What Self-Care Looks Like To Black Girl Beautiful Founder Nikia Phoenix
In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
If nothing else, Nikia Phoenix is proof that there is undeniable power and wherewithal in a name. Symbolically, a phoenix is flamed bird that represents renewal and rising above challenges to succeed and be powerful. As a multifaceted woman, the Atlanta-based creative has made waves in a bevy of industries: as a model, a writer, a managing editor, an influencer and anything else that she sets her mind to accomplish. "No one can put me in a box. I am stepping into my stride and becoming the person I always knew I could be. A title or occupation does not define or limit me," she told xoNecole. "What I am doing now in this moment is part of the evolution."
And the evolution encompasses what she's doing now, which is being a light in the efforts to propel black female empowerment with initiatives like her movement Black Girl Beautiful. Black Girl Beautiful began as a beauty and shopping event for women of color by women of color after Nikia realized the needs of black women weren't being met. "We were and still are spending all this money on beauty products yet not enough brands were catering to us," she explained. "I figured it was time to educate us, empower us, and mobilize."
With the much-needed mantra of "Hey black girl, you're beautiful," the initiative has since bloomed into a safe collaborative space for black women and all women of color. "I want BGB to ignite the flame in other women so we can set this world on fire. I truly believe in the power of black womanhood," Nikia concluded.
In this installment of Finding Balance, we talk to Nikia about affirmations, a typical day in the life, and ultimately how she finds balance.
Why do you think it’s important that we hear, “Hey black girl, you’re beautiful”? What are some of your favorite affirmations?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
It's critical that we hear and see this simple affirmation "Hey black girl, you're beautiful" or "Hey brown girl, you're beautiful" because all of us still have yet to completely believe it. We've gotten so used to the world tearing us down and the lies that we can be so self-deprecating. In order to combat this negativity, we have to tell ourselves that we are loved, we live in abundance, and that we are worth it.
And what makes you feel beautiful?
My heart makes me feel beautiful. It leads everything that I do. It allows me to come from a place of love and deep intention. My heart allows me to see the beauty in everything.
You recently unveiled a Brown Girl Beautiful mural in Atlanta, how did that idea come to you to create this mural?
Atlanta is a city full of black people. We are the majority, however there have been very few murals specifically dedicated to uplifting women of color. I'm an agent of change and knew I needed to fix this. I knew what the message would be. I knew the artist, Faatimah Stevens, who could help me create it. What I didn't know is how it would actually come to fruition... In steps Pledge World, who said they wanted to help me fulfill this dream.
I think of the mural as my love letter to brown women. In bold print alongside a beautiful sketch of my friend Mary Akpa donning a crown, the mural says "Hey Brown Girl You're Beautiful." Talk about powerful! The colors, the imagery, the words literally stop people in their tracks. Brown girls are able to see themselves reflected in this piece of art. The message affirms what I know to be true of us and I hope every black and brown girl feels this love.
What does the average day or week look like for you?
Every day is a bit different. Every week is a bit different. I am always working on a project from conception to completion. With everything I do, I'm very hands-on. But inspiration has to come from somewhere, so I make time to live. Maybe one week, I'm traveling. Maybe I'm ideating for the next adventure. I breathe creativity.
What are your mornings like? How do you wind down at night?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
Mornings are my favorite time of day. I ease into it. I wake up with prayer and meditation then make my way into my daily affirmations. I love, love creating peace to start my day. At night, I wind down by lighting candles or incense and meditating. With all is hectic in this world, I have to bookend my day with love.
What do you find to be the most hectic part of your week?
The most hectic part of my week depends on what I'm working on. I do my best not to have a Case of the Mondays. Starting my week in a frenzy is not the business. Other than that, if there is a hectic time of the week, it's most likely Thursday afternoon, because I know I'm trying to complete all my tasks before the weekend.
Do you practice any types of self-care?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
Self-care for me is daily. It's saying affirmations. It's unplugging from technology. It's spending quality time with people I love without talking business. At night, I love turning down the lights, lighting a candle, and dancing in my bedroom. This allows my soul to be free. Simply put, self-care is literally me loving on me.
What are some products and rituals you swear by in the name of self-care?
Washing my hair on the weekends is also self-care for me. While my hair is deep conditioning with SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil hair masque, I'll put on one of those Korean sheet masks from The Face Shop and chill out. I'm also obsessed with rosewater face mist and my jade roller. Talk about an instant face massage to lift my spirits.
How do you find balance with:
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
When I love, I love hard. I give it my all or nothing. I guess that is my balance. I do know that love fuels me. It's essential to my being.
It's about making the conscious effort to be present. Any relationship, whether that's romantic or platonic, needs to come from a place of respect and not obligation. I feed into what feeds into and nourishes me.
Exercise/Health? Do you ever detox?
A year or so ago, I began practicing kundalini yoga, and it's become my saving grace. It helps me release the frustration and work through difficulties by pushing my body and realigning my spirit.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I have to give myself the space to work through the feelings fully. That may mean hanging upside and screaming my head off or whatever I need to do to relieve the tension in a healthy way. I'll talk out the problem. I'll meditate. Then I come up with a solution. The trick is not to dwell in the hole. Dig your way out.
What does success mean to you?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
My intention is to evoke feeling... to evoke love. At this point, I get so much joy from watching a complete stranger being moved by my work. If what I create encourages and lifts someone else up, that's my goal. Success means feeling like I am living on purpose and being fulfilled.
Ultimately, how do you find balance?
I laugh. I cry. I do both at the same time. And most importantly, I LOVE. Love brings balance.
For more of Nikia Phoenix, follow her on Instagram. And check out previous installments of xoNecole's Finding Balance here.
Featured image by Vanessa Hamb, courtesy of Nikia Phoenix
Originally published March 31, 2019
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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