About four years ago, the women in my Mastermind Group decided to read "Daring Greatly" by Brené Brown. It has been a book that has changed my perspective on many things. Since I learned about vulnerability as a sign of strength and not weakness, it has helped me get comfortable with my feelings and emotions.
In this blog post, I will share areas of my life where I am allowing myself and the impact it has had on me.
Starting point: What does being Vulnerable mean?
I like Brené Brown's definition of vulnerability as "the feeling we get during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. This includes times when we're showing our feelings, and we're not sure what people will think, and times when we really care about something and people will know that we're sad or disappointed when it doesn't work out."
Being Vulnerable at work
Thinking about being vulnerable at work is something that we are trained not to do. Acknowledging that there are many things that I know and others that I do not know is difficult. I have learned that it is ok to be vocal about it. Another area where I am vulnerable at work is sharing how much I struggled when I started working at a company that many people think is a dream company. I felt a lot of shame about the fact that I was not living the dream. Talking about my experience helped me overcome the sadness I felt and move on.
Being Vulnerable in relationships
It is weird, but even when we love people, sometimes it feels tough to be vulnerable with them. There is always a fear of being taken for granted when you bear it all and share how you feel. As my relationships have matured, I have had to decide to put myself out there and show my true feelings. I had to learn not to hold back when it came to love and not be afraid of disappointment.
Being Vulnerable as a mother
Especially when I talk to other mothers, I am candid about areas where I am not doing things people expect of a "perfect mother." I openly share the challenges I have faced so far on my journey. It is scary to talk about the challenges I had breastfeeding my son in the first three weeks of his life, challenges sleep training, dealing with mum guilt, and much more. Being vulnerable has helped me connect with other amazing women.
Being Vulnerable about my background
For the longest time, I did not feel comfortable sharing about the fact that I grew up poor and was homeless at one point in my life in Germany. I was very self-conscious and thought people might look at me differently if they knew. This was indeed a story I told myself. When I got the courage to share, I learned more about other people's similar experiences. My background contributed a lot to who I am today.
Being Vulnerable about my insecurities
One of the most difficult blog posts I wrote was when I shared about dealing with my insecurities. My weight gain was something I needed to come to terms with over the last few years. I could not believe that I actually wrote and published a blog post when I shared about it. It helped me see how much it mattered to me and the fact that everything was still alright. Talking about my insecurities is still hard, but I am learning to push through the discomfort.
Being Vulnerable about my fears
In my birthday blog post last week, I shared ten things about myself, and for some reason, I wanted to share one of the fears on my mind. I shared about the fact that I am almost worried that no one will show up to events that I organize or read my blog posts. It is something that has held me back from taking big steps. Writing it down reminded me that it is real and I can overcome my fears.
Being Vulnerable about my dreams
Especially in the Nigerian culture, you are told not to share about your dreams. People have different thoughts about why you should not share your dreams. I always wondered, what if the goals and dreams I share never come true? The fact that people know and can see my disappointment makes me not want to share. I am being vulnerable by sharing my yearly goals, the progress I am making, and areas where I still have work to do.
Being vulnerable has helped me be my whole self and connected me with fabulous people. You never know who you are helping by showing up as yourself and accepting that no one is perfect. We all have the opportunity to continue learning and growing.
October is a month of celebration in our home. We kicked it off with our wedding anniversary, our Son's birthday, and the grand finale is, my birthday. This year, I am marking my special day by celebrating who I am and sharing a little bit about me.
In this blog post, I will share some experiences, thoughts, and fears that make me who I am today. Check out my other "Her Story" blog posts to learn more about me.
#1: I am German-Nigerian
It took me a while to own and celebrate both parts of my cultural identity. After I moved to the US over seven years ago, it finally became clear that both German and Nigerian cultures have influenced who I am today. My love for family and community is Nigerian, whereas my sense of responsibility at work is very German.
#2: I am a Wife and Mother
The two most important men in my life are my Son and husband. I am very fortunate to be married to someone I have known all my life. It is a very special gift that I never take for granted. Two years ago, we were blessed with our Son. Every day I find comfort in the home we have built for ourselves and our Son.
#3: I get to celebrate my birthday every year with someone special
I am one of those people who was blessed to be born with a birthday mate. My twin sister and I celebrate this wonderful occasion every year. It is very special to have a sibling with whom you share a lot with. One of the questions I get asked the most as a twin is if we can feel the other person's feelings and know if something is wrong. The truth is that there is a special connection that I can't explain.
#4: My sister and I were raised by a single mom
Our Mother gave birth to us in Germany and then moved back to Nigeria with us when we were 18 months old. Growing up was fun and challenging at the same time. I learned many valuable lessons about being a resilient woman from my Mother. When I look at how far my sister and I have come in our lives so far, I can't believe it given how we grew up.
#5: One of my greatest fears is that no one shows up to my "party"
In my job, I get to organize and lead various events. One of my steady fears is that no one will sign up and join. I stop myself from looking at the numbers of how many people signed and enjoy the surprise. I also tell myself that it's not about how many people show up but the value they get from being there.
#6: Working towards my financial goal is one of my motivators
I grew up poor but with some privileges in Nigeria. One promise I made to myself when I moved to Germany at age 15 was that I would be intentional with my finances and work towards building wealth. It started with me saving a very small amount from the small jobs I worked at when I was in university. I have kept my saving discipline going until now. As I earned more money, I set more aside and invested in building the life I desired.
#7: My purpose in life is to support women around me
When people ask me what I am passionate about, I always say, "helping women thrive in their personal and professional lives." I take the forums and platforms I have to connect with other women very seriously. Especially being raised mostly among women, I am a cheerleader for those who are working towards living their best lives.
#8: My Career has taken me places that I never imagined
When I graduated, I had no idea I would be where I am today, almost thirteen years later. I chose to be a program manager in Tech, which was the right path for me. I have gotten to sit in rooms and lead programs I never saw myself leading. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of leading Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs as my contribution to making the world a better place.
#9: I wear my heart on my sleeves
For the longest time, I thought my emotions, empathy, and quickness to tears were weaknesses. I have learned to appreciate that it makes me who I am. Especially with my strong personality, I need to balance it with care for people around me. I accept all the tears that I cry as I feel all the emotions.
#10: I am grateful and proud of how far I have come
Every year around my birthday, I reflect on my life over the past year and the experiences that I have been through. This past year has been filled with many successes in my personal and professional life. It has taken a lot of sacrifices and has taught me a lot.
Final Thoughts - My wish for my new year
One thing that I realized is that I need to start dreaming about my future. I have accomplished many of the big things I had already wished for and planned for. This is a great time to get inspired and refresh my bold goals.
As we celebrate our son's 2nd birthday this month, I am beyond grateful for the great gift and experiences over the last two years. I want to take the time to reflect on my journey and the lessons I have learned. My life has changed a lot since "Mother" was added to my identity.
In this blog post, I will share the pivotal experiences of my motherhood journey in year two. If you would like to see how I felt after my first year of motherhood, see my reflections here.
#1: Experiencing changes after our son turned one
Motherhood has been one of the most immersive journeys in my life. It demands a lot from you mentally and physically. I don't know what it was, but my brain seemed to regain capacity when our son crossed the 12-month mark. I felt like I didn't have to think about his every need as much as I did in the first months.
#2: Trusting another person to care for our son
For the first 14 months of our son's life, my husband and I cared for him on our own while we both worked full-time. I don't know how we did it. We know that it was the safest solution as infection levels were still high where we live. At the beginning of this year, I looked at the goals I wanted to accomplish professionally and knew we needed some help. We are fortunate to be able to have a nanny that comes to our home for a few hours a week. It allowed me to focus on work and know he was well cared for. This was one of the best decisions I made this year.
#3: Integrating Work and Motherhood
Typically we hear about work-life balance. That assumes that we can hold a balance between work and life. I had to learn to work towards integration and not seek balance. It took me a while to accept that there will always be one aspect of my life that demands more of my attention, and I'll need to be agile. I am now ok with the fact that I can flex how I spend my time and thrive.
#4: Learning to prioritize my wellbeing and goals
There are so many different aspects of my life that I wanted to continue prioritizing even though my life has changed a lot in the last two years. I am very happy that I can continue writing my weekly blog posts, even with being a mother. Another aspect that I prioritized was growing my career, and I am very happy that I did that. One area where I am still learning and need to do better is taking care of myself.
#5: Dealing with "Mum guilt"
There is so much pressure to be a perfect mother. I keep asking myself what that actually means. Especially in an age where we get to see aspects of people's lives on social media, it can feel very intimidating when you see mothers that look like they are doing everything so effortlessly. I accepted that I am the best mother for AC. As a working mother, there are things that I need to do differently, given the time that I have available to me. I stopped feeling bad that I could spend a finite amount of time with him during the week and that I could not do all the fun activities with him. The truth is that he is having fun and developing beautifully. The pressure that I was putting myself under was totally unnecessary.
#6: Introducing our son to our family
Due to the pandemic, we had to wait for 20 months after he was born until we could travel to see our family. Words cannot describe the feeling I had when our son finally got to meet our family. We traveled from the US to the UK and spent three whole weeks with different family members. Hearing our son now call the names of our family members when he sees their pictures is very special.
#7: Learning about what a good Father looks like
Watching my husband be a great father taught me what Fatherhood means. I did not grow up with a father, so this experience has been very new. Seeing our son interact with his dad and soak up all the love warms my heart up. I feel very fortunate to have a partner who is very involved in raising our son.
#8: Finding support from the Mothers around me
There is something special about being about to share stories, get ideas, and be supported by the other mothers in my community. I have had the opportunity to learn so much and share with others. It helps to know that others are experiencing similar things and that we are all on our own learning journeys.
#9: Watching our son develop his passion for music
As a parent, a lot of people ask you what your child is passionate about. For the longest time, we were not sure what it was, and then we noticed him enjoying music. He started dancing every time music came on. Months went by, and my husband noticed that our son enjoyed watching people playing the saxophone. As a great father, he got our son his first toy saxophone. Our little boy has memorized all the moves and plays with his saxophone for hours every day. It is amazing to see him love music so much, and I'm looking forward to seeing how his passion develops.
#10: Growing my capacity to love every day
When people tell you that you discover a new type of love when you become a parent, they are absolutely correct. No matter what challenges we face as we navigate the complex journey of raising a child in America, we would not have it any other way. Every single day, we are filled with love for our son.
Being a mother has definitely made me better in my personal and professional life. The most significant change is that I have gotten more empathy for people. I have always been a compasionate person. However, I now have empathy for people even when I don't totally understand their backgrounds and experiences. I judged people more and now find myself thinking, let everyone live their lives.
On my 21-year journey of living abroad, I have had some fun experiences. The experiences have made my journey very enjoyable and taught me many valuable lessons. When I moved to Germany in 2001, I had no idea what my journey would be like.
In this blog post, I will share ten things that have made me smile on my Relocation journey so far. Check out my other "Her Relocation" blog posts about my experiences living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
#1: Meeting people from new countries and backgrounds
Moving and living in different countries has helped me meet many great people. Interestingly, after all these years, I still remember many people I met on my journey. My favorite part of meeting new people is learning about them and their cultural backgrounds. There is so much beauty in the different cultures that exist in the world. I am still learning a lot even after this long.
#2: Discovering new food
Growing up in Nigeria, I grew to appreciate great food. We enjoyed local Nigerian foods and some international food that made its way via expats living in Nigeria. Moving to Germany, I could enjoy some German food, taste authentic Italian food, learn about different varieties of African dishes and discover Turkish food for the first time. And then, years later, when I moved to the US, I tasted Mexican food and lots of seafood for the first time.
#3: Watching International sports - World cup and The Olympics
Every World Cup and Olympics brings a lot of excitement. There is something magical about seeing the countries I care about come together and cheer their teams on. I still remember watching the World Cup after moving to Germany and supporting the Nigerian Super Eagles team. Then as years passed, I started supporting Nigeria and Germany at international sports events. This year will be different as Nigeria did not qualify for the World Cup.
#4: Learning new languages
Speaking new languages helped me integrate into the new countries that I was living in. Life changed for the best when I could communicate with people around me. It took years for me to understand jokes in German. Once I did, I understood the culture a little bit better.
#5: Traveling to new countries and cities
Over the last 21 years, I have had the opportunity to visit some amazingly beautiful cities and countries. Living in Germany, many places were accessible via train, which was very convenient. Since I moved to the US, I have been fortunate to visit new countries for work, go on road trips and explore more than I did on the earlier part of my journey.
#6: Sharing my experiences with others
My blog started with the desire to share my story and build a community of women who support one another on their journey. It has been great to hear other people's stories of living abroad and the lessons they have learned. I celebrate every woman who has forged her path in different countries, overcome challenges, and is thriving.
#7: Being Inspired to do new things
One of the great things that living abroad has provided me is it has expanded my perspective. There are so many things that I never imagined experiencing and would not have if I had stayed in Nigeria. I enjoy seeing people doing extraordinary things that I aspire to do. I now know I can accomplish greatness and work towards it.
#8: Sharing a part of my journey with my twin sister
When my sister moved to Germany to be with me in 2003, I was over the moon. Life felt different; I had my person who would be my companion on this journey. We created a lot of great memories together and went through a lot. I can still remember the moment when we had a lot of fun and laughter. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience a part of my journey with my twin sister.
#9: Discovering myself
I moved back to Germany when I was fifteen and still had much growing up. It has been fun to discover who I am and the identities that make me who I am. I feel very fortunate to get to know a lot about myself. Living abroad has given me a lot of time to shape my likes and dislikes.
#10: Teaching our son aspects of our culture
Lately, I have been thinking about the unique opportunity that my husband and I have as we raise our son in multiple cultures. It has been fun to start teaching him aspects of our culture and also that of the country where we live. I am looking forward to seeing the mix of beautiful cultures that he will grow up knowing.
Being an immigrant definitely has its ups and downs. I am very grateful for all the great experiences that have brought me joy. Celebrating these moments makes me remember them like they were yesterday.