What made you want to start your own life-coaching business?
I started out in IT. I studied computing at university and joined the IT department of a large car manufacturer as a graduate. Soon after joining I began mentoring 2 teenage girls at a local secondary school as part of the company’s CSR. I really enjoyed it and began to consider counselling. After a lot of research, I thought counselling would be too intense for me but around the same time I discovered life coaching. I did a 3-month “Be Your Own Life Coach” course at a local FE college and knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.
How did you overcome obstacles that were in your way when starting up your own business?
The biggest challenge initially was not having anyone in my circle or family who had started their own business. The overall view at the time (10+ years ago) was that you worked a steady, secure 9-5. Although I’d been coaching for a few years alongside my 9-5, I took voluntary redundancy in 2009 in the midst of a global recession so people thought it was too risky to set up my company at that time. Not having the support of people you love and trust makes it harder to trust yourself and your decisions, especially when you don’t have a roadmap to follow. Another challenge was knowing what to charge and then having the courage to ask for what I thought was a fair amount (which at the time was still too low).
I also struggled with finding my niche and authentic pathway within coaching. Initially I felt pressure to look at certain way and to offer my services in a way that everyone else was.
It took time, trials and errors to overcome them. I did also have friends who really championed the pathway I chose and was always there to cheer me on and remind me of my greatness and motivation for doing what I do.
Has it been difficult navigating the industry that you are in as a woman of colour?
It’s easier now but 10+ years ago the coaching industry was very American and very white. It had a strong male energy that did not resonate with me but it took a number of years for me to recognise that this was what had been feeling “off” to me. Something just didn’t sit right with and for a long time I couldn’t work out what it was. It was that initially, the holistic and wellbeing element of coaching was missing in the industry. Also, there were very few “experts” who looked like me and that’s always an unsettling feeling.
In the early days, I often felt a pressure to prove myself and my skills so I suffered with extreme imposter’s syndrome. Now I know I’m great at what I do and I’m prepared to challenge anyone that doubts me just based on how I look.
Considering our current climate, how do you feel Black women are being seen, heard or acknowledged (if at all) within the sector you are in?
Hmmm… I think we are definitely being seen and acknowledged. I’m just not sure we’re being heard and I’m almost certain most of us are not being fairly compensated or given the respect or opportunities we deserve. I still have people represented brands and businesses asking for my services acknowledging me as an expert in my field but when I ask about the budget, there isn’t one. The assumption that we’ll work for free and be grateful to “collaborate” (which I know recognise as a code word that means “work for free”) for the “exposure”. I find this so disrespectful and it’s annoying to say the least.
What 5 tips would you give women of colour who are wanting to get into journaling?
Be gentle with yourself – journaling can bring up a lot of unresolved and unacknowledged feelings, emotions and trauma
Use prompts – getting started with a blank page can be daunting. Prompts give you a starting point without you having to think about what to write.
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or handwriting – this is not a school assignment.
What you write will not be graded and is for your eyes only. It’s the process of writing that matters.
Get a nice notebook – it doesn’t have to be expensive but it helps if it’s something you feel drawn.
Experiment – there are so many ways to journal so how you first begin may not be what works for you. Try lined and blank pages. Try pen, pencil or crayon. Try different colour ink. Mix it up with words and drawings. Use different types of prompts – questions, quotes, images. Write at different times and in different places. Try with and without music and experiment with different genres of music.
What books or podcasts would you recommend for those women of colour who are seeking out acts of self-care?
I really struggle with podcasts but I love Black Girl in Om. I also listen to PowHer, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations and Alex Elle’s Hey, Girl podcast.
Books… there are too many to mention… I’m currently reading Vibrate Higher Daily by Lalah Delia. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes is a really motivating read. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k definitely made me braver in setting personal boundaries. The Happiness Project, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and The Morning Miracle are books that made a positive impact on my life.
These books are not necessarily about self-care practices however they made helped me to gain clarity on what really mattered which in turn motivated me to prioritise self-care in my life.
In regards to the social media world, there is a lot of debate in the ways it affects us mentally.
What advice would you give to help women of colour navigating these spaces?
This is a topic I battle with daily. First of all, watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix and read the book How to Break Up with Your Phone.
There is absolutely no denying that social media can have a negative impact on our mental health and how we experience life. And the sad reality is that it actually is negatively impacting many younger people.
Like anything else in life, boundaries are key. I use an app on my phone to help me to minimise the time I am using social media. Also, getting really clear about why you’re using particular social media platforms and how they make you feel – regular breaks help you get clarity.
Also, detox often. Unfollow anyone that doesn’t inspire, motivate, affirm, positively inform or bring joy.
What woman of colour has been your key inspiration/motivation?
My mum has definitely been my key inspiration and motivation. In my younger years I didn’t really appreciate just how much my mum has been through and achieved but now I’m in full admiration of her. I can see how much of my life and the decisions I’ve made have come from the lessons and values I absorbed from my mum.
Other women to mention include:
When I started out in the blogging world, GG Renee was someone who really inspired me. She still does today. I love her writing as well as her authenticity and I really connected with her. She is not a celebrity or famous so she is super relatable.
Kelechi Okafor has not been my key inspiration/motivation throughout but over the past few years she has really inspired me to stand in my power and take up space. When I find myself in situations where I doubt myself, I’ll ask “How would Kelechi approach this?”
Afeni and Asata Shakur have also been inspirational for me after reading both their autobiographies. The strength both women have shown in their lives is unbelievable.
What is your favourite mantra and/or affirmation that gets you through those joyful/difficult times?
I have a couple:
This too shall pass
What is meant to be will be
Trust the process, trust the universe, trust your journey
If you had the power to erase one negative belief that is commonly experienced by women of colour, what would it be?
That struggle is inevitable for us. I think this negative belief often keeps us in unhealthy and sometimes dangerous situations. It causes us to endure more than we need to because we believe that this is how things are supposed to be for us.
BONUS – What is your favourite journal prompt and why?
I try to ask myself these 3 questions each time journal:
How do I feel?
What do I need?
What am I grateful for?