164 : Body Image for Women of Color (w/ Dr. Nikki Coleman)

Sheneisha has the pleasure of chatting with speaker, educator, and founder of the Dupee Deep podcast Dr. Nikki Coleman in this episode exploring the concept of body image and its impact for people of color, especially women of color. Dr. Coleman shares her thoughts on the emotional impact body image has upon women of color and talks a bit about a very helpful resource centered around mental health.

Connect with Dr. Coleman on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Listen to her podcast on Spreaker! It’s also available on iTunes, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher!

Check out Melanin and Mental Health!

TRANSCRIPT

Sheneisha: What’s up, Living Corporate family? It is Sheneisha, and today we have a very interesting episode for you all to tune in and listen up. We’ll be discussing body image, exploring the concept of body image and its impact for people of color, especially women of color. Now, we all know your body is what you think of, it’s what you think and how you think of yourself when you look in the mirror or how you picture yourself in your mind. This includes how you feel about your appearance. What do you think about your body itself, such as your height and weight and how you feel within your own skin? Especially this beautiful melanin skin. Body image also includes how you behave as a result of your thoughts and feelings. You may have a positive or negative body image, but body image is not always related to your weight or size. Today, our magnificent, extraordinary guest was an associate professor of counseling psychology in the department of psychological health and learning sciences at the University of Houston. During her time there, she successfully graduated 9 women with Ph.Ds. She has earned her B.S. degree in psychology and both her master’s in education and Ph.D. from the highly ranked APA-accredited counseling psychology program at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is a recipient of the UH Provost Teaching Excellence Award and the Women Gender and Sexuality Studies summer fellowship, has published articles, authored and co-authored book chapters on the role of identity and culture factors, impacting young adult sexuality. She also teaches courses on diversity, social justice, and training of psychotherapists. Let’s welcome founder of Dupee Deep podcast, Dr. — let me run that back… DR. Nikki Coleman. Nikki, [both laugh] Dr. Coleman–

Nikki: Hello. Hello, hello, hello. Thank you so much. That was a wonderful intro. I appreciate it. I’m hyped up myself.

Sheneisha: This–I mean, sometimes you need a little bit encouragement, but ma’am, this is encouragement to, I mean, everyone. You have served in so many capacity and went to school all this time. Oh, my God. You’re extraordinary. That’s what I have to say. Magnificent, extraordinary, and we–Living Corporate family, y’all gotta show much love to Nikki. Welcome her to the show. Nikki, how are you today?

Nikki: I’m wonderful today. It’s Friday, and I’m at the very start of a new beginning. I am starting a brand new career in a couple weeks, and so today was my last day in academia, which has been a long time coming for me, and I’m just excited. I’m in a really good place. Yeah, like, the university has just really been blessing me lately, and things are really in alignment, so it’s a great day for me to chat and talk.

Sheneisha: This is–I mean, may I have some of this Nikki favor? ‘Cause Nikki has made it through her master’s and her Ph.D. Wow. Yet, okay. Graduated 9 women with Ph.Ds? Oh, my goodness. Yes, ma’am. This is definitely–

Nikki: I’m trying to live my best life out here, Sheneisha. [?]

Sheneisha: You’re living it. Fully. Ma’am, may I touch the hem of your garment? This thing right here is… [laughs] You’re doing some great things, ma’am. You’re doing some great things. [both laughing] So listen, we’ve already given the intro, which is an elaborate and, I mean, the most beautiful intro I’ve seen thus yet, but what else would you like our Living Corporate family–like, what else should they know about Dr. Nikki Coleman?

Nikki: Oh, my gosh. Let’s see. I am many things. [laughs] I’ve done a lot in my career. I am a licensed psychologist, so in addition to the things that you mentioned I also have a small but consistent private practice that focuses specifically on black women, and I really work with black women who are having challenges and struggles in their relationships, and I define th at broadly. So kind of one my four beliefs about us as people is that we really learn the most about ourselves and we’re able to really thrive and be ourselves when we’re in healthy relationships with loving others, but I’m not at all unaware of, like, the systemic factors that black women in specific experience around race, around gender, around oppression. At the intersection of those are the historical traumas and generational trauma that we carry. And so my practice is specifically around helping women who are really in a place to say “I want more for my life, but I’m not sure how to make it happen.” So that’s another kind of source of joy and really positive energy, the work that I get to do in private practice. And then I have a podcast, as you mentioned. It’s called Dupee Deep with Dr. Nikki. And people always are like, “How do you pronounce it? What is it?” And it’s kind of a little bit of an inside joke. So I have a co-host who is, like, my best friend. We’re always, like, [?]. He’s my brother from another mother, Tomas Bell. And early on in our friendship we were having a conversation, and you know–you ever had one of those moments in a relationship where you’re like, “Okay, am I gonna keep this superficial or am I gonna really get into with this person?” Like, “Can I trust this person and be who I am?

Sheneisha: Yes. “Can I go all the way?” Yes.

Nikki: Right, and so he was like, “You know what? I’ma put you in my dupee deeps.” And I was just like [?] like, “Let’s get into it.” It’s not just deep. It’s dupee deep. [both laugh] It’s real, right? Because so much of our lives, I think especially nowadays, we’re constantly moving and going, and there’s so much demanded of us, that it can become really easy for us to slip into [the] superficial, right? To kind of keep it just basic, but you have to have those sorts of spaces and people and relationships in your life where you can really go there and get into it, and so that’s kind of the working premise of my podcast. We try to just, like–not just look at a topic on the surface, but really kind of get underneath it and dig into it a little bit deeper and unpack sometimes the contradictions, but a lot of times the different nuances and factors of a situation, so. Those are I think the other things. I’m also a single mother of a 7-year-old, [born on a?] 27-year-old. [laughs] So I’m very, very busy. I got a diva in training over here, a little mini-me. So yeah, all of those pieces are, like, my points of pride and the parts of my life that bring me the most energy.

Sheneisha: They should be. You have accomplished a lot.

Nikki: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, I have, and it’s been a full career. Sometimes when I sit down and look at it all on paper, it’s like “Whoa… yeah, I did do that.” [laughs] It’s been a long–

Sheneisha: Yes, you did. Over and over again.

Nikki: Yes. So I think what happens is I’m always trying to figure out–like, for me fundamentally, I’m always trying to figure out what’s the way that I can either help support, provide healing, moving forward, upliftment, of black women, and if I can be at the center of any kind of effort or conversation around that, then I’m there for it. You know, me, as long as I keep that kind of central, present, you know, I’ve been able to take on a lot of different sorts of activities and tasks, and I’ve been really successful in my career. I’m not gonna shy away from that, but it’s been interesting for sure.

Sheneisha: Yes, and please don’t shy away from it, and I’m so glad that we have you here today, because you get to bring healing to our listeners as we discuss this topic – body image.

Nikki: Yes. It’s major.

Sheneisha: That is something so major. So I’ll start with a kind of broader question and then we’ll focus in more, but what are your thoughts of body image in our culture today?

Nikki: Yeah. I think we’re living in a really interesting time because of our good friend social media, right? Like, social media is I think one of the biggest blessings, but also one of the biggest challenges, for lots of different factors of our mental health in our kind of current times that we’re living in, and so I think–you know, you just think about Instagram as one platform and how you can be inundated with so many different images throughout every day. The impact that that has on your self-image, it’s–none of us escape it, right? So I think this conversation about body image, and I loved how you talked about it at the top of the show, right? It’s not just what you think about your body, but the really important part is that then has an impact on how you think about yourself. Like, your whole person, right? And so I think it’s really–I think we need to be having more critical and more vulnerable conversations about body image and really what it means for us.

Sheneisha: Yes, that’s real. That’s so real. [laughs] Because like you said, it goes deeper than that, and I think so many times we just look at it on the surface for what it is, but social media definitely plays a major part on that, and that flows into my next question for you – is social media the primary source of influence for body image now?

Nikki: So that’s not what the research would say. The research [talks] about actually the influence that comes in your primary kind of socialization groups, so what are the things that you heard about your body growing up, right? Well, let me back all the way up, right? I’m gonna talk about some of the research stuff, and I want to recognize that a lot of the research that exists around body image, especially around women–well, both men and women, but there’s way more about women–a lot of the participants have been white women, and so we have to kind of think about what particular kind of racial, cultural factors are different for women of color, so I want to make sure I say that. But some of the existing research around body image shows that really kind of how your mother talks about her body has a lot of influence growing up for girls, and also fathers–you know, for fathers that are in the home, you know, their level of kind of expectations and acceptance of their daughters has an impact. Now, as you get older, right, developmentally, the kind of imapct that your family has automatically diminishes, right? [?] When you move into adolescence, your peers are the primary source for you. And then I think now with the popularity [?] and the fact that everybody has a smartphone and [access?] everywhere – I think social media is having an increasing impact, but I don’t think–I still don’t think we can discount the impact of family and kind of your upbringing and things that you saw or were exposed to, how people talked about their bodies, how people talked about your body, those sorts of things are also a significant factor in how you begin to think about your own self.

Sheneisha: Wow. Wow.

Nikki: So yeah. I mean, a lot of us are walking around with stuff we don’t even really know we own, right? And so yeah, that’s the hard part, right? When you start to move into your 20s and 30s where you’re really starting to say “Okay, I have a really good working sense of who I am, but here are some things that I don’t really know why I believe the things that I believe,” or “Why am I saying this?” And then you kind of have to be intentional about the process, reflective, right? Really being intentional about “Wait a minute, am I gonna continue to kind of perpetuate these ideas, or do I want to do something different for myself?”

Sheneisha: Oh, wow. I think we really should dig deep, dupee deep. We need to dig in deep. [both laugh] We need to dig in deep, ’cause it’s really–it goes further than that, ’cause like I said, the surface, social media would be the surface, but when you put down your phone, what’s really [ranked?] in your mind? And like what you said, growing up, you know, kids can be mean, and they’re like sponges. You pick up on so much, and I’m sure you see that with your daughter, how quick and how smart she is to take in so much.

Nikki: Absolutely. So here’s the crazy thing. My daughter is teeny tiny. Like, she is slim slim. Part of it is genetics from her daddy’s side, not from my side, and a part of it was she was actually premature, so for most of her–it wasn’t until she got to be, like, really close to 6 that she even started to really catch up with being on, like, the growth chart. So she’s always been really tiny, but she came home upset in kindergarten–kindergarten–talking about how somebody in her class had been mean to her. And I said “Well, tell me what happened,” and she said “Well, she called me fat.” And I was–

Sheneisha: Really? Really?

Nikki: Like, wait… what? So I’m having, like, so many [?]. Like, first of all, like, there’s no place on the planet where any standard would be applied to my child that the word “fat” would come into play, that was for one, but for two, that she knew even at age 5 that that’s an insult. So I was like, “This is real serious.” I was like, “Damn, these girls are starting at age 5 with this?”

Sheneisha: Hey. Hey, yes, they are.

Nikki: Age 5, and we’ve had to have conversations about that, about how she thinks about her body. And so the other piece about her, and I think it’s really important for us to have this conversation about women of color, is we have to talk about the color as an issue, right? That’s one specific thing–we talk about skin tone, skin color–that women of color experience that white women don’t. And so usually when we talk about body image among white women we’re really talking about body shape and weight, but when we’re talking about body image among women of color, even when we’re talking about our Asian and Latina sisters, this whole system of colorism is predominant in all of our cultures, right? So there’s this idea that the closer you are to white, right, the lighter-skinned you are, the more beautiful you’re [?] perceived, and the darker you are the less beautiful you are received. And we can see that reflected in what’s in our media period, right? The popping super models. And when there is a dark-skinned model or dark-skinned image, it’s always talked about as noteworthy because she is dark-skinned, right? And so my daughter is–she’s biracial. So her daddy is Mexican-American, and so she’s lighter in skin tone, and so it’s been very fascinating for me to watch throughout her life, like, people really being fascinated with her skin color and talking about how beautiful she is. Now, my baby is cute. I love her. Of course they’re gonna say she’s cute. She’s a cute little girl.

Sheneisha: Absolutely. And I’m sure she is. Yes, ma’am.

Nikki: [laughs] But that’s so noteworthy, that, I mean, grown men, women, people that stop us in the store to stare at her, and I attribute that to her skin color more than anything, and I always think, like, if she was [?], would she be getting all of this attention? And so I’m always trying to, like, really find that balance with parenting her around–I recognize the importance of having a healthy body image, especially for women, but I also don’t want her to have her self-worth only connected to her body image. So I want her to look in the mirror and love what she sees and feel absolutely confident about it, but more importantly I need her to know that she’s more than just that, and I really think that that disconnect is where the challenges and potential psychological distress or insecurity or damage can come around body image, is when you start to make what you look like synonymous with you’re worth is where you really start to get into trouble.

Sheneisha: And you know what? I think it’s so important for us to have or to know the difference between the two and to be able to identify, like, this is where I’m at and this is what it is, because [if you] can’t identify or get to the root of the situation, you’ll never be able to fully operate or work through it to get to the end, because if it pops up again, okay, where did this come form? A certain trigger or something could bring it up. So I think that’s great that you’re making mention of that so that our people, women of color, can definitely understand this, and with the studies that were done on body image being Caucasian women, here’s that study limitation because okay, where are the women of color? Like, where are they in the study for us to really understand and to really say this is true? Like, statistically significant data that you have here, because reading this, if women of color had not known the study limitation that they’re not included, they’re taking this in as “Oh, my God, this is me.” Okay, but what about the other parts of me? My skin tone, you know? My body shape. Like, what about those other things? So I think that’s great that you’re highlighting that so our listeners can really understand or really dig deeper into this study and this information so that when they take this on for themselves when they’re at home or in the car or looking in the mirror you’ll be able to really break this down.

Nikki: Yeah. I think that’s so important, to be fully informed. Like, it is so much deeper for black women specifically because–with us we have the skin color, but we also have hair texture.

Sheneisha: Yes, absolutely. I’m natural. Oh, I’m natural. Oh, yeah. It’s different. [laughs]

Nikki: It’s a whole other level. I’m natural, and, you know, “What are you? Are you a 4b or a 4c?”

Sheneisha: I’m, like–

Nikki: I’m, like, a 4a, b, c, d [?].

Sheneisha: Yeah. So I just classify it as type 4, you know? Like, my edges [lay?], like, type 3b, c, but, you know, when the water hits it it’s a little different. [laughs]

Nikki: Right? We’re constantly bringing all of this extra [?] to the table, right? Things are very, very–I think–much more complicated for black women than what the [research literature?] has been able to catch up with for sure, because–okay, let’s talk about this. Like, and shout-out to my girl Megan thee Stallion, right? [both laugh] We love her, right?

Sheneisha: Yes.

Nikki: But not everybody is gonna look like Megan thee Stallion, like, no matter how many squats you do. [both laugh] You’re not gonna have–I’m so sorry. You could do [?] every month. Genetically and physiologically, everybody’s not gonna be able to look like that. So we have our own standards that we set for ourselves, and I think they’re typically more–what’s the word I want to use? More expansive than white women’s standards of beauty, but it’s still a standard that we’re all trying to reach, right? It’s still a standard that we’re all trying to compare ourselves to. So that’s the challenge around social media, this whole image of, like, social comparison. How do I look? How do I look in comparison to a person, or a celebrity really… Instagram model really, how do I feel about my body in comparison to Person X, and then how do I feel about that if I think I come up short?

Sheneisha: That’s good.

Nikki: And I think that’s the kind of question we all need to be asking ourselves, and, you know, I will own my own thing. Like, I became much more intentional about a year ago in managing what sorts of images I would choosing to look at, and so I started [?]. I specifically, like, went on Instagram to find career women. I went on Instagram to find black women to follow, because I wanted to make sure that kind of what I was feeding my brain was going to be in support of what I see in the mirror, right? Because, like I said, none of us are immune from it.

Sheneisha: You’re not immune from it. And I’ll be open, honest, and transparent here – I don’t do social media.

Nikki: You don’t? That’s wonderful.

Sheneisha: I don’t. I have a LinkedIn. Yes. I have a Facebook for college days, may have recently just posted, like, a few months ago, but I’m not a social media person, and it’s one–this reason is one of the many of why I do not. I embrace grown women curves is what I call it. [laughs] Lizzo. I embrace those curves, and, you know, hold onto them as much as I can, and I’m active in the gym. I try to eat as clean as possible. But you still have grown women curves or grown woman curves, and I feel like the emotional impact upon women of color is so important. What are your thoughts on that, on the emotional impact that body image has upon women of color?

Nikki: Yeah. So I think–for sure. It’s interesting, I was just having a part of this conversation earlier today about how what you see in the mirror can really start to impact how you feel about yourself. And then it goes vice versa, right? Sometimes how you feel about yourself shows up in how you don’t take care of your body or how you do take care of your body. And it can kind of become, like, a cyclical thing, right? So if you’re not in your best place–I mean, and we’re all, like–you know, let’s have a real conversation, right? Us women, we have certain times of the month we don’t feel our best selves, right? You know that? You know those [?] “I cannot wear those pants.” [both laugh] “I’m not gonna play myself with that section of the closet.” And so it’s true, right? And so I think the thing is just really kind of making sure that you find the time to check in with yourself. So one thing that I suggest people think about is, like, not just–so I think we can very easily get caught up in nitpicking at our flaws, right? We can look at the parts of our body we don’t like. “Ugh, why is this shirt not fitting right?” Like, it’s so easy for us to go to the critical place, and so I think it’s really important for you to be intentional about focusing in on the things that you do like. And if you’re not at the body size or weight that you are comfortable with and you’re accepting of, what about your skin? What your skin tone? What about your hair? Do you have the capacity to take care of your nails? Do you wear makeup? Like, can you put extra energy into, you know, how you present yourself in the world? I guess what I’m really trying to say is the more comprehensive your definition of what beautiful means, like, for yourself, right–is it not just my body? Is it my hair? Is it my nails? Is it my skin? Is it whatever, right? It’s the energy I put into myself. It’s that I know these colors look best on me, so I’m gonna wear these. I’m gonna buy more of these colors. It’s those sorts of things that can help really keep you centered when you’re not feeling your best, because the reality is we all will have changes in our bodies over time. Like you said, grown woman curves. If you have children, there’s gonna be a time where your body changes when you get to be a certain age or your hormones change. Like, we all go through periods of development where things are different in our bodies, and so if your self-worth is really connected to that, then that means your self-worth goes up and down as your comfort or appreciation or love for your body goes up and down, right? And so if you know from the jump that there’s gonna be fluctuation, why would you invest your self-worth in that? ‘Cause you should be on shine for yourself all day every day, right? You really should. Like, that’s what should be optimal and what we should all be aiming for, and so you can’t let something–it’s naturally out of your control sometimes because of hormones, because of access to healthy food, because of–like, you could even be traveling and you can’t eat clean or you can’t be vegan because everybody in the family puts ham hocks in everything, right?

Sheneisha: “No! Don’t do it! No! Where the collard greens? No!” [both laugh]

Nikki: You know? It’s a really dangerous position to put yourself in, to limit your sense of self and your well-being and your love of yourself. It’s something that changes.

Sheneisha: And those changes I feel like can really impact–like you said, it’s tied to you, so that fluctuation. What do you feel like that fluctuation plays–like, how does that play into, like, your work relationships? The way you look at yourself, that emotional part, just the whole body image itself. Like, how does that impact work relationships? If you can’t even look at yourself in the mirror, you know?

Nikki: Yeah. I mean, I think it goes back to how you feel about yourself, right? I mean, so I’m gonna talk very candidly and very personally. The last couple of years at my last position [?] were not the best for me. I was experiencing a lot of micro-aggressions, experiencing a lot of burnout, a lot of just challenges and stresses in the job, and really my passion for the job was not in alignment with the demands of the job. And so the first thing that happened was, you know, I got depressed, and I stopped exercising, and so what did that mean? It meant I gained weight, and then what did that mean? It meant I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing in the mirror, which only contributed more to those feelings of, like, burnout, right? And so I think that that’s how it can play out for you when you’re–especially if you’re working in any sort of high-stress, high-intensity job. Like, most of us work in environments where the demands for our time and energy at work are increasing every day, right? And the balance around work-life balance gets more and more imbalanced towards work, and so if you’re spending so much energy and time at work and you’re not attending to yourself, you’re not taking the time out to make sure you eat properly, you’re not taking the time out to make sure that you are exercising–and I’m not just saying that because I’m trying to, like, push a “be fit” agenda. What I’m saying is we know both of those things have an impact on your mental health. Both of those things have an impact on your energy level. They have an impact on your mental capacity to kind of be sharp and to think through things, and so when you start letting those things go, it really can become a negative [?]. So the worse you eat the less energy you have, and then you start to feel bad about yourself, and that can really be reflective of what you see in the mirror. And then you can do this thing where you start to compare yourself to yourself. Like, “Six months ago I used to be able to wear this whatever,” right?

Sheneisha: Oh, I do it. [laughs]

Nikki: Even your own internal comparison.

Sheneisha: Looking at old photos. Yes, you can.

Nikki: [laughs] And so I think, you know, being able to recognize and fit with–like, “What parts of this are really me just letting the busyness of life take over?” Right? “How much of this is me giving in to all of the stress and demands, and how much of this can I actually take some control over and start to make some shifts in so that I can do the things to take care of myself first? So I can show up at work and my best self,” right? “So I can show up at work and get things done and feel good about what I have gotten done when I leave at the end of the day.” So I definitely think that body image is not anything to be taken lightly or ignored, and I mean, I know that men experience issues and challenges around their body images too, but what I know about patriarchy is that women experience it more and differently, right? Because we do get evaluated in a very real way for what we look like when we show up at work. You do, right? It is a direct correlation to, like, your level of professionalism, even sometimes your confidence to do your job based on what you look when you show up. And so if you are in a place where you are not feeling good about what you see in the mirror or you’re in a place where you are not able to show up and present yourself out to the world in a way that demonstrates your confidence, then that can have some real impact on yourself at work.

Sheneisha: That’s amazing, how it can have that domino effect, you know? Once you leave your home, or leave out that car, it just spirals–it seems like it just spirals out of control, one thing to the next, and they all play into each other. It ties together.

Nikki: Yeah. I think that’s the thing that I hope I’m making clear. Like, there’s so many external forces, right? There’s so many that can pull you away from feeling good about yourself that you have to be intentional about pouring into yourself, right? The world is not going to automatically affirm for you that you’re wonderful, amazing, and a perfect being, right? Like, you have to tell yourself that narrative, and you have to tell yourself that with kind of a sense of passion and a sense of–without compromise, right? You have to be intentional about that. So, like, one of the things that I started doing was I changed the kind of images I was consuming on social media and stuff like that, and also, like, I don’t–I don’t buy magazines. I don’t do that sort of thing. So that helps, but then the other thing I started doing is just when I was out and about–and it was really helpful for me to do this this summer when I was out at the pool and stuff like that with my little one–and I was looking around and I was like, “Yeah, we all got something going on.” Like, bodies are weird. [both laugh] Like, you just stop thinking about, like, these standards or expectations for what it might should look like and just start looking at it like people come together in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And I really, like, was sitting around the pool looking like “Yeah, she’s about 60 pounds slimmer than me, but whatever whatever, right?” Or “She’s thicker than me, but dang, she’s rocking that–” So we can all really find beauty in a lot of different spaces if we’re actually looking at real women walking around and not looking at airbrushed images or really kind of packaged, sanitized images of what a woman’s body should be.

Sheneisha: That’s amazing, that you brought that up, because we really are. All shapes and sizes and, again, embrace those grown woman curves if you have ’em. Or if you don’t, embrace this body. [both laugh]

Nikki: Listen, you only got this one.

Sheneisha: This one.

Nikki: [?] You really can still only do so much.

Sheneisha: You only have one, and you definitely have to embrace it.

Nikki: You only have one.

Sheneisha: So how can women of color–how can they apply or accept their body image? How can they apply positive thoughts or how can they accept their body image? Like, what are some things we can do? I know you mentioned about possibly with the magazines and going online and social media, finding women that look like you, like, [in the] real world [time?], but what are other things that they can do?

Nikki: So I think spending some time looking at themselves in the mirror. Like, really. Look at yourself in the mirror and find something you love, and if you’re really struggling with it, like, make it a regular exercise that you find something different that you love at least once a week, and maybe one day it’s like “Ooh, these teeth are white and popping. This mouth is beautiful.” One day it’s “My skin feels so soft. It’s beautiful.” Another day it’s “My curls looking right.” Like, be intentional about it. I’d also encourage people to think about the real power of the words that we say to ourselves. Like, the internal dialogue that we have about ourselves in specific, but kind of just about the world too, is highly, highly [?] in shaping how we think about things, and so–like, for me, one of the things, because I knew the research about how women, how mothers talk about their bodies has an impact on their daughter’s bodies, I have never said one thing about my body in front of my child ever. Like, ever. Like, that ain’t gonna happen. Even if my internal dialogue was [?] some day, I would always make sure that I talk positively about myself out loud. But the beauty of the brain is I started to think about myself differently because of the words I was saying.

Sheneisha: And I don’t think people really remember or get deep into, again, the impact that words have, especially with her being so young. Words carry weight, now. They carry weight.

Nikki: They carry so much weight. ‘Cause you can’t tell this girl that I’m not the beautiful mother in the world. Like, she is my biggest fan. Like, she is my biggest fan. Like, “Ooh, Mommy, you look so beautiful. You’re gonna be the youngest looking mommy there.”

Sheneisha: And she should, because you are.

Nikki: She’s my biggest hype man.

Sheneisha: Yes, because you are. You are. Beauty and brains, beauty and brains. So what would you suggest for women of color to overcome this issue? Could we overcome it?

Nikki: Oh, I think for sure we can. I think for sure we can.

Sheneisha: Oh, yes. We have hope, y’all. We got hope. Oh, yes.

Nikki: Yeah. I mean, I think we should always be hopeful. I think the moment that we give up hopefulness about, like, anything is the moment you’re automatically dead in the water. I think it is so important for you to work–to hold an image in your mind of who you want to be and what you want your life to be like, even in the midst of it looking like pure hell. Like, even in the midst of it not being what you want it to be, find a way to get the image of what you want it to be, and you will eventually get there. And I think we have to always keep our imagination growing and fertile and positive-leaning in that way. I think the other thing about the time that we’re living in, besides some of the, like, challenges around social media, is we’re also in a time where people are talking more openly and actively about mental health, right? Like, the stigma around people of color talking about mental health. And not necessarily even, like, seeking services, but just about how important it is and how things that we maybe have taken for granted really do have an impact on our well-being. I think that opens people up more to the possibilities of what could be for themselves, and I think there’s more resources available to folks, and even if you don’t want [?]–like I said, even if it’s not about going to therapy. And for some folks it may be. Like, you can have disordered body image and disordered [?] to an extent that requires mental health treatment, and so it might not even be that it’s that for you, but there could be resources to help bolster you and uplift you in the areas that you’re struggling in. And then, you know, I’ve talked a lot about my daughter and my relationship with her, but I think, you know, even if you don’t have children, you have other young women in your life–

Sheneisha: Yes. And that ties together, ’cause everyone has had a mother, an aunt, you know, a cousin, a sister. We’ve all had some female figure, you know, to look at growing up in some way, shape, or form, and if you haven’t, you know, then maybe a school teacher. You know, there’s someone who you looked up to as a woman and may have compared yourself to, so I think it’s great that you are [?]. This is the real world.

Nikki: Yeah. And so I think, like, you can do that too. Like, anybody can do that about, you know, what are the conversations you’ve had in the spaces with other women about body image? And, you know, safe spaces where you can be vulnerable and have those conversations about areas that maybe you’re insecure about struggling in and how you could seek support, right? And ask for that help, right? Among your friends, among your family and support groups. So I think if we–I’m not gonna say think. I know for a fact there’s nothing that can change in your life without intention and effort.

Sheneisha: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Nikki: You’re gonna have to do something different, right? And you might have to do something different for an extended period of time, right? It’s not magically gonna change overnight. But I think, like, to your question of could things be different? Absolutely. Things could absolutely be better and different, but it’s gonna take a collective effort. It’s gonna take an individual kind of accountability for yourself to continue to [?] kind of do the internal work that you need to do to get to that place.

Sheneisha: This is good. This is great, and I really hope that our people of color who are listening and women of color have taken something, because you’ve dropped many gems and given so much great and pertinent information and have given us a different view, an outlook and perspective, ’cause I learned a lot today. I have learned a lot, and this is something I would definitely, you know, replay again and again. I would replay this again and again, because it starts upstairs and in your heart first, and I think this is something that our women can take and value here with Living Corporate. I want to ask you, where can our listeners find out more about Melanin and Mental Health?

Nikki: Yeah. So you can actually go to melaninandmentalhealth.com, and it is a wonderful directory of mental health practitioners who are people of color and who are interested and skilled and confident to work with people of color, and then there’s also events that they host throughout the year at locations across the country. I know they’ve done stuff in Dallas, and I think in Chicago and Atlanta. [?] over here in Houston for our mental health professionals. And then the webpage also has other resources for folks that may be struggling around certain issues and stuff. And you can also find them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, all at MelaninAndMentalHealth.com.

Sheneisha: Guys, you definitely have to check this website out, and not only check out that website, but Dupee Deep: The Podcast. We have been on a bit of hiatus, but we have a significant backlog of episodes. But Dupee Deep with Dr. Nikki, you can find us on pretty much every platform – Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher. We’re out there, and we talk about stuff like this, and we talk about a wide variety of cultural topics, social, political topics, mental health topics. We talk about a lot of different stuff on the show. And you can find me on Instagram and Facebook @DrNikkiKnows – D-R-N-I-K-K-I-K-N-O-W-S, @DrNikkiKnows, and then my co-host for Dupee Deep is @AllAboutTomas, because as he says, “it’s all about Tomas.” A-L-L-A-B-O-U-T-T-O-M-A-S. Yeah. So please, like, subscribe, download, listen. We are looking forward to starting a brand new season.

Sheneisha: You guys, please go and check out Dupee Deep, and, I mean, if you’re waiting for the new season to start, go back and listen to the previous episodes. You know, you go ahead and get caught up and listen.

Nikki: That’s right. There’s plenty of [?] on there.

Sheneisha: Yes, and listen. Open up. Tune in. Nikki–Dr. Coleman–what advice or words of encouragement would you like to share?

Nikki: Oh, my goodness. Well, you really only get one life, and that you can put a whole lot of energy in that one life trying to make other people happy and serve other people’s needs, or you can focus on figuring out what’s best for you and what you need to do to live your best life. And that’s not something anybody else can tell you. That really is something that you can put energy and effort into for yourself. But the process of doing it already makes you a better person and already brings you a greater sense of self-belief and self-reliance and confidence to move out in the world.

Sheneisha: That’s powerful. That is definitely powerful.

Nikki: It’s what’s been working for me.

Sheneisha: It’s working. It’s working for you good. It’s definitely working for you good. Any shout-outs?

Nikki: Let me see. I do. I want to shout-out one of my students. I would love to shout-out all of my former graduates, but one in particular, Dr. Amanda Long. She’s actually practicing in Chicago, and she did her dissertation on black women and body image. I’m trying to work on her to get her dissertation published. It’s called #NoFilter. It really looks at body image in black women.

Sheneisha: She should! Dr. Long, do it!

Nikki: Yeah. So I’m gonna stay on her. So I text her like, “You need to get on it. Get yourself out there, ’cause the people need to read it.” So I definitely want to give her a shout-out, and just always so much love and respect and admiration for so many of my [advisees?] that are out in the world doing amazing things across the country. They made my time in academia a wonderful, beautiful experience. They were the reason I was there, and my energy and input into them has turned into them going out in the world and doing amazing things. So that’s it.

Sheneisha: You know what? After coming from being under you, you can’t help but to. You can’t help but to. Y’all heard the intro. Y’all can’t help BUT to. You have to. There’s no other way, no other way.

Nikki: I love it. Thank you so much. This has been so much fun.

Sheneisha: Absolutely, absolutely.

Nikki: I loved talking with you. I love talking about this stuff at any time. I’d be happy to come back and talk about this or anything else related to black women and mental health and well-being.

Sheneisha: Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s our show. Thank you for joining us on Living Corporate’s podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @LivingCorporate, Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. If you have questions you’d like us to answer and to read on the show, make sure you email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. This has been Sheneisha, and you’ve been listening to Dr. Nikki Coleman, Ph.D, speaker, educator, and founder of Dupee Deep podcast. Peace.

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