Our conversation with content creator, speaker, and writer Aisha Beau Johnson.
This is Joy & Claire Episode 69: Aisha Beau Johnson
Episode Date: April 8, 2021
Transcription Completed: April 14, 2021
Audio Length: 58:07 minutes
Notes: Check 00:33:11.16 minutes (Page 10) to confirm if “Schmeichel Schmalisch” is correct. Also note that I changed 00:39:51.14 minutes (Page 12) Don’t Touch My Hair to You Can’t Touch My Hair, based on confirmation of the book title by Phoebe Robinson on Google. There is also a Don’t Touch My Hair by the author, Emma Dabiri, if that was what you intended.
Joy: Hey guys, this is Joy.
Claire: And this is Claire.
Joy: And this is Joy and Claire. And Aisha Beau Johnson. Welcome to the podcast this week. So we have a guest on the show this week, Aisha Beau Johnson. Self-care writer, content creator, a speaker, a blogger. You have a lot that we want to talk about with you today. I kind of want to start off with dating, which I know sounds weird because you’re engaged. But I was thinking about this today. We’ll go to that in a second because I do want you to do a quick intro. But I want to talk about dating after you do your intro because Claire and I, we’ve been married for quite some time. You’re engaged, you’re getting married, but you were on a recent interview where you talked a little bit about people getting ready to date and when they feel like there has to be the perfect person to date. I was like, we never talk about dating on this show. There are so many people out there that are in the dating world. So I want to talk about that first, but give the listeners a little pitch about who you are so they can get to know you.
Aisha: Yeah. Well I feel like you pretty much summed it up.
Aisha: In terms of who I am though, I am definitely the empath of my friend group. I’m the friend who cries during commercials. I am the one who holds grudges for my friends longer than they do. I am a Virgo, so pretty organized and Type A. Are you as well?
Joy: I’m Type A. I see you.
Aisha: Not much more to explain because you know everything.
Joy: I also – my thoughts are all over the place, so forgive me. There’s all these things I want to talk to you about. But the other thing I think is super important that I think we should start with is your transition to the work that you’re doing now. You started off studying journalism.
Joy: And then you kind of had a switch and a pivot. So talk about the transition. Claire and I talk about this a lot too, of the trajectory of how we should always be linear. Or we feel like it should be linear. We’re kind of socialized to be like, you go to college, you get married, you have kids, dadada. I feel like that’s just programmed in us.
Claire: Or when we look at people who in our eyes seem successful, we think, “This must have been their plan all along.”
Joy: All along. They had it together. They had their stuff together. So can you talk a little bit about that transition of when you realized, I’m just not in the right place. Especially when you’re working as a – was it the PR job that you had?
Joy: Talk a little bit about that, when you realized this doesn’t feel like a fit.
Aisha: It’s funny that you bring that up. We might discuss it a little bit later, but one main part of – so I’m working on my first book, and the crux of it is discussing the fact that we don’t have to be on that linear path and that sometimes embracing and being open to indulging in our curiosity and the other opportunities that we might have can bring us to a bigger place of fulfillment. I found that in my own life because, as mentioned I am a Virgo, very Type A, so I always knew exactly what my path was in life. I knew, like okay. I’m going to be a journalist. And then I was like, okay. I’m not going to be a journalist, I want to be a publicist. I want to be the head of communications for a luxury brand. That was my path. And I felt like I was on that path. I knew what it was. I relished in the fact that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, that I had it down. And I was doing that. I was working in this industry, and despite all of the things that I wasn’t too happy about, the things that were making me miserable essentially, all of the things that made me question a lot of my own – not morals, but my own internalized beliefs and the things that I knew were right and what I felt was good for myself and my life and my own journey. I was kind of putting that to the wayside. I was like, well, I have to just get through this to make it through to the path that I’m supposed to be on.
Joy: Right. You’re like, this is my plan. I made the plan. You need to stick to the plan. And it’s almost like you don’t want to disappoint people. This is what I plan to do, and I’ve got to fulfill that. Is there anything that you can share a little bit more about what made you unhappy specifically. Was it the grind? Because I imagine that world is very much like, grind. You have to work 90 hours a week type of mentality, or am I making that up?
Aisha: No, it is. It is like The Devil Wears Prada in real life.
Joy: Oh my God, I was thinking of that when I was listening to you in your interviews. Like, I kind of want to say it was like The Devil Wears Prada.
Aisha: Yeah. No, it really, really was. And also for me, I’ve dealt with a lot of micro aggressions for many different reasons. One being I did not come from a well-off family. And working in the fashion industry, you’re making pennies. It’s essentially a lot of grunt work, a lot of behind-the-scenes pressure, a lot of verbal abuse from your superiors. You’re doing it for nothing, and I think a lot of my peers in the industry, they all came from wealthy families, so it’s like nothing to them. They were like, “I’ll take the abuse and the chump change for this amazing title because I already have it anyways.” So for me, I’m taking all this abuse, but also I need to live. And eat.
Joy: So was it more like the title? Like, they want to be associated with the other more privileged, rich people, like I can just take this because I can be close to this person or close to this agency and make less because I don’t need to. I’m being taken care of in other ways.
Aisha: Yeah. Exactly. And the thing about the fashion industry is eventually it’s lucrative, but way down the line. And those people can hang in there longer because they can afford to do an unpaid internship. They can afford to do x, y, z. So I kind of struggled with that internally as well, and again with the micro aggressions in the workplace and just little things that my coworkers were saying and doing that made me second guess who I was and made me second guess the fact that I was on it, that I was doing a great job. And it brought about a lot of insecurity within me because I was working under insecure people who had to take out their frustrations on someone, and I was that person. It was a lot of chipping away at who I am along the way in my journey in the fashion industry. Obviously, yes, there were some perks and some benefits, and it was very cool, a very unique experience for me and it has helped me now as an entrepreneur. But I knew in my heart, even though I was along the straight and narrow path, that I really didn’t want to be in it anymore. When I got to that title, that Director of Communications title, I’m still really unhappy. And that was the wakeup call for me that, even if you have a clear-cut path or you have one particular milestone or passion that you want to focus on for the rest of your life, if it’s essentially depleting you and making you feel so exhausted or make you feel out of who you are and as if you’re sleepwalking through life or whatever, maybe it’s time to pivot. It’s time to consider something else, and that is okay. You can do it at any time. You can do it as many times as you want. It really took me getting super burnt out to realize I needed to just make that move.
Claire: Did you have any trouble mentally with that concept of, “But I just spent all this time doing this.” That kind of sunk cost mentality?
Aisha: Oh yes. Oh my gosh. I feel like we all, when we’re younger, we’re like, “By the age of 27, I’m going to have” –
Claire: Yes. The old ripe age of 27.
Joy: Totally. When I was like 15, I was like, “When I’m 22, I’m going to have like three kids.”
Joy: I have no kids by the way.
Aisha: Yeah. I really was just stressed and terrified. I’m in my 30’s now, but I was in my late 20’s at the time, and I was like, “Oh my God. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, and I’m in my late 20’s.” So what? Get over it. Great. Amazing. You actually have a lot of time left, so it’s good that you came to this conclusion now. But at the time, I was really worried about that. I was like, oh my gosh. I think I also was comparing myself to friends who were not in that industry or who had been making more money already. I was just like, everyone now is able to afford this or do these things, and I’m essentially going to be going all the way back to square one and starting from the beginning. So that really, really weighed on me at the beginning of my entrepreneur journey. I had to push past the ego and not really think about that and think about the bigger picture. Well, at least I’m doing something that makes me happy and feel fulfilled and that is not just about me and that helps others. It will pay off in the long run, so I just had to really, really drive that home on many occasions.
Joy: Yeah. And I know we’ve talked about this on our show before, about taking that leap and how it’s not like just one day you wake up in the morning and you’re like, “I’m just going to quit my job.” I’m sure you had so much planning and things that you were just starting to create, but when did you know? Did you have a goal? Being a Virgo and a planner, did you have a plan like, I’m going to do this until this point, and then I’m going to quit my job. Obviously, financially there’s a lot of us that we can’t just quit our jobs to do our passion. It’s that pull of when we don’t have that financial stability ourselves, then we can’t just be like, “Oh, I’m just going to quite my” – sounds fun, but realistically how do we do that?
Aisha: Yeah, exactly. And honestly, I will say this was pretty out of my character to leave. It wasn’t abruptly because obviously I gave my two-weeks notice. But I honestly did not have a plan, and this was the first time in my life when I did not have a concrete plan of what I was going to do. I was like, I have this blog, and I really love blogging, and I have my own platform that’s growing, and I’m going to see about growing that. Fortunately, I had the support of my now fiancé, and he was able to help me to make that decision and feel more comfortable about that decision. But I would not recommend other people doing that. Do not. Do not do as I’ve done.
Claire: Do as I say, not as I do.
Aisha: Yeah, there we go.
Claire: I feel like there is such that image of the influencer who just walks in one day and says, “I quite” and walks out the door and opens up their check from Google Ads for $14 million. I’m so curious to hear, what was that actually like? Starting with, okay you have this blog. You have a little bit of a baseline readership, but it’s not your full-time job. And then just making that shift into, okay, now this is my livelihood.
Aisha: And I think that’s what really lit a fire under me to make me bust my ass every single day because I needed that money to live. Like I said, I was fortunate enough to have my fiancé help me out financially. But not with everything. There’s only so much he can do. And we weren’t married at the time. But it was really difficult for me at the beginning. I was scrambling. I was like, okay, I’m going to start freelance writing. I’m also going to do every single focus group on the face of the earth. I’m putting myself out there, trying to do as much as a can at home so that I can make ends meet so that I can continue to do what I love. There was a lot of me freelancing and doing small writing gigs here and there to make money until I started making money from brand partnerships and brand collaborations, and that took a while. I was lucky enough to, I freelanced for a few publications for free and did not get paid for, but then someone else, another editor, found my writing and then reached out to me about some paid opportunities, which was a blessing. And then I started getting more paid opportunities. I started working with this app Shine and recording guided meditations for them and writing for them. So that helped me out in the meantime, and then actually after being an entrepreneur for almost two years, I ended up actually getting a restaurant job. I had to make the decision. I was like, okay, I’m not having steady income, so I’m either going to go back to my previous career or I’m going to stick it out. I’m going to do the thing that is not so glamorous that might make me feel a little insecure at first, but I want to do this. So I was working at a restaurant at the beginning of last year, and then COVID hit, so I lost that job. And then I was back to square one, and I was just like, okay, well I just proved that I really want to do this. I’m just going to keep trucking. I don’t know… I’m a pretty spiritual person, so God was like, I’ve finished hazing you now and all of the sudden –
Joy: You were prepared.
Aisha: Yes. My preparation met opportunity, and opportunities started to finally come in after all of that hard work and struggle, and it took me over two years to get to that point. I had also been blogging since 2016, so this was just two years of being on my own. So it takes a lot of time. It’s not an overnight success story by any means. But the success did come, and it came very rapidly. I’m grateful. I’m in a good place now.
Claire: There’s that quote that says, “hard work puts you where good luck can find you.” We talk about that a lot, that when you are a content creator – which is such a 2021 word, right? When you’re a content creator, it can really look like overnight success, but what you don’t see is that five years of work that you’ve put into it to get it to the point where someone can’t even find you. And then yeah, maybe you’ve made it to the top of the list. But you didn’t just write your first post and get put at the top of the list.
Aisha: No, no. It was a lot, a lot of practice, a lot of getting better photography, a lot of getting connected with my audience, putting together content that really grasps people and making myself eligible for the opportunities when they come. So yeah, it was a lot of work.
Claire: So talk a little bit about the evolution of the content of your blog and the themes that you write about and talk about.
Aisha: Yes. So originally my blog started out being solely based on beauty. I just talked about hair, skin, nails. And then when I made the decision to leave, it was around the time where I was heavily – I mean, I had been focused on my self-care routine for a few years prior to that. But I was really becoming more self-actualized and really looking deeper within myself and at all the things that made me me. At the time, self-care wasn’t so popular yet. I was like, I feel like self-care is really important. I thought it was an epiphany.
Joy: Like, why isn’t everyone talking about this?
Aisha: Exactly. And now I’m like, well everyone’s talking about it. Which is for good reasons. But I felt like we make up so much more and beauty is skin deep. It’s more than that. It’s within us. It’s a way that we feel about ourselves or we think about ourselves and then it radiates outside. So I felt it really important to start talking about my mental health journey and to start talking about my wellness routine and lifestyle routine because we are so much more than just surface level. So yeah, I wanted to share that and I felt like a lot of women could relate to my journey. Once I started opening up about mental health, I think that that really opened up the floodgates and made my audience just trust me a bit more and see where I’m coming from. So now I cover lifestyle as a whole, and I love it. I think that’s definitely my sweet spot. I still cover beauty and skincare, a lot of skincare. But I’m big on wellness and lifestyle. I do cover some travel as well.
Joy: And isn’t it interesting. What you said earlier, the spiritual piece too of listening to those signs, but I also feel like our audience gives us signs. Whether it be they really just give you straight-up feedback of what they want or what they like or it’s how many likes you get on a post or what have you. But I found it really important when you said – there was another interview you did – I listen to a lot of your interviews, and one really struck me because I was like, “I totally do that” is you talked to the audience that you wish – I’m putting words in your mouth, but how I heard it was you talk to the audience of what you wish you had. I wish we had 50,000 followers. Instead of talking to the audience we have. I’m just using an arbitrary number, but sometimes I’ll be like, oh man. We’ve been doing this for eight years. Where are we going? Where’s our growth? Our numbers have stayed the same as far as followers that we can see. So I focus on the wrong piece. Instead of focusing on the audience that we have and really listening to them, I find myself in that trap of being like how are we going to grow? That destination thing. I thought that was really valuable. That was something that really helped me and how you came to that realization. And I think the audience talking to you and just listening to them.
Aisha: Yeah. I came to that realization when I was working at the restaurant. It was an early morning shift. It was like a Sunday morning, and I was there setting up before anyone got to the restaurant, and I was listening to this podcast by a pastor. He was essentially talking about that. He was like, “You want to influence so many. You want to influence millions, but you aren’t even focused on influencing the dozen people that you have in front of you now.” I literally remember where I was standing in the restaurant, pulling a chair down and hearing him say that. I was just like, he is so right. I spend so much time like, “Oh I need to get to 10k, I need to get to 20k, I need to get to 50k.” And I’m just like, but girl, if we were in a room and we had those 600 people looking at us, wouldn’t you be terrified?
Joy: Yes! Yes!
Aisha: Or that thousand people in the room with you.
Joy: Do you really want to hold the one million balloon? If you were standing in front of one million people, I’d probably –
Claire: That gold mylar that everybody has, like, “I made it.”
Joy: “We made it to 150k,” whatever that balloon thing is happening.
Aisha: Yes, yes.
Joy: It’s true. If I was standing – Claire and I have done live shows where it’s been, I don’t know…
Claire: Maybe 200 people.
Joy: Maybe 200 people, and we’re like –
Claire: They’re so fun, but it’s like –
Joy: They’re so fun.
Claire: So many people. But then if an Instagram post only gets 200 likes, you’re like what did I do wrong?
Aisha: You throw the computer.
Claire: Forget this.
Joy: We’re done.
Aisha: Exactly, exactly. And I think I’m at that point now where I’m just like, honestly, I would be terrified if this many people were in a room with me. I just need to focus on my audience now. There are some people who are so supportive, and I’ve never met them, don’t know who they are. But when they change their profile picture, I’m like, “Hey, love your new profile pic.” And they’re like, “Oh my God, thanks for noticing.” I think there’s something cool about being able to really connect with your audience. Again, trust is so important. And I feel like as an influencer, it’s so important. Because people can see through the B.S. easily. And I think sometimes people take their audience for granted and don’t feel like they’re going to notice, but they notice everything. So I think that’s really, really important, and that’s what’s also helped me to stay in the present moment when I’m creating content and doing anything. In those moments where I’m not getting as many likes as I want or as many comments or clicks or whatever. And at least like, you know what, I have done a great job. I have put so much into this, and if only ten people go and click it or like it – I’m honestly saying that. I’m not giving that speech, like “if only ten people” – no, I really mean that. I literally have gotten to that point now.
Joy: Right, exactly.
Aisha: Where at least those ten people are paying attention, and you have that trust within that group.
Claire: I remember hearing an interview with Pink, the pop artist. She was like, “People always used to want to compare me to Britney and Christina, but are they still touring?” For me, it was sort of this lightbulb moment of, you might not be the most popular in the moment, but what’s your longevity? That’s where that longevity comes from, from really knowing your audience, really caring about them and noticing them and seeing them. And it doesn’t come from going viral.
Aisha: Yeah. It’s all about the impact that you make. So I have this series on my page called “Black and Blogging.” It’s on my IGTV. I just give firsthand tips and feedback on how I’ve done it and how I’m doing it. There are so many people who are like, “Thank you, thank you” for sharing this. I also have huge influencers who DM me. Like, huge. Millions. Hundreds of thousands. Not millions, but maybe hundreds of thousands of followers.
Joy: They’ve done the balloon picture.
Aisha: Yes. And then they’re like, how did you make so much this year? Or how are you organizing your stuff? How are you doing this and doing that? And I’m just like, so you have so many followers compared to me, and you’re reaching out to me behind the scenes about this type of feedback. And I don’t even find anything strange about that. I’m not judging them. But in my mind, I’m like you never know who you’re influencing. You never know who you’re helping or touching. Even if they are bigger than me, there’s no jealousy in that because I am mores just like, this is just another person who I’m helping and who can maybe help me in the future. Or whatever. I just think there’s something great about connection.
Joy: Yeah. About the numbers.
Claire: Right, they don’t mean anything. That follower account –
Aisha: And that’s the point I was getting at. I was going around in a circle. So I have 15,500 followers, and there are folks who have way more than that who have come to me and told me that I am making more than them. And it’s crazy to me, but it all depends on the – it’s not even just the quality of your work, but I think it’s about the honesty. I pride myself on being a great storyteller in all of my content, and I think that’s what helps my audience to really connect, and I think that’s what attracts the brands and the brand partnerships because I’ve gotten that a lot. Like, “We love your storytelling. We love that you really immerse yourself in whatever it is that you’re talking about.” And I think that’s what comes with it. It’s not about the fact that you’re posting 80 times a day and that you have 50k followers. It’s about the fact that you’re making an impact. You’re providing value to your audience and to anyone who’s paying attention. That’s really what it comes down to, and I’m a testament to the fact that the numbers really don’t matter.
Joy: I’m so glad you said that. And the authenticity really goes so far, I think, when we’re talking about audience. these are people who are trusting you, who never met you, and you said this on another podcast or in one of your interviews that I wanted to bring up. You mentioned products and partnerships. Who you partner with says a lot about your brand. And when Claire and I first started eight years ago, we had so many people just be like, “Will you do this for a free t-shirt?”
Claire: I can’t tell you how many free t-shirts we got. How many stupid workout t-shirts that were like, “I’m running for tacos.”
Joy: So many t-shirts.
Claire: We all have that shirt. Don’t pretend like you haven’t had that shirt.
Joy: Yeah. So t-shirts for a plug. And at first we get excited because you just want to get noticed. And then after a while, you’re like, “Uh, I think we need to get paid for this.” We started to get an audience. So anyway. Over time, who we chose to partner with was really important because there were times when I’m like, I don’t feel good about – there was one time. I don’t remember who it was. Oh, I remember who it was. I’m not going to say it, but there was a brand that was like, “We wanted to work with you,” and I was losing sleep over it because it went against a lot of my values and the things that I was kind of struggling with personally. I was just like, I can’t do it. It would have been a decent chunk of money for our show, but I was like, “I can’t do it.” And I’m sure you’ve faced that as well.
Aisha: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I think especially now given the year that we’ve had, I feel that a lot of brands are trying to be more diverse. And there are some brands who are genuinely trying to be diverse, and then some brands who I can tell are simply doing it to fulfill a quota or to make face. Like Black History Month was the most annoying. My inbox was so annoying during Black History Month this year.
Joy: I bet.
Aisha: Just like, alright, chill.
Joy: And you’re like, I’ve been here for how long?
Aisha: Hello. Nothing has changed. So for me, it’s difficult. I do talk a lot about hair on my platform and there have been a number of hair brands who have reached out to me. And I mean, not one woman with curly kinky hair on their page. It’s like, everyone’s blonde and long, straight, wavy hair. And they’re like, “We would love to work with you.” And I’m just like, uh…
Joy: You’re like, I don’t see any diversity on your page.
Aisha: At all. I mean, no one. You don’t have any other ethnicity and no other look, no other hair type, nothing. So I had to make the decision. Obviously, money is quite important. However, we’re going back to that trust thing. My audience, they look like me. And if I say, “Oh, use this product,” and they go on that page and they don’t see anyone who looks like them, they’re going to be like, “Aisha, what the heck?” We don’t trust you anymore.
Joy: Did you even look at their page?
Aisha: Exactly. Exactly. So I had to be really, really mindful of that and also even in the partnerships that I agree to, just being mindful of the messaging, the way that I’m putting my content out there and pushing back and letting them know that I know my audience best. I know what’s going to work. I know what would be the best way to convey this and share this with them. I think that’s really important because a lot of times we’re really excited about the opportunity and we just go through the motions when I think the brands actually respect when you’re willing to push back and when you’re willing to give an opinion.
Joy: And not that this totally matters in the end, but they are going to get a better return if you have the relationship. Because people want to support you when you’re being authentic. It’s not that we’re just trying to sell products all the time, but we need to make money to keep our plans going. And they want to support you when it feels good like that. We’ve even come up against having to kind of break up with a sponsor because of, how do you say it Claire?
Claire: Yeah. Just –
Joy: We didn’t agree with someone else they supported whose politics and views were so against what we stood for.
Claire: It can be hard because you don’t want to be that cancel culture person who’s like, “Well every time someone disagrees with me, I’m just going to drop the bag.”
Joy: Yeah, but it was different.
Claire: This particular situation was different. But I am curious to hear a little bit more about being a Black female in this self-care space. It can feel so loaded. What are some of the things that you feel like you carry that the brands that you work with and potentially some of your followers just aren’t seeing that you grapple with day to day?
Aisha: What do you mean? What I grapple with on a day-to-day basis that I’m not really putting out there?
Claire: No. I mean, with your position as an influencer in this space. Having that additional component of being a Black woman. You know, like the brand who comes to you and says, “Oh, we’d love to work with you.” And you’re like, really? Because everyone on your page has these sleek, beachy waves. Do you really want to work with me? Or do you just want people to think that you – do you feel like that comes out anywhere else, like in your content or in other places where you need to be aware of that?
Aisha: Yeah. I think there’s definitely – it’s weird because there’s so much that I notice and that I see as well. Not only am I the “diversity hire” sometimes with these brands, but also I think that there are some instances in which brands are adding some diversity but only to a certain extent. So when it comes to, let’s say, a hair brand. So there are many, many obviously different types of curls and coils. And I’m on that middle range when it comes to my hair texture. But there are other Black women who are not getting as many opportunities as me because their hair texture is even tighter or their skin complexion is just a little bit darker than mine. And I think those are some of the things that I’ve struggled with as well because I’m like, okay, yes, they are being diverse and they are having other different types of women in their shoots and in their campaigns but only to an extent. And I’m at the end of it when there are so many other people on the spectrum that should be included. That’s something that’s been really, really weighing a lot on me because I’m like, okay, how do I address this? How do I talk about this? And how do I make sure that the brands that I’m working with, that they’re opening it up to everyone as well? Because there is a specific section of Black women who are being left behind. So I want to make sure I’m not just representing for them but that I’m pulling them in as well. So I think that’s something that’s really, really important to me. And I always try to look and use the hashtags to see who else is part of the campaigns that I’m a part of, just to see what’s going on. I think that a lot of brands definitely have some more work to do in terms of not just picking one or picking two people from each different group but really looking for a broad range of people in different body types, socio economic backgrounds and everything. I think that’s really, really important. I do also feel kind of burdened because I’m like, but I’m a Black woman. Why do I always have to be the one to try and tell you what you need to do or to try to help you and your organization. So that also weighs on me.
Joy: Yeah, it’s like the whole thing last year when everyone was posting. Don’t even get me started on the recent what’s-her-face? Do you know who I’m talking about?
Claire: [UNCLEAR 00:33:11.16] Schmeichel Schmalisch.
Joy: No, not Schmeichel Schmalisch.
Claire: Oh, then I don’t know who you’re talking about.
Joy: Anyway. Celebrity wife of Ozzy Osbourne. Sharon Osbourne.
Aisha: Oh yes.
Joy: The whole debacle of her being like, “Educate me.” It’s like that whole thing of, “Educate me.” It’s like, no, no, no, that is not your job. It’s kind of like the same thing where there’s got to be some exhaustion of, why do I need to be the one to educate you about this.
Aisha: That actually happened to me last year with a brand because I wrote to a number of brands – so I had signed a number of deals, but it was right in the middle of everything going on with Black Lives Matter, and there were a lot of protests going on and a lot of brands coming forward and speaking up. So I made sure to check all of the social media pages of every single brand I was working with to see have they made a statement. I Googled, I looked on their websites to see if they made a statement or if they’re doing anything. And any of the brands I was going to work with that hadn’t done anything yet, I just sent a note. Just, “Hey, I would love to continue to work with you. However, if you’re not going to stand up for this cause, I don’t know if it would be a fit.” One of the brands was like, “Yes, we’re trying to think of what to do, and I would love to get on a call with you so you can help us to brainstorm some ideas and think about” – At first, I was like, okay. And then I thought about it, and I was just like, first off, I’m not a part of your staff.
Claire: Are you going to pay me to do that call? Yeah, I would be happy to do that. My consulting fee is $500 an hour.
Aisha: Yeah, exactly. Right. And I just had to politely write back and be like, “This is not something that I feel that I should be doing for you. But I’m wishing you the best.” And I think I maybe sent some links as resources.
Joy: Which was nice of you. You didn’t even have to do that, but yes.
Aisha: Right. I was actually regrettably sending links. But so, yeah, that was very interesting and I definitely think that that’s something being the scenes that I’ve had to deal with recently.
Claire: Thank you for sharing that. I want to talk a little bit about another topic that you talk about a lot and something that I think is also, at least to me I think it has a foot in this conversation of things that are not always brought up and things that are not always easy to talk about. And that’s what you brought up earlier, which is to hear you talk about mental health. You’ve talked a lot about PTSD and anxiety in your work. Tell us a little bit more about how you started talking about that. And sorry if you can hear a 2-year-old yelling, “Mama” at the door. I’ve been found. I’ve been discovered. She knows how to knock, but she just pounds, so that’s what’s going on.
Claire: So tell us a little bit about how you decided to start sharing about that and what that felt like at first, to start being open about having mental health issues.
Aisha: Yeah, it was really scary at first. Because only my close friends knew that I was going – [laughing]
Claire: Sorry, I just turned back around and made a face.
Joy: Claire’s looking at a door of children on the other side who are just yelling at her.
Claire: Do you guys remember the movie Inception where they find them in the dream and the mom is coming?
Aisha: Oh yeah, and they just start starring?
Claire: This is my current situation. Okay, sorry.
Joy: Continue. Serious topic. Continue.
Aisha: Yeah, it was really scary at first because only a few close friends knew that I was dealing with anxiety and that I was seeing a therapist and going through all of what I was going through. Because I am generally the life of the party, the person who’s always happy and makes everyone else happy. So for me, coming out and admitting that I’m not always happy. I have my moments, and that’s okay. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been at my lowest of lows. That was really difficult for me. But I knew that I needed to do it because I knew that there would be someone out there who would be able to relate and understand where I’m coming from. And I feel like I owe it to other women in my community to speak up so that they can feel comfortable speaking up, and they can feel comfortable enough getting help for themselves. Because that has been the biggest game-changer in my entire life. I have always felt like I can do it myself. I can rally through. I can figure it out on my own. And when I got to the point of knowing and giving myself permission to get that help and to see a therapist regularly, not just go to a psychiatrist, get some meds, and continue doing what I was doing and thinking all of the negative thoughts I was thinking. I actually was actively getting help, helping myself. And I saw the change that it made in me. That’s what helped me to feel a little bit more confident about opening up to others about the fact that I’m struggling with these things. It actually wasn’t until recently that I started opening up about PTSD because my PTSD diagnosis is actually relatively recent. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder when I think I was about 24 or 25. Then last year at the beginning of the pandemic, I actually started seeing a new psychiatrist and she diagnosed me with PTSD. I was like, okay, now that makes a lot of sense. At first, I was a little like, PTSD? So confused. Because I was like, well, I didn’t go to war. But then I thought about it and we talked about it, and it made so much sense. There’s so many things that I’ve gone through in my life that I have – so many traumatic experiences that I’ve just allowed to weigh on me and I’ve allowed to essentially just take over my entire being and existence that it made sense that that was what I was going through. So from there, I decided to open up about it and I feel like a lot of Black women have gone through so much trauma in their lives. Even on a day-to-day basis where you’re experiencing trauma when someone comes up and touches our hair, you know. Tells us something like, “Oh, you speak well.” That’s traumatic.
Joy: Like the micro aggressions you were talking about earlier. And read Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair, everybody, and read every single one of her books. And that is probably very freeing, but also for you to say that there’s things you probably thought, well this is just my life. I’ve had to deal with it. Instead of defining that as trauma was probably a big – I don’t want to say your mind was blown, but more like a, “Woah,” validation.
Aisha: It was a big validation. At first, though, it did make me really sad. It made me really sad to think about the fact that I knew I didn’t have the easiest life. I didn’t have the easiest upbringing. I knew that I had gone through a lot of really, really difficult things. But putting the word “trauma” on it was tough for me because it’s so easy to just push it to the side, like this was just an experience, something I went through .This was the roadblock or growing pains or family issues. But “trauma” is a strong word, but I really do want to make it less of a traumatic word.
Joy: For sure. Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. I work with people with trauma and all sorts of trauma. And I think there’s a fallacy that you have to have what we call, I don’t even like saying “big T.” Sometimes in therapy you call it a “big T” or “little T.” I’m like, trauma’s trauma. Let’s not do the “big T,” “little T.” Trauma is trauma. And it’s really about how you have your experience, whether you’re young, whether you’re older, whether it’s a new trauma, whether it’s a trauma that you grew up with and someone goes, “that sounds like it was a traumatic experience.” I guess in a way when you’re growing up, you don’t know anything else. So you’re like, I don’t know. That was just my life. And someone sits you down and goes, “No, that was traumatic. That’s a trauma.” So I think just defining it. And I like what you said about not making it a traumatic word is really important because so many of us just want to push it aside. We do the comparison trap. I don’t have it that bad.
Aisha: Yes, oh my gosh.
Joy: Same thing with eating disorders. “Well, I’m not this size or that size, so I must not have an eating disorder.” We always compare our traumas to someone else that we’re like, “I’m fine.”
Aisha: Yeah, and I do that a lot. I made my own term for it, “the hardship hierarchy.”
Joy: I like it.
Aisha: I feel like we’re so stuck on the hardship hierarchy. I’m like that too. I’m like, well, I’m going through a tough time right now. Or I’m really stressed, but my friends have got kids or someone else who lost someone or is going through this has it way worse than me, so I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to bottle it up and keep pushing through because my problems aren’t as big as theirs. Or at least, I feel like my problems are as big as theirs, but I don’t think they believe that mine are just as important, so I’m not going to say anything. And that is not good, and that is something that I have been working on and that I try to encourage those around me to work on as well because when we don’t open up, it just causes us to spiral and to eventually explode or to just have nothing to give. It’s definitely really important, and that’s why I try to be as vocal as possible.
Claire: I know I kind of opened this thing up by being like, “Talk about your mental health issues.” That phrase, it can feel like, wow, that’s a little blunt. But I think that it can also feel so – or it does feel so good to hear other people talk about it and normalize it. And then if you are in a scenario where you do have a therapist appointment where someone says, “Wow, that sounds like trauma,” if you know someone else who is living a full life and is also dealing with trauma and is also overcoming trauma and dealing with PTSD, it feels like, okay, this can be part of a full life. Versus, this is a diagnosis that means I am going to miss out on things.
Joy: Or that you’re going to fall apart. That’s what I was going to ask. What would you say to someone who maybe they have it and they’re scared to talk about it? Because I think that’s the fear sometimes, at least what I see with patients is they’re just so afraid if they open the dam a little bit, they’re never going to be okay again. That’s just not always the case. It can be really freeing. It’s not easy, but it can be really freeing.
Aisha: Yeah. It’s all about giving yourself permission to feel and to be, and I think we don’t give ourselves that permission very often. That’s one thing that’s really helped me to live with my PTSD confidently is because I understand that these things were traumatic in my life. I understand now, the things that I have gone through and seen were really, really hard, and they have made a huge impact on me. I am now continuing to unlearn some of the behaviors that they’ve given me or whatever. But I am allowing myself to accept the fact that these things happened. I’m not letting it define me and define my future and define what I’m meant to be in life. I’m still continuing to live each and every single day. Some days might be hard. Some days might not be hard. But I’m allowing myself that space. A question that I keep getting recently is, how do you stay motivated? How do you stay motivated? I actually have found a more honest answer for myself, and that is, I’m taking time to rest. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed or I’m feeling unmotivated or I’m feeling down, I lay in bed for a little longer. I’m like, I’m going to start my day at 12. I’m just going to lay here and just take that time to be with myself, take that time to be sad, take that time to just relax and get a breather so that I can then go back with a fresh sense of motivation and insight and whatnot. And I think that’s the same thing when it comes to having PTSD and moving through life with it. You allow yourself to have those feelings and then just continue on and know that it doesn’t define you. It’s okay that you feel sad about what’s happened to you in the past. Because why not? It was traumatic. It’s okay.
Joy: It was objectively sad.
Aisha: Yeah. That’s it. So you’re allowed. I think we fight a lot with that, I shouldn’t be sad, or I shouldn’t feel that way. So that’s one thing that’s really helped me to just move forward.
Claire: I love that too abut it’s okay for it to be sad. We are always so preoccupied with trying to fix things and trying to, “Oh you’re okay, it’s going to be okay.” It’s okay for it to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay for what you went through to have been really crappy.
Joy: You’re having the worst day. We recently had an episode where we talked about that. We’re like, you get the award for the worst day. You are the worst. Your mood is the worst. So I posted recently about that. I was like, I’m just having the worst day. Give me the award. Give me the medal.
Aisha: Oh my gosh.
Claire: It’s a little tongue and cheek. But at the same time, how validating does it feel to have somebody be like, no, you’re right. I’m not here to fix it. I’m not here to find a silver lining. I’m not here to send you ten bucks to Starbucks. I mean, maybe. I would take the Starbucks. But I’m just here to tell you, yeah, that sounds horrible. End of sentence.
Aisha: Yeah. And sometimes it’s funny because if someone says, “Oh, that’s so sad,” you’re build up and you’re like [sounds of relief]. I didn’t have to justify why it was so bad or justify why I feel this way. That understand.
Claire: Guys, did we learn nothing from Bing Bong?
Aisha: From what?
Claire: Have you seen the movie Inside Out?
Claire: It’s worth it.
Joy: Go watch it, it’s worth it.
Claire: It’s a kid movie, but it’s like an adult movie for kids. It’s so good. But basically the whole entire point of that movie is that all of the emotions are important. And if you only focus on feeling joy all the time and try to spin everything to only ever feel happy, then you’re going to get stuck.
Joy: You’re missing out on all of the other cute little emotions.
Claire: There’s this pivotal moment where the emotion Sadness goes up to this imaginary friend Bing Bong. He’s having a really tough time, and she’s like, “That sounds really sad. Is sounds like you had a really good time with that rocket that just got” – there’s a lot of backstory.
Joy: [laughing] Claire.
Claire: “It sounds really sad.” And he’s like, “Yeah, it was really sad.” And Joy is like, “Sadness, don’t make it worse.” But then he feels better because he was seen and she was able to validate that.
Joy: Yeah, she saw you.
Claire: Guys, I’m just telling you. Go watch Inside Out.
Aisha: That’s the word. So when I got the diagnosis, I felt validated. I was like, oh, yes, that’s what it is. That’s what I’ve been feeling all my life.
Joy: Yeah. When you have a definition of what you’ve been struggling with your whole life, it’s just like oh my gosh.
Claire: And I love that too because, yes, that phrase post-traumatic stress, PTSD, it sounds so dramatic. But to also view it from that lens of like, this is a relief. I can put a name to what’s going on inside my brain. I don’t have to fight it anymore. I can just accept that this is what it is and I can learn to move on, or I can learn to heal and live with it and move with it instead of constantly wondering what is wrong.
Joy: Or like you can put it out in front of you and deal with it instead of this whole thing, like what is going on.
Claire: Yeah. Joy is better. She’s a therapist.
Aisha: I’m having a great time.
Joy: We can talk therapy all day long. So we want to be respectful of your time. But I do want to go back to the very first thing I wanted to talk to you about. I don’t want to do a disservice and shorten it, but if you could talk about the destination addiction and really people who perhaps are in the dating world, feel like they have to be their whole self before they go out and date someone, what would you say to our audience who’s in the dating world and they’re focused on that being perfect person before they can date? Because I feel like we’ve fed that fallacy of you need to be a whole you before you can get into a relationship. Or they do all this work on themselves before they say that they can date. And maybe they end up in bad relationships. Oh Claire, go.
Claire: Can I just say I’m so proud of you for remembering to come back to that? Because I had completely forgotten.
Joy: Oh, I was thinking about it the whole time. I started with it, our audience is going to be like, “You never talked about dating. You said you would.”
Aisha: Don’t worry, we got you. Okay. So that was based off of my – I wrote a blog post called “You Can Find Love While Still Finding Yourself.” I came to that because I was thinking about the journey that I had with my fiancé and the fact that I actually met him towards the beginning of my self-love, my self-care journey. And I was in that process, I was thinking to myself, should I get into another relationship right now? Should I still continue to find myself? And I decided to not put him on hold and to instead continue on with dating him while continuing my self-care practice because I was like, I just need to make sure I have clear boundaries while I do this. And also, when you think about it, self-care, your self-discovery, all of that, it’s a continuous thing. You don’t reach a threshold, like okay I’ve done 800 therapy sessions, I have meditated for this many hours and written in at least 12 journals.
Claire: Right, you don’t get a punch card filled up for self-care.
Aisha: Exactly. So now I can finally retire the self-care aspect from my life and I am actualized and ready to do everything and conquer the world. No. It doesn’t happen like that. Self-care happens all the time because the one thing in our lives that is constant is change. We’re going to change our minds. We’re going to be put in situations and circumstances that are going to have us look at ourselves and the world around us differently. So of course the way that we perceive ourselves and the things that we feel we need to build ourselves up is going to change. So with that said, obviously you can date while you’re still going through the process because the process never ends. And if you sit around waiting to do that, then you will never date someone. And I think the important aspect is, again, setting those clear boundaries, being open with that person and letting them know that you are on this journey right now and that you are figuring things out. And hopefully if they’re the right person, they’ll want to go along on that journey with you. Another aspect of that is the destination addiction for those of us who maybe are not in that relationship yet or don’t have that prospect of a relationship yet and we’re thinking to ourselves, I’ll be happy when I get in that relationship. I’ll be happy when I can finally start dating. Or when I lose the weight. Or when I make this amount of money. Instead we’re essentially putting our happiness on ice until the whatever it is, the pinnacle that we feel might one day come down, we’re waiting for that when we can just be happy in the here and now and we can find gratitude in our day-to-day, in the things that we do have, in the people that we do have in our lives now. And when we realize and understand that now is the most important time of our entire lives, that’s when we really start living because we’re no longer looking towards the future. We’re making the most of every single moment. We’re finding our joy right now. And I think when it comes to dating, I don’t feel like it’s productive to wait to be happy once you’ve found a partner because you essentially should be a happy and whole person as often as you can be – happiness kind of fluctuates – prior to that, and it’s okay.
Joy: And relationships are work. They’re a lot of work, everybody.
Aisha: Exactly. Exactly. And then also, in my journey, my fiancé was influenced to start going to a therapist himself. Seeing that I was doing it and talking so openly about what it was that I was going through, and he’s been able to find a lot of peace in that for himself as well. I think that’s also the beauty in dating and seeing people while you’re on that. Because you never know who you’re going to touch or influence or inspire. You may not be together forever, but at least you can continue to learn what it is that you do and don’t want.
Joy: Well, I love it.
Aisha: I tried to go quickly.
Joy: That was great. I love it.
Claire: It was great, and I think it goes for so much more than dating as well.
Claire: Like you were saying towards the end, it goes for almost any life transition that you’re putting off because you think you have to become a different person first. You’re never going to arrive. Your punch card’s never going to be filled.
Joy: How many people have gotten the thing and then they’re like, “This is it?’
Claire: Everyone, I would argue. I have never talked to a single person who was like, “And then on the day that I got that promotion or I got that ring or I got that house, it was everything I thought it would be and it was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Everyone’s like, “I got there, and I looked around and thought, ‘That’s it?’”
Aisha: Yeah, literally.
Claire: Here I was, still standing there, the same exact person that I’d ever been. Womp womp.
Joy: Yeah, it’s so funny how we do that.
Aisha: So I’m not just going to transform into a whole new person? What?
Claire: This isn’t the end of a video game where I just level up into a cloud of gold sparkles? I wish you guys could see the move we all just did.
Joy: We all just did – I don’t know. A flower? We were growing up into the trees. We just did tree pose.
Claire: But it was great. So tell our listeners where they can find you.
Aisha: Yes, I am so easy to find. So the reason why everything is Aisha Beau is I am so bad at making names for things.
Joy: It’s hard. You outgrow names.
Claire: Can I tell you how long it took us to come up with the name This is Joy and Claire? One year, Aisha. Took us a year to come up with that name. For eight years, we’ve been starting every podcast going, “This is Joy. And this is Claire.” And it took us that long to come up with the podcast name This is Joy and Claire.
Joy: Because we changed our name. We rebranded.
Aisha: I saw that. And I’m sure that was really difficult.
Claire: As soon as I came up with that, I was like, “I have received divine inspiration. Our name shall be This is Joy and Claire.” And everyone was like, “Really?” I was like, you don’t understand how hard this was.
Joy: Aisha Beau is perfect. It has good syllables.
Aisha: Thank you, thank you. Aishabeau.com, Instagram @aishabeau, Twitter @aishabeau, YouTube.com/aishabeau. The only thing that’s different is my podcast is Rewritten: The Aisha Beau Podcast.
Claire: Perfect, got it.
Aisha: So there you go.
Joy: Perfect. Well thank you so much.
Claire: And listeners, you can find all of the links to that in the show notes. Go be one of the more than ten people who are going to click the link. You can do it.
Joy: Yes. And Aisha, please come back when your book is going to be launched or in the works. I don’t want it to be too long because I really enjoyed our conversation and I hope you come back.
Aisha: No, it won’t be that long.
Aisha: I mean, if I ever finish a book.
Claire: Now people know.
Joy: Now they know. Pressure’s on, Virgo.
Aisha: Yes, right.
Claire: Alright, guys. Well you know where to find us. Please a comment, leave a review, share this episode with a friend. We would greatly appreciate it, and we will talk to you next week.
Joy: Bye everybody.
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