In her own words- “I am a woman, mother and partner learning to live– really live while being the best version of myself. I am a continuous learner who looks within frequently to understand and correct things so I walk in my grace and power at all times. I was born, raised and still inhabit Richmond, VA. I graduated from VCU after studying Business Administration with a focus in HR. HR is still my stomping ground and will continue to be as I progress in my career.“
To Contact Nicole, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Not So Agreeable Woman Who’s Gonna Talk Her Shit!
How many times did you question why you had to do things a certain way or follow particular rules and your parents responded, “Because I said so”? I recall asking why my mother didn’t want us hanging out with the group of kids that we had been around for years. I sneakily hung out with them until one of my friends told me that a 16 year old had taken her virginity and we were 8! (Story for another time.) Another friend told me about his brother teaching him how to smoke weed… still 8 at this time. That didn’t sit well with me but I never told my parents what happened. As I thought about it and evaluated why I would just blindly follow a rule that didn’t make sense or avoid difficult conversations or draw back when someone challenged what I said, I had a “duh” moment! I never learned to challenge things effectively and that response from the adults raising me is where that habit started. They saw it as disrespectful or talking back and it was usually met with a swift hand leaving your lips tingling or some type of punishment. It reinforced the idea of me not speaking up and accepting what others said even when I didn’t agree.
I’ve always avoided any type of conversation that pushed the envelope too far. This practice showed up in how I handled things at school, in my relationships—friendship and romantic—and at work. I found myself always biting my tongue and it is such a laborious task to advocate for myself. When I was in high school, I came up with a plan for my future. I told my counselor that I wanted to take the cosmetology course at Richmond Technical Center. I thought doing hair to pay my way through school was a boss move. I would take up business to open salons and minor in science to learn to make my own hair products that would be used in my salons. She told me, “You are too smart for cosmetology. I don’t think it’s a good idea to send one of my top students to the tech.” This was a moment where I should have pushed the issue and brought in reinforcements but I digressed instead. It is even more stressful to learn how to communicate through difficult situations as an adult. It leads to avoidance of things that should have been addressed in that moment or never dealing with it at all.
I started getting more assertive in my early adult years and continue to train myself to speak up when I feel something isn’t quite right. I was able to reign in a professor who did not seem to understand how to communicate last minute changes or realize that I was an adult who also did not have time to waste — full-time college student with two jobs. At this point, I am the “problem solver” in my relationship who called to get work done in our apartment after many delayed requests, demanded a refund for a trip after receiving horrible service in our hotel or reminding these people that it isn’t the 50’s so an “excuse me” would suffice instead of staring and waiting for me to move. It isn’t an easy task but it is getting easier to advocate for myself.
As I head further into my life as a mother I’ve thought about my approach and how to invoke better parenting practices around communicating. The goal is to ensure that we listen to our kid and answer his questions when he challenges us. He has to learn how to debate his points with a healthy dialogue and be confident in himself and his thoughts. In those times that my parents would have said “because I said so”, I will pause and let him have the floor. Every child needs the room to say things and express what they agree with or what doesn’t make sense. As an adult, it is difficult to process emotions or understand what is happening around us so why not give a child the opportunity to voice their thoughts? This is where that practice ends and we begin anew with top notch communication between an adult and child!
3 Questions I Asked Nicole …
- Why is it more important to be authentic rather than agreeable?
You lose a part of yourself each time you choose to ignore the voice within you and share your real thoughts. It can cause you to not have boundaries, overcommitting and just not being heard. We need authenticity to ensure there is diversity of thought. If we all think homogeneously, there would be no growth or real connections between us.
- What advice would you give someone who is trying to find their voice?
Start small and pick your battles. Every moment does not require nor deserve your energy. As you start having uncomfortable conversations, realize that a disagreement is not necessarily an argument. It will get easier the more you advocate for yourself. Keep it graceful and respectful but speak your truth.
- What is your biggest hope for 2021?
I will end this year having learned to be more patient with myself, being more responsible with my health– mental and physical. I have a few other goals for my career and personal life but I’m not ready to share those quite yet.