Beautifully Broken

As you may have saw last week, I have had to take a minute away to recharge. Initially, I believed in only giving you content when I have made it through a storm. However, I am currently in an emotional battle & I recognize that life must still go on. Life stops for no one & the best way to get over & past things is to attempt to bring your life back to some type of normalcy. I have advocated for self care on a public platform for well over a year now & somehow forgot that in advocating for self care, that there will be instances when I will need to acknowledge that my own journey needs a moment or two for a little tender, love & care.

It has been a little over a week that I have not felt like myself. I have been struggling to be productive & struggling to see the bright side of things (which is really not like me). As someone who has sat side by side with depression, I can recognize that I am not there but that something will need to change before I get caught up sitting with my “old friend” again. So today, I decided to live up to my promise to always remain transparent & tell you all that I am struggling. Nonetheless, I will also follow up with this statement by telling you, that it is ok to be totally honest with ourselves when we are. Sometimes we get so use to looking like we have it all together that we are hard on ourselves when we don’t. Sometimes things just don’t make sense and it effects us. Sometimes things sting more than we anticipated & sometimes life just does not seem fair. But if there is anything I learned in the three decades I have walked this earth– the difficult times do not last forever.

Sadness will eventually be turned to joy, tears will turn to laughter & anger will turn to peace because our lives were not meant to be a relay race of obstacles we cannot overcome. In fact, our lives are about the victories. A bunch of small & large wins that enable us to reflect back on those trophy moments & be proud. So if you are like me & having a more difficult time than normal, remain encouraged. Remain positive that this too shall pass. After all, we do not have to be everyone’s superhero, we just have to be our own.

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.

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”

Mind Your Business

Ladies, the older I get the more I can identify with the mindset that minding my own business allows me all the opportunities to literally, mind my own business. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to engulf ourselves in the lives of others. So much so, that we can barely embrace the effects of what is going on in our own lives. We allow other people’s circumstances to spark a flame in our lives instead of fueling a fire that allow us to become & remain inspired in a way that benefits us. We become inspired by other people’s misery & wonder why our lives are not where we want them to be, why our goals have not be obtained & why we are always in some form of mess/drama. Well, say hello to the side effects of not minding your own business.

In order to tackle obstacles & make our dreams a reality, we have to literally take the time we spend checking on the lives of others & apply it to our own. Because the truth is, none of us are in a place where we should be comfortable knowing & searching for all the scoop on someone’s else’s life knowing we can always be in a better place than where we are now. There is nothing on this earth worth inhibiting us from striving to be our best selves. How interesting it is, is irrelevant. It serves as a distraction. A distraction from finding our ideal job, going back to school, tending to our families or opening our own businesses. So it is imperative that we strive to actively mind our own business. If it is not self-productive, it is not business to be tended to.

So before we entertain the action in someone else’s life, we need to think about the time we are sacrificing & how we can apply it to something else; something more productive. We are big girls & life, as I always say, is too short. Too short to strive for anything other than someone better than we are today. Remember that.

How Setting Goals Almost Killed Me

Happy Sunday Conglomerates! Today I would like to introduce you to another Guest Inspiration that has a story to tell, Candice Kelly. Candice is a radical rule-breaker on a mission to change the world through media. As a certified coach and the host of the Mental Cement podcast, she provides a no BS approach to personal development that cuts through the noise. Candice leverages the power of story to create visceral lasting transformation for her clients. Her signature program “How to Start a Badass Podcast” is a fast track to mastering new media and self confidence.   Feel free to reach out to Candice on Facebook @MentalCement.

 If you pick up any book on personal development, self-help or anything that’s trying to help you live a better life, the first thing they say that is you need to set goals. You have to be crystal clear about what you want and the type of life that you want to live, otherwise, you will never get there. I mean goal setting is taught in schools, how to set S.M.A.R.T goals. Often times the first thing we ask successful people is, what goals did you set and how did you reach them? I think that’s a great way to begin your journey. The problem is that man we are often never stop to question the purpose of the goal. 

I am a recovering over-achiever. In school I was the kid who would type 7 pages if the minimum was 5, just so the teacher would notice my hard work. My drug of choice was execution, I loved to get things done. But after getting straight A’s and looking the part of someone who “has it all together” a self-harm cry for help led me to months of therapy for anxiety and depression. I got all the trophies. I won all the medals. I was admired by my peers. Yet on the inside I never felt good enough. I felt like no amount of achievement could make me feel worthy of the praise I received. 

After tons of inner work, I came to understand that I had been placing myself in a lose-lose situation. If I failed to hit the bullseye’s I set for myself, it would confirm that I wasn’t good enough. If I did reach my goal, I would push the benchmark even further and delay my happiness and celebration until I got the new goal. It was an endless cycle. I kept trying to predict what “thing” would make me happy. Losing 10 lbs, making more money, gaining more publicity. But no external reward could fill the internal pain I was causing myself. 

So, I decided to do a little experiment on myself. I decided to stop setting outcome goals altogether. Instead, I would complete a set of tasks every day and force myself to celebrate immediately after completing the task. I would channel how I wanted to feel when doing the task. For example, one task is moving my body in some way every day. After going on a walk or going to the gym I would take a nice bath or allow myself an hour of Netflix. What I found was that I ended up feeling happier, more energetic and more of myself after only a few days. Because I could reach my “goal” every day, it allowed me to bring my joy and celebration into the now instead of waiting until I hit some arbitrary target that society says is what I should aim for.

My challenge to you, dear reader, is to do some reflection and see if you are setting external goals in order to fulfill an internal need. If so, I invite you to consider adding one to three tasks to your daily routine that would move you towards your destination. Reward yourself immediately after completing your task and bring your joy into the present and see how much more you can accomplish without the goal.

…I decided to do a little experiment on myself. I decided to stop setting outcome goals altogether…

Empower Women

Although women are coming forward encouraging & advocating for themselves in ways that have not always been so prevelant before, it has always been important. For a long time, women have been an oppressed population. From employment opportunities, to policy changes put in place to hinder & dictate our actions – the oppressive intent is evident. As a result, we must be up in arms, always. At this point, if you hurt one, limit & restrict one; you have hurt, limit & restrict us all. Because women empowerment is more than empowering & encouraging women. It is about empathy, relation, understanding, encouragement & awareness, etc. Women empowerment is love. However, many times, the things that are occurring to us & around us encompass everything but the ability to empower women.

To get to the point that policy change happens based on the true necessities & demands of women, we can start small so that we can move bigger. We want better treatment but fail to exhibit better treatment amongst ourselves. Therefore, we can empower & encourage all women, whether we know them or not, consistently, with the intent to spread healing amongst other women. We walk by many women on a regular basis; however, we are more inclined to judge her before telling her she is bomb. We are less likely to empathize with a woman who is having a rough day without knowing her story first & we look at women individually instead of as a contribution to what they are to us as a group.

Each woman represents something for us individually & as a whole- the ability to grow, overcome adversity, create & maintain life (whether from their flesh or not), & the ability to survive & thrive. We need to begin to treat each other as valued treasure before we can expect anyone else to see us the same way. We need to stop comparing ourselves to other women to determine the traits we have that makes us a better woman. We need to look for opportunities to heal each other so we can sustain each other. Women fight many battles but it should never be a battle that we are fighting amongst ourselves. Regardless of the story of the person who receives these messages, it is important that we remind them in various & creative ways that we all are loved, capable & not alone.

From Victim to Victor

We have all had our own fair share of pain. We have also had experiences that were set up to take us out. Although pain from person to person is not comparable; it is extremely important that we recognize when we have given it too much of our energy. We must identify when we have allowed that to force us to have a victim mindset instead of the mindset of a survivor. In a day & age where women are constantly undergoing scrutiny when it comes to our bodies, our rights, our perspectives & our choices; it is imperative that we maintain the will to keep fighting & do not adopt a victim mentality that will use up all our fuel that will propel us to success.

There is perseverance that comes from affliction, victory from suffering & persistence from exertion. But in order to endure, we must have the right mindset to overcome such hardships. If we sit back, idle & unable to move past what hurt us, we will remain there; stuck. That is not the intent for our lives. We were created to live fruitful, victorious & prosperous lives. There are not enough negative experiences or bad encounters that are deserving of taking from us what is rightfully ours. We have to take the flames of our hell & mold our resilience. This is war, love. We need to fight like hades for our victory; for our sanity. It may seem hard, but there is nothing, on this earth that can truly take us out- if we mold our mindset in our favor. If we fail to do so, we will stay chained to our oppression & will fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel– once that happens, we have already lost. But the victory is here. We are no longer victims, we are the victors! Justice will always be victorious.

Bet on Yourself

Every week, I discuss the importance of believing in yourself, advocating for yourself & being inspired enough to make a difference. However, this stuff will be quite difficult to do if you are unable to bet & take risks on yourself. We are in an age where many of us aspire in different ways to provide for ourselves & our loved ones by our own means. The most interesting part about this is that many of us have already evaluated the ways in which we can do so but we lack the confidence to just do it.

Today I tell you to be proud. I encourage you to have the confidence you need to take the big step & pursue the things you have always wanted to do. People think that in order to chase after dreams, to pursue new aspirations or to tread new waters they have to sacrifice everything. That cannot be further than the truth. We are muli-faceted creatures capable of living, doing & focusing on multiple things to fulfill our heart’s desire. Daily, we multitask & work hard fullfilling the dreams & visions of someone else. Therefore, you owe it to yourself to fit your desires in your hectic schedule; by your own means, at your own time. I started Nickkie&Co. knowing that one day it will have a larger mission than empowering people through an empowerment blog. However, this is the foundation & I am totally content with where it is right now. I am on my own timeline & what will come will come. I simply had one job & that was to take the risk. Now that the risk was taken, the rest will surely follow.

Today, I ask you to reflect a little bit. Has there been anything you always wanted to do? Something that can transform your life in a way that will give you a joy you have never felt before? If you woke up tomorrow & had the opportunity to invest in ONE thing that makes you an even better you, without thinking of finances, or comments from nay-sayers, what would you do?

Now I ask you-

What is stopping you now?

Today will be the last day you compromise on you.

Roses From Concrete

Growing up in the city of Camden, unlike others who have not, I am familiar with the stories of the individuals that call Camden, New Jersey home. Instead of hearing about the positive, empowering & inspirational stories of the people within my city’s perimeters we are influenced by the constant reminder that crime & drugs plague the community. Misconceptions & media coverage fail to shine a light on some of the things that really matter– the amazing individuals that live within the very zip codes of my city & all other inner city communities throughout the United States. Partly due to the negative stigmas associated with the crime rates & “bad blood”, so much of the creativity & talent within city borders goes unexplored due to a lack of resources geared to cultivate & catapult the creativity of these individuals. Inner cities are full of unfulfilled dreams evolved into bitter spirits that now contribute significantly to some of the crime rate & dependency of substances. Shattered dreams, forgotten hopes, abandoned aspirations & a lack of resources can manifest & lead to the destruction of a community.

Much like the talent of our ancestors, our oppression opens the door to creative expression that is undeniably remarkable but often ignored & disregarded. As a result, there are many actors, athletes, musical geniuses, mathematicians, scientists, culinary artists & creative writers that will forever be chained to the stigmas associated with the city they come from. Chained because they lack the resources that can propel their future as children so they can make a difference in the world as adults. Due to the failing system that avoids sifting through the weeds (stigmas) to get ahold of the roses restricted by the oppression of concrete, there is underrepresentation in high revenue, well known employers. This is a clear indication of the lack of resources that are not readily available to our youth early on.

We cannot continue treating inner city communities with the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. We need to begin investing by creating programs that teach our youth to love science, technology, language, math & art.  We need to stop cutting creative arts programs that allow children to express themselves through creativity & look for other ways to meet budget requirements instead of removing the only form of expression some of these children have. Let us build the city up block by block so that they know that their only options is not a weakened educational system that is a topic of conversation but often abandoned. Let us show them the luxuries their talents can afford them so that they never give up & revert to relying on the very drug cycle we frown at. Let us not make this a project but include it in the culture. It is about time we draw attention to what matters. What matters is them. We must not give up on them even when they want to. We have to show them that they are worth it because realistically, people are not always receptive to receiving things they are not use to receiving. So it starts by ensuring they have the same resources & opportunities available that mirrors the suburbs. We should give the city something to be proud of, something to openly brag about; something to look forward to. Teach them to go after more & never settle. Appreciate their way of expression & show them that despite where they rise they can still thrive. They are the roses that have grown from concrete, & how beautiful they are– thorns & all.