Hi, my name is Phenomenal Nicole. I live in Cape Town, South Africa. I have a pet-lion named Simba – JUST kidding, and if you thought I was serious, my dear friend, then I invite you to take a trip to my beautiful continent (and if you did know I was joking, I’m not being facetious. Some people literally think these things about us. Have you watched Trevor Noah?).
On a more serious note, I live in Cape Town, but was born in Zimbabwe and lived in Johannesburg in between. I’m studying Psychology at the moment with my other major in Religious Studies. I’m hoping to pick up Media as my third major. My passion lies in multiple areas: namely food, media and travel. I’m a total health-foodie, I love the Internet and Crossfit, and I want to see the world.
So let’s get to the nitty gritty! Describe your self-esteem level. Are you a Beyoncé Flawless 10? Are you struggling with your worth? Or are you a little in-between?
Honestly, I’m definitely a little in-between, which never used to be the case. Previously, I struggled and I was always putting myself down and always comparing myself to other people. Spoiler alert – comparing myself to other people didn’t get me anywhere. Today, I don’t compare myself to anyone. My life is completely unique and my struggles today are completely unique. My self-esteem is definitely affected by the people that I surround myself with. It’s something that I realized long ago, by the patterns of my emotions and now I actively work on letting go of the people that have a negative influence on my life, and I seek out the things that make me truly me. The more I do this, the higher my self-esteem rises. It’s strange isn’t it? When you really think about it – how terrible is it not to love and have confidence in yourself? It kind of makes you wonder who you can love and have confidence in, if not yourself. A huge lesson I have learned in this regard, and you may have heard this quote before, is this: “don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I think that’s what I have done so often in my life, and that is where my ill self-confidence stems from. It’s important to understand why you are who you are, and what made you that way. It helps you out of the hole.
In your own words, what does it mean to love yourself?
I think there are two ingredients when it comes to loving yourself: honesty, and bravery. You have to be honest with yourself when it comes to your life and what makes you a better person, and bravery to go after what it is that you truly want in life. In order to truly love yourself, you have to know and accept the person that you are. You have to know what’s good for you, and what’s bad for you. You have to allow yourself to indulge in the things that you love, and you have to make the decisions that produce the best possible results for your life. It means looking after YOU: physically, emotionally and psychologically. When I talk about indulging in the things that you love, I definitely don’t mean eat several dozen chocolate muffins in one sitting because you love chocolate muffins. I mean that you have one muffin because muffins make you happy, and then walking away because you know that eating unhealthy makes you unhappy. Similarly, if eating healthy actually makes you unhappy, but eating several dozen muffins makes you happy, then you should eat the muffins. It means that every decision you make is to build yourself up, not break yourself down. You really are your own best friend and it goes back to that notion of loving yourself – if you can’t love yourself for who you are, then who can you love? A tangible example of loving myself goes a little something like this: I’ve always worried about my future. I have often wondered if my future career is going to earn me enough money to lead a fulfilling life, and if it’s not, should I perhaps consider changing career paths? I am finally at a stage in my life where these questions are not on my mind. I just don’t care. I am happy right now. I just want to keep doing what I love and being who I am – even if that earns me minimal money at the end of the day. I think that’s what it means to love yourself – letting yourself be happy with exactly who you are.
Why did you decide to open up a blog?
This is actually answered in the first post I wrote on the blog. We all have those people in life that inspire us above anything and anyone else. They are the people that drive you into action. My blog is my way of being that person for other people. It’s a win-win situation, because by actively aspiring to be that person for other people, I am constantly reminding myself to be a better person and to fight for myself. I can’t give in to a life I don’t believe in, and then expect people to go after the life they want. It’s a case of “do what I do and what I say because what I do and say is exactly the same thing. I practice what I preach”. The difference is, although I want to be that person that inspires and drives other people, I also want people to know that my struggles exist and they are very, very real. I don’t want to hide that fact because, I promise you, that’s when you start bringing people down instead of building them up – when you start giving them an edited version of your life. The minute you do that, you are giving them a benchmark that they can never reach.
As a blogger, you expose a little bit of your soul with each blog post you share. Do you ever face moments where it becomes uncomfortable for you to do so? Do you find it hard to remain true to yourself when blogging? Do you hold back, avoid certain topics? If so, how do you power through it? What are some topics you will never delve into?
When first answering this question, I said that there was, currently, no subject into which I would not delve, but when reviewing my answer, I realized I was wrong. The only subject I choose not to go into is race. If you know the history of South Africa, you’ll know about Apartheid, and if you understand history, people and politics, or live in South Africa, you’ll understand that the effects of Apartheid are ever-present and an all-invasive injustice of our society. I understand that could be true for many other countries in the world, too. I feel like this subject of past and present race-discrimination affects people in such a huge and often unimaginable way and it is such a personal and heartfelt topic. I simply don’t feel comfortable commenting on it.
With regard to the other sub-questions, yeah I face difficult moments, and sometimes I want to hold back. It’s a very real thing to be concerned about people disliking what you’ve got to say. At first, it makes you feel rejected. But it makes for a very good lesson, and one that I’m still learning, that often, having a loud voice and speaking out about what you believe in actually makes people like you more. When you have a strong, confident voice, people respect you, whether or not they agree with what you’ve got to say. I’ve found that to be true when I compare my old blogs to my present blog. My past blogs all failed so miserably because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about – I just wrote about things that I thought people would like. I tried so hard not to offend people and as soon as I did I would feel awful and immediately apologise. I wrote about what I thought people wanted to hear and what I thought would make them follow my blog. I was very wrong. With my blog now, I know it’s working out because it makes me feel uncomfortable at times but people are responding to that. Just because someone says I’m wrong, doesn’t mean I am wrong. It’s good that people are fighting back against what I am saying. Obviously lines must be drawn with this kind of thing – if I am putting out a very ignorant and uneducated opinion, and people are fighting back, there’s a difference. However, I make a point to know what I am talking about when I write about things and this gives me the confidence to stand up for my opinion.
The question of how I power through these moments of unease – again it’s that idea of honing in on my life, being honest with and challenging myself. It’s a rewarding experience, and so I hope that I can inspire people to do the same for themselves. Sometimes it requires a bit of unease and feeling uncomfortable in the things that you write about to build confidence.
Have you ever received a blow to your self-esteem or self-worth from a blogging experience?
When I first answered these questions, I said that I couldn’t recall a specific event that brought down my self-esteem, but having thought about it deeply, I can actually remember one event – and quite significant, so I don’t know why I forgot. For one of my past blogs, I decided that I wanted to interview a group of women who inspired me and do a series of guest posts – kind of like Phenomenal You! I reached out to all the women who I wanted to be a part of the team, and they were a very diverse group of women. It would have been an awesome project. I think only one or two got back to me, and so I never ended up doing the series. I can’t remember at what age this was, but I was a teenager, and it made me feel as if my age made my opinions worthless. Granted I was contacting busy women and my blog was very small-scale, but I was stepping out into a public eye (or trying to) and I was doing something different for myself, and it didn’t go so well, so that sucked.
In general though, yeah, it’s been the small things – when I don’t get a lot of views, when I do get a lot of views but no one comments, or when someone says something negative regarding what I’ve spoken about.
At the end of the day, blogging is a journey, and it takes time to build a name for yourself and be heard. If someone fights back about what you have said, or comments in a negative way, they’re still commenting and they’re still reading. You have to hold on to what you are saying, and remember why you wrote it in the first place.
Another really interesting thing to think about are the blows you received from yourself. How many times have you silently bashed your own work and brought yourself down? I know that when it comes to blogging, I am my own worst enemy. I constantly think that maybe what I am saying is unworthy and uneducated and ohmygosh maybe I should take it down. Hey, it’s a struggle but I’m pushing through.
Who’s to blame for a woman’s low self-esteem: Society, her surroundings, or herself?
It’s a tough question, but when you really get down to it, I think that the blame for a woman’s low self-esteem would have to be on herself, as well as society. I think the answer to this question delves a bit into psychology, which is actually what I am studying at the moment. I believe that the people whom a person – and in this case, a woman – chooses to surround herself with play a huge role in how she feels about herself. But then again, if a woman is surrounded by supportive and positive people, but still has a low self-esteem, then she should take time to reflect in on herself. There are issues I have personally dealt with before, and I, wanting to take action, went to see a psychologist of my own. Not going into too much detail, but I think a lot of who you are is controlled by your own mind. People are right when they say that your own worst enemy is your mind, and that’s exactly what I was talking about in my answer to the previous question. When I think of the people that inspire me, I feel empowered to write and share my opinion, but when I think of the people that would perhaps judge me, I feel small and quiet – I don’t want to share my opinion anymore. In this case, it’s definitely not the people that surround me that are the problem. It’s my mind. I shouldn’t care what people think about the things that I say, and I shouldn’t be quiet for the people that would judge me – I should be loud for the people that are listening.
Combating low self-esteem requires knowing the person that you truly are. It’s a journey. It won’t happen in a couple of days. It’s something that you have to actively work at, by surrounding yourself with friends who are positive and supportive, as well as reviewing your own mind and seeing what it is that you need to work on.
What words of advice would you share with your 16-year-old self about self-esteem, self-worth, and of course, the art of blogging?
Sixteen-year-old me: you need to calm down and stop worrying. You try so hard to avoid difficult situations that you end up avoiding life. You try so hard to always be right, to never be wrong, that you end up being a people-pleaser. You end up being a small person that nobody notices. I promise you, you might be drawn to the people who are nice and agree with everything, because they make you feel accepted, but when you grow up, you won’t remember those people, because they never really stand out, and they were never there for the long haul. You need to speak up for the things that you believe in and you need to be loud about it. Even if you do happen to be wrong, who cares? At least you had the guts to speak up. Always be your own person. Never plaster your identity onto someone else, and never let your identity be compromised by anyone else. When it comes to blogging, again, stop trying so hard. In general, stop trying to grow up so fast. You want to get a job, earn money and that’s great that you want to be independent at such a young age, but you need to allow yourself to be young. You don’t yet have the maturity (natural maturity that comes with simply growing up, nothing you can work on, so don’t try) to be where you want to be right now. You need to let life run its course, and stop trying to force it. Be young right now. Work on building friendships, and memories, and spending time with your family. The rest will fall into place when it is meant to. I promise you that everything will work out. Trust yourself.