This past weekend, I attended a women’s conference at our church. Pastor Gugu Dlamini was the keynote speaker and delivered some great advice and in many ways opened my eyes to many things which I either forgot or were never aware off. As a child of God and in my role as a wife, mother and just a woman, I often find myself in a mental state where I feel so lost. I feel hopeless, I feel utterly exhausted and attending this conference reminded me where I should find my strength. Funny thing is, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to attend the conference because I would be working but God had other plans.
The most important or rather one of the most important take-aways for me was the fact that as a woman, married or not or whether you have kids or not you have a big responsibility in the kingdom of God. You are more valuable than you know and you have so much more power than you realise and its time that we not only tap into it but also use it to change the world.
Pastor Gugu started off by explaining how we can live a life of truth. The truth is the Word of God. She explained that the truth about you, your husband, your family and your future are all already laid out and if you want to find it, you need to spend time in the Word of God. She not only said it, but she proved it by referencing several scriptures. The thing is however, the Word of God can only be your truth, if you believe it.
She said that faith is the currency of a Christian.
PSALM 112 VS 2-3 :
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.
To be honest, I wish I had recorded her the entire time but I felt that it was important to be in the moment and take in the teaching hence I’m only sharing key points.
JOHN 10 VS 10:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
When you operate in the currency of faith, you know and trust that God will fulfill his promises to you and to you it doesn’t matter how long it will take. You know when God says He will, it is already done.
JEREMIAH 1 VS 10:
See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.
Pastor Gugu unpacked the above scripture. She said that when she reads a scripture, she not only reads it, but she reads and tries to understand every word and I’d like to share with you here what she shared with us.
Uproot all that is not of God and introduce a new standard.
TEAR DOWN / PULL DOWN:
Pull down and tear down any demonic force within your family and your household.
Destroy everything that is not aligned with God.
Overthrow the enemy.
BUILD AND PLANT:
Start building towards the kingdom of God. Direct your household and stay in the gospel.
JOSHUA 1 VS 5:
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
On day two of the conference, we discussed kingdom wealth and how to implement strategies to gain wealth. Pastor Gugu shared some of the following points:
Being a helper is not a subordinate position – she referenced the story of Adam and Eve and asked us why did God decide to make Adam a helper.
A helper can only help when there’s a vision – your husband needs to have a vision for your family so that you can help him bring that vision to life.
As a woman, you get your plan from the Word of God.
Read the Word of God with a strategy in mind. Don’t just read for the sake of reading, but read so that you can understand what is the plan that God has for your life and that of your family.
Recognise the gifting of your children -And pray that God will help you harness those gifts.
We are not led by money, we are led by the Spirit.
We get blessed because we are obedient.
Be a blessing everywhere you go.
We operate in the Supernatural.
Pray the Word of God so that the Word can go work on the things you prayed over.
Again, Pastor Gugu highlighted that as Christians, faith is our currency. This means that it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are or what’s happening around you, that you will find rest and peace in the presence of God. That was something that I especially needed to hear.
Ecclesiastes 2 vs 26:
To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
You please God by operating in faith.
Wealth comes when you start believing the Word of God and start implementing what it says.
Revelations 5 vs 12 confirms Ecclesiastes 2 vs 26
God can’t act if you don’t exercise your faith.
REVELATIONS 5 VS 12:
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
POWER: Meaning jurisdiction / rule over your circumstances.
WEALTH: Operate in three dimensions of wealth.
WISDOM: The knowledge of God.
STRENGTH: Inner strength – Spirit of God will rise in you.
HONOUR: Even if you are last, you will be first. God will qualify you as long as you apply in faith.
GLORY AND PRAISE: Arriving in in fullness – operating fully in your gifts.
It’s obviously impossible for me to share the entirety of the wealth of knowledge that was shared during that conference but I think you get the idea of what we learned or at least, what I learned. The experience was different for every woman who attended. I hope by reading this, you also find some comfort and direction.
Here are some final points:
Whatever God has called you to do, do it.
God will open divine connections for y0ou once you start operating in the fullness of who He is.
You need to have an unbelievable reliance on God.
Understand where God is posting you.
Change the conversations in your home.
Always consult God.
I loved that the conference took place over two days; the last day of September and the first day of October. It sort of felt like the ending of something but also the beginning of a new season.
Have you ever heard or read the quote, “Lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned”, well that quote rings very true for me, especially since we started our business. I’ve experienced it time and time again and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. How many times I’ve told my husband I quit and how many times I wanted to cry because I messed up. It’s been a very difficult journey and the funny part is, we’re less than two years old and I already feel as if I’ve experienced the most. As always, I continue to learn lessons; I don’t always learn immediately and sometimes I can’t see the lesson and, those are the days I want to give up but I find that when I take a breath and forgive myself; I can see more clearly. So here are a few morelessons I’ve learned since we started Fray Music Academy.
OWN UP TO YOUR MISTAKES
This is a difficult one; not just in business but in life. However, when it comes to business, your mistakes could cost you money or your business entirely. It’s vital for the life of your business and your reputation that you own up when you’ve made a mistake, that way you can still salvage relationships with clients and employees. They will appreciate the honesty.
Better to have a moment of awkwardness than to have a lifetime of regret.
DON’T COMPARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH THAT OF OTHERS
I’ve done this one a lot. I’ve compared where I am in life and in business with those who have been running their business for years and then I realise that its silly to do that. Social media, the internet and the age of the influencer have caused us to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves because of the unrealistic expectations we think we need to prescribe to. Take your time to build whatever it is you’re building and stop comparing your journey to that of others.
DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE WITH WHERE YOU ARE CURRENTLY
Always strive to grow. There is nothing valuable for you in your comfort zone. The only thing about growing is that it’s not comfortable and most people don’t want to experience discomfort.
DON’T RUN AWAY FROM CHALLENGES
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to avoid a difficult conversation with a client or parent or just wanted to avoid anything which I knew would be difficult to handle or discuss but once you’ve dealt with the difficult situation, you’ll realise it wasn’t so bad after all.
LEARN FROM OTHERS AND IMPLEMENT WHAT YOU LEARN
It’s pointless just reading up on others and then not trying what worked for them. It might not always work for you but at least you can say you tried.
BE PREPARED TO FAIL AND PACK UP SHOP
But then be prepared and willing to start again. If that’s what you want.
THINK OF WAYS TO EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS AND DIVERSIFY ON YOUR BUSINESS OR COMPANY
We recently had a guest speaker join us in one of our meetings and he pointed out that as a business you need to diversify and expand your services. This will not only allow your business to grow but will also open up other avenues for your brand or business.
BE WILLING TO HAVE THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES
Your staff or employees are human, just like you but there will come a time when you will either have to let someone go or you will have to deal with a staff member who is not pulling their weight and this won’t always be easy but its important that these difficult conversations are had.
ALWAYS REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED
This will help you during those times when you feel like giving up and you feel as if you can’t go on. Always remember what your motivation was for when you started.
WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN
You will forget things. Have a designated notebook for your business, have reminders on your phone and calendar.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
This falls in line with the last point in this post as well but you don’t always need to seek help from those within your company. Sometimes asking for help means asking for advice from other business owners or simply asking your staff to pick up more work if you feel overwhelmed. There is no shame in asking for help. Personally, this is one lesson that I had to learn the hard way.
MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL
This is especially important if you work two jobs like me. I work as a news producer and on my off days, I manage our music school. Besides the work aspects of my life; I am also a wife and mom of two so you can imagine what my days look like. It’s important to get a handle of everything and to designate a time to all your projects and errands.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU’RE BUSY WITH AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT
Mistakes can happen very easily when you try to do too much all at once. When you’re done with one thing, then you move on to the next. I know multi-tasking can sound amazing but sometimes its better to just focus on one thing at a time.
Don’t leave anything to chance and try to be prepared for any eventuality. This goes hand in hand with the point about managing your time.
MAKE SURE YOU HIRE STAFF WHO SHARE YOUR VISION
Don’t just hire people to get the job done but find people who see and share your vision and who are willing to build with you. An employee will either make or break your business.
ALWAYS INCLUDE YOUR BUSINESS PARTNER
If you have a business partner, always make sure you run everything past that person or discuss it with your business partner. This is especially important if you and this person started this business from the very beginning. That is the beauty of having a partner, you never have to deal with anything alone.
Nothing happens overnight. Pace yourself and let things happen as and when it should.
I know as our business grows, I know that we will continue to add more lessons to this list. As an entrepreneur, you neverreally stop learning and you never stop growing.
I previously wrote a blog on what I’ve learned from running a business but due to the fact that I continuously learn and things continue to change and grow, I thought I would write a part two.
If you would like to read the previous post, you can find it here.
VALUE YOUR EMPLOYEES
Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. When they feel valued and appreciated, they will give more than what you ask. It’s important to remember that people who work for you, also have lives, families, other responsibilities and its important to take these things into consideration when making decisions.
LEARN NEW SKILLS
It’s always important to learn new skills when you are a business owner and especially when you are just starting out. Skills that are important to learn are marketing, communication, human resources and financial management. There are a ton of books available on these exact topics.
DEAL WITH YOUR CLIENTS’ GRIEVANCES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND AS GRACEFUL AS POSSIBLE
Your clients are just as important as your employees. Your clients or customers will not always be happy with you and there will be times when grievances are brought to the fore. It’s important to take note of all the issues your clients / customers are unhappy with and deal with them as soon as they come up. Letting issues fester will only cause it to get worse.
YOU NEED TO PUT IN THE HOURS
Yes, you get tired. It’s easy to veg out in front of the television and tell yourself you’ll do that thing tomorrow or later but when later comes, something else will take priority. When you’re building a business, especially in the beginning stages, its vitally important to put in the time and work on and for your business, even when you are exhausted. I have a day job as a news producer and when I get home, I am a mom and a wife but once the kids are down, then for a couple of hours, I need to be a business owner and work on building my company alongside my husband. We do have our days when we procrastinate but we always regret it. It’s better to put in the hours today so that you can see the results tomorrow.
STOP TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AND START DOING IT
As business owners, we all have things we want to do for our business to make it better, to grow and to make more money or gain more clients. It’s easy to speak about these things but much harder to put it into practice. It’s important to try new things and to attempt new strategies. Even if it fails, at least you know that you tried.
We all know the saying, “No risk, no reward” I’ve found that to be very true since starting this entrepreneurship journey. You will never know what’s on the other side of this journey if you don’t take a few risks. It doesn’t just have to be financial risks but it can be putting your trust in someone and hoping against all hope that they won’t cost you your business.
SEARCH OUT OPPORTUNITIES TO SHOWCASE YOUR BUSINESS
For us as a music school it can be competitions, showcases, events and networking opportunities. It’s important to put your business out there so that people can be made aware that you exist. It also helps you to make connections and network with other people in your industry and we all know that your network equals your net worth.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL BUT DON’T PLAN TO FAIL
As I said before, you will fail and you will make mistakes and it’s important not to be ignorant of that fact. Don’t plan to fail but be prepared in any event. Failure is simply part of the journey.
INVEST IN YOUR BUSINESS
Invest time and money into your business. This is especially if you’re building something that you want to last for a lifetime.
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR COMPETITORS AND WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND THEN DO IT BETTER
I’m not saying stalk your competitors but visit their websites and check out what they are doing. What do they have that you don’t . What are they doing that you aren’t and see if its something you can implement or even do better.
INVEST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES
This is an important one. Your employees are your capital. Invest in them, train them and encourage them. Let them know they matter and give them room to grow. Make them a part of the business and involve them in the growth of the business.
LEARN TO LOVE THE ADMIN
This is especially important in the beginning stages of your company when you are still very hands on in the business. Eventually you will be able to hire people to do the admin but until that happens, learn to love the admin side of the business. It’s hard and tiring but it helps you to see where your business is going and how its growing.
FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR YOUR MISTAKES
This is a hard one, especially for someone like me. I can be very hard on myself and I hate making mistakes in the business because I know I work with clients, I work with people’s children and their money and time and it’s important for me to do it right but I am flawed, just like everyone else and making mistakes will always be a part of the process. Once you see the lesson in the mistake, forgiveness will come.
STAY CALM WHEN DEALING WITH AN ANGRY OR UPSET CLIENT
Again, like I said in the previous point, I work with people, their children and their time and money and clients, especially parents don’t want to waste their time and money on something that will not be worth the investment. Sometimes you will upset your client and it won’t always be your fault but be gracious about it. Be understanding and always remain calm. Exploding on a customer or client will never help the situation.
POLISH UP ON YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Communication is key in everything. Again, this is important when you are hands on in your business and you deal with clients, customers and investors directly. It’s important to know how to speak to people, how to articulate yourself and how to relay messages. This is one of the reasons my husband and I decided to put me in charge of dealing with our students and parents because between the two of us, my communication skills are better. It also helps that I work in a communication orientated industry like Journalism. Communication skills are also important when you are trying to sell your product to a potential client or customer.
READ MORE ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY
I can’t emphasize this enough. Knowing what is happening in your particular industry and staying up to date with events and announcements will always be important and will help for conversational topics when you’re networking. It’s important to stay up to date with the latest news in your industry so that your business doesn’t fall behind and out of touch.
As we continue on this journey of running and owning a business, a music school to be more specific, I’m certain that we will continue to learn and grow. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a book.
Last year my husband and I registered our companyFray Music Academy. In April it will be a year that we celebrate the establishment of this school that has become our baby. It hasn’t been easy but it has been fulfilling.
I’ve always admired entrepreneurs and business owners but until I became one, I never knew what went into a successful business. Fray Music Academy has done well in this first year and I do believe we’ve been successful but we’ve definitely hit some bumps in the road and I imagine we will have many more going forward.
Running a business is not easy. You have to be on the ball and you have to be proactive. Especially if you are building something that you want to continuously improve on and something that you want to last. A legacy.
I co-own the school with my husband but, I am also the manager. I handle schedules, book new students, handle inquiries and our social media. I have found myself running and managing the school when I am on the bus or the train to my day job as a news producer. I think aboutFMA all the time when I’m making dinner, writing, or getting the kids ready for bed.
I dream of growth and I envision where we will be in the next 5-10 years. I constantly think about ways I believe we can improve, I always have ideas playing around in my head and I always try to find ways to keep our clients happy. I love it, even though at times I get frustrated, its always fulfilling when something we planned, comes to pass.
That’s how I know this business matters to me.
WORKING WITH FAMILY
My husband reminded me the other day that when we have a disagreement on something regarding FMA, we are not husband and wife. We are business partners. When we are discussing the school, we need to learn to keep our emotions out of it.
We don’t always agree on everything but its always important to listen to understand when the other person is raising a point. It’s not about who is right. It’s about what is ultimately good for the business.
Running and / or owning a business with a spouse or family member is never easy and you shouldn’t do it if you know that you cannot keep your feelings and bias out of it.
Here are some more things I’ve learned since we started Fray Music Academy. Just remember, I am not an expert, I merely write and share from personal experience.
YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Running a successful business takes time and every day is a learning curve.
YOU WILL LOSE CLIENTS AND YOU WILL LOSE MONEY
Don’t get discouraged. There will be financial highs and then there will be financial lows. Again, its all about understanding what works and what doesn’t.
YOU NEED TO SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY
You have to invest in your business. For us investing in our business means buying instruments and learning material for our students so that we can provide a good service.
THINGS TEND TO CHANGE IN A GROWING BUSINESS
Every day is different for us. Schedules change on a weekly basis and that’s okay. We just learn to adapt as we go.
YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL ALSO NEED TO CONSTANTLY LEARN AND ADAPT
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Don’t panic when things change. Grow with the change.
YOUR CLIENTS ARE YOUR CAPITAL
Without your clients, there is no business. Always remember that.
COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPARENCY ARE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
Always be open with your clients. They will appreciate your honesty and transparency and will most likely stick with you till the bitter end.
MARKETING IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
No one will know about your business if you don’tmarket. Learn what works for your business and implement it.
ALWAYS FIND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS RUN MORE EFFICIENTLY
As your business grows, the way you do business must also grow.
GET RID OF PAPER AND GO DIGITAL
This was a painful point for me to write because I love my pen and paper but doing things digitally is more efficient and you don’t want your clients to waste time filling in paper.
DON’T DELAY WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
When you delay making decisions about your business, you delay its success.
LEARN FROM OTHERS AND LEARN TO TAKE ADVICE
There are many other business owners who have been where you are. Learn from them.
LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING
If you don’t love what you do, you won’t put in any effort in what you’re doing and it will filter through every part of your organisation.
Advertising and marketing have been around for ages. What has changed throughout the ages is the methodology that is used to advertise and in its evolution, it tends to follow where the masses are. Before anyone could afford a car, most advertising was based in the market area where business activities are taking place. Then there came an era where most people are on the road and billboards came to place.
No one would have imagined back then that one day an American could advertise a business to an African while miles away and there could be transactions taking place without having to meet face-to-face or verbally speak to each other. Marketing requires a budget and it is unfortunate that most entrepreneurs spend less than 1% in marketing and 99% on products and act surprised when their products are not sold. You need to make a special announcement about your product before even selling and that will require a substantial budget. Through marketing, your products can move faster and marketing should be intentional.
Only a shrewd entrepreneur will look at innovative and creative ways that will help bring sales to the business.
EFFECTIVE WAYS TO SELL
Don’t get stuck on one way
Suppose when you started your business, you were distributing pamphlets on the street corner and you would print “Bring this pamphlet for 30% discount” what happens when the street gets closed by the municipality? Would you continue to wait there hoping that people will still drive by? No. As an entrepreneur, you need to look at different advertising means. If one way of advertising brings you 20% of the sales, then two ways will bring you 40%.
Use platforms such as online advertising and billboards if you can afford them.
Don’t be complacent
Many entrepreneurs get to a comfort zone; they have no passion to double sales but are happy with what they get to pay the bills. They get stuck in the same strategy of advertising, getting similar results always without thinking of taking the business to another level. Step up and read new trends that will advance your business.
Don’t focus on getting new clients only
Your advertising should not be one-sided where you promote or advertise only when you have to introduce new products.
You need to bring balance by also promoting existing products.
Remember: We advertise not to sell products always but to also make those who already own the products proud. They smile when they see the product and they spontaneously tell others that they own the advertised product. In your advertising, aimed at attracting new clients and also build customer confidence by advertising what old clients already have.
Don’t just rely on your website when advertising
Today there is a heavily congested road and that road is the internet, which is a platform you need to look at when advertising your business. Many business owners end up getting a website designed and think they have the market at the palm of their hands.
You can design a website and have 3 visitors a month on that website. You need to advertise your websites online via sites that have a high volume of traffic. When you advertise you just have to mention one product and direct them to your website for details on the product. Your website alone is not enough to create the sales you expect.
STRATEGY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
This question has become more prevalent in a business circle than the business card question. You need to optimize your social media presence by promoting your business and service also. You are the number one ambassador of your business and do not expect someone to talk about your business better than you can as the business owner.
I hope that this will help you make sales easier by advertising your business on all platforms and avenues available.
Derrick Ndzavi is an Entrepreneurologist, a founder of Mentors Without Borders. Ndzavi is also a Certified Business Advisor with the Institute of Business Advisors SA which is SAQA regulated.
You don’t manage a team as if you’re the only person on the team. Whether you manage a huge corporation, church band or if you’re the captain of a sports team, or even the head waitress at a restaurant, all the same rules and principles apply.
You cannot run a business or a company withouthuman capital. If you have a team of five, everyone on that team should be valued.
Communication is key in any management situation.
You cannot exclude the “little guys” from big decisions. Truth be told, there are no ‘little guys’. You don’t have meetings and make decisions and apply changes with only those who hold fancy titles or with the people in your close circle when those same decisions affect so many other people.
When you start excluding people and start isolating them, you cut off the valuable insight that could grow your business or change your perspective.
That is the thing about being a good manager and a good leader; you need to be able to listen and you also need to be able to admit when you’re wrong.
Just because you are in a leadership position, does not mean you are always right.
Not providing a communicative platform for those who work for you, will be detrimental not only for your business and your team but also for your reputation.
I’ve seen many real-life examples of people who are meant to lead, take the people that they are leading, for granted.
In fact, I’ve been in that situation and it troubles me that it happens so often.
If you are not going to take care of the people who work for you, they will either leave the business, betray you (in extreme cases) or just refuse to deliver excellent work.
But can you imagine what the world would be like if we all pulled our resources and talents together and worked in an environment that was conducive to the ultimate productivity all of us possess?
Can you imagine what we could create?
If you are a leader, CEO, or supervisor of any team or business in any sort of context, even the head of your family, you need to realise that your ultimate capital are the people who work for you, the people you lead, the family you are taking care off and the people who surround you and look up to you.
Do not ignore the people who do not have fancy, high-level titles. Nurture them, speak to them, get to know them, and find out where their strength lie and how you can work together (keyword being “together) in order to use those strengths and talents to the advantage of everyone involved and to the success of your business.
Not everyone has the same personality; you have people who are more outspoken than others, and then you have people who are more sensitive than others or people who do not speak as much, which can make them more susceptible to hurt feelings when being criticised. As a leader, it is your responsibility to nurture and understand how the minds and personalities of those who work for you, work. Meaning, you need to get to know those who work for you.
LISTEN AND LEARN
People become more open to share and discuss ideas when they feel they are being listened to. Don’t immediately shut down ideas when they are being presented. It might not be exactly what you want or what you are looking for but simply dismissing someone’s idea or thoughts, is a recipe for disaster and in simple terms, it’s just rude.
Find creative ways to implement ideas from various people but try and make everyone feel involved. Find ways to help people open up more in a comfortable and safe environment.
Once you’ve established that environment, you’ll find that so many people start enjoying their work and confidence starts building within those very people and when someone has confidence, they become more eager to produce. Give people the space and freedom to believe in themselves.
Bitterness causes friction and favoritism amongst the team members which is a breeding ground for tension and eventual failure.
People want to feel valued. We want to feel and know that we matter and that we are contributing. If we don’t have that, we somehow end up doubting ourselves and question our purpose on this earth.
As a leader, you have the power to make that feeling a reality for so many people. Once you impact one person, it spreads. Before you know it, your legacy has grown and touched people you have never even met.
Use your power wisely and grow more responsible leaders.
I was looking at myself in the mirror the other day and I didn’t like what I saw. I felt miserable because my clothes didn’t fit right and I realised that I had gained weight. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t been taking care of myself lately; I haven’t been eating properly and I haven’t been giving myself well-deserved self-care.
Growing up, I know we are told not to focus too much on our outer appearance. We are taught that “it’s what inside that counts” I teach my kids the same thing but I’m learning a very important lesson now as an adult that we sometimes forget that it’s what we put inside our bodies that affect our outer appearance. I don’t want to look in the mirror and not like what I see.
I’ve been going through the motions; work, home life, kids and school, working on being a good wife and mother ,and all my other responsibilities but in all of that I’ve neglected myself. I find myself eating more than usual, drinking ample amounts of coffee ,and reaching for chocolate or cake for no reason other than comfort. Feeling sick, nauseous ,and weak has become the norm and my headaches are relentless. The worst part is, I am always and I mean always, tired.
I think the last time I had a proper self-care day was three months ago for our wedding and that wasn’t something I did for myself. Other people did it for me.
Self-care should be something we prioritise often. It should be a part of our lifestyle.
Self care can come in many different ways:
Getting your hair and nails done
Going shopping and buying yourself something that you’ve wanted for some time
Taking a break from work
Going on a short holiday away from your usual surroundings
Taking a break from social media
Spending time by yourself
Spending time in prayer or meditation
All these things can help bring you back toward yourself. We can’t take care of others if we’re not taking care of ourselves. You can’t give from an empty cup.
You’re scraping from the bottom of the barrel and giving yourself and your loved ones, your work ,and your business less than what they deserve. Less than what you deserve.
It’s okay to step back and reflect on your life. You can say no to another project or event. It’s okay to put yourself first. Sometimes, it’s required.
When I was standing before the mirror the other day, I looked around me and the house was a mess. I felt completely overwhelmed by everything that I burst into tears. It was tears of exhaustion. I hardly have the energy to take care of myself let alone the house but somehow I still find myself cleaning and cooking but I’m doing it from an empty cup. I’m scraping from the bottom of the barrel.
Reflecting on all of this has felt like a very honest conversation I’ve had to have with myself about how I’m treating myself and my body, my mind ,and spirit. I want to experience holistic healthand the truth is, the mind, body ,and spirit are all connected. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. My family and career and all my responsibilities keep my life full and exciting. I see the growth in all the areas of my life, the problem is, I can’t seem to keep up with it.
If I don’t take care of the one, all the others will be out of sync. My family, career ,and business cannot thrive if I am not at my best.
MAKING THE EFFORT
As I said before, self-care has to become a part of my life. It is a daily habit that has to belearned through repetition. I now have to learn to take care of my body and my overall health. I understand now that self-care is simply doing things that will improve my mental state, everything else will flow from there. Below is a great list of how topractice self-care.
You step differently when you walk in your purpose. You feel stronger and more confident. You know that when you have challenges, you are ready to face them and you don’t let it get you down because you know it is all part of the plan.
Your spirit is calm and your soul is at peace because you know and believe that where you are is all part of God’s calling for your life.
You become kinder and more compassionate. You are filled with understanding and you are not led by your feelings but by your spirit. You don’t go where the world goes. You understand the importance of being patient and walking your road alone with God as your only companion.
I love this feeling that I am experiencing; I am confident in the grace and glory that God has placed over me. It took me a long time to get here and I know I am only in the beginning stages but I am trusting the process. I am not trying to be in control, I am letting God work and the weight that it takes off my shoulders is magnificent.
When I look back on my life, I am grateful that I submitted and surrendered.
I smile now and my smile is genuine. When I feel tired, I know where to turn. When I feel lost and confused, I turn to the Word.
I am walking in my purpose and I know what is coming next will be more challenging and it will test me but I am ready because I walk with God.
That glow that you see is not good skin or good health. That glow is the light of God that shines in me and through me.
There comes a moment in a woman’s life, it comes quietly and without even knowing it is the time or her time she will remember her voice. She will reclaim her voice and she will banish all societal, cultural, and perhaps even self-inflicted shackles, which bound and gag her into living a life half lived and burying her truth, to make the world around her more comfortable with the woman she is.
My moment, my time, it came. it took more than a decade, but it came. The truth and pain and the absolute undoing of who and what I was, bided its time in the deepest parts of me, seemingly gone, seemingly forgotten, it even had me fooled and lulled into believing I was living my most authentic self. That I had erased that young girl, everything her body and soul and brain endured. I convinced myself it was a thing of the past. Plus, I reasoned, what would be the point! It’s over and done. I am okay and alive and thriving. I am living as I have never lived before. I lived so large that I dwarfed the girl and the victim that resided within me into virtual nothingness. Or so I thought.
But you see trauma, both physical and emotional is something that can never be forgotten or erased. It is ingrained in the very pores of your skin; every fibre of your being. In your every cell, the memory of trauma not just lingers, it festers, it rots, it poisons, and it kills. And you won’t even know it. Those feelings of helplessness, of utter and complete hopelessness, the tears that ebb and flow with the slightest provocation, the physical pain that you feel in your chest, the waking up to face a new day with such rage inside your heart, then dissolving into a dark abyss that beckons for you to come to lay there and never leave. The voice that cajoles inside your head, that to stop breathing, to stop living would be the ultimate high, the only way to end this inexplicable thing that you are feeling.
And it was inexplicable to me for a long time. I had a great job. As one of a few Indian female television news reporters on a national television station at the time between 2005 and 2012, (ETVnow ENCA) my face was a recognisable one, my name a respected one (at least that’s the feedback I got) I drove a beautiful car, I lived a good life, I had my pick of intelligent, successful, beautiful men. I partied hard, I worked even harder. Man, my life was good. Better than good. I made sure I was seen and heard. I made sure I was felt. I made sure I was in control.
I knew just how to vanquish and remain willfully vulnerable to keep men and women around me comfortable in my presence. Knowing how to dominate and yet remain docile enough to ensure men and women around me would never know who and what I was, was something I did well. So clever and so in control; so why would someone like me feel I was constantly being held in a stranglehold by emotions and feelings of complete and utter worthlessness and desolateness?
LIVING WITH TRAUMA AND PAIN
Trauma travels. Pain sits patiently. These things cannot and should not ever be denied. Not to oneself and not to others and certainly not to the person or people who have inflicted it. Trauma waits. Pain travels. Through time, through all the spaces and roles you live and fulfill, these things cannot and will not be denied or doused. Because anything suppressed must and will erupt. It is in nature as it is inside our bodies.
My name is Vanessa, I am forty-four years old. I am a mother of three and an author; I am a journalist (even though I quit mainstream journalism in 2012 anyone in this profession knows you can leave journalism, but it never leaves you). I am so many things to so many people and have been so many things to so many people. And for the greater part of my little more than four decades on this earth, I have been nothing to myself. A fake and a fraud, living and lying to keep the façade of the woman I convinced myself, the world would rather see and know. And I excelled. Man, I was damn good. So, I thought.
But the cracks were showing and soon it would rip open, and it would be both a profoundly powerful release and the most debilitating thing, that would compel me to finally acknowledge and see myself in all my nakedness, every fading scar both on my skin and the ones that remained stubbornly in my brain. It was December 1999, I was 22 years old when one word; YES, would come to kill that young, naïve, and dare I say wonderfully wild-spirited girl I was.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
I was a rookie radio news reporter at the SABC based in Durban. I was damn lucky to have gotten into one of the biggest broadcasting companies in the country, fresh out of Technikon, a diploma to my name and big dreams in my head. That is where I met my boyfriend. He was a DJ on Lotus FM (a radio station owned by the SABC that catered to a predominantly Indian audience). He would become my first intimate partner. He would become my first boyfriend. He would become my worst nightmare. It was barely a month into our relationship when he first struck me. I was sitting in the front seat of his car, he was ranting and shouting like a madman, saliva flying out of his mouth. This was new to me. I had no reason to feel that I was in any danger when his arm with a fist formed at the end reached out and punched me in the chest.
I am not sure if that hurt or whether it was the fact that he had just punched me that hurt more. Time is clever that way, it can make you forget the physical pain, but it will never let you forget every minute painful detail. Of course, I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me. Perhaps more shocking was that this person who portrayed himself as such a charming, affable, affluent man, this DJ who never missed an opportunity to talk about his fame or the women that would throw themselves at him, had just done something that surely menof this caliber and stature didn’t do!
He cried, he apologised. He even said that he wouldn’t blame me if I left him. So, I did what every good girl is subversively conditioned to do; I apologised, comforted him, and promised that I would not leave him, because you see shortly after delivering that punch, he also declared that he loved me. Two big, monumental firsts within minutes of each other. My first punch from my boyfriend and the first I love you from the same man. By accepting both, I had made a pact with a human being so profoundly evil that it would become impossible to leave, to walk away. For a little more than five years, this became symptomatic of our turbulent and deeply troubled relationship.
Don’t get me wrong for one second, there were good times and great times during our years together. We drank. We partied. We laughed. We talked. There would always be extravagant gifts, soft-spoken beguiling words gently handed over after the manic, violent barrage of slaps, punches, kicks, and vile insults. He was always sorry. You see he loved me so much that when he felt he couldn’t get through to me, it would drive him to these violent displays of his love and passion.
Deep inside me, the anger and hatred grew. Insidiously snaking its way, poisoning me, suffocating me…… killing me. Slowly I began to shift and continuously shape myself, making myself smaller, lowering my voice, quietening my thoughts and opinions, stifling my spirit. Together we worked to all but destroy me. Him with his violence. Me with my desire to please and keep the peace.
I am starting to feel sad now, angry again, remembering this. Every time I do this I purge myself a little more. But where I once tried to suppress pain and emotions, where I once convinced myself silence and forgetting is the bitter salve to soothe the shredded soul, I now know, this myth that women are force-fed is not to serve them, not to help them, but to protect not just their abusers but the toxic system that enables men to perpetuate their evil with carefree abandon and their gatekeepers (some of whom are women).
You see even after releasing my memoir Beaten but Not Broken, I thought there would be some miraculous healing. Like all the bad emotions and the tears and the feelings of wanting to end my life would be over. Boy was I wrong. Remembering and writing not only resurrected every horrible thing that was done to me during my violent love affair with the radio jock, but it also forced me to face myself. To finally embrace all the trauma and pain and to mourn and grieve. And it was a catastrophic revelation and cataclysmic release.
The body and brain demand of us not to deny and deprive but to hold space for ourselves. Healing is not meant to be a seamless and clean process. It is messy, it is crippling, and it is monumentally debilitating. But in all of that you remember you, you remember yourself, who you were before someone tried to break and bind you, kill and quell you. From ashes, beautiful things can be built and beautiful things can emerge. A little spent, a little bent, but hey what can be more powerful and more breath-taking than being able to live with absolute truth and honesty. To not be held hostage or blackmailed by fear and trauma.
But I omitted to tell you one minor detail in all of this. For all my bravado. For all the courage I was praised for having to write this book and speak my truth. I was still being dishonest. And dishonesty my friend does not have to be a blatant lie. Dishonesty is also the withholding of information. I wrote about losing my virginity in the back seat of his car (bearing in mind I come from a very conservative community where sex before marriage is seen as a disgrace for young women) I shared intimate details of everything. But one thing. And without even knowing this withholding that one thing still kept me enslaved to my fears to the system that demanded I shut up. That I go quietly.
And when eventually I would say the name of my abuser during an online web discussion, that was when I had finally been able to stand up and say I have spoken my truth. It was only then I felt this sudden and overwhelming release. I could breathe again; I could taste the air and inside a quiet stillness settled. I had taken back my power. I had finally remembered who and what I was.
Oh, saying his name did come with some drama. He threatened to sue. He issued a statement claiming I had a vendetta and was obsessed with him. Hell, he even got his wife to speak on his behalf to a local newspaper in which she claimed she did not know me, and I was making a public spectacle of myself. A woman who proclaimed to be an advocate for women’s rights and against gender violence, publically condemning another woman for daring to break the silence. I was not quite sure if I should find it funny or fundamentally tragic.
You see I did the very same thing for him back when we were together. When my own family would ask about the bruises and scars that often adorned my face and body. I lied. When I was confronted with questions if he was abusing me, I lied. I said he couldn’t do that. That he would never do that. So, I feel for this woman. I was once her. I want to judge her and be angry with her. But I am looking at her through the eyes of the woman I have become and not the girl I used to be. And that is not a fair thing to do. She has not done anything I didn’t once do for this man.
But there are far too many people claiming to be gender activists or againstGBVbut when faced with assertions of the crime against men they may know, who are family, friends, or even current partners are quick to shun survivors. If we are to accept rape and gender violence exists and it does because the mangled bodies, some burnt, some strung from trees, some tossed in rubbish heaps like garbage, some that are never even found, tell us it exists, our own experiences prove it exists, then we must also accept that men we know are guilty of this. Yes, we know it’s not all men but seeing as we don’t know which men, we will assume all men for the sake of our safety. Women are not raping and killing themselves. Women are not beating themselves up.
NO MORE SILENCE!
When my abuser’s lawyers’ letter did come some months later asking for an apology and retraction, I told my lawyer he could “f-off and die” of course she found a more eloquent way of putting it in our responding letter. We also urged my abuser to pursue the legal action he threatened both on social media and in the newspapers, as it would allow all the facts and my assertions to be aired and vented in a court of law. We also requested an address to which we could serve an application of our own.
That letter was sent in late last year. It’s now nearly June 2021 and we have yet to receive a response. You see abusers never stop. Just look at how many so-called influential men have been outed. Social media had provided a powerful platform for survivors to break the silence.
No, we are not looking for attention! We just no longer want to keep the secrets of our abusers and rapists. It’s not our job to protect these miscreants. NO, it is not a trend for women to speak out! We just get courage every time one of us breaks the silence, we realise justice cannot always be found in a court of law and that the system is not designed to help women get justice but rather to make it intrinsically difficult for them.
NO, we don’t want to destroy our abusers and rapists or their happy families. We believe they did that themselves the moment they decided to physically or sexually hurt us. And the moment they raped, abused, or killed; they lost every single right to carry on their lives as if nothing happened while women are forced to carry the cross of trauma every single second they breathe.
No, we are not looking for pity! We have shed our tears, sometimes some of us have even tried to permanently forget by trying to end our lives. We don’t need pity. We need the good guys, the good people, those around us to act!
My abuser despite also having had charges brought against him by another woman and for revenge porn and assault and which was later dropped, despite the written indictment of my experience, was still employed by a local community radio station. NO, we don’t need the bullshit rhetoric that’s spewed out during every 16 days of activism or women’s month. Yes, the radio station called on women to break the silence yet chose to ignore women when they spoke out against their newly acquired DJ.
Some may say what is the point then of breaking the silence. Some may say move on. Some may say get over it. Some may say tone it down. Some may say mind your language. Some may say forget about it. Some may even try to gaslight you “you have a good life now. You have everything now. Why bring up the past.” I am here to give you some well-earned advice; Screw them!
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GREAT WOMEN
Anyone who has your interest would never try to silence you. It serves no one, least of all you, to remain silent. I may never see it in my lifetime. A world where women can walk safely, can go out at night without fear of being raped, wear what she wants without being blamed for any violence meted out against her. A world where even our babies won’t be violated. A world where men who rape and beat up women, who sexually harass, and harangue women are shamed and shunned and become an extinct species.
I will not see that world before I die. But I am going to do all I can to make it easier for even just one other woman to reclaim her power, remember her voice and break the barricades they have been building around us for centuries to keep us suppressed and subjugated.
I will always be in fear of my abuser. Men like that never change. I am no martyr, but I am a mother. And I am obligated because of that to speak and never stop because I am you, young lady reading this. The shame is not yours. It never was. The fear, yes totally understandable and very necessary. Because without fear we cannot act to save ourselves and those around us. That which you have feared, who you have feared, must now live in fear of you. The truth does indeed set you free. I no longer live with the threat of someone outing me. I did that myself. And it’s the most damn powerful thing I have done.
There comes a time in a woman’s life when she must and will abandon propriety for ownership of herself and her life. The voices of survivors are shifting this world on its very axis…. but it requires more and more, and we know there are so many more out there, fighting back tears, keeping up the façade of their lives disintegrating because that’s just not what GOOD GIRLS DO! Don’t be a good girl. Be a damn GREAT WOMAN …. And speak, take your time, breathe, remember, mourn, grieve, speak…. We are all here waiting to take your hand and hold you. Heal yourself and save another. It is not weakness to weep, it is to show yourself the ultimate self-respect.
So, speak. Others have gone before you, they are your shields. We have taken the barrage of criticism, of denials, of threats, of disbelief, we have dodged the venom of judgment and we are still standing. They are afraid of the voice of your truth of what you have survived of what you embody. Our very existence is a damning indictment of the ordeals we have endured and the people who have inflicted them on us.
Do you know whilst you tremble in fear, it is you who are being feared? Slay the monster, defeat the devil, use your words, use your voice, it is far more powerful than any fist raised against you. Your tears are never in vain, they will stain more than the blood drawn from you. They can violate your body, desecrate your soul but you always hold the power, because you are a walking living testimony to the genocide you have survived. The genocide on women of this country and world. Nothing can erase that truth. Nothing can diminish that power. And therein lies the salvation of every single survivor.
I need to create and leave something behind that will live long after I’m gone.
I don’t want to lie on my deathbed one day and have so many regrets that I can be buried underneath it.
My purpose is to create something out of nothing,
To fill blank pages with my sorrows, worries, and fears and turn them into something beautiful to share with others.
In this way, I connect with others.
This is why I create, why I need to write. It is why my life needs to be an open book.
There is a need to build a bridge between my fears and another’s loneliness,
To leave breadcrumbs in the form of poetry and stories so that someone else can find their way and their voice.
Sharing my life gives another person the courage to be brave enough to share their own story.
This is my calling.
FULLFILLING MY PURPOSE
Every day that passes that I do not write, express or create, feels truly wasted. On those days I feel as if I’ve betrayed my calling. I feel as if I have wasted an entire day not living as I truly should be living.
I feel as if I did not live at all.
Even when I’ve tried to avoid it or ignore it or tell myself that it wasn’t important, there is always this nagging feeling inside of me, tugging at me, pushing me in a direction.
It is a futile feat trying to turn my back on it; I am an artist. I am creative.
You may not always understand what I create, you may not always enjoy what I share and you may even mock me and laugh at me, but that will only encourage me more.
This is not just a calling but it is also a responsibility.
Writing is an art; the blank page is my canvas, words are my paint and the world and this life is my muse.
What you finally see before you; is my work of art.