Women empowerment isn't a game for Pauleanna Reid. As the co-founder of New Girl on the Block, a mentorship program that reaches over 200 women across 10 countries, the Toronto native ushers millennials into lives of their own creation. It's a mission that is deeply personal, especially when the senior contributor at Forbes and Business Insider retraces her steps to success.
As a target for bullies throughout her K-12 experience, Pauleanna once questioned her space in the world. "Since I can remember, I always felt misunderstood," she tells xoNecole. "I always felt like I did not fit in. I always felt like I was reaching for validation. I always felt like I had to prove something to somebody."
Courtesy of Pauleanna Reid
"I always felt like I was reaching for validation. I always felt like I had to prove something to somebody."
In the midst of isolation, she found solace in notebooks. Toting blank pages with her everywhere she went, Pauleanna discovered a love for words and dared to dream beyond the classroom. However, when she decided to articulate her desire to be a writer at the end of high school, her parents and guidance counselor were quick to point out that she failed English her junior and senior year. In their eyes, her choice didn't add up. "My philosophy is that your parents don't always know what's best for you. Sometimes they project their own fears and doubts on you, and they put you in a box and put a label on you because they were too afraid to pursue their dreams themselves," she points out. "My parents wanted me to play it safe."
Steered by opinions outside of her own, Pauleanna enrolled in a business administration program instead. "I absolutely hated it," she remembers. What should have been a launching pad for her dream career became a graveyard where her vision was laid to rest. The depression that loomed throughout her childhood crashed hard. She didn't socialize, turn in assignments, or attend class for weeks at a time. "The classroom was somewhere where I did not feel safe," Pauleanna reveals.
During her sophomore year, she attempted to commit suicide twice.
"When I recovered from both attempts, I took it very seriously," she reflects. "I believe that God was telling me that second chances do exist and that there was a purpose for my life, and that was the moment I decided that I was going to dedicate my life to figuring out what my purpose was. I immediately dropped out of school."
Courtesy of Pauleanna Reid
"I believe that God was telling me that second chances do exist and that there was a purpose for my life, and that was the moment I decided that I was going to dedicate my life to figuring out what my purpose was."
Pauleanna hid her decision from her parents for a little over a year. "I wanted to have receipts before I told them I dropped out of school," she says. "I wanted to have experience under my belt."
She made her next move with careful thought. "If I was not going to pursue a traditional education, that meant I had to turn the world into my classroom," she explains. "In addition to life experiences, I also knew that I needed to stand on the shoulders of giants. I knew that I had to acquire mentors."
In 2009, Pauleanna met sex educator Shannon Boodram and media professional Shannae Ingleton Smith. "They've been my big sisters for the last decade, and they really catapulted my writing career to be honest," she expresses with humility.
While Shannae encouraged Pauleanna to start her own blog, Shannon guided her through the process of penning her debut novel Everything I Couldn't Tell My Mother. The book, which mirrors 90 percent of Pauleanna's life, faced 22 rejections from publishers before she opted to cut out the middleman and self-publish. "I understood that I wasn't going to let someone in a corner office who had no idea who I was dictate the next steps of my career," she stresses.
Everything I Couldn't Tell My Mother went on to become an Amazon best-seller and 2014 Top Summer Read on the Queen Latifah Show. The personal tale, which tackles date rape, abusive relationships, and deep-seated insecurites, also gives way to reflection, growth, and self-love. "The one thing I really wanted to convey in this book is in order to achieve the success that you want, you have to either let go of resentment or anger or deal with the issues you've been bearing head on," Pauleanna says. "If you're carrying emotional baggage, you will not give yourself the opportunity to open your hands up and catch a blessing."
The full-time entrepreneur also notes that this process takes time. "The only way I know how to climb out of any hole that I'm in is gradually," she maintains. "I think you have to give yourself time. You can't put so much pressure on yourself to heal in a specific timeframe."
Since being diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2010, Pauleanna gave herself permission to try everything from medication to therapy. While implementing lifestyle changes were key to her progress, tuning into self and connecting with God reigned supreme on her road to wellness. "When it has been necessary, God has always shown up. It's been very evident. Whether it was a job opportunity, removing people from my life, or helping me recover from my suicide attempts, He has always shown up on time," she muses. "I want people to know that there is life after disappointment. Everything that we experience is for our greater good. It may not always make sense, but we have to understand that God is not obligated to tell us the details. He has a greater plan for our lives, and it doesn't include crying at night or believing that we're broken."
Courtesy of Pauleanna Reid
"Everything that we experience is for our greater good. It may not always make sense, but we have to understand that God is not obligated to tell us the details. He has a greater plan for our lives, and it doesn't include crying at night or believing that we're broken."
She is a testament to this thought. After dropping out of college, she fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming an author, launched the celebrity ghostwriting agency WritersBlok, and elevated to senior contributor at Forbes and Business Insider. In the process, she also collided with a deeper calling. "After looking at my career, many people would assume that my purpose is writing. My purpose is not writing," the public speaker says with clarity. "My purpose is I'm here to help people see beyond the limits of their circumstances."
As a mentor to millennials, Pauleanna encourages the hundreds in her program and the thousands tuning into her moves on social media to play it smart instead of throwing blind darts in hopes that they'll land on a goal. Before stepping into full-time entrepreneurship, she held down a corporate job for a decade and used her free time to sharpen her business acumen, build a proven track record of selling products and services, and slice her debt by $45,000. "Don't let the Internet rush you," she warns. "It took me 10 years to figure out the formula, and I was totally OK with that. I think the reason why my transition was so successful is because I'm very patient with myself and like Jay Z says, I play the long game."
And while she could hoard the gems she's accrued along the way, Pauleanna is completely fulfilled paying it forward, the same way her mentors continue to come through for her today. "They believed in me on days I didn't believe in myself. I can screenshot any conversation, and they always tell me I'm a bad b***h," she says. "They always tell me I can do anything."
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Featured image courtesy of Pauleanna Reid