What I don’t have, I can’t give: a Q+A w/ Amber Coleman-Mortley

What’s in the space between where you are and where you want to be?

I really believe that God and the universe reward your efforts. So for me, that space is filled with fearless and focused hard work.

You have a blog called Mom of All Capes. What are your favorite capes that you wear?

Being a working mom requires you to have a multitude of capes at your disposal. I’d say my faves for saving people at home are “life coach”, “sports coach”, “super hugger”, and “homework helper”.  The “community builder” and the “cheerleader” are others capes that make frequent appearances.

You frequently use the hashtag #LetsK12Better. What are some ways we can have a better education system?

 I use the #LetsK12Better hashtag to share best practices, ideas and innovative examples of what is possible. Raising a well-rounded, emotionally adjusted 21st century child requires a network of caring adults.

Parents, teachers, principals, social workers, law enforcement, and school board members must collaborate on creative solutions because kids have the most at stake when it comes to school budget deficits and ed-reform policy.

Teamwork from all stakeholders is a critical step toward improving our education system FOR ALL KIDS.

I want to facilitate a dialogue around solutions! Let’s get out of our silos and begin exchanging ideas and experiences that work for our schools and communities, because better K12 education ultimately means better people.

You also have #girlsinstem at the top of your instagram. Yes! What are some ways we can get more girls interested in STEM?

Exposing girls to STEM experiences like making and playing video games; free coding clubs; playing musical instruments; and participating in the school science fair are a few really great avenues that expand interest. But I’ve found that it must be meaningful. You must show transfer- Where’s the connection for her life? How does this tie into her interests? What kind of job does that become?

Ask the girls in your life, “Where are the hidden STEM jobs in our everyday products?” The person that makes up nail polish colors is a chemist. The person who designs your favorite phone app is a coder. The person who designed the seats in your car is an engineer.

You can prepare them to step into futuristic industries as they become available by building up their confidence, and their math and science skills.

Dare them to solve problems and dream big! Keep girls focused on a reality that they have the power to create and empower them to have courage to make their ideas real.  

What’s something we get wrong about motherhood?

Moms are out here trying to balance everything with no networks. How? How can we believe that a woman should go back to work after 6 weeks or even 6 months after having a baby? Moms grow people (in their bodies!!!! Like someone comes in and invades our form and we let them).  

It’s an important, labor intensive task from inception through delivery – and on – to when we release our children into society. We’re acting like it’s easy to do.

As a society, we fail to support mothers as they raise their children and our future workers and citizens.  Children are our best natural resource and their mothers (and fathers) are the vehicle through which they become our next workforce, our next innovators, our next politicians. We shouldn’t shame women into societal submission.

We should support their career ambitions with adequate leave and family planning options. We’re not cultivating a nurturing environment for current and future humans because moms are stretched thin. It’s not sustainable and it’s a detriment to society.

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

I go to my mother and my mother in law. These are my wisewomen and I lean on them daily for advice, prayers, and encouragement. They know what to say and they tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. Everyone (even men) need wisewomen – grandmas, moms, aunts, or mentors, that have seen it all before and can help you keep it in perspective.

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I often practice self-care on the weekends. Our weeks are intense, so I make sure I do something small or large for myself over the weekend. Self-care is an important part of my survival and I want to be a good example for my daughters by prioritizing my mental, physical, and emotional health. When executed consistently, self-care takes surviving one step further- it becomes thriving.


Keep girls focused on a reality that they have the power to create and empower them to have courage to make their ideas real.
 

Amber-Coleman Mortley

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

I was in graduate school, my husband and I were in a mutual three year separation, and my girls were very small (I had three kids under four). I was working full time and I felt like I was going insane.

In fact, I think I was hanging on by a thread. It was excruciatingly painful, but I’m grateful for every moment. I learned so much about my resilience and my ability to persevere during that time.

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

Love your kids. Hold them. Discipline them. Teach them. Inspire them. Cultivate their talents. Listen to their stupid little stories.

Laugh at their terrible jokes. Teach them to pray and meditate. Challenge their opinions. They are your greatest contribution to the universe.

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Other than my kids, twenty minute naps. I know it sounds lame, but a solid twenty minutes or couple hours of rest does wonders for the mind, body, and spirit.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I’ll start with me… I’m learning that the energy I can give is enough and what I don’t have, I can’t give.

The ‘”I can do it all” attitude is gone. There’s pressure on moms to be these unicorns that work, cook, clean, chauffeur, lead the PTA, stay fit and active, and be a great partner… I mean, I do all these things but I can’t say I execute these with an equal level of proficiency all the time. Knowing my best fluctuates each day is an empowering epiphany.

💎💎💎

Amber Coleman-Mortley is a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. Amber is an NBC Parent Toolkit expert. Through her blog MomOfAllCapes, she encourages parents to partner with their child’s teacher to create a community of adults aligned to benefit the growth of each child. Amber holds an M.A. from American University School of Communications in Media Entrepreneurship and a B.A. in African-American Studies from Oberlin College. Instagram. Twitter. Web.



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I can break the cycle for the next generation: a Q+A w/ Alexis Williams

You  started a nonprofit and a graphic design business. You are also a college student! What are your tools for managing your time?

Sleep!

Most people feel you won’t become successful unless you stay up 24/7 working on your dreams, I don’t knock their hustle but at the same time it’s okay to recharge your brain so you can work your best.

Also, it may sound cliché but, having a planner. You’re going to forget something whether you believe it or not but keeping track of what you have to do by writing it down will save a huge headache and keep you moving in the right direction.

Has being a college student met your expectations? What have you learned about expectations and managing them?

College is better than high school and my professors actually seem like they want to be there so being in class isn’t a drag. Even though I think they forget that most college students have other classes, work, and other obligations.

I learned that it’s best not to expect too much from a person or even a thing because if it falls short you won’t be let down as much.

What are the origins of #CLEgivesback?

I started #CLEgivesback to simply help those in need and to give others the opportunity to help as well because in a mathematical world, 1+1=2 but in a community 1+1=11.

Where do you go when you’re  looking for connection?

Networking events are a great way to meet new people but I’ve learned that there are a lot of people with their own businesses so honestly anywhere.

Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? How does it feel now that you are here?

I didn’t even think I had it in me to be one but once I started I never looked back. I love being my own boss, I love that most times I don’t have to answer to anyone. I especially love that I can work when I want with whom I want. There are cons to being an entrepreneur but that’s what make the breakthroughs worth it!

What are the qualities and/or skills that help you the most in owning your own business and running  a non-profit?

Being passionate, determined, listening, and showing no form of judgement are some the key factors I use for both my business and non-profit.

Why is self-love important?

Self love is important to me because when I was younger I really struggled with loving who I was. The inside image of myself was beautiful but I hated the outside image of myself which turned into a “silent depression”.

I was at my all time lowest when I was 14, 15 and again 17 years old. At 17 year old I made a commitment to myself that I would never feel the way I felt again meaning I wouldn’t look down upon myself, I wouldn’t talk negative about myself and most importantly I’m going to love the outside version of myself no matter what.

That’s why I feel my summer program for young girls is extremely important but I can’t take all the credit. I run the sessions with my little cousin Sequarra (Program Assistant) and friend Myiesha (Program Coach)

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

Sundays are my days to myself. I feel that is the day I should focus only on Jesus Christ and my mental health. It’s very important to practice self love because I can get so wrapped up helping others that I don’t make time for myself.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work.  What’s your five word acceptance speech?

“It was all a dream…”

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What’s something you’re working to unlearn? (about yourself, about the world, about a population of people, etc.)

Most times we hear that things are “in the family” or something like “brought down from generation to generation”, that means the good and the bad, but why do we have to deal with the bad?

I’m learning that I can break the cycle for the next generation, a more positive outlook on things. All because it was “in the family” doesn’t mean you have to put up with it too.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

Working with unprofessional people. I can get so excited about people wanting to work with me I fail to see how unprofessional they are until it’s time to actually work. I have to stop being so certain that everyone who hit me up is truly down to “work” meaning they just want to be around for the finished project instead of helping along the way.

What’s in the space between where you are and where you want to be?

I’m not going to lie, I have a lot of work to do before I can be where I want to be in life. Most people try to act like they have everything all figured out but i’m not scared to tell the truth, I have to learn to be consistent in feeding nothing but healthy thoughts to myself because what you think is what you live.

💎💎💎

At the age of 16 years old Alexis Williams became an entrepreneur, she’s the Founder and CEO of #CLEgivesback Inc. and Lex Get Graphic LLC. Both of her businesses were designed to helping others; one being in homelessness and gaining self esteem and the other in helping others brand themselves. She is determined in being a positive role model to many as she know “we’re stronger together than apart”. Learn more about Alexis and connect: Twitter + Instagram + Web + Lex Get Graphic

Gurl, you do you and don’t worry about them: a Q+A w/ Adam Maurer

You are a licensed counselor who works with folks exploring their sexuality, kinks/fetishes & more than monogamous relationships.  Why did you choose these topics to specialize in?

What a great question. Folx are often surprised when I tell them some of my specialties.

At the heart of this, I came out and fully accepted myself when I was twenty. I was seeing a counselor at the university counseling center, she had given me a simple assignment.

I had to take a box and on the outside (using words and pictures) describe what I project to the world, while on the inside show what I hid. My sexuality was everything hidden. I did not know it at the time, but that would become the foundation of my work as a therapist. I knew, going through graduate school, that I wanted to work with the LGBTQ+ community and do relationship work.

The more I worked with my community, the more it came to light that kinks and fetishes were going to be a part of my work. Once a person challenges one social expectation (to be heterosexual) that allows them the unique gift to challenge other social expectations, such as conventional sex or monogamy. I came to realize that our culture’s shame around sex was, and continues, to hurt so many people.

So I decided to focus on being a sex positive therapist. I wanted to create a space where people could examine their sexuality, without shame, and decide what was best for them. Beyond that, I wanted folx to be able to consider how their sexuality might be a support to their goals in life, as well as mental health.

What do we often get wrong about sexual health?

Our culture’s shame around sex actually creates and maintains a number of issues. A great example of this are STIs.

There is so much stigma about STIs and it absolutely hurts people physically and psychologically. If being diagnosed with an STI makes a person “dirty,” then how likely are they to get tested regularly?

As long a person is asymptomatic (having no symptoms of an STI) they can sidestep the potential shame they might feel for being diagnosed with a STI by avoiding management of their own sexual health. This puts their health and the health of their partners at risk.

The shame associated with having a STI not only keeps folx from regular sexual health screenings, it causes a great deal of stress for individuals when they happen to be diagnosed with a STI. Sometimes causing isolation, anxiety, depression.

All of this is unnecessary, we just have to take the shame out of sex. STIs are just viruses and bacterias trying to live, just like any other microorganism. When we remove shame from the conversation, we are much more prepared to minimize the spread of them.  

I also see sexual shame as a major factor contributing to a lack of consent, which can lead to sexual assault and rape.If people are not aware of their sexual desires and healthy ways to explore them they often end up hurting others when those desires are eventually expressed.

Power and control are common themes explored in the kink/fetish community. It is done so with safety, respect, communication, and consent being key factors. Folx can objectify others with permission, as they take control and they feel a sense of power they have longed for; all while having that dynamic celebrated. Consenting partners who willingly take a sub/bottom position are escorted out of the erotic world and back into their everyday lives through aftercare.

Their autonomy and power returned to them. Sexual shame keeps too many people from considering BDSM as a healthy outlet for their desire to have power or control, yet that desire remains. So, unfortunately, it gets expressed and harms individuals who did not give their consent to be objectified. Victims have their power and autonomy ripped away from them.

There is no aftercare for them, no connection to help them feel whole and taken care off after being violated. When shame is removed from sexuality, people can find many willing participants to indulge their fantasies; and reduce the harm of those desires being expressed on unwilling, unknowing people.

What do we often get wrong about communication in relationships?

People often think that if somebody loves you then they should just know what you want, which leads to a lot of unmet needs and wants; and causes relationships to end. People are complex, sometimes we want contradictory things at the same time! You might want to be held and left alone.

Communication in relationships starts within, examine yourself and then practice kind, compassionate ways of sharing with your partner/s.

What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

This is a uniquely challenging question for me to answer. At 16 I was deep into the Christian faith as a way to manage the toxic shame I felt for being gay. In that time I came out to my youth group leaders, and they tried to pray my gay away.

Spoiler alert, it did not take.

At the time, I thought it was because I didn’t love god enough and two weeks after the failed pray I secretly tried to end my life. Well, it was unsuccessful and that shifted my perspective. I thought, if god made men and women in his image then god is genderqueer, like me.

I thought, god must really like me to make me so much like him; and I started challenging messages from my church which lead to my coming out and self acceptance when I was twenty. So advice I’d give myself at sixteen, “Gurl, you do you and don’t worry about them.”

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What’s one challenge you face in your work that your still working on navigating?

In the wake of the #metoo movement I am working with a number of men who are examining their past interactions with women.

Many of them are considering how they might have inadvertently mishandled flirting, dating, sex without a guide on how to do it respectfully.

So, I help them process those moments, take responsibility while managing shame. That way they can do better now and in the future.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

We all learn ways to deal with the chaos of the world that are useful in many situations, just not all of them. It’s like trying to build a house with just a hammer, it’s great for nailing things and even prying things.

A hammer is pretty wonderful until you need to cut some wood. The hammer will get the job done, it will just be janky.

Much more janky than if you’d considered using a saw instead. I am a queer in Texas, I’ve learned to dismiss a great deal of nonsense. Many politicians have pontificated that me, and people like me, are somehow less than.

Dismissing that rhetoric helps operate on a daily basis, but if I try to dismiss the words of people I care about when it is not convenient to hear them it can do some real damage to that relationship.

What’s one way you’ve been seeking to heal?

I practice self-compassion daily, allowing myself to make mistakes and grow from them. It makes me a kinder person to the people in my life, and something I longed for when I was a closeted kid. To be seen, completely. Accepted with love and understanding.

What’s at the intersection of sex & healing?

I think sex itself can be healing. Sex is where we can connect physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So, connection would be in the center of all that.

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

I have so many brilliant colleagues, who also happen to be kind, caring people. I am also married to the sweetest person I know. He is wonderful at providing support in any form it is requested to come in, from food to feelings.

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I practice it everyday in multiple ways, and the last was working out. I workout five days a week, to feel my own strength and for the emotional benefits of exercise. Self-care is important to me because it encourages me to manage myself,  check inwards and take action to meet my own needs. It rejuvenates me so that I can continue to be a caretaker to others.

Question: Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

Goody Howard is the real deal sexpert and makes learning fun. She taught a workshop in Austin that I helped support and it was wild. Goody also makes dope content for all folx.

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

Explore yourself, understand your own values and what makes them priorities for you, then build your life around that.

💎💎💎

Adam Maurer, LMFT, LPC is a sex positive, genderqueer therapist in Austin, TX. She helps folx explore topics such as: coming out, more than monogamous relationships, kinks and fetishes, and gender. When he is not helping folx in therapy he can be found performing and speaking at events across Texas. Learn more about Adam and connect: Instagram + Web.

The Toll of Misogyny: One Woman’s Story

The past week has been tiring.

Watching a woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, have to reluctantly come forward to tell her story of sexual violence in a public way has been hard. My first response when I read the headline that the anonymous accuser had come forward was fear.

I immediately knew that this woman would be attacked, and that she would be dismissed, and her claims disregarded as opportunistic or politically motivated.

This cycle is so common in our society that it is all too predictable. It was like a punch in the gut.

I believe Dr. Ford, just as I believe all women who come forward about sexual violence and harassment. Why, you ask? How can I be so sure that they aren’t making it up? Because I have a lifetime of experience with misogyny.

As a girl, I was a late bloomer. I started high school with the body of a prepubescent boy. I was a little on the chubby side, with no hips or breasts. By tenth grade, this was the subject of much ridicule. I was made fun of for being flat-chested.

However, just one year later, everything changed. By the end of eleventh grade, I had developed very large breasts, which soon became the center of a lot of discussions. The rumor was that I must had had a boob job because they seemed to have come out of nowhere. What I never said out loud was that there was no way in hell that I would have sought out my 36DD breasts.

Out of nowhere, it felt as if they had taken over my body. They seemed to be all that other people could notice about me. I would never have asked for that type of attention to my body. Never.

The first time that a boy put his hands on my body without my consent was in high school, after my late blooming body developed. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on my breasts. The moment I finally moved his hand away and told him to stop, he got up and walked away.

Having grown up being taught that I should avoid being raped, I assumed that I had invited this interaction. I must have been flirting with him too much, or I must have somehow suggested to him that I wanted him to be on top of me.

Plus, he was really, really cute. I was supposed to feel lucky that he was interested in me, right? No. He wasn’t interested in me. He was interested in having his hands on my body, which was evidenced by his never speaking to me again afterwards.

When I got to college, I realized that either I would be the one to talk about my boobs and make the jokes or someone else was going to. If not join in with the jokes, what else was I supposed to do? If I made the joke first, at least I could maintain some power in the situation, right?

If I was the one to make the joke, then I didn’t have to wait for one of them to do it–because it was always only a matter of time. I laughed. We all laughed. However, I hated my body more with every joke and every chuckle. I resented how I was so quickly and easily minimized to nothing more than a pair of boobs.

When I was eighteen, I went on a family vacation with my parents and my sister. One day, we were on the beach and the beach club next door announced a wet t-shirt contest with the participants all getting free beer.

My parents actually encouraged me to participate. While I appreciate that my parents weren’t interested in slut shaming– in fac, they always encouraged me to have full ownership of my body– it was still complicated to try and make meaning of their suggestion. Should I be using my body for free drinks? All I wanted to do was rage against a world that could commodify my body so easily.

Ultimately, I made the decision to have a breast reduction when I was twenty-three. There were a ton of reasons why this was something that I physically needed. I suffered from consistent neck, shoulder, and back pain, but what I have never said aloud was that I had just as many reasons as to why I needed the surgery emotionally.

I was so tired of being boiled down to my body parts, tired of strangers looking at my chest instead of my eyes, tired off others assuming that I was ditzy or easy. I was tired of men making the assumption that their eyes and hands had a right to be on or near my body.

I didn’t know how to live in this world, in this body, with these parts, without being in a constant state of shame and rage– so I quite literally cut them off.

Little did I know that all of this wouldn’t go away with the three pounds of breast tissue that they took out of my body.

Just last spring, I was at a professional conference when a man I didn’t know decided it was appropriate to scan his eyes up and down my body and let me know how beautiful he thought that I was. He suggested that because I was “gorgeous,” he might hire me to come to his campus. This man’s job was to oversee sexual assault complaints at a college; it was noted on his name badge.

The worst part wasn’t his actions. It’s that I immediately felt ashamed and small. I had newly started my own business and was practicing pitching my work at a conference for the first time. After this happened, it took me three months to pitch my work to another stranger. Three months. Do you know how much lost income that is?! He walked away and continued on with his business while I, even after all of these years, was made to feel small and ashamedagain.

Even today, when I tell men that I am gay, I am often met with a wry smile. The glimmer in their eyes tell me, that even this is about his pleasure and not my identity.

People who ask the question as to why women don’t speak up are missing the whole point. They are asking about a specific interaction without recognizing an entire system. These are not individual instances of sexual harassment, they are a part of a system that was designed to keep women small and quiet. What do I gain by speaking up? In just a couple of days, Dr. Ford has already received death threats and had to move her family from their home for safety. Tell me. What has she gained? What did Anita Hill gain?

These are my experiences. I am a white, feminine-presenting, cis-gender woman. For women of color, these experiences of sexual harassment are even more pronounced. There is an added layer of racism at play.

Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw is a legal scholar who coined the term “intersectionality.” Her work highlights how Black women uniquely experience discrimination, because both sexism and racism are at play; neither experience can be isolated from the other. Crenshaw’s work extends to all women of color and all those who occupy multiple marginalized identities.

This includes queer women, women with disabilities, and Muslim women, as a few examples. Dr. Crenshaw was a part of Anita Hill’s legal team when she faced horrifying treatment by an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Democrat Joe Biden, when they were nominating Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

Further, trans* women of color face profound violence that is rooted in misogyny, sexism, racism, and homophobia. Violence against trans* women of color is a national crisis, with 2018 set to be the deadliest year on record.

The experiences that I’ve had felt horrible, but they pale in comparison to the experiences of many others. We have to shift from looking at harassment and sexual assault as individual instances of violence in order to recognize the systemic nature of violence against women, trans* and gender non-conforming people.

Women choose to speak out or stay silent; and we get to make that choice. We get to choose whether we report it immediately or, like me, we wait until our rage is overflowing to speak about it for the first time.

Accept responsibility for the things you’ve done. Do the work to undo your internalized sexism and need for dominance. Listen to women.

We come forward in the midst of #metoo conversations, in therapy, or in conversations with our trusted sisters and friends. These decisions are ours alone and they are deeply personal, but, honestly, I think we stay silent because there is no evidence that coming forward will benefit us at all.

Until our society at large is prepared to believe womenand I mean all women: white women, women of color, queer women, gender non-conforming folks, sex workers, immigrant women, and the list goes onwhy would we risk further shame by speaking out?

Men, you can play in instrumental role in all of this. First, you can change your own behaviors. I am willing to guess that many of you can see yourself reflected somewhere in this story. That’s fine, as long as you can admit where you have mistepped and get to work to undo these violent systems of sexism and misogyny.

Accept responsibility for the things you’ve done. Do the work to undo your internalized sexism and need for dominance. Listen to women.

Encourage your friends and the men in your circles to listen to and believe women. And don’t ever stop working to dismantle this system that you are keeping together with your silence. I ask you, sincerely, to please believe me.

Believe all women. Listen to us and our stories and then have the courage to see yourself in them. Only then can you really work to make amends.

In my experience, it is near impossible to be a woman who defines herself in the world. Each time one of us does, let us celebrate our courage audacity to take back our power and tell our stories.

💎💎💎

Dr. Victoria Farris is the founder of Farris Consulting where she serves as a consultant, trainer, speaker, and coach working to support equity and inclusion in higher education. Victoria received her Ed.D. in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned double distinction for her research on the role that White people can play in disrupting systemic racism in higher education. She also holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Connecticut, and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Marist College. With over a dozen years of experience supporting students’ learning outside of the classroom, Victoria has served as both an associate dean of students and dean for residence life. Victoria is committed to disrupting systemic racism by supporting higher education institutions, and professionals, in cultivating more inclusive campus environments so that all students, staff, and faculty can thrive. Learn more about Dr. Farris and connect: Twitter + Instagram + Web.

 

It’s time we start celebrating them instead of shaming them: a Q+A w/ Mandy Hale

You’re very open and willing to talk about God on Instagram. Have you always had faith in a God?

Not always.

I was raised in a Christian home and grew up in Baptist churches, but it wasn’t until I was 20 that my relationship with God became real.

Over the past 20 years of being a believer, I’ve certainly had my ups and downs with my faith. These days, I don’t so much consider myself a “Christian” as I do a “follower of Christ.”

It might seem an inconsequential distinction, but there are so many negative connotations with Christianity today and so many public figures proclaiming to be “Christians” but acting like anything but… I’m not super comfortable with the label anymore.

What it comes down to is pretty simple: I love Jesus, and, in my life, I try my best to follow His lead and His greatest commandment, which is “Love one another.”

Can you talk about your spiritual practice or practices?

I try to do daily devotionals and spend quiet time in prayer and communion with God. I don’t always succeed at doing this daily, but I try. I think quiet time is really important because we’re always taught to talk at God through prayer and not so much to just sit and listen for what He might have to say to us.

I don’t currently have a church but I’m looking for one. I also enjoy meditation and try and make it a weekly practice. At this point in my life, I feel closer to God in nature than anywhere else. I try to spend time outdoors, just soaking in His creations, whenever I can.

How does writing fit into your practices?

For me, writing has always been a very holy thing. I find myself in my writing. I reclaim parts of myself in my writing. I come to understand why things happened the way they did through my writing.

I’ve always said that every time I go in search of the right words to say, the words always end up finding me before I find them, if that makes sense. Writing is my sanctuary, my safe place, where I go to unravel everything that happens in my life and see how it fits into the bigger picture.

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Your book is titled “You Are Enough.” Have you always felt enough? If not, how did you get there?

I’m still getting there! In the book, I talk about how the journey to “enough-ness” is never complete. It’s a process.

I have definitely learned not to subscribe my worth and my value to anything outside of myself. My worth comes from within and from above. But I definitely have days where I still feel lacking or incomplete.

I think, ultimately, what it comes down to is learning to love EVERY version of yourself… the sad one, the happy one, the whole one, the hurting one, the healing one, the heartbroken one, and so on and so forth. THAT is wholeness to me.

Can you talk about your instagram handle @thesinglewoman?

Sure! I started my Twitter page over eight years ago now, almost as a fluke, to promote my blog. I had no idea when I created The Single Woman Twitter handle, that I was creating a brand.

I wanted to be The Single Lady, after the Beyonce song! But that handle was already taken. So The Single Woman it was. I started off sharing my journey as a single woman and the lessons I was learning along the way, and over the years it’s evolved into something much bigger and all-encompassing. Now I just talk about LIFE.

The give and take and push and pull and highs and lows of life. I like to think anyone can relate to my message, single or otherwise. It’s been really cool to see how over the years as I’ve grown and evolved, my readers have grown and evolved with me. Some of them have gotten married, had kids, etc., and they’re still faithful followers of my message. It’s a very special thing, and I’m honored to have been given such a platform.

The journey of The Single Woman will always carry a special place in my heart, regardless of where my life takes me.

Where do you find connection?

My family. My friends. The occasional venture into online dating! In all seriousness, I think as we get older, we have to go in search of connection and community. It doesn’t just find us like it did when we were younger.

I try to put myself out there and meet new people as often as I can, whether it’s through volunteering or taking a dance class or whatever.

Writing is my sanctuary, my safe place, where I go to unravel everything that happens in my life and see how it fits into the bigger picture. – Mandy Hale

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

We’re here to love everyone. To be love in action to everyone. We are here to be all-inclusive of everyone. Absolutely EVERYONE, always.

In my chosen faith, all too often, people cherry pick scriptures to fit their own narrow-minded viewpoints and what it all boils down to is this: Jesus said His greatest commandment is to love Him first, love our neighbor second. ALL of our neighbors, regardless of sex, race, religion, background, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc. LOVE EVERYONE.

I’ve been clear on this for some time now. I’ve been vocal about affirming my values and beliefs for some time now. It’s not always a popular opinion here in the Bible belt, unfortunately, but it’s what I believe at the very core of my being and I won’t waver or apologize for it.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

In my new book, “You Are Enough,” I take readers on this journey with me, through the season in my life when I was at my very lowest. Due to being thrown a series of great curve balls and enduring a string of heartbreaking losses, I became very depressed and had to address my depression and anxiety with intensive outpatient therapy. ‘

It was the hardest and also the most beautiful experience of my life. I’m excited to share this journey with my readers and, hopefully, help shine a light in some dark places, places that carry great stigma and shame.

In our culture, and especially within the Christian culture, we are taught that mental health struggles equals weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. P

eople who struggle with mental health issues and still keep putting one foot in front of the other are some of the strongest people on earth. It’s time we start celebrating them instead of shaming them.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I’m 40 and I’m working to unlearn the idea that I’m “not where I’m supposed to be at age 40.”

I thought I’d be married with three kids by now! Most of my friends from high school have teenagers and I haven’t even gotten started. But I’m slowly learning that life can look however you want it to look at any age. I’m still getting there… but I’m working on it.

There’s nowhere you’re “supposed to be” except exactly where you are. There’s no set way to do this life thing. You can have pizza for breakfast and cereal for dinner and kids at age 40 and beyond if you want to.

It’s all up to YOU.

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What’s the last thing you did for self-care and why is self-care important for you?

I have days, usually Sundays, where I don’t work or do anything that requires a ton of mental energy. I rest and wear PJs all day and read and nap and watch movies. It’s so necessary to allow yourself downtime in this crazy world we live in.

It’s okay to shut out the world for a day or a weekend and just soak in the blissful quiet. Allow your body and mind to rest and heal. If you never put your cell phone down and allow it to recharge, eventually it will die. Same goes for us.

We need to carve out time for ourselves to recharge, in whatever way we need to. It looks different for everyone, and that’s okay.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?

Answer: Wow, that’s a great question! Hmmmm. “I’m grateful for the journey.”

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Blogger turned New York Times best-selling author and speaker Mandy Hale is the creator of “The Single Woman,” a social media movement designed to inspire single women – and everyone! – to live their best lives and to never settle. Mandy’s message reaches literally millions of people across the world every day through her blog, books, and social media platforms. Learn more about Mandy and connect: Instagram + Twitter + Web

🔥🔥🔥 Get your copy of You Are Enough today! 🔥🔥🔥🔥

 

 

 

There’s no other way out but through: a Q+A w/ Nita Baum

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I’m practicing it as I write this. I’m breathing. I’m sitting in solitude. I’ve created a gentle and calm environment because the week has been busy and people-filled.

I’m carving time to go slow, pause, and take deep breaths. I also practiced yoga earlier, as I do every day. It’s like brushing my teeth. It’s integral to how I roll!

Taking care of myself is a contribution to my sustainability and to that of everyone in relationship to me, that is to say, everyone everywhere. The more I take care of myself, the better off I am, the better I am able to contribute and be an instrument of the work, change, transformation I seek to embody and that I espouse in the world.

Self-care is also about tuning the “container” – mind – body – and clearing/cleaning them of doubt and obstacles and distractions. It  liberates a lot of creative lifeforce. It is preparation. The spirit flows more easily through the container when the container is clear.

 

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Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Nope! I always wanted to be an instrument of change and positive social impact in the world. I cared about people and the planet pretty much since I arrived on it so I just wanted to reduce people’s suffering and address the inequities, injustices and shadows I saw in the world.

Business and entrepreneurship was a vehicle for me to plug into the existing marketplace- which I view as a place where we can all share, contribute, and exchange our inner light, potential, gifts, talents, and creations. It’s a spiritual marketplace as much as it’s an economic or material one. That’s the lens I bring to it.

What are the most important skills you have as a business owner and leader?

Self-awareness,. self-responsibility, and self-trust are the most critical leadership skills that I am always attending to, in the practice of and developing as a leader. The more aware I am of myself and how I show up, the more effectively I can contribute what I have to offer and the better I understand the people around me.

The more responsible I am for myself, the less I burden those around me with wants and needs that I, myself, am capable of fulfilling from within. And power and responsibility go together. If I locate the responsibility for things outside of myself – i.e. blame others or the world for how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing, my power goes right out with that blame!

The more responsible I am for my own experience, the more power I have to create what that is. This applies to business relationships in very concrete ways and allows me to navigate them much more effectively and efficiently; I spend less time worrying, doubting, feeling disempowered. And more time listening, considering my actions, behaviors, and opportunities.

Finally, trusting myself – the idea that who I am, exactly as I am is plenty enough, allows me to make bolder moves and take the risk of being authentic, which sometimes means being radical, going against conventional wisdom, and forging a different kind of path.

So far, so good. I don’t think I’d be fulfilled any other way. And people and clients respond. I think we actually really want to meet and connect with the real versions of each other.

So much of what I learned through my work and life experiences could best be summed up as this: the change we seek in the world cannot manifest unless we ourselves are the change. – Nita Baum

What’s the best part about being a freelancer?

The freedom and autonomy to listen to my natural rhythms, cycles, and needs whether they be for rest, solitude, or to roam freely through the wilderness of my creativity are some of the best things about being a freelancer.

Getting to read, study, and be self-directed in my own learning and professional growth journey is also amazing. I never felt I had enough time to simply immerse myself in deep study, thought and reflection when I was working. It seemed unproductive back then.

It’s super-generative for me and feels great now! Being free to create when I am in a state that demands that I do so is also a true gift, whether what I’m creating is a budget, a chapter in a book I’m writing, curriculum for our program or designing a workshop.

What’s the worst part about being a freelancer?

I find this honestly hard to answer. I wouldn’t choose not to be one. Having to pay for your own health insurance sucks. Having the time to be proactive about self-care is awesome though.

Why is it important to emphasize individuals’ sustainability and well-being in freelance and business at large?  

I think this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sums it up best: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…this is the inter-related structure of reality.”

The sustainability and well-being of the individual is contingent on that of the collective and vice versa. They are mutually reinforcing. For us all to thrive and not just survive, each of us must thrive.

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What are the origins of b*free?

In 2012, Alight, my first business, a freelance strategy, policy and org change consultancy was thriving but/and I was aware that I was ready to pivot. I had an internal sense of misalignment with the values of the organizations I was working with, and there was a nascent, if growing sense, that there was a next step in my personal growth and development journey (to me, that’s life, a learning journey).

I had changed and learned so much since first founding Alight, a freelance strategy, policy and org change consultancy intended to make large-scale positive social impact primarily through the education sector.

So much of what I learned through my work and life experiences could best be summed up as this: the change we seek in the world cannot manifest unless we ourselves are the change. In short, we – each of us- needs to embody the change we seek to see in the world.

Why? Well, because each of us alone and all of us together are the world. With that growing awareness, I served as the architect of an experimental process for myself that made me very uncomfortable.

With the luxury of savings, I decided to put my work on hold and embark on a journey I later called “Curating My Inspiration” (curating comes from “curare” which means “to take care”) which involved becoming very discerning, deliberate and mindful about what I consumed- from conversations to music to talks to food to the air I breathed to art I experienced to relationships.

By “curate” I mean, I preserved what resonated, paused/exited what didn’t, tried new things that resonated, and engaged deeply with those things.

The primary intention was  “only consume that which resonates with my inner knowing very deeply.” The experiment was based on the idea that if I aligned what I consumed to only what felt most resonant, perhaps what I would create/produce would also be aligned to my deeper knowing. Vary the inputs to vary the outputs? During that process, I realized a lot about myself, my capacity as a leader, and also reflected on the whitespace in my life and realized the I had been working with would-be freelancers + solopreneurs of all stripes on a pro bono basis (a couple hundred people! without even realizing it). I could see the patterns and convergence in what they were seeking. That period of reflection also made me clearer on my own skills.

And ultimately, at the end of 9 months, the idea for b*free was born! b*free would integrate multiple threads of my background: personal development, wellness, and business skills to equip individuals with a holistic approach to working and living sustainably and freely.

Whether we are working with freelancers/solopreneurs or leaders/teams, we take that holistic approach and ecosystem view of the individual as mind-body-spirit at work, and attend to the whole individual through our programs and learning experiences.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

When I first quit my last full-time job and was asked the question, “Who are you and what do you do?” I didn’t know how to answer that without stumbling over myself and getting in my own way.

At every turn, I encountered some inner narrative I held about what  I should have been, wasn’t and therefore, why I was “wrong” for being who I was. I felt like I was supposed to have answers I didn’t have. It was so rough. And so beautiful.

It led to this question: When I can no longer define myself by the school, organization, or groups with which I am affiliated, who am I? That became a transformative journey of self-discovery. It taught me a lot about the way I wanted to do business and life as well.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

As a 40-year old who looks young, as a woman of color who is “petite” as many people describe me, I sometimes find myself feeling the need to prove my strength, to tell people my age, to dispel the perception that I am weak because I am physically small and lesser because I’m colorful.  

I experiment with how to navigate this. Do I need to address perceptions people may have of me? To what end? Historically, I opted not to. It didn’t seem valuable. It seemed a lot more about my ego and fairly self-indulgent. Also, usually, the moment I open my mouth to voice myself, the perception shifts in my favor. People listen. They trust me.

They know I’m serious and can sense I really care, listen, and having something to contribute. More recently, I’ve begun seeing the challenge differently now. It feels like in addressing it, I’m taking a stand. I stand for women. I stand for people of color. I stand for building a more inclusive, just, and equitable world.  

I stand for all of us being seen,voiced, heard, expressed and being valued on the basis of our merits.

So, I have decided that if I feel there’s unconscious bias at play in my relationships, I’ll raise it. To be in the inquiry of it. To learn. To learn together with whomever I’m discussing it with. I’ve done it and I’ve found it has opened up very positive and healthy dialogue. I’m in the ongoing inquiry of navigating all this and it’s uncomfortable in ways I welcome, resist!, and know that I grow from.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

I presume abundance in all of humanity. We come free, gifted, equal, in power and grounded. I became clear the more I paid attention and listened to what I heard and what was reflected back to me through all of my relationships including the one to myself. Listening has been key to becoming clear.

I stand for all of us being seen,voiced, heard, expressed and being valued on the basis of our merits. – Nita Baum

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I’m still unlearning that my worth is contingent on how much I give. I am inherently worthy of this incredible gift that is life. May my contributions do that justice and honor.

And may I keep learning that contributing to my own well-being is one of the best contributions I can make to the world. I am part of the world. As I heal me, I heal us.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

There’s no other way out but through!

  • What if you embrace self-doubt, but/and! treat it as a step on the pathway to self-discovery?
  • What happens if you get curious about what your self-doubt has to tell you?
  • What it wants to illuminate for you?
  • How can you do this?

First notice the physical and emotional sensations that arise with the doubt. Locate them in your body. Where are the sensations?

Ask them a question, with a sense of curiosity about that answer, and then listen for the answer. “What are you here to tell me, sensation-that- feels-like-self-doubt? What information are you here to offer me?” 

on’t stop til you get an answer that is an opening, instead of a dead end. Judgments lead to dead ends. “You’re bad.” “You can’t do this.” “You’re not worthy.”

These statements don’t really open a doorway. Not a wide enough one to walk through anyway. They are door closers. By contrast, “Your ops plan isn’t detailed enough and you forgot to add that travel expense to your line item budget.”

Or. “Oh psych! I am just a temporary sensation and I’m going away now. Nothing here to see. You’re good. Keep on going!”

The array of possible answers that arise when you get curious vs. judge, is vast. And that clarity diminishes the power of the doubt. It reveals what’s behind the veil of doubt.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?

May all beings be free.

Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

Bryan Santiago is an incredibly gifted creative strategist who helps great people amplify their work in the world. He’s been instrumental at b*free.

Darren Harley, founder of Open to Change and author of the book by the same name. His book is a beautiful guide for the journey of becoming free, becoming who you are. 

Jahan Mantin and Boyuan Gao of Project Inkblot created Design for Diversity, which helps illuminate blind spots around cultural and racial biases in how we design content, products, and services. Such beautiful work that is building awareness and raising consciousness. 

Prashant Goel is the founder of Imaginally, and is an incredibly compassionate, intelligent and skilled coach. Words don’t do him justice. Just work with him! 

Eduardo Placer is the incredibly gifted and mult-talented founder of Fearless Communicators, a dynamic public speaking coaching agency that empowers leaders and change-makers to share their voice and story from a space of authentic POWER and uses the mind, body, and spirit to unlock people’s voices.

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Nita’s an entrepreneur, facilitator, coach and the founder of b*free, a human experience and culture company. Individuals are the creative life-force of an organization, whether they are building and leading an org or working at one. Equipped with a holistic ecosystem view of the individual as mind-body-spirit at work, we design transformative learning experiences and provide advisory, coaching and facilitation services for individual and organizational transformation, sustainability and well-being. Learn more about Nita and connect: Twitter + Web + Services. Send Nita an email at info@bfree.live to learn more about 1 to 1 coaching, their online program- coming soon!