually strive for & we pursue action steps to get us to where we want to be. Taking these action steps is the first step in initiating faith because the truth is, none of us would work for something we did not believe would come to pass. So when we go to school, fill out job applications, have a job interview, send our children off to school or get in the car to go somewhere; we are activating the principles of faith in believing that it is going to all work out in our favor, that our children will be safe, & we will get to our own destinations safely.

I want you to keep this in mind in the eye of your storm. Because the good thing about storms, they never last forever. If you are working hard toward something, never forget that all races have a finish line & since you are the only person running the race of your life- it is inevitable that you will get there. Faith is the gasoline in your gas tank that keeps you moving forward. When you feel your tank going on “E”, you have to motivate yourself to keep the momentum. Do not give up! Sometimes life is about navigating through it with the blindfold on- trust yourself enough to do it.

Faith will get you there.

You Are Gifted

Every couple of months my church comes together in agreement to fast for 3 days & spend time with God. We end our fast with a celebration we call a “Prophetic Night of Worship”. It is an exciting night that encourages those within the walls of the sanctuary to feel the move of God. In this setting, prophetic wonders happen that are specific to people’s individual situations & need for healing. It is truly a beautiful thing to experience; so beautiful it is difficult to put into words. However, I can say that every time is a new experience, but yesterday was specifically special.

I was in the line of prayer when the guest pastor came to pray over me, she asked for my hands. When I gave them to her she grabbed them firmly & asked me what it is that I do with my hands. I responded that I write; she smiled & started to pray for me. Her desire to pray over my ability to write was confirmation that what I do every week is a gift afforded to me by God & that I am not doing this every week for nothing. That night, my desire to spread love & encouragement through my writing was confirmed to be the right thing.

It is important to bring this up because I need you to understand that you have gifts too. Not just one, but multiple. Many people walk around unsure of their purpose & what their talents are. They look at the talents of others & attempt to compare it to theirs. There is no need. Your gift is your gift. It is yours to do with it what you please. It does not matter what people think, nor does it matter if it’s “flashy” enough for people to be shouting your name or increase your wealth. Just embrace it & manifest your desires in this gift because when God has a calling on your life the limits are non-existent. So keep working on perfecting your talents, keep striving to get it out to the world, stay encourage & steadfast. You have an imprint to leave on this world, this is the sure way that you will do it.

Healing Your Way

There is no surprise that through life we all have our own different experiences that effect us differently. How we perceive & cope with this may vary from situation to situation. Therefore the generic ways people, blogs & other outlets encourage us to heal is not always so helpful. In fact, more often than not, we become extremely hard on ourselves because we have decided that the appropriate way for us to heal is the way other people tell us we need to– false.

Our experiences are uniquely ours so the way we choose to heal is entirely up to us. We can receive words of encouragement but when it comes to the act of healing there is no cookie cutter method to doing so. Unfortunately, we just have to allow ourselves to go through the motions– the good, bad, the ugly & the worse. Sometimes we need help getting through it but we should never allow ourselves to be confined to the way the world tells us is the best way to heal. The world is not us & it does not know us better than we know ourselves. As long as we acknowledge that healing takes time, we are already well on our way. There is no need to add unnecessary expectations & time frames to the process. We just have to focus & do what needs to be done to get back to who we really are.

When we emerge; we will very well meet the next & better version of ourself; regardless of how long it took us to get there.

Strangers Add Value Too

Happy Sunday!!! I will be honest enough to tell you that there was almost no memoir for you today. Not because my heart was not in it but because I was out late spending some time with like-minded individuals that I just met yesterday. It was truly amazing. We talked about any & everything under the sun from relationships, finances, marriage, friendship, goals, aspirations, etc. However, I need you to see the important part in all this–

I just met these people yesterday!

Sometimes we spend so much time being anti-social or reserved that we do not realize that strangers can add something of value to our lives- a lesson, confirmation to what we know or to be a living example of something we believe or aspire to have happen for our own lives. If we stay secluded, avoid events where people we know are not attending or limit our circle to our immediate circle of friends we lose out on the opportunity of encounter. We gain something new from every interaction & yesterday further confirmed that for me. In talking, laughing & interacting with these individuals yesterday I am elated because not only was it a great time, it was further revelation that my friends & I are not crazy for the goals that we aspire to have. There were married couples, parents, students, career professionals all sitting in one place sharing point of views, dropping gems, being ourselves & giving me, a single career woman, who wants to one day be married, a glimpse into what my social life with my future spouse can very well look-like.

So today, I encourage you to socialize more with strangers. At events sit next to people you do not know & start talking to them. Do not limit your interactions to solely the people in your circle. Network, meet new people, encourage someone, be encouraged, have an unexpected time with unexpected good people -you will be surprised what you will get out of it. Some new encounters can evolve to forever bonds, guarantee a great time every time you link up or be an encounter that will stitch a lesson into your memory you will never forget.

Give it a try. It is worth it.

You Are Valid, As IS.

Too often we allow people (other than ourselves) & things to validate who we are, what we have to offer & what we are worth. Despite how much I do not want to admit it, the truth is, I am guilty of this too. We have allowed letter grades, yearly salaries, hourly wages, romantic & non-romantic relationships, negative interactions, employment, & material things to have too much weight on how we view ourselves & what we believe we can offer to the world. For forever, the world has told us what success looks like & that is one of the main reasons we are too hard on ourselves.

Success is what we define it as. It has nothing to do with monetary gain, the romantic or non-romantic relationships we maintained or how we advance professionally, because we all know– despite how well we appear to be doing in life– these things do not add true value to it. We can be doing well & still be disappointed in the person we see in the mirror. The more we allow the perspective of others to hold weight on our lives, the less value we see in ourselves & the worse we feel.

As someone who recently felt unworthy, I am here to tell you that you are more than worthy– YOU ARE PRICELESS. Your accomplishments or your possessions do not make who you are. Instead, it is the content of your character. If you are kind, how you make people feel when you have encounters with them, your positive perspective on life, how you treat people, etc. Because the truth is, when you are gone, these are the things that people will remember; not how much money you had in the bank or the nice car or home you had. So make a conscious effort- everyday- to ensure that you do not give so much rank to these things in your life. Instead just love yourself the way you are. YOU as you are, is the only thing that deserves any validation in your life.

A Word on Gossip

I am excited to announce that we have another Guest Inspiration, Susan (Susie) Wood, who is with us today to share with us her thoughts on gossip & what impact it can have in the various facets of our lives. I personally have watched Susie evolve in her pursuit of self-reflection & it has been such a beautiful journey. She has mastered the art of reflection & has done an amazing job at sharing what she’s learned about herself & the actions of others in a way that helps us understand our own individual circumstances. Therefore, today, I am honored to have her here on Nickkie&Co. to share with us her thought out analysis on Gossip.

Have you ever been the target of unkind gossip at work or other communities? Have you ever been the source of it? Chances are you’ve experienced both sides to some degree. I usually don’t care what people say about me and prefer not to waste my energy on self-defense. Usually it’s best to let people draw conclusions from their own observations because my behavior speaks for itself and my conscience is clean. What others say usually only reflects poorly on the gossiper in those cases. However, I did recently become targeted by someone at work that I considered a friend, and it felt particularly vicious and public. It led me to explore a lot of questions beyond just our personal relationship, but about the broader topic of gossip in general and why people do it. Entire industries are built on this guilty pleasure. We all know how painful and damaging it can be, so why do we persist? Why do we even lend a sympathetic ear?


There are different kinds of gossip and it isn’t all bad. I’ve learned a lot of valuable work-related information over the years through a game of whisper-down-the-lane as a result of poor, spotty communication on the part of management. But it’s also valid and useful in preparation for interviews, for salary negotiations, or for keeping your guard up around a known sexual predator. Women may tear each other down with gossip, but we also protect each other from the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. We just need to consider carefully the information and its source, and discern which kind we are hearing.

This recent work experience was of the malicious, personal variety, and it was painful. It led me to read about some of the neuroscience research by Naomi I. Eisenberger on Social Pain (e.g., resultant of public criticism, rejection, exclusion, being shamed, etc.) She found that social pain will trigger a response in some of the same neural pathways in the brain as physical pain. This has been proven on fMRI scans in many different studies over the last decade of research. Certain drugs that are prescribed for physical pain, like opioids, have comparable outcomes on relief of social pain. Similarly, antidepressants which are prescribed for anxiety and depression, have also been shown to reduce physical pain. There is an undeniable overlap. Social rejection is arguably worse than physical pain because it can be experienced repeatedly each time an event is recalled in your mind. You can relive the pain ongoingly if you don’t have a healthy outlet for your stress and learn to move on. Ann Betz, CPCC and international executive coach, also wrote an article on the neurological effects of too much stress. It leads to functional impairment of the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for high-level thinking. She wrote that acute, chronic stress leads to foggy thinking, poor impulse control, poor memory and decision-making, and lack of empathy. It’s not difficult to understand why, then, the biggest gossipers tend to be the most high-anxiety individuals.

When faced with any problem, it’s good practice to have enough self-awareness to be willing to ask yourself how you may have contributed to the situation you find yourself in. Even if it’s only 5% your own doing and 95% theirs, you can learn and grow a lot from that 5% that you owned and make better choices next time – especially if any part of that mean gossip was true. I concluded that this work friend was in pain and that I compounded it by saying something hurtful during an argument. This was her way of hurting me back, creating alliances, and protecting herself from potential professional consequences.

The next time you are tempted to share something mean, personal or private about someone, ask yourself why: What need am I trying to fulfill by sharing this information with this person? What might be the consequences? Is there a healthier way I can meet this need without hurting anyone? There almost always is.
Susie

What am I trying to fulfill with sharing this information with this person…Is there a healthier way I can meet this need without hurting anyone?

Inspire

To INSPIRE is to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something.

Every morning I wake up with the deliberate intent to inspire someone. I understand that every encounter I may have with someone (stranger, friend or foe) is an opportunity for me to do so. I recognize that many of us are walking around aimlessly, uninspired & without purpose. So the greatest blessing I feel I can offer anyone is to inspire them. Because in inspiring them, they come into realization of their abilities & the potential to pursue all the dreams they never imagined they could make a reality.

As women going places, it is imperative that we keep this same mindset, at all times. Unfortunately, with all that is going on, people feel incapable to make their gifts & talents work for them. They need to be inspired, to have something to strive for, something to give them purpose. Life is too beautiful to just be in it living aimlessly. We need to make it work for us. We need to inspire & be inspired. Once we realize the way this can impact the lives of others we MUST share it with the world.

So wake up. Take on the task to inspire the world.

Your Emotion, Your Voice

Anyone that knows me on a personal level can vouch for what I am about to say. I am an extremely emotional person. If you break down the façade of my “tough” exterior you will see that I am a big softy. I am extremely empathic & it leaves me vulnerable to feel significantly the pains & joys of other people. A quality that I hated so much about myself; that often made me feel insignificant or dismissed as invalid has now been embraced & accepted as a strong quality that contributes to who I am today.

Although early on society told me that being emotional is a weak characteristic, is only associated with irrational women & should be discarded; I have learned to disregard what I was conditioned to believe so long ago. Because being emotional has allowed me to make an impact for those who need it, be genuine when I receive good news & has propelled my professional career in ways I never would have imagined a year ago. The importance is in how we channel our emotions & that we use it for good. After all, being emotional or emotionally driven is different than being an irrational person. We currently live in a world that laughs in the face of emotions but encourages dysfunction. But because of our emotions, we are great mothers, amazing friends, nurturing to our spouses & efficient in our jobs.

Therefore, today, I want to tell you that what you feel matters. What & how you process what you feel matters. How you express what you feel matters & the fact that you feel matters, significantly. Do not allow the world to tell you this is unacceptable. Do not let them muffle it out. Your emotion is the flame that ignites your voice. It allows you to stand up for injustices when you see them, give words of encouragement when you recognize the need, whisper loving words to your children at night, hum sweet nothings to your spouse during intimate moments & allows you to advocate for yourself when you are told to stand back. To allow someone, anyone, to disregard what you feel, creates suffocation & dullness in multiple facets of your life where it is needed.

You Are Colorful.

Be Colorful.

Beautiful From The Inside Out

Good morning Conglomerates!!! Happy Sunday! Today I am extremely pleased to announce that we have Guest Inspiration, Kathy Washington, here to talking about how what we put into our bodies is an important ritual of self-care. This is a very relatable memoir that invokes the desire to think differently & pick up new habits that will be most beneficial to us. Please join me in welcoming our fellow Conglomerate as she shares with us how to live our best lives, as we go places.

As women, we grow up learning and being groomed to practice modes of self care that enhance our outward appearance. Perhaps we make an effort to practice self care by doing our nails, our hair, taking vitamins, using certain skin care products and cosmetics, and buying clothing that we feel is flattering to our bodies. While these are modalities of self care that can give us a quick boost, today I want to challenge us to practice a mode of self care that will help us to be radiant from the inside out: eating well.

Most of the time, when we think about beauty, we don’t think about what we put inside our bodies, which can have lasting effects and boost the way our skin cells operate, our brain cells, our organ function, our confidence, and energy levels.

For the last 2 years, I have been on a journey of practicing self care by doing something that I have to do every day no matter what: EAT! I learned that healthy food choices do not have to be hard or conflict with my other responsibilities. I learned that I can quickly pack healthy lunches for myself every day by changing my thinking. I learned to incorporate more plant-based foods into my daily eating habits to give my body the fuel it needs. I learned to make unusual pairings of foods and experiment with my taste buds. The energy and feeling of well-being as a result has been amazing!

As a child, I had home cooked meals and processed foods as my mom worked full time. I still love my staple of rice and beans; however, I had limited exposure to a variety of whole foods. My parents did the best they could, but I had to teach myself as an adult how to eat healthy and recognize patterns of unhealthy eating in myself. Some of the reasons for my unhealthy eating were cultural, social, financial, emotional, stress-related, time constraints, and unawareness. I also frankly thought that healthy food just didn’t taste good. 

Now that I am older and responsible for my own eating habits, I am exploring and being more adventurous about my food choices. I am making what goes inside my body as much of a priority as what I do on the outside.

As women who are going places, we tend to be multitaskers and wear many hats. Sometimes those hats cause us to believe that we don’t “have time” to eat well or be conscientious about food choices because we are “too busy.” As a full-time working mom with 5 year old twins, I know all about being busy.

Sometimes we invest more time and energy into the health of our families and allow ourselves to “eat on the go.” Sometimes we think that other things are “more important” than choosing foods that nourish us. Sometimes it’s more convenient and less expensive to buy food that has a longer shelf life. Sometimes we get to the point of being so hungry or tired, we will grab some cupcakes, ice cream, potato chips, soda, or (insert salty or sweet snack of choice) instead of a meal.  Mentally, we put ourselves on the back burner when it comes to choosing healthy foods because we are prioritizing others’ needs ahead of our own. Eating and meal preparation become additional chores or mindless tasks.

Today I would like to challenge the idea that taking care of our bodies on the inside is less important than the laundry list of “things to do” that awaits us every day. I want to challenge the notion that the roles we play take priority over our nutritional needs. I want to say that it IS possible to make healthy food choices AND make meal prep simple and balanced.

When I go to the supermarket, I look for specific healthy foods that will make meal prep simple. I try to buy more produce than processed foods and buy fruits and veggies that I can easily pack into a lunch container or snack bag. If it comes from a plant, eat it! The more colorful, the better: avocados, tomatoes, basil, salad mixes, olives, bananas, strawberries, cherries, potatoes, red onion, peppers, apples, cilantro. Pair these with whole wheat pasta, tortilla wraps, quinoa, beans, lentils, hummus, rice, olive oil, white wine vinegar, or a healthy protein and starch of your choice, which can make for a power packed meal that is satisfying and nutrient-rich.

Dare to experiment with healthy recipes on Pinterest. Dare to have a basil plant or fresh herbs inside a pot. Think outside the box. Change can be difficult, so make small changes first and build on the smaller changes over time.

Don’t be afraid to bring a whole avocado to work as part of your lunch. Dare to add pasta and red onion to a salad for a flavor pop! Buy pre-rinsed veggies in a bag to make it easier. Pack more whole foods in your lunch box, even if it means you are packing half the contents of your refrigerator! Bananas, carrots, or apples with peanut or almond butter are delicious and can help with sweet cravings. Grape tomatoes are full of flavor, easy to use for meal prep, and can last longer than larger tomatoes as they don’t require cutting. Berries can be pre-rinsed the night before and packed in a snack bag. Water can be infused with fruit or lemon to give it more flavor and less sugar than soda or store-bought juice. Ice packs are good for keeping food cold when a refrigerator is not available.

As women who are going places, we need to nourish our bodies and fuel our minds with the foods that nature gave us to help us be our best. Marketing and prepackaging of food can be so confusing. Labels entice us with “high protein, low fat, low sodium, low carb, low starch, low sugar/no sugar, gluten-free.” The truth is that our bodies best respond to the foods that are least processed and least packaged, with the least amount of chemicals, additives, and preservatives. We don’t need to read a label to choose produce.

It is easy to be enticed by convenience foods. I had no idea of the cloud that I had been living in and the low energy I had until I decided to eat more plant based and healthy foods, and I feel amazing. I am more alert, and I don’t feel the mental fog I once did when I ate a lot of processed foods. I found simple, easy recipes that don’t require much cooking and are satisfying. I found ways to modify my food choices and incorporate it in a way that works with my lifestyle.

Now, I pack my lunches and do meal prep at the same time that I pack my kids’ lunches, usually after dinner as I’m cleaning the kitchen. I put pasta in a container with tomato sauce and top it with some basil, kale, and a little shredded cheese. I pack cherries or strawberries in a snack bag. I still enjoy tortilla chips, chocolate, and other snacks, but I try to balance it out so I’m not over doing it and also not feeling deprived. I try to plan my food choices. When it becomes a lifestyle and daily routine vs a “diet,” the chances for sticking with it are much higher.

I decided that I’m worth it and I owe it to myself! As women who are going places, let’s practice self care and self love from the inside out.


“I decided that I am worth it & I owe it to myself”