Money Talksis an xoNecole series where we talk candidly to real women about how they spend money, their relationship with money, and how they get it.
As we are out here getting to these coins, I want to ask you all something really quick. If you could write down the first idea that pops into your head, how much is it worth to you? And I am not talking about how much money you THINK people would pay for your idea. But how much money do you honestly believe your idea is worth right now? I ask this because a lot of times, as creatives, when we are coming up with ideas, we struggle with being confident in knowing how valuable they are. Now, no idea is too big or too small. But, with so many possibilities in the world with how you make a statement, it can get a little cloudy with believing that your idea can stand out among the rest.
I believe the trick is to not focus on how much faith you have in other people to buy in, but to focus on having faith in yourself. Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe your idea is valuable because you are valuable? You should always be confident in your capabilities first to really push forward your ideas/dreams. Your ideas are an extension of you, so they will always be pretty expensive. It doesn't matter how you came up with the idea or if you feel it has been done before. When you take a chance on your idea and stay determined to see it through, you are taking a chance on yourself. Every time.
This mindset is something I learned from six-figure entrepreneur Afenya Montgomery. Last year in 2020, I was able to attend an event at a coworking space where I connected with other women who were pursuing different businesses in different industries. It was so amazing listening to all their stories, especially the host, Afenya Montgomery. When we met, I knew we would stay in touch instantly. Now one year later, Afenya reminded me of how important investing in yourself is when it comes to entrepreneurship.
"I'm the kind of investor where I invest in myself and my ideas to watch them grow and flourish. I had this idea and I had to see it through. Nobody wants to look back years later and think, 'I should have done this or that.' I felt like if I was going to bet on anything, I was going to bet on myself. Always remember, when you are putting real money behind an idea, don't be in the talking stage or dating the idea. You have to be married to it."
Courtesy of Afenya Montgomery
Afenya Montgomery, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, started her professional career in the nursing field. Afenya was able to obtain her Master of Nursing degree and an MBA with a focus in executive leadership. In the year of 2017, Afenya felt that it was time for her to pivot. During that time, she started meeting up with her friends at local coffee shops and noticed that there was a lack of resources for people of color in entrepreneurship. That is all it took for Afenya to come up with an idea to help change that problem. Afenya mentions, "The idea began to form that it would be great to create a network of people that could act as accountability partners, potential business collaborators and resources for each other. Our first event was a panel discussion in June 2017 titled, 'Leveraging Your Network to Create Impact,' and we haven't looked back since."
Afenya is now the founder of The iCAN Collective. The iCAN Collective was founded on the pillars of Innovation, Collaboration, Accountability and Network. The iCAN Collective strives to give women a space to build a foundation of collaboration, authentic connections and support as they blaze new trails on the path of entrepreneurship or in their careers. This company is a collaborative coworking space for women of color entrepreneurs, creatives, and game-changers, where it offers memberships, exclusive events, networking opportunities, and brand packages. Afenya wants to be a resource for creative entrepreneurs and celebrate them for going after their dreams.
When you chase your dreams and execute them no matter what, nobody can tell you nothing.
In this installment of "Money Talks", xoNecole spoke with Afenya Montgomery about how trusting your gut, being strategic, and building your business at your own pace are the keys to creating financial freedom.
xoNecole: How much money do you make in a year? A month?
Afenya: I usually make mid-six figures with my company in a year. My revenue breaks down to making around $15-20K a month.
What do you define as “wealth” vs “success”?
Success for me means you are setting goals for yourself and getting them accomplished. You create these milestones for yourself and they can be small or big. Either way, you are getting them done. As far as wealth, wealth to me is being able to have certain things you want in your life, but more importantly, leaving something behind for your children and building that legacy.
What’s the lowest you’ve ever felt when it comes to your finances?
The lowest point for me was back before I was in nursing school. It was during the Great Recession and I got laid off. At the time, I was a newlywed, I had just bought a house, and I was about to have a baby. So that was when I started to look at money differently. I realized you can't only depend on a job. You need other ways in order to sustain money. I didn't think about entrepreneurship at that time honestly, so what I did was, I started a blog about my journey. Then, I looked at what I was passionate about, what careers aligned with that, and thought about how I can have more control over my money.
How important is investing to you?
I have always been interested in investing and how I can save money better. Even before my company, I would open money marketing accounts and make sure I was smart about utilizing what I had for the things I needed at the time. When it comes to investing, I think it is really important to know which type of investments are right for you. Because let's be real, it is not easy investing thousands of dollars or 500 dollars into something that you want([laughs). I'm the kind of investor where I invest in myself and my ideas to watch them grow and flourish. But it is important to have a diverse portfolio and that you are married to this investment/idea.
When it comes to structuring your business, what are your streams of revenue and how did you go about establishing them?
Prior to having a physical space, The iCAN Collective was about creating workshops and networking events/opportunities for women of color interested in entrepreneurship. I found myself having these events in different spaces and figured why not create a space that was permanent. From there, I wanted to provide different things that a lot of spaces do not offer. So with this space, we provide membership, a coworking atmosphere, host events or intimate gatherings, and we offer brand packages. It's important to have something that is unique and stands out from the rest.
What are some unhealthy habits about money or some unhealthy mindsets about money that you had to let go of to truly prosper?
The first thing I had to change was this mindset about money as if it will never come. My brother would tell me these affirmations stating, "Money is always free-flowing. I am abundant. Money will come my way, etc." Affirming to myself that money is always around me shifted my scarcity mindset. I think a lot of us think about money with this mindset and we cannot continue thinking, 'If I spend this amount or I go after this goal, I will never have money again.'
"Affirming to myself that money is always around me shifted my scarcity mindset. I think a lot of us think about money with this mindset and we cannot continue thinking, 'If I spend this amount or I go after this goal, I will never have money again.'"
Courtesy of Afenya Montgomery
What keeps you motivated?
If you are passionate about something, then build the strategy behind what you want to do. I have heard people say that when it comes to business, do not go after your passion. But why passion is important to me is because that is honestly what keeps me going. If I don't have any interest or drive to be in that space, then I can't innovate in that space. Entrepreneurship is not one of those things where you're going to get a check just for showing up. You have to be really good at what you do and also have passion for it to see it flourish.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through being a businessowner?
It is important to be flexible and roll with the punches when you're an entrepreneur. But more importantly, my main lesson has been trusting your gut and trusting God. If God gave you an idea/mission, it is already protected by Him. I always tell people that I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was more of a God-given assignment and I have faith in what I am creating to be aligned with my purpose.
What was it like learning to expand your business from one city to multiple cities?
We are looking to expand The iCAN Collective to New York, which is funny because I actually wanted to move to New York when I was 18 years old (laughs). I am so in love with the vibe of New York and I also have family who live there. What I learned about creating a space in a new city is to always poll your people. It is really important to build relationships with the people in the community. I try to look at it through the lens of what I can I bring to this space to support the community the best way I can? I ask myself, what is the main need and what can I provide?
Was it easy to become a well-respected businesswoman in your respective industry or did it take time?
In the beginning, I was letting people know 'ya'll better put some respect on my name' (laughs). The thing about Chicago is that we are known to be a little cliquish. So it is not that I didn't know people in the industry, they just didn't know me. I won't lie, navigating through the industry was hard. I would go to a bunch of events, hand out my business cards, and network, network, network. But as time goes on, you realize that it is not about everyone knowing who you are, it is about the right people knowing who you are. You want to know the people who can speak your name in rooms that matter.
"As time goes on, you realize that it is not about everyone knowing who you are, it is about the right people knowing who you are. You want to know the people who can speak your name in rooms that matter."
Courtesy of Afenya Montgomery
What’s the best advice that you’ve received about finance during your first year of entrepreneurship?
The best advice I think that helped me during my first year is to build slowly. There is this misconception where you see people starting their businesses and everything is happening so fast, so you feel you have to catch up in a sense. But you really have to look at your strategy for your business, intentionally, in order to scale. Another really good piece of advice I received is that, a lot of people talk about an individual having multiple streams of income. But I don't think we talk enough about businesses having multiple streams of income. I have learned that it really helps to diversify what you provide in your business. If you are trying to be a million-dollar business, make sure that every move you make feeds that desire.
To learn more about Afenya, you can follow her on instagram @afenyabsn. You can also check out her business website here.
Featured image courtesy of Afenya Montgomery
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Christmas in a Caribbean household is full of laughter and vibrance. I remember my father playing his soca, calypso, and parang on vinyl. I remember my brother and I wine down the whole living room. We loved to dance, and we liked to cut up. I remember my mother would start cooking from the night before.
I would wake up to the aromas of freshly baked bread, fry bake, ham, brown stew chicken, curry goat, callaloo and rice, dahl, macaroni pie, and roti---all the traditional holiday foods of a Trinidadian household. I had thoroughly enjoyed being around my family during the holidays. And I truly miss those days.
Navigating estranged family dynamics is a reality for many during the holiday season.
As I transitioned into a young adult, the holidays started to look a lot different for me. Life happened – my uncle, brother, cousins, and I all moved out of state. So, while my mother’s house was still the gathering spot, not so much anymore. And it wasn’t because of physical distance. But because of distance, something else became more visible even though it was always there. My home environment was subject to strain and tension among family. Yes, I have already stated my mother, and I never had the best relationship. However, this type of strain was before I came into this world.
Some family members have gone for years without speaking, and to this day, I couldn’t even tell you why. What I can say is pride, jealousy, ego, and envy ruin every single thing, including familial relationships.
At the time, I was too young to understand. I was told to “mind my business.” But I will say the notion of family not speaking in my immediate family was and still is a generational and/or repetitive cycle. An off-and-on type of thing where nothing is ever resolved – but hidden and buried. When you’re a child, you don’t notice these things at all. As an adolescent, you notice but you avoid asking questions to not add fuel to the fire.
As a young adult, you take mental notes, but you avoid addressing the issue. And as an adult when you finally leave your home environment, it is then you start to fully understand. You realize certain behaviors that you were surrounded with were completely toxic, unhealthy, and definitely not normal.
This holiday season, let's take a look at the true definition of estranged family and how other women, including myself, navigate the holidays with estranged family dynamics, create new traditions, and find peace.
What Is Family Estrangement?
Psychology Today describes family estrangement as something that occurs when at least one family member begins distancing themselves from another because of longstanding negativity in their relationship. Causes of estrangement vary – this includes abuse, neglect, bullying, unaddressed mental illness, lack of support, destructive behavior, and substance abuse. It could also look like a parent not agreeing with a child’s sexual orientation, choice of spouse, gender identity, religion, and/or political views. This includes sibling estrangement, too.
According to an article from The Conversation, 27% of adults experience family estrangement that either they or another family member initiates. The article further emphasizes family estrangement is a process that is ongoing and varies in degree.
It is voluntary, intentional, and based on ongoing issues. It is not a particular event or outcome. My therapist states, “In my professional experience, estranged families are often in adults that experienced developmental and/or childhood trauma by one or both primary caregivers and/or other relatives that may have been closer, or when they realized that these relationships are toxic, unhealthy, or damaging to them.
"These adults have set boundaries expressed verbally or with their behaviors for their well-being and mental health. Taking this decision can be difficult for many and tends to happen after years of trying to navigate the challenges, disappointments, and upsetting interactions. For some, having clear limits about how they will continue some sort of relationship, making these changes, and being consistent suffices. For others, this estrangement is absolute.’”
Estranged Family & The Holidays
When undesirable family dynamics exist, it’s never easy. It is difficult AF. Whether you are the person who initiated the distance or on the receiving end of it. And I want more people to understand this. Regardless of whether it is the holidays or not – dealing with estranged family dynamics can be a constant emotional torment that may never end. You’re constantly longing for a reality that could never be true. For something you do not have.
Over the past 13 years, I have always spent holidays with my uncle, cousins, and friends as I live out of state. Despite a non-existent relationship with my mother, a conditional relationship with my brother, and a stable relationship with my father, I managed to find family in friendship.
As a child, I always felt lonely within my immediate family. So, from an early age, I gravitated towards others as a means of survival. Whatever emotional needs that my immediate family was incapable of giving, I was able to get from uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.
Even if you're experiencing family estrangement during the holiday, choose to make joy the center.
Image by Milko/Getty Images
Last year, for the first time in years, the holidays were not something I looked forward to as my parents divorced after 40 years of marriage. I just couldn’t get into the holiday spirit at all. What little family I was holding on to was officially gone. At least, I felt this way. How the hell do four people become somewhat strangers? I had to find a way to grieve and/or cope with my reality despite my family and friends' opinions. Because at the end of the day, it is my reality and mine alone. I had to realize my decision to not communicate with certain family was for my own protection from dysfunctional, hurtful, and unhealthy behaviors.
My process for coping involved journaling, talk therapy, and connecting with friends who have similar family dynamics to mine. But this year, during the holidays, I chose to make joy the center of my life.
Krystal, 35, V., 31, and Kendra, 37, share what the hardest part of the holidays is for them and how they have coped with their feelings and reality over the years.
Krystal: “Having to re-establish boundaries, particularly with certain family members. As much as I would desire to have a 'typical' family holiday that I can spend with my mother and brother, it's just not possible, and the anxiety is triggering knowing I have to reiterate that I have set my own traditions and should not nor will jump through hoops in order to make others happy when there is no respect, to begin with.”
V.: “The hardest part about holidays for me over the years were the times when I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with or spend the day with – it felt really lonely and isolating.”
Kendra: “The hardest is seeing the families around you come together. Seeing them be a family and a happy one at that. Being envious and wishing you had that. I still get that way occasionally, but it's a very small thought.”
Finding Acceptance & Peace In Estranged Family Dynamics
I am not sure that acceptance and peace is something that is truly absolute when it comes to one’s own family. As children, we are socialized with the notion of “family first” and “blood is thicker than water.” What if the importance of family is not those things? I think we ignore the percentage of people that have family dynamics that bring more hurt than love. But if peace is absolute, it definitely takes time to get there simply because we are human. We are meant to feel, and we feel every single thing.
You can be triggered by the smallest of things – holiday movies or seeing other families doing holiday activities together. Yet, secretly wishing that your family can be that family. However, it takes a level of self-awareness to catch your triggers and thoughts, and reprocess them.
For me, I found acceptance and peace by learning how to accept my family and making peace with who they are. Also knowing it’s not going to change. It’s not on me to fix or do anything because I am not responsible for the dynamics at play.
Here is how Krystal, V., and Kendra found acceptance and peace with their families.
Krystal: “Journaling and therapy are vital. Making sure I do not compare my family dynamics with other families during the holidays and reminding myself to be present as opposed to looking at the past or future. Holidays do not have to be negative if your family dynamics are not what you would hope for. But also allowing myself space to grieve and process because you need to give yourself grace.
"Moving on and establishing boundaries is a lifelong process, especially when you come from a culture (Hispanic) that pushes heavily on family first, even if they are narcissistic and toxic. You have to be willing to accept that some family will not accept your decisions.”
Kendra: “My family is messed up, and I chose to kick them to the curb. I wish I had different circumstances, but I don't, and I accept that I don't like these people, that I want nothing to do with them. I am very happy with my decision. It takes a while for some to accept that or get the courage to be on their own. Don't be afraid. Just fly!”
Self-Care & Wellness During The Holidays
Social media and media in general portray holidays as the most joyous time of the year. We see this in posts, Reels, commercials, television, and movies. It’s all around us in public places, at restaurants, and at holiday parties. The messaging and emphasis is always on the concept of family, love, warmth, togetherness, and creating memories. Again, what they get wrong or neglect is the percentage of people who may be unable to enjoy the holidays because of their family.
This is where self-care and wellness practices come into play. People who are navigating unfavorable family dynamics have the right to put themselves first to protect their mental health. It is not an act of selfishness to choose not to be around family for the holidays.
The intention is not to offend or hurt other family members, even though outside opinions may view your decision this way. In an article published by Monarch Therapy, it is stated that you must honor boundaries, own your feelings, recognize triggers, be compassionate to self, and engage in a self-care routine when it comes to how someone deals with their family.
Acknowledgment of self and wellness practices are key to coping and healing. This looks like being mindful of your thoughts, allowing yourself to feel, processing your feelings, and creating a routine you enjoy. As I mentioned previously, I practice all of the above not just during the holidays, but daily. And I think this is what makes holidays easier for me even though I have my moments.
Self-care around the holidays for me is allowing myself to process how I feel regardless of how uncomfortable it is, choosing to be around people I feel happy and emotionally safe with, and doing whatever makes me feel good. Whether that is lighting my favorite scent candle, binge-watching my favorite holiday movies, or making my favorite holiday treats.
Krystal, V., and Kendra explain how they handle their triggers and what self-care looks like for them.
Krystal: “Making little traditions for myself and those around me who are supportive and whom I consider family, as well as making sure to keep myself open to doing new or non-traditional holiday activities, also help. Yoga and moving my body have always been important, so incorporating movement such as walking outdoors to see a tree lighting ceremony or a winter art festival are other forms of self-care I like to implement.”
V.: “Giving myself permission to always do what’s best for me and my mental health. Knowing that at any moment, I can choose to leave a space that I feel isn't serving me. Also, giving all the parts of me extra love and comfort.”
Kendra: “I do what I want. I have a great partner that I lean on if I need it, and vice versa. He's way more into the holidays than I am, so he tries to bring all the cheer that I'm not a big fan of. I like making others happy, so I’ll be all festive for him.”
Creating New Traditions
The holidays are strongly tied to tradition, values, and societal and/or cultural norms regardless of where you are in the world, especially in America. With that said, I find at least in America more and more people are getting away from tradition. They are choosing to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas through non-conventional choices. There are a number of reasons for this, too.
However, in an article byThe Atlantic, it is stated that there has been a shift in American family values, and this is the underlying cause of family estrangement. We as a society fail to realize the rules of family life have changed in the last 50 years regardless of how we try to hang on to tradition. And for people who struggle with being around family around the holidays — they are opting to do their own thing and create new traditions for themselves willingly.
I am still navigating through what new holiday traditions look like for me as a single 38-year-old woman with no kids. Ideally, I’d like to travel to different countries to spend the holidays there, and I have before.
I spent Christmas in my parents' home country of Trinidad as a child and as an adult. In 2020, I spent Christmas with a friend in Jamaica for a friend’s birthday. I loved every second of it.
However, this year, I proudly decorated my fireplace with a mini garland, gold beads, and red and white mini stockings. I put up a mini-Christmas tree with gold, silver, and bronze metallics. So, I guess I will start there.
Krystal, V., and Kendra share what holiday traditions they are creating for themselves and their family.
Krystal: “I just had a child, so focusing on giving him and my partner and being able to pass on the experiences and traditions I would have enjoyed is big for me. I still want to maintain cultural traditions such as Three Kings Day, which now, with a child, I can find a way to make it our own. I had already implemented a holiday ornament to add to the Christmas tree yearly that represented the year and all that has happened as well as going to a winter festival or tree lighting festival is also essential.
"A new tradition we are starting this year comes from Iceland where you gift each other a book to read and spend that evening (usually done Christmas Eve but could be done anytime) reading together.”
V.: “Some new traditions I am creating for myself are reminding myself that it is just another day and the day has whatever meaning I choose to give it. And just like any other day, I can spend it with whoever I choose - whether that’s my birth family, friends, or no one but myself.”
The holidays do not have to be a painful or lonely experience for you. Know that you are never alone.
Image by PeopleImages/Getty Images
Kendra: “I surrounded myself with friends, and they turned into my family. I have a nice group of them. Thanksgiving, I go to a few houses, eat, drink, socialize, and I'm truly happy. My 'real family' isn't even a thought. Christmas, however, was ruined for me early on, so I don't celebrate in a traditional way. I don't do presents. I think it’s a tradition that should be broken. I will bake sometimes and give them to people. Mostly, I do the same thing as Thanksgiving.”
With all this in mind, I want to say the holidays do not have to be a painful and/or lonely experience for you. But I wholeheartedly understand that if you are still in the process of making peace within yourself surrounding an estranged family.
There is no doubt you are going to feel all the things. It is more than okay. And it takes time. Your truth is your truth. Your experiences are valid.
Please do not let anyone tell you differently. You do not have to feel obligated to do anything or go anywhere. This includes forcing yourself to be around family and responding to texts and calls from estranged family if you do not want to. You can choose to hold space for estranged family in a different way.
By doing so, you are choosing to protect your mental health and choosing not to relive unpleasant memories. Ultimately, you are choosing not to repeat an unhealthy cycle. Instead, you are creating new moments and memories for yourself.
When asked what advice Krystal, V., and Kendra would give to other women who are struggling with estranged family dynamics during the holidays, this is what they had to say.
"Life throws us so many things, especially us. We can choose to dwell, be pissed or we can choose to find the little good things."
Image by JulPo/Getty Images
Krystal: “Remember that it's okay to grieve what you do not have but to focus and stay in the present. You have made it this far, and no one should shame you for establishing boundaries and taking care of yourself. Above all else, therapy is something that even if you have dismissed in the past, give it a second chance.”
V.: “Tend to yourself – love on your inner child/inner teen, whatever part of you that may be feeling the most affected. Figure out what you need – whether that’s to attend or host a Friendsgiving because you want to celebrate with others, or making your own dinner and having a movie night because you want to feel comfort. Know that you are never alone no matter how lonely a moment may feel.”
Kendra: One of my favorite quotes from Viktor Frankl is, 'Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.' Life throws us so many things, especially us. We can choose to dwell, be pissed, or we can choose to find the little good things. Pick yourself up and do whatever it is you are wanting.
"Yes, it's better with people who love you and you love back. So love yourself first because everyone is worth self-love, then go out and find the people that love you and you love. Whoever it is. We are born into a family, but we choose who ends up being that family.”
The key takeaway here is to always remember you deserve to feel a sense of happiness, peace, and joy – holidays or not. This holiday season, I encourage you to partake in all the things that fill your heart with love, warmth, and goodness.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by fotostorm/Getty Images