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.

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.

Durable Rejection

Rejection…

We have all been there before. Regardless of how well we live our lives, how well we may or may not treat people; we are not exempt. We have all experienced rejection from people we love, employers, strangers & associates. However, it is important that we understand that it is inevitable & one ‘no’ is another ‘yes’ down the line. Unfortunately, rejection hurts & could have crippling consequences that we can carry around with us forever. In the face of rejection, the greatest indicator of our character is how we stand up after we are forced to look it in the face.

I, myself, struggle with rejection. I am typically a very confident person. I know what I am worth & I know how hard I worked to get to where I am now. But I would be a liar if I said rejection did not sting when it has happened; some times more than others. But please believe me when I say that rejection does not say anything about who you are. In fact, it is just a reminder that a better opportunity will present itself. Do not let the these moments make you feel like less than what you truly are. In fact, these are the exact moments that will be a testament to your strength.

To encourage you further, please take a few minutes to watch the two videos below. I believe they could do for you, what they did for me.

In the meantime, never forget this- rejection’s only strength is in building you up. All the other side effects are obsolete.

Just Breathe

For as long as I could remember, I have always had unreasonable expectations on how to maneuver through life. In doing this, I failed to keep track of what was important. I would get so caught up in what had to be perfect that I never prepared myself for the possibility that things may not go as planned & if I keep trying to fit it in a box; I will miss out on how truly amazing it is to just live. As I get older & get more comfortable talking about this with my peers; I have learned that the sentiment that I once thought was mine, is a sentiment shared amongst all of them, as well. Because the truth is, so many of us are asymptomatic for depression & anxiety because we have all imposed these crappy expectations on ourselves that make it impossible to just relish in the moment & allow life to present to us what it may.

This must stop. We have to accept that this life thing does not come easy. In fact, sometimes it is extremely difficult to get through & when we think we have it all figured out, whoop, we don’t. That is totally ok. No one told us we had to have the solutions to all the conflicts that are presented to us; we did. When the truth of the matter is, all we really need to do is survive & enjoy ourselves while we do so. In fact, we just need to make sure that at the end of the day, we are decent human beings that leave some type of positive imprint on the world. We need to keep in mind that there are no specifics in how we do it; we just really need to do it our way; the way we choose how to.

I believe many of us cannot enjoy life the way we were meant to because we allow the pressures of our lives to make us automatic & responsive. But sometimes, if we sit still, in peace, in quiet & focus on the soothing noises around us, we will find more opportunities that allow us to just breathe. Opportunities that allow us to just sit back & recognize that we are not doing so bad, after all & we just need a little moment away.- to get our thoughts together; to get our minds right. Life does not come with a manual & quite frankly, it would not be any fun if it did. So take from life what you can- experiences, moments, joy, happiness, sadness- & make of it what you can. Life is more than short, it’s worth it.

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.