When I asked Jasmine Lawrence to describe herself in one word, she paused to think, but a few short seconds later she said, without a flinch, "Amazing."
Up until that point, I'd been trying to find the words to describe how this fiercely confident Black woman was able to accomplish so much by the age of 28. She launched her first company EDEN BodyWorks at just thirteen after experiencing a personal hair loss crisis and then attending NFTE BizCamp, a student entrepreneurship program, where she was equipped with the tools that would help her find a way to create and sell a product that solved a hair problem she knew many like her needed. EDEN is now celebrating its 15th anniversary, with a repertoire of accomplishments, retail partners like Target, CVS, and Sally Beauty Supply, a loyal beauty community, and global experiences supporting the journey.
But, more interestingly, Jasmine is not only a beauty entrepreneur. After graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in Computer Science, she's gone on to build a thriving career in tech at powerhouse companies like Microsoft and most currently, Facebook.
To top it off, she's not looking to quit either anytime soon.
What's the road to amazing look like? How has Jasmine been able to boldly and unapologetically float between two worlds - without sacrificing who she is and how her natural passion for solution-seeking shows up in the world? For Jasmine, this is important because she doesn't "always want to be the first or the only person that are doing things that are impressive." The word "amazing" comes with the desire to show other women that look like her that they, too, can do great things.
xoNecole spoke to Jasmine about her road to flourishing in two careers, the powers of being entrepreneurially fluid, when being multi passionate can be advantageous in the workplace, why more Black women should consider STEM careers, and whether "having it all" is ever really possible.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
What has contributed the most to your business success?
Consistency. It doesn't mean you never change. It means you have a foundational understanding of who you are. At EDEN, we know our vision, mission, what we want to be known for, and what kind of impact we want to have in people's lives. That remains consistent no matter who is on my team. If you don't align with our mission and values, this isn't the brand you want to be part of.
It was also about choosing wisely what we were going to invest our time in. You can get quickly burned out emotionally or financially [by] going to every single hair/trade show and accepting every distribution deal for every mom and pop shop and everyone who wants to carry your products. It's very draining. Strategic growth and saying no to the opportunities that are not going to give you the return on investment that you really need with your limited time and other resources is important.
Courtesy of Jasmine Lawrence
"Strategic growth and saying no to the opportunities that are not going to give you the return on investment that you really need with your limited time and other resources is important."
How did you manage going to college and running a beauty company?
The work that I do with EDEN and the work I do in tech are very similar. They require the same set of strengths. I wanted to be an engineer before I lost my hair. I always wanted to be a builder, creator, and inventor of things and solve people's problems. When I lost my own hair and needed something for myself, I used my knowledge of science and the scientific method to create different formulas. All of those things I learned from my passion for science and creating things.
I knew college was going to be a challenge. I took preventative measures before officially moving to Atlanta. Building the team that I have today was part of that exercise. We took a time out for a year in the late 2000s to reassess who was going to be on our board and who's going to be on our team and run day-to-day operations. We had to automate some things that we were previously doing manually. I find a way to have the best of both worlds and make sacrifices I'm comfortable with.
In our world, we’re told you can’t have it all. Your story shows that it is possible to have your foot in different industries. How do you do it?
Having a computer degree helped me understand how stuff is being built and my role in making sure that it's built ethically and that it is accessible. It opened my mind to an entire career path that is sometimes intimidating and challenging. I love to be that bridge between people and tech. Even in the Black community or women's community - I like to let [people] know this is something you can strive towards. I'm not some crazy unicorn that just has a genius mind. It's something I've worked hard for and sought to understand and have been able to make an impact by pursuing although it may be nontraditional for someone with my background.
I'm super hesitant to say we can have it all. It gives an unrealistic expectation that you are going to be 100% fulfilled in every area that you invest your time in. It's not an accurate description. It wanes and waxes. You're in seasons of pouring more and more into your business, job, self, or family - it takes a while for you to settle into a balance that makes sense. It's hard to want more than one thing.
There's a conscious focus on "Does this matter to me? Is this worth my time?" You can have a lot - but it will be to varying degrees of satisfaction and investment based on what works for you personally. If you like doing your full-time job every day, it's okay. It's okay to not have a side hustle. If you're drawn in a different direction, you should pursue it.
Courtesy of Jasmine Lawrence
"I like to let [people] know this is something you can strive towards. I'm not some crazy unicorn that just has a genius mind. It's something I've worked hard for and sought to understand and have been able to make an impact by pursuing although it may be nontraditional for someone with my background."
What key roles do you outsource?
Operational leadership. My Vice President drives day-to-day and leads our team. That is the core role. We are two opposite heartbeats. We have to stay in sync and connected. Public relations and design are the other two roles where I am so busy doing the work, it's hard for me to tell the story of what's happening as well. Having a great PR team or point person who can find the right opportunities and have the brand show up in ways that make sense for us and create innovative things that align with the brand identity is crucial. With design, it is incredible [to have] someone who can maintain continuity between your brand identity but also challenge you to grow and modernize.
What’s it like working in tech as an employee but also being a CEO?
The main challenges I've had are when my coworkers find out and there's that sense of envy. Or, they'll ask me rude questions like, "Why are you even here? Why would you show up every day when you're doing this and that with your own company? Why would you be a slave to the man when you have the freedom to be your own boss?" Or, they think if I do slip up on something or something is late that I'm distracted by this other thing I have going on.
On the light side, they like to brag on me as much as I like to brag on me. Microsoft loved that their top project manager was also a CEO and that I took that entrepreneurial mindset and applied that to my work. They love that I have those natural leadership tendencies. I know what it's like to lead something that personally matters to me. The opportunities that I'm trusted with are greater because of the assumptions about what my skills are. They'd love for me to bring that same excitement, passion, and drive to the mission and goals of their organization. There's a lot of recognition and opportunity for someone who has been able to do so much in such a little amount of time.
What does success look like for you?
It's so transient because there is always something more. From a brand perspective, we're growing the EDEN BodyWorks team. We're celebrating an amazing milestone - 15 years! Right now, we're in a period of gratefulness and thankfulness and really reflecting. We're really trying to take a moment to pause, reflect, and recenter and imagine what the next 15 years will be like - and how we'll change and how the industry will change. For EDEN, success will look like being able to publically share a plan of what the future looks like for us.
In tech, I'm making a pivot to working on my first non-hardware product. I've worked on Xbox, HoloLens, robots and artificial intelligence. Most recently, I've worked on Portal at Facebook. I just switched over to a team called Social Good, which is focused on making Facebook a positive force in the world. Our goal is to try to solve the problem to make sure the world has a safe and sustainable supply of blood. It's an interesting space where probably if you looked at my background, you'd be like "Why is she working in the health space?"
I was drawn to that in the same way I was drawn to start EDEN BodyWorks to make shampoo to help women understand the way you look is not a limiting factor on your trajectory in life. You can awaken, empower and change who these people think they can be or are allowed to be by providing the solution.
To learn more about Jasmine and how she's paving the way in the technology and beauty sectors, connect with her on Instagram @edensjasmine.
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Rana Campbell is a Princeton University graduate, storyteller, content marketing strategist, and the founder and host of Dreams In Drive - a weekly podcast that teaches you how to take your dreams from PARK to DRIVE. She loves teaching others how to use their life stories to inspire action within oneself and others. Connect with her on Instagram @rainshineluv or @dreamsindrive.
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The Unhealthy 'Unconscious Contracts' We Make With Our Parents (And How To Break Them)
I’m a quotes kind of girl. Unapologetically so. I think I like them so much because they’re a way of packing in a lot of wisdom and insight without giving an entire speech (or writing an entire article). And if there’s one quote that I know I use at least three times a week, it’s “Adulthood is surviving childhood.”
It’s not a good thing either because, basically, what the quote is saying is a lot of us experience so much trauma as children that many of our adult years are actually spent trying to figure out how to survive it all. In fact, I recently read a Guardian article entitled, “Survivors of childhood trauma often grow up believing they are unworthy,” which had a line in it that summarizes a lot of why I do what I do for a living: “Jane now understands that she was conditioned as a child to see toxic relationships as almost normal.” I’m here to reprogram a lot of counterproductive stuff that a lot of us don’t realize we are doing…as best as I possibly can.
And yes, believe it or not, a part of the reason why we get into then tolerate then endure the oftentimes pure suffering of unhealthy relationships with other people — personal and professional, romantic, platonic and familial — is due to something known as unconscious contracts. Boy, when I first learned about unconscious contracts and what they entail, it was like I had a new way of helping to free up so many people from their hamster wheels of dysfunction with other individuals.
Okay, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself. If you already feel drawn to or even triggered by the intro of this article alone, please set aside some time tonight or this weekend to dive into what it means to sign an unconscious contract, how it typically ends up working against you, and what you can do to change it ASAP.
What Is an Unconscious Contract?
I like giving credit where credit's due, and when it comes to the entire concept of unconscious contracts, one of my instructors taught it to me. She said she learned it from a neuroscience educator by the name of Sarah Peyton.
The gist of an "unconscious contract" is it's an agreement that you made, oftentimes in order to get through living with your toxic parent (or parents), that ended up being an unhealthy habit or approach to dealing with other people as you grow and develop into adulthood (you can watch an intro video about it here that is pretty damn enlightening if I do say so myself).
According to Sarah and her findings, a lot of our full dependence on our parents (especially our mother since she's usually the primary caregiver), as far as communication goes, happens around four months of age and, without us even noticing it, we find ourselves figuring out what needs to be done in order to get along with them — even if it's ultimately to our detriment.
An article that dives deeper into all of this is "When Relationships Fall Apart: Conscious and Unconscious Agreements in Relationship." The authors speak on the fact that a conscious contract is an agreement where both parties know the commitment that they are getting into, while an unconscious contract is usually unspoken, although what transpires is one person decides to suppress their thoughts, feelings, and needs in order to make another person happy (or it at least makes getting along with them easier to do).
Now I'll already tell you that if you read this and thought, "Isn't that just compromising?" you just revealed that you are someone who definitely needs to continue on with this piece because, no, suppression is not compromise; suppression is you denying a part of who you are in order to keep the peace — or avoid abuse — and there is nothing compromising about that. It is destructive and definitely the kind of "unconscious contract" that you need to break…immediately if you can.
Before I break down how to do that, let's go a bit deeper into all of this.
How an Unconscious Contract Affected Your Childhood Development
Last fall, Newsweek published an article entitled "Why Adult Children Are Cutting Off Their Parents More Than Ever." Now for the record, no parent is perfect, and since some people like to throw around words like "toxic" as if they are confetti, let's look into some signs that you definitely had a toxic parent as a child/teenager — and that you may still have one now:
- They didn't respect your privacy/boundaries
- They pressured you to agree with them even when you didn't
- They were harder on you than they were on other children (especially outside of the home)
- They found a way to make everything about them
- They wouldn't let you ask questions for clarity (and/or they lashed out when you did)
- They were controlling
- They didn't shield you from trauma (and they oftentimes caused it)
- They used religion to justify their toxic behavior
- They used you as a makeshift therapist/counselor (told you too much information)
- They were verbally and/or emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually abusive
- They were emotionally unpredictable
- They weren't supportive (or you felt like they were competing with you)
- They kept you walking on eggshells
- They deflected from taking accountability for their mistakes (or poor choices)
- They either used guilt or withheld love in order to get their way
If any of this resonated with you, yes, on some level, you are a survivor of a toxic parent — again, not an imperfect parent; more like someone who put you in a position where you dealt with some level of trauma on a consistent basis. And because it's a parent's job to help you to become a holistically healthy individual, when the opposite happens, it can stifle you on some level.
For instance, I grew up with parents who didn't know how to respect a boundary or take accountability if it hit them square in the face. I don't even have the time to get into how deep it all went. For now, I'll just give one example of how it played out in my adult years — recent ones. One parent was so toxic that they really should be in prison. Because they're not, they had the nerve to email me acting like they were doing me some favor by leaving me alone…like I had told them to do for almost two decades now, that they still had moments when they would disrespect the boundary. And where did they get my contact information? From the other parent. WILD. Not you out here enabling my abuser.
Boundaries are limits, and limits (when they are not used to weaponize or manipulate) are put into place to keep us safe. People who don't respect your boundaries are unsafe individuals.
When I think about how my boundaries were constantly being dishonored as I was growing up affected me all through those years. One way is I didn't know how to set healthy boundaries with other people. As a result, I had some of the most toxic female friendships known to man (no joke). Another result is I had a tendency to be controlling to certain other people too. Control is what was modeled to me (suffocatingly so), all the while being told that it was love, and so… that's what I thought it was.
I had written an "unconscious contract" with my parents that allowed them to railroad my space, my body, and my feelings. My needs were basically the "rent" that I had to pay to live in their home and have my basic material needs met. And so, I thought that's what relationships looked like — that I had to go above and beyond while overlooking what I deserved in order to keep people around, OR I had to control the narrative in some way as a way of expressing my "love" to them. And I lived just like this for many years.
How an Unconscious Contract Affects Your Relationships Now
Before the end of the year is out, I'll be finishing my third book. One of the things that it's going to touch on is just how emotionally abusive one dynamic with a certain guy was. I'll give you an example. One time, I helped him put on an event. I got him the venue for free. I made the programs. I set up the slideshow. I ran the slideshow. He didn't pay me a dime. Because the venue was about an hour away and we left unbelievably late (in separate cars), I asked him if he would stay on the phone with me because I was sleepy. He yelled at me, told me that I needed to find someone else, and hung up. And the next day, what did I do? I texted him to make sure that he was okay. AMAZING. He never apologized, even when I brought it up. Instead, he deflected and justified his behavior. Also AMAZING.
In hindsight, I know this is the fallout from unconscious contracts that I had "signed" with my parents, several of them. Something in me thought that if I just loved that man enough, eventually, he would stop mistreating me. Yet, I know him well enough to know that he has his own unconscious contracts that need to be broken, so while I was over-giving, he was over-hustling. He also was being ungrateful and narcissistic (and narcissism is also oftentimes the result of a traumatic childhood; it's a cryptic way of protecting oneself). Yeah, because I still had some "live contracts" going on, folks were able to get away with all kinds of stuff.
I'll give you another example. I have a girlfriend who keeps picking materialistic and shallow women as friends (check out "7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One"). Her mother was exactly that way. It's wearing her out now because she feels like all she has in common with her circle is shopping and, inconsequentially, debt. Yet, until I introduced the concept of unconscious contracts to her, she didn't realize that all she really had in common with her mom — and the only time her mom ever really spent quality time with her — was when money was involved (including her mom feeling entitled to her money in present time).
Again, adulthood is surviving childhood. So, take a moment and think about the list that I provided as it relates to whether or not you had a toxic parent. Where the points apply, ponder what your adult relationships look like these days. Where are there patterns? Where are there mirror reflections of the relationship that you had with your mother and/or father and/or caregiver? Where do you see the same kind of unhealthiness…even now?
When we're children, we are innocent and a blank slate. We rely on our parents to show us how we are to see ourselves, along with how we are to live out our lives. So yeah, without some serious inner work (and oftentimes therapy), the contracts that we became a part of as children will continue in our adult world — that is, until we break them.
What Can You Do to Break an Unconscious Contact
I already know — this is some pretty heavy stuff (which is why I implied at the beginning that it's not exactly lunchtime reading). Yet you know how the saying goes, knowledge is power, and if you could relate to any of this, how freeing is it to get to some of the roots, to receive confirmation that you're not crazy (sis, you're not) and then be provided with tips on how to get up out of these, what seem like lifelong binding agreements, that are not serving you (and never really were)?
Okay, so now that you know what an unconscious contract is, how you found yourself being a part of one, and how much damage they ended up doing, what can be done to break the contract? Good question.
A PDF that I was given (via Sarah Peyton's site) is what my instructor shared with me. I have edited it a bit so that it can make a bit more sense (if this is your first time hearing about unconscious contracts):
Step 1. Determine what the contract initially was.
“I (your name), ________________ , solemnly swear to you (parent/caregiver),___________________
to (whatever the self-defeating behavior was) ________________________ in order to protect you/honor you/survive, no matter the cost to myself. “
Step 2. Was the vow heard? (In order to feel validated in this exercise, you should get someone you trust to serve as a representative to act as the parent/caregiver you are speaking to.)
“Parent or caregiver, did you hear this vow?”
“Parent or caregiver, do you like this vow?”
Step 3. Can the vow be released? If so, release it.
If yes, the representative says, “I release you from this vow and I revoke this contract.”
(If the vow cannot be released, like your parent lives with you and they are still doing the behavior, you may want to seek therapy to figure out what boundaries need to be set up, especially if your parent tends to go full gaslight or full denial whenever you bring trauma or their past mistakes up.)
Step 4. Create a blessing to break the unconscious contract.
The representative says, “And instead of this vow, I give you my blessing to...(create the blessing)”
In a perfect world, you could talk to your parent about all of this, and no representative would be needed — yet honestly if that were the case and your parent was truly self-aware, apologetic, and willing to make amends, they would probably approach you first about the harm that they caused. That's why a representative can be helpful. They are symbolic, and while you may never get this kind of release from your actual parent, the validation and affirmation that comes from the exercise may be enough for you to fast-track your way to healing and to feel stronger in saying "no," setting limits and requiring that your needs be met from your parents — and to offer up consequences when that is not the case.
This is an exercise that can reduce fear and stagnation so that you can start to get on with how to have healthier relationships with others moving forward.
The Benefits of Ending Unconscious Contracts…and Creating New Ones
A wise man once said, "My word is my bond." That said, to tell you the truth, the only way that breaking an unconscious contract is going to work is if there is integrity behind your words. You need to identify them, vocally acknowledge them, and have your representative acknowledge you/them. You need to receive the blessing, and then, what I recommend is setting up a new contract — this time between you and yourself.
For instance, if your childhood unconscious contract was all about you walking on eggshells, the new contract needs to say something along the lines of, "I will no longer put my own feelings and needs aside whenever I feel bullied or even dismissed. My voice matters, especially when it comes to what directly affects me, so I will speak up when necessary." Whew. Can you see how empowering that is?
It can't be said enough that there is plenty of data out here to support the fact that at the age we are traumatized, oftentimes we remain right there emotionally until we heal — and healing can include breaking our unconscious contracts. Only, in my opinion, it's not enough to break one…you need to then replace it with another; otherwise, you could find yourself slipping back into what's familiar…even if you know it's not what's better/best for you.
This really is something that I could go on for days about because it’s the kind of topic that is so freeing once people are able to apply it in their own world. For now, I’ll just say that contracts are binding agreements. Yet, the good thing about unconscious contracts is you can let yourself off of the hook, knowing that you, as an adult, now have the space to live as you wish. You don’t have to “go along to get along” in the midst of super crazy, super counterproductive, super toxic ways.
You can write new contracts — ones that will strengthen you, validate you, and give you the kind of life that YOU want to live. Not the one that your toxic parent(s) made you think you had to settle for.
So, what unconscious contracts are you going to break today?
What new ones are you going to put into motion?
There’s no time like the present to start fully living YOUR life.
Amen? Hallelujah. For real.
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