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Turning 40 and Exploring Life’s Lessons (Including Prince Charming and the 🐉)
Episode 1526th July 2022 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
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Turning 40 and Exploring Life’s Lessons (Including Prince Charming and the 🐉)

When she turned 40, Niki Harris posted to Instagram 40 lessons she learned through her life. She started by saying “Forty is my masterpiece.” The lessons included pain from a health issue fueling her purpose but not letting her purpose be rooted in that pain. Niki is a strong woman who found herself feeling invisible inside her marriage and found the courage to take a healing journey, on which she says you either find the person you lost or you create a whole different person. On her journey, she did both. She found the person she lost in order to create the person she wanted to be as she stepped into her future. 

Guest Bio

Niki Harris, also known as Life Coach Niki, has been a Life & Healing Coach for women for over 10 years. She obtained her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling Psychology, and during her Internship, she had a very insightful epiphany. She realized that most of her clients, which were women, were seeking counseling due to current or unresolved trauma. Experiencing her own trauma and going through her healing journey, she realized that through her transparency and education, she could actually help women in this area. As a healing coach, she empowers women to take control and build their own lives, not based on their trauma, but their actual wants, needs, and desires. 

Niki Harris is also a mother of two beautiful children, Sky and Seth.

“Forty is My Masterpiece”

When she turned 40, Niki made a series of posts to Instagram of the forty things she had learned by the time she turned 40. She started by saying “Forty is my masterpiece.” 

She believes that as we find ourselves and find our purpose in life, learn why we’re here and step into our power - that’s our masterpiece. It allows us to design a life based on what you love, what you want, and what you’ve learned.  At 40, Niki felt like she was putting together her masterpiece. 

She also said 40 was the accumulation of all the things she had been told she couldn't do and the fight she fought to accomplish those things. Niki was born in the 80s with sickle cell disease and her mom was told Niki wouldn’t live past six months old.  While her mom prepared for the possibility that Niki would die young, she was also a believer. She had seen a woman in her 70s in the sickle cell clinic and thought, ‘if that woman can live that long, so can my daughter.’ 

Niki has spent a lot of her life listening to people tell her what she can’t do, including having children of her own or being successful in a career. Her entire life has been a fight to prove that she can have an abundant and flourishing life, no matter what challenges she faced. This element is a big piece of her masterpiece. She’s taken limitations and turned them into strengths. 

Sickle cell disease can cause pain on a daily basis, and can cause organs to shut down in some cases. The pain is comparable to that of a woman in labor.  

Since pregnancy is so hard on a healthy woman’s body, Niki was told it was something she shouldn’t do, which was difficult for her because it was something she’s always wanted to do. She is blessed with two happy, healthy children, who are also parts of her masterpiece. 

Lesson 24: Purpose

“The pain I’ve experienced has definitely been what fuels my purpose but my purpose will not be rooted in pain.” 

The pain in this lesson is not just that of sickle cell. Niki’s been through a lot of things and sometimes  feels like she’s had the lifespan of an 80-year-old. That’s what’s led her to her career as a life and healing coach for women. She teaches women how to go through the healing process so they can create their own masterpieces and live lives that are suited to them and not just to the societal ‘rule’ of what women should be. 

Niki has taken the pain of things she’s been through in her life and use it as fuel to teach other women how to maneuver through their own pain. Niki has always perceived her pain as something that was meant to push her forward instead of something that was going to hold her back. But sometimes you have to sit in pain for a little bit. The only way out of pain is to go through it. You have to be able to feel everything that’s coming up for you and allow yourself to process it. When you can do that, you can many times find a different perspective, especially if you ask “what was this pain here to teach me?” Don’t mistake her: this is not easy, but it is a skill Niki has learned. 

Lesson 5: the MF Dragon

“I thought I needed a Prince Charming to save me from the evil dragon, but I soon realized that I was the MF dragon.” 

As women we are taught that we need someone to come and save us. From the time we’re born, we’re given a roadmap that says we’re incapable of taking care of ourselves and that, for us to have value, we need to be attached to a Prince Charming. 

Niki was not the little girl who dreamed about her wedding and she felt ashamed of that for a long time. Since she was young, she was more concerned about her career and the way she wanted to live her life. She was never concerned with being someone’s wife or girlfriend. Even so, she fell into the script. She had traumas that led her to look for a Prince Charming to save her. 

She was married for 10 years; about eight years into that marriage, she felt completely invisible, which led to an awakening. That awakening led to therapy where she learned that the life she had built was not really built for her but built to meet expectations of what a woman was supposed to do. Once she was able to step away from that she could step into her strength  and she realized she did not have to be anything but herself. That is when she realized not only was she the MF dragon, but she was ok with being the dragon. It led to decisions, including a divorce.  

As she started noticing these things about herself, she realized she had two people inside her: the one she had built and the one who was questioning every single thing she did. She started listening to that other voice and questioning herself. This happened in all facets of her life.  

As a child, Niki was the one who received progress reports that said, ‘she’s a straight A student but she talks too much. She’s bossy. She tries to tell the class what to do.’ 

Niki’s mother was a strong woman and she raised Niki to be strong, but she also tried to raise a woman who could exist in a world that wasn’t so accepting of strong women. She tried to teach Niki that balance. 

When Niki started listening to her inner voice and questioning herself, she realized that she was being quieter, not as assertive as she used to be. She started noticing she was dimming herself. And instead of denying that, she started questioning it. Why was she being this way? When she went into counseling, she went in with the mindset of fixing herself - not anything that was going wrong. She thought SHE was the problem. But she learned in counseling that she wasn’t the problem. She learned the problem was that she had been knocked down by life and society and what she needed was to learn how to build herself back up. 

Niki says when you go through a healing journey, you either find the person you lost or you create a whole different person. In her own journey, she did both. She found the person she lost in order to create the person she wanted to be as she stepped into her future. 

AAA Battery

Niki loves the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love. One of the things that stuck out to her was the advice to ‘use the world as your teacher,’ which she has done. This helped her develop her idea of the AAA battery: Awareness, Accountability and Acceptance. 

First, Niki had to become aware of the patterns that landed her in the position she was in. What led her to be in this place she didn’t want to be in? Then comes accountability - taking responsibility for the decisions you made that got you to this place. Then comes acceptance of who you are, flaws and all. With acceptance comes forgiveness, too. 

The Birth of a Business

Ten years ago Niki started a coaching practice that was born of all the pain she had made her way through. She was doing her internship for a master’s degree in counseling psychology when she realized that most of her clients were women seeking help with current or past trauma. She realized she could be a guide to them, having gone through her own healing journey. She didn’t think women had enough support for processing the trauma they go through on a daily basis. 

Among the daily traumas women endure are: being sexualized from a very young age; people teaching women and girls their needs aren’t important, that their job is to take care of everyone else; women not being taught they need to be taken care of. 

In a conversation with several older women, Niki heard them say “you can’t do self care when you have kids,” but she remembers thinking that’s probably when you need it the most! When women are taught they can’t take care of themselves because it’s their job to take care of everyone else, that’s a trauma because it affects how we exist in the world. 

When we don’t speak up for ourselves or ask for what we need, we become depleted. That’s another form of trauma. Additional traumas: being told we’re not pretty enough, that we’re not the size we’re ‘supposed’ to be, being shamed for being a working mother. Niki’s goal was to normalize for women that our daily lives can be traumatizing and it’s ok to accept that, and it’s also ok to want more than that.  

Women in Their Late 30s

The women Niki works with who are in their late 30s are women who followed ‘the script,’ doing what society wanted them to do and then realizing, “I’m not sure if this is what I wanted for my life.” Much of the work is about grief, whether it’s the loss of a person or a relationship or of the idea of what your life was ‘supposed to be.’ By the time we’re in our late 30s women have dealt with a lot of trauma and they’re tired of being told to push it down. They’re ready to start dealing with it. They want to process their experiences, heal and move on. 

Healing doesn’t mean our past magically goes away. It’s about coping. 

Getting to the other side of all this is rewarding. 

Happiness

There were happy days in Niki’s early life and in her marriage, and there are happy days now, but the quality of that happiness is different. 

The happiness she feels today is based on her being 100% herself and authentic with what she needs and wants. The happiness she felt in her previous incarnations was more based on everyone else and making sure that everyone else was happy. She thought that taking care of everyone else was what made her happy but it ended up just making her feel invisible. Now she really understands what makes her happy and she’s not afraid to ask for the things that make her happy. She also doesn’t settle for anything less than that because life is just too short. 

She also realized that happiness does not mean perfection. Previously, her happiness was about things being perfect. Now she knows that happiness is being authentic and honest and true. 

A More Recent Lesson

Niki turned 40 about a year and a half ago and has since added some new lessons, one of which is this: when you’re in your 20s you hear that women in their 40s stop caring and become more empowered. What Niki realized recently is that shift doesn’t really come from empowerment. It comes from exhaustion. It comes from being really tired of fighting the world. And in your 40s you gain a different type of strength, but the root of that strength is that you’re exhausted. You’re tired of having to fight for your place. Tired of having to demonstrate that you’re competent or strong. That’s when you realize, ‘I know who I am,’ and you decide not to fight about it any more. 

The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

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Transcripts

Stephanie: Hi, Niki. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Niki Harris: Hello. It's nice to finally sit down and have a conversation with you.

Stephanie: You and I first connected, I think last fall. I had found you on Instagram while I was doing a search around hashtags around turning 40 and lessons around turning 40. And you had this beautiful series of posts that you posted right around your 40th birthday, which is about a year and a half ago, right?

Niki Harris: Yes, that's correct.

Stephanie: Okay. You started by saying that "40 is my masterpiece," and I loved that. Tell me a little bit about what you mean by 40 being a masterpiece.

Niki Harris: Oh, that actually choked me up a little bit.

Stephanie: So it's still true. I love it.

Niki Harris: Yes, it is! Is. And it's amazing because I will be 42 this year. So, it's amazing how that masterpiece has grown and even evolved over these last, you know, almost two years. Right? So I think what I meant by it being my masterpiece is that it was a gathering or kind of a coming together of everything that I had learned my whole entire life.

Niki Harris: And one thing that I always say about women and us really finding ourselves and finding our purpose in life and why we are here and just our power. All of that is your masterpiece. You really designing your life based on what you love, what you want, what you desire, what you've learned.

Niki Harris: And all of that came to me when I turned forty. It felt like to me, I was finally putting together my masterpiece.

Stephanie: Wow. That's beautiful. You said that "40 was the accumulation of all the things you had been told you couldn't do and the fight you fought to accomplish those things."

Niki Harris: Most definitely. One of the major things about me is that I was born with sickle cell disease. For those who don't know what sickle cell disease is, it's a blood disease that's predominate in African-American community and it can definitely lead to death. I was born in the eighties and in the eighties they didn't know a lot about sickle cell disease.

Niki Harris: When I was born, they told my mom I wasn't gonna live past six months old. So my mom prepared for that, although they didn't know my mama was a believer She took me to a sickle cell clinic one day and she saw a woman and the woman was in her seventies.

Niki Harris: And in my mom's mind, it was if she can make it to her seventies, then my daughter can make it to hers. I've spent a lot of my life because of sickle cell disease of people telling me what I couldn't do. Or what I wasn't going to be able to do, I wasn't going to be able to have kids, I wasn't going to be able to be successful in my career.

Niki Harris: I wasn't going to be all of these things that this little girl wanted to do and wanted to have. My whole entire life has been a fight for me to have that, for me to prove that I can have a abundant and flourishing life, no matter what challenges I might be facing. That was clearly a big piece of my masterpiece.

Niki Harris: It was me being able to take the limitations that was given to me and make them into my strengths.

Stephanie: That's beautiful. I actually don't know a lot about sickle cell. So tell me how it affects someone on a day-to-day basis. Is it something you still are dealing with today? Is it something that you feel?

Niki Harris: Yes, it's a lifelong journey, there's no cure for sickle cell cell. You can treat it. You can treat the symptoms of sickle cell, but there is no cure. This is how I describe it, you have red blood cells and your red blood cells are oval shaped, right?

Niki Harris: But they're very flexible. They move in, move out. When they are maneuvering themselves through your veins, they can become smaller so they can go through your veins. When you are in a sickle cell crisis, and anything can bring on a sickle cell crisis,

Niki Harris: you can get too cold, you can get too hot, you can get too stressed. Not eating, not eating well, and sometimes it doesn't take anything. People's bodies are just different, but when you're going through a sickle cell crisis, your red blood cells become rigid. So instead of being flexible, they become very rigid and they turn into a sickle.

Niki Harris: So imagine something very rigid and turning into a sickle, trying to push themselves through your veins. It causes extreme amounts of pain, and it can cause your organs to shut down in certain cases. A person with sickle cell deals with pain on a daily basis. The pain has been compared to a woman in labor.

Niki Harris: It's very excruciating pain when you're going through a sickle cell crisis. So that is sickle cell. Its a lot deeper than that, but that's the way I would sum it up.

Stephanie: Okay. So this is a lifelong

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: thing for you. Now I understand a little bit more about all the things you've been told you couldn't do.

Niki Harris: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was, all in the intent of keeping you safe and keeping you balanced you know, having kids takes a lot on your body, you know different things like that. So yes, most definitely, when you are a woman and you're wanting to have kids and you have sickle cell, that's the first thing they're going to tell you "Well, no, you shouldn't do that or you can't do that."

Niki Harris: And that was one thing that I always wanted to do. And I've been blessed to have two beautiful, healthy children. That's also a part of that masterpiece I was talking about.

Stephanie: Oh, my goodness. Now some of these lessons are a little bit to me. Lesson 24 was, "The pain I've experienced has definitely been what fuels my purpose, but my purpose will not be rooted in pain."

Niki Harris: Exactly.

Stephanie: Tell me a little bit about that.

Niki Harris: Not just pain of sickle cell, but I've been through a lot of things in my life, you know, I'm, I'm 41, but sometimes I feel like I have had a lifespan of an 80 year old. I've just been through a lot and that transitioned me into what I do with my career. I am a life coach for women, a healing coach for women.

Niki Harris: And it's really all about finding your healing It's teaching women how to go through that healing journey, that healing process, to be able to create their masterpieces and create the lives that are better suited for them instead of living off of the societal rule of what women should be.

Niki Harris: When I say my pain became my purpose, it was the pain that I have been through in my life, it was fuel to be able to give to other women, to teach them how to maneuver through their own pain. Sometimes we can take our pain and it can become something that, destroys us from the inside out. Right?

Stephanie: It sure can.

Niki Harris: I always say that the way you perceive your pain is how you maneuver through it. I perceived my pain as something that was meant to push me forward instead of something that was going to hold me back.

Stephanie: That's great. And probably such a wonderful example for your clients

Niki Harris: Yes, most definitely.

Stephanie: as well, because sometimes it is just the mindset, just somebody telling you it doesn't have to hold you down.

Niki Harris: It doesn't. It doesn't.

Stephanie: What if you just let it propel you forward?

Niki Harris: Sometimes we have to sit in the pain for a little bit. I tell people that all the time, the only way out of pain is through it. You can't go around it, over it, under it. You have to go through it. Sitting in it you have to be able to feel those feelings.

Niki Harris: Feel everything that is coming at you and process through that. Allow yourself to process through it, and when you do that, then you can find a way you can find a different perspective on "what was this pain here to teach me? What is it here for?" That definitely is a skill I have learned, it's not always easy.

Niki Harris: It's not always easy, but it's definitely a skill I think I've learned.

Stephanie: Yeah, for sure. It is not easy.

Niki Harris: Definitely not.

Stephanie: Yeah. Lesson number five. I just loved this one and I'm So looking forward to your explanation or your interpretation of what you meant. You said, "I thought I needed a prince charming to save me from the evil dragon, but I soon realized that I was the MF dragon."

Niki Harris: Yes.

Niki Harris: I love that one, Stephanie!

Stephanie: Me, too!

Niki Harris: Oh

Stephanie: too

Niki Harris: I did. Oh, I'm so glad you used that one, that was a good one.

Stephanie: Yeah. Talk to me about being a dragon.

Niki Harris: Ooh. Stephanie, I am, and it's taken me a long time to be able to sit in that because, as women, we are taught that we need someone to come and save us. From the time that we are brought into this world, we are given this road map that we are incapable,

Niki Harris: we are incapable of taking care of ourselves. That for us to feel some kind of value we need to be attached to some type of prince charming, in whatever way that is. I had to realize, and I'm not going to say I had to realize because I've always known that. I wasn't that typical little girl that dreamed about her wedding I wasn't that. I think I shamed myself a long time for not being that girl. I was always very ambitious, always more concerned about my career and the way that I wanted to live my life. And I wanted to travel the world and different things like that.

Niki Harris: I was never really concerned about being someone's wife, being someone's girlfriend. I was never concerned with that. Then as I started to grow up, you fall into the script. You fall into the, "Oh, you need to be married. Oh you need to have kids. this is, this is your role as a woman in society."

Stephanie: I fell into that. I have some traumas in my life that led me to start looking for a prince charming to save me. And then I went through uh, I had an awakening. I was married for 10 years. Probably eight years into that marriage I felt completely invisible.

Stephanie: I went through a complete awakening in my life. It felt like I had built this life for myself that I felt invisible in. I had to figure out where this unhappiness was coming from. I had figure it out. I started going to therapy. What I realized is

Niki Harris: a lot of things I had built in my life really wasn't my identity. It was what I was doing to live up to the expectations of what a woman was supposed to do. Once I was able to get out of that and able to see my strength, embody my strength, accept my strength, and know that I did not have to be anything but myself, I realized that I was the MF dragon. And I was okay being that. And, I made some decisions. I got a divorce, I've been divorced for about seven, eight years now. But it was a change I needed to make for of me.

Stephanie: Tell me how that started showing itself for you. How did you start finding yourself? I know you said you went to therapy and that's great, and that's such a hugely important tool for so many people. But what did it look like for you when you started noticing? Is that the right word?

Stephanie: Noticing? Tell me.

Niki Harris: It was kind of like an out-of-body experience It's kinda like I had two people in me that we're battling. It was like the person that I had built myself to be and then it was like this quiet person inside of me that was questioning every single thing that I did.

Niki Harris: So if it was something simple as I got in an argument with my mate. This person over here had learned how to deal with that, had learned how to conform herself into being a little quieter, not really speaking up for myself. And then I had this other person on the other side and it was yelling, "Speak up for yourself.

Niki Harris: What are you doing?" That's the best way I can describe it. I just started listening. and I started questioning myself. "Why are you not speaking up?" And this wasn't just in my relationship, this was in my career as well. I was becoming this person that I had never been. I was the child who would get the progress reports in school that would say

Stephanie: I can already know what

Niki Harris: Yeah,

Stephanie: tell me.

Niki Harris: She's a straight a student, but she talks too much. She's bossy. She likes to tell the whole class what to do. You know, I was that kid. And I'm gonna be really honest with you, my mother was very strong and my mother was trying to raise a strong woman but also she was trying to raise a woman that could exist in the world that wasn't so accepting of a strong woman. It's like she was battling between these two things: be a strong woman, but also be acceptable. So when I would get these letters from school, my mom would be trying to teach me how to balance it out.

Niki Harris: When I became older and now I'm in this space of going back to your question of questioning these things, it was that. It was in my career I was being quieter. I wasn't being as assertive as I used to be. I wasn't being as engaged as I used to be. It was kind of like I was dimming myself and I started noticing that.

Niki Harris: It's like this other piece of me was just questioning every single thing that I did. Instead of me fighting against it, I started listening. I started questioning back, "Why am I being this way? Why am I doing this?" When I started going to counseling, I went into counseling to fix me. I didn't go into counseling to fix my life or anything else that was going on wrong. I went into counseling to fix me because clearly I was the problem. I had to be the problem. What I learned in counseling was I wasn't the problem. I wasn't the problem, the way that I was maybe perceiving things or had been knocked down through life and through society was what the problem was.

Niki Harris: I had to learn how to build myself back up from there.

Stephanie: And what was your career at the time?

Track 1: So I have been in HR for over 20, 26 years now. So I was in HR at the time. Yeah.

Stephanie: So this brings you to your mid thirties, it sounds like

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: When you were leaving a marriage and you were uncovering yourself. Tell me what the next couple of years were like, as you stepped into this new person and headed towards 40.

Niki Harris: Figuring it out. A whole lot of crying, a whole lot of questioning, a whole lot of reflecting. It was me putting my knuckles to the pavement and figuring it out. Because the way that I looked at it was, I do not want to live my life the way I've been living my life for the past 10, 15 years. So that journey was hard. That journey was hard. I cried a lot.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Niki Harris: I cried a lot. I tell people sometimes when you're going through your healing journey, you either go through it and you find the person that you lost, or you go through it and you create a whole different person. I was doing both.

Niki Harris: I was doing both. I was finding the person that I lost to create the person that I wanted to be for my future. I was doing a lot of reading, I was doing a lot of just really digging.

Niki Harris: What I would say is putting my puzzle pieces together. I was identifying the traumas that I had been through and how those traumas had affected the way that I existed in the world.

Niki Harris: I was identifying the triggers that I had. I was identifying just a lot of things about me that I needed to really hone in on to find out who I was. I had lost a lot of who I was.

Stephanie: And when you're doing that, when you're going through that process of investigation and rebuilding, to to somebody who may be on the edge of their own sort of questioning, what does that look like? Is that something you're doing by yourself? I know you've got counseling as sort of one pathway that you're probably working through, but it's so much bigger than that.

Stephanie: How are you pulling yourself through that process? Are there tools, are there workbooks? What kind of things were you doing to really dig down that hard work?

Niki Harris: I was using it all, anything that was available to me, to be honest.

Stephanie: Okay.

Niki Harris: I might be quoting this wrong. But one thing that I specifically remember is I love the book and the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Loved it. And it was one of the quotes that she said about using the world as your teacher. And that was really what the journey looked like. Because your healing journey, it's not a solo process. Some of it is solo, but it's not, you know, because you learn so much about just interacting in the world, because if you don't interact in the world, you don't know how you interact in the world.

Niki Harris: Right? So I'm using the world as my teacher, whether that is getting out there and starting to date again. That was a teacher within itself because now I'm learning, what I like, what I don't like. Who am I, as this new person that's getting out here dating?

Niki Harris: I'm learning it as a parent, I'm becoming a different kind of parent. I'm becoming a parent that goes from how she was taught to be a parent, to now how does she want to exist as a parent? I'm going from my work life to how was I existing before and was that really helping me get to where I wanted to be in my career? What do I need to change about me so that I can get the abundance and the success that I'm looking for?

Niki Harris: What does success look like for me? What does happiness look like for me? What does joy look like for me? I was using the world as my teacher along this journey because no, I couldn't do it by myself. I had a great support system. I have great friends and they were walking with me through this journey.

Niki Harris: So if I could you know, sum that up I would definitely say I used the world just as my teacher. It was a lot of reading, workbooks, journaling, oh watching you know, watching what was it? I cannot remember the name of it. Oprah used to have it every Sunday.

Stephanie: Oh, Super Soul Sunday

Niki Harris: Super Soul Sunday oh, I have a notebook full of notes on Super Soul Sunday.

Niki Harris: It was just a lot of digging. It was a lot of digging and just uncovering some things that I did not even know about myself. I would say that's, what the journey looked like for me. And it's totally different for every everybody, but that's what it looked like.

Stephanie: Of course. Yeah. the thing that is, to me, sort of most important when going through that process is awareness

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: is noticing things that had been just routine or rote previously,

Niki Harris: Absolutely.

Stephanie: Whether it's your own reactions, whether it's the people who are around you, how they treat you or the things they say to you.

Stephanie: So when you're using the world as your teacher it's such a simple statement, but the truth of it is, that you have to wake up

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: So that you can notice the things that the world can teach you.

Niki Harris: Absolutely.

Niki Harris: And I call it the triple A battery: awareness, accountability and acceptance. That's the three stages of it, for me. I had to become, like you stated, I had to become aware of what was going on first of all, how did I get here? What got me here? Why I was here. The self-awareness is putting those pieces together.

Niki Harris: Then it's accountability. You have to take accountability for your part in this journey you're taking. No one dragged you through it. You made the decisions, to go through this journey, so take accountability for that.

Niki Harris: Then finally you Get to this place of just accepting who you are, flaws and all. Just accepting, this is my past, this is my present, and this is where I'm going to go in the future. And that's, how I looked at it. I call it the AAA battery.

Stephanie: I love it. That's fantastic. And you know, when it comes to accountability and being accountable for your part in it, that can also mean bad decisions.

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: That you made.

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: But also giving yourself, grace is the word I, I have in my head.

Niki Harris: My favorite word.

Stephanie: Sure, you made some bad decisions, but maybe those were the best decisions you could make at the time. Or maybe those were the decisions that the, you, who you were at that time felt were the right decisions. It can look so different from a different point of view.

Niki Harris: It's also forgiving yourself, right? Forgiving yourself and starting to trust yourself because when we make bad decisions, we stop trusting ourselves. We feel like I put myself in this position, so therefore I cannot trust myself moving forward.

Stephanie: Yeah, I must be bad or bad at making decisions.

Niki Harris: Yes, absolutely. So that forgiveness is about you saying to yourself, I made the best decision based off what I knew at that time. Now, when you know, better, you do better and you keep moving forward, but that's absolutely right. But I find that a lot of people get stuck at the accountability phase.

Niki Harris: They get stuck there because of how we perceive it, Like you said, we perceive it like I did something bad. So how can I trust myself moving forward? Or, what does that say about me that I would make decisions like that? We start to judge ourselves and you can't do that. You can go through a phase of doing it, but you have to get out of it because that is going to keep you stalled.

Stephanie: Right, you're going to get stuck. You're not going to make it any further down the path if you cannot get by that. I like that you just said, go ahead and judge yourself, but get beyond it,

Niki Harris: But get beyond it because it's human. When you're going through healing and this process of figuring yourself out we do a lot of judgment of ourselves and it's okay to do that. That's a part of who we are as humans that's a natural human emotion or action, or behavior. But get past it because if you don't get past it, you're just gonna get stuck there.

Stephanie: So I'm curious, you said, I think about 10 years ago you started a coaching practice and you called yourself a healing coach.

Niki Harris: I yes. Yes.

Stephanie: Tell me how that was born.

Niki Harris: From that pain that we talked about earlier. It went through a transition because it started out as me being a life coach. I went in I received my bachelor's in psychology and then I got my master's in counseling psychology.

Niki Harris: During my internship, I just kind of had a awakening one day. Most of the clients that I had during my internship were women. What I identified was that it was a lot of women that were coming in for either current or past trauma that they had been through, whether that trauma was physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, it was trauma. And them just wanting to feel better. Feel better.

Niki Harris: That was it. And so from there I'm like, "Okay, I'm going through my own trauma and dealing with my own healing. All of these other women have gone through their trauma and dealing with their own healing. How can I be somewhat of a guide or some way of assistance through this at all? How can I help?" That is where my business came from. It came from me realizing that as women, we don't have that support out there when it comes to healing that we need a lot of people don't even understand the trauma that women go through just on a daily basis, you know?

Niki Harris: And,

Stephanie: Give me for example, what kind of trauma are you talking about?

Niki Harris: Whether that is being in a world that's consistently sexualizing you from a very young age, that's probably the most significant one. Whether that is people not teaching you that you are important. They're teaching you, that your job is to nurture, your job is to take care of others.

Niki Harris: We're not taught that we need to be taken care of. I think the first time I heard self-care when it pertained to women was probably

Niki Harris: three years ago. I remember having a conversation with a bunch of older women that were more in their like sixties and seventies.

Niki Harris: And they were like, "oh, you can't do that self-care thing when you have kids." And I remember thinking to myself, "That's probably when you need to do with the most." But it's just that limitation that's been put on us as women that we can't take care of ourselves. So therefore we don't. We don't take into consideration the things that we want, the things that we need, the things that we require, because we have been taught that our job is to take care of everybody else. And we don't even think that that's a trauma, but that's a trauma, because that affects the way that we exist in the world. If we were never taught that it's okay to take care of ourselves, and then we acquire a husband, children, even the people around us, our friends, we put ourselves in a state that our job is to take care of them.

Niki Harris: So then we can't speak up for ourselves. We don't require anything for ourselves. And then we become depleted and we have no idea why. That's form of trauma. That's a form of how you exist in the world. That is a lot of what I was seeing, mental trauma emotional trauma, emotional abuse that we have to go through.

Niki Harris: Being told that we're not pretty enough, that we're not the size that we're supposed to be. When we want to be working mothers, "Why do you want to do that? You need to be home with your kids." We get shamed for so many things. All of that is trauma.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Niki Harris: It's all trauma. And, and we don't like to think that it is, but it is.

Stephanie: Right. Cause we want to think that we're strong enough and tough enough to just take it and move on.

Niki Harris: Because how dare you not be, Stephanie? How dare you not be strong enough to be able to do that? That's another thing we get shamed for. How dare you not be okay carrying the whole world on your shoulders? How dare you be too tired or too depleted to do all that? How dare you. And I wanted to normalize that for women, to normalize that our daily lives can be traumatizing.

Niki Harris: And it's okay to say that. It's okay to live in that, accept that, and it's okay to require more for your life. There's nothing wrong with that. And so that's, that's where the business came from.

Stephanie: The women that you're working with, is there a consistency in the age of women who come to you or is it sort of across the board?

Niki Harris: Mainly my clientele ranges probably between the age of late twenties to probably late fifties. I get the late twenties as my best friend would say to me I'm an overachiever because my awakening came a lot earlier than a lot of other people's did.

Niki Harris: But I have a lot of women nowadays that are coming to me a lot earlier. Because I think the world has become more awakened to what women go through and women are trying to create their lives in a much healthier, balanced way. So those women that are in their late twenties and they're like, "Okay, I'm noticing some things that I might need help with."

Niki Harris: I think we're okay now asking for help or we're making it a little easier to ask for help.

Stephanie: Yeah, it never would have struck me in my late twenties to, I wouldn't have even had the language to talk about any of that. I think you're right. I think it's, something that next generation they are aware of the world and their place in it. Maybe more so than we were, or in a different way than we were.

Stephanie: And so they're creating their own realities a little bit more thoughtfully.

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: Then previous generations may have.

Niki Harris: They are definitely demanding more, they are demanding more for their lives. When I see that, I'm so proud of that because, like I stated, we've just been in a world that they really have shamed us for wanting more or asking for more. It's been how dare you ask for more.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Niki Harris: I'm very proud to see that our younger generation is doing something different.

Stephanie: Yeah. Tell me about the women in their late thirties, who you're working with.

Niki Harris: Ooh. I think the majority of the women in my late thirties have been the women that have gotten married in their early twenties and divorced in their late thirties. It's been kind of the same transition of them living that same script: doing what society wanted them to do, and then kind of realizing, "I'm not sure if this is what I wanted for my life."

Stephanie: Right.

Niki Harris: My life can be better than what I have originally thought it could be. It's a lot of women that even if they haven't thought like that, even if it's been traumatic experience of having to endure an infidelity or having to endure a separation with a partner and you built these ideas and what you thought your life was going to look like, and then somehow your life didn't turn out like that.

Niki Harris: And you're having to deal with the grief of that. Whether it's I've lost a parent or I've lost a child. That's the road to that healing that people are looking for because I hate to say it, by the time we're in our thirties, we've dealt with a great deal of trauma.

Niki Harris: We've dealt with some harsh things that have happened in our lives and women are getting to the point that they're tired of being told to push it down, push it down, push it down. They're now starting to deal with it, recognize it and just embrace it and go through the process of learning how to heal and understanding that healing doesn't mean that it magically goes away.

Niki Harris: Healing is just about coping. That's what healing is, it's coping with it. And through that coping every day gets a little bit easier for you. Right?

Stephanie: Yeah. All of this sounds so heavy and hard and just like so much work. Talk to me about what it feels like on the other side of it.

Niki Harris: It's rewarding on the other side. I've always been, one of those people that people gravitate towards. My kids would always say, when we go to the store, "We can't go anywhere without people coming to you and talking to you." And this is strangers. I love interacting with people. I love getting to know people. I love getting to know their stories. I'm not a small talk person. I'm one of those people who I want to know your deep, darkest secrets.

Niki Harris: I do. I want to know that. I want to know you. When I have these interactions and when I'm interacting with my clients and whether that's on a one-on-one basis, I have a Facebook group that I'm always interacting in, I do conferences and all of that.

Niki Harris: It's rewarding on the other side, it's heavy, but it's rewarding because for me, I'm thinking about what did I lift off of that person that day? What did I help them get off of them? If I took one boulder off of their shoulders that day, that is me living in my purpose. It goes into the filling your cup analogy, If you have a full pitcher, and you're walking around with your full pitcher and everyone in your life has a cup. You're filling everyone's cup, by the end of you filling everyone's cup, your pitcher is empty.

Niki Harris: But what is filling your pitcher back up? What's filling my pitcher back up is that although I'm putting into everyone's cup, me being able to remove that boulder off of them, me being able to see them smile, me being able to see a little bit of relief come off of them or them say, "Thank you for just talking to me today, I feel so much lighter". That fills back up my pitcher. And then I can keep doing it again and again and again, because I'm not only giving to, it's giving back to me. That's what it feels like for me on the other side of that.

Stephanie: That's beautiful. Tell me about happiness on both sides. So when you were in your marriage or, when you were younger, I'm sure there were happy days. And then now that you are fully embodying yourself today, there are happy days. How would you weigh them or compare them to each other?

Niki Harris: Oh, great question, Stephanie. That's a really good question. And a pretty easy question, too. The happiness that I have now is based in me being a hundred percent myself and a hundred percent authentic with anything that I need and anything that I want.

Niki Harris: I think the happiness back then was really based in everybody else. It was based in me being that martyr, me being that person that was always making sure that everybody else around me was happy. I thought that was giving back to me. I thought that that was in turn making me happy, but it wasn't because at the end I just felt invisible. The difference in this happiness is that I've really, I really understand what makes me happy.

Niki Harris: I really understand it now. And I'm not afraid to ask for the things that make me happy. I'm not afraid to demand the things that make me happy. And I don't settle for anything less than that, because life is just way too short to accept anything less than that. And then also the realization that happiness does not mean perfection.

Niki Harris: Happiness is authenticity. And I think back then my happiness was about things being perfect. And now it's about things being authentic and honest and true. That's the difference.

Stephanie: That's quite the difference.

Niki Harris: Yes.

Stephanie: You said you know what makes you happy now. Tell me two things that make you happy.

Niki Harris: Two things that make me happy: hearing my children laugh, hearing them absolutely laugh, and the peace that I have acquired in my life, that when I come home and I shut the world out that I have created a sanctuary and that is my happiness. That is what I've worked so hard to acquire, and I've gotten so far along that journey. That's two things that make me happy.

Stephanie: I love it. I love that you've created a sanctuary. That's a great word. And it's so evocative. Anybody who hears that word probably has a different visual in their head of what it looks like, but we all know what it means and what it feels like in that space. Oh, that's wonderful.

Stephanie: Tell me about your coaching practice. How do you work with women? Are you available to work with people?

Niki Harris: Yes. So my coaching practice I have a website lifecoachNiki.com. You can schedule appointments with me online. I also have a Facebook group: Healing with My Homegirls. It's very easy to find. And we talk about all things healing. It's an open forum.

Niki Harris: We have discussions all the time about different things, hot topics. I give you different mantras every Monday to help you throughout your week. And on top of that, I do offer one-on-one sessions where you can do, a one-off. If it's just like, "Hey, I just kinda want to pop in, I'm kind of going through something and want to talk it through with somebody."

Niki Harris: And I call that the home Girl Hour. You can kind of pop in, hour and 30 minutes, we just talk about what's going on in your life. If you need some guidance from me, then we go through that process.

Niki Harris: Or if it's something that you feel like "I need some deep healing. I want to dig a little bit. I want to start understanding my traumas and my triggers," then I have a package and it's called the healing Homegirl Package. And that's a three month package, we have a session every week.

Niki Harris: I put in some rant sessions, because sometimes you just need to rant a little bit. You don't really need advice. You just want to talk some stuff out, just want to yell and scream a little bit, so I put that in there. I provide homework. Journaling is very big for me because that's something that helps us process through our emotions. That's how I pretty much cater my practice and how we do things. I also have conferences, I have a I call it the healing circle and that's a virtual support group where we get together. And, you understand that you're not alone on this process because I always like to create that.

Niki Harris: That's another thing as women that we don't have is that support, that empowerment, to be able to just sit around and, and be okay, just ranting about our lives and what's going on and can somebody please help me.

Stephanie: Right.

Niki Harris: So I have a lot of different avenues and a lot of different programs that women can pop in to get the healing that they need.

Stephanie: And it sounds like they're mostly virtual. So, no location requirements to be near you.

Niki Harris: No location requirement. So the healing circle, I was doing that out at a park. Oh, very nice. But I'm in Georgia, so Georgia heat is not so nice right now. So because of that it's virtual, which works for everybody. And then once, it starts to cool off a little more, we have to go outside because I love being outside, I think it's a great place for healing.

Stephanie: For sure. Niki, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been spectacular. I love your lessons. I have loved the way you've brought them to life and explained how you went through them. I just so love that you took that experience and are now using it to help people come along with you.

Niki Harris: Thank you so much. It has been an rewarding experience. I'm so glad you found me. Stephanie.

Stephanie: Me too.

Niki Harris: Now I'll have to go back and read all my lessons that I put.

Stephanie: Yeah, there's some doozies in there. You have to go back and review them. Now that it's been a couple of years, I would be curious what you thought of the lessons and, or, like you said earlier, what else have you added to the pile?

Niki Harris: I was thinking the other day, I've added quite a few to the pile.

Stephanie: Give me one. What have you added in the last year and a half?

Niki Harris: Understanding that, I don't know if you heard this, but you know, when you was in your twenties, you had women that were in their forties and they told you you know, when you turn 40, you stop caring and, you become, just more empowered.

Niki Harris: And so a lot of us was looking forward to that. Right. And what I realized is that it doesn't really come from empowerment, it really comes from exhaustion. It really does. It comes from you being really tired of having to fight the world.

Niki Harris: That's where it comes from. And from there you do gain a different type of strength, but the root of that strength is that you're exhausted.

Stephanie: Wow. Mind blown. I've never heard it said like that, that's gonna sit in my head for a while. But even immediately I could see. Sure,

Niki Harris: Yeah, because you're tired of having to fight for your place. You're tired of having to show that you're competent, that you are strong. it's every area of your life. And then because of that exhaustion, you're like, you know what? I know who I am. I know what I need. I know what I stand for. I am no longer going to fight about it.

Stephanie: the visual I have in my head this theme from you, is somebody who's carrying so many bags and boxes and boulders and you just get to a point where you can't carry them anymore. They're just too heavy. And so in my head visually, it's like dropping them all out of exhaustion and then realizing that, well, maybe I don't have to pick them back up.

Niki Harris: There you go. Exactly, Stephanie that's perfect.

Niki Harris: That's perfect. That everything that I'm carrying on me, is it worth it? Is it even worth it? And when you drop them, you realize that it wasn't. You realize that it wasn't.

Stephanie: Well talk about going out with a bang, I'm not sure I've had an interview end like that before, but

Niki Harris: I know. That's kind of a strength, I can give you boom at the end!

Stephanie: It's very on-brand for Ms. Niki Harris.

Niki Harris: Yes, it is.

Stephanie: I love it. Thank you so much, Niki.

Niki Harris: Thank you so much, Stephanie. Nice to meet you.

Stephanie: Nice to meet you too.

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