In so many ways, Ms. Abiola Abrams is the big sister or cool cousin many of us wish we had. When it comes to dropping jewels that inspire, look no further than the traveling Spiritpreneur™ goddess herself. Billed as a self-worth author, coach and motivational speaker, Ms. Abrams’ newest offering are the Self-Love Journal Cards: 40-Days of Journaling Prompts, which gives journaling prompts for individuals and groups to do guided work on their transformation journey towards life-affirming lives. On her various social media platforms and websites, Ms. Abrams has cultivated a space of safe and positive coaching that aims to lift every woman up to her full potential. As a deeper manifestation of the growing #selfcare movement, Ms. Abrams provides a sustainable service to her community in showing how to remain rooted in one’s womanly power in spite of the negativity around us.
I interviewed Ms. Abrams upon her return from a destination retreat in Belize and had a chance to get to the heart of her motivational practice.
Q: You just came back from one your retreats, this one being in Belize. What was the goal or aim of this event, and what can you tell me about what you and other attendants worked on and learned?
Abiola Abrams: First of all, thank you so much for this interview. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. The retreat that we just finished was called Spiritualista Goddess Pray Love Retreat (a women’s only retreat). Our focus was feminine power, which is all about us as women stepping into our power, not feeling the need to play small as so many women do, and really fall in love with yourself. That was our main objective at the retreat. Through falling in love with yourself, you fall in love with your life, you have better relationships with the people that you love and care about. You have stronger boundaries in your life, more clear “No’s” and more clear “Yeses”, and if you own a business, or are a creative person, as most of the women that attend are, you are really able to show up in your business and in your life.
For some reason, this sounds revolutionary. I guess that’s a good thing and also something that makes me tilt my head to the side with a question mark. Why do you believe this is a revolutionary concept?
AA: Yeah, this is something I talk all the time about and you are absolutely right that it is revolutionary, and it shouldn’t be revolutionary to talk about stepping into your power and owning yourself! I say all the time that loving yourself in a world that tells you daily that you shouldn’t, that you’re inadequate, that tells you what is wrong with you; coming to a place of self-acceptance is one million percent revolutionary. One of the things that we have to realize is that this system we live in- capitalism- thrives on us being inadequate. What I mean by that is if right now all of us woke up and thought that we were exactly perfect, that our lives were wonderful, that we didn’t need to purchase another thing, the economy would collapse, right? So they have to show us on a daily basis, using ads and using entertainment, all of the ways that we are inadequate and all of the things that we can purchase to try to fill that hole… you don’t fill the hole with material objects, and that is why so many people feel empty, why there is a drug crisis, an over-eating crisis.
The first thing that comes up when I do a Google search for your name is your website, womanifesting.com. That site encourages the visitor to “stop playing small and answer your calling.” Can you elaborate on some examples of playing small?
AA: Currently, my site is named after my last book which is the Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love. I reclaimed the word “bombshell” to mean a woman who is in love with herself. I am currently undergoing a rebranding this summer, which is going to be womanifesting.com-“ womanifesting”- the art of creating your life. It is about the art of being able to create your own life as you choose. All of us who are alive on the planet right now, especially as women of color, are the first generation of people that have felt in recorded times, that they had that agency. So when you’re playing small, you are making choices not based on your wishes, your needs, your comfort, your dreams, or ideas, but rather making choices based on what will make other people feel comfortable. You are making choices based on what other people have told you you should do: going to school, getting a job for the next 60 years, getting a house, getting married, having 2 kids and a dog and I have no choice [in the matter]. Nothing is wrong with this if it is your choice, but [people have] been told that this is what life should look like, and they are abnormal if they choose something different. The mantra is to answer your heart’s calling. Whether that means to be a great mom, or whether that means to live your life like one of my goddesses (I love to brag about my clients),Tracy King at 49 years old has decided that she’s done her life as a mom and a nurse and we left her in Belize to travel, live her life on her terms, and why shouldn’t she?
Did you develop this mantra from personal development/growth, or did you see it as a common enough theme around you that you felt compelled to address? In other words, did this come from inside of you, or did you tap into your surroundings as a problem to solve?
AA: It was a combination of both. I firmly believe that we teach most what we most need to learn. For a large part of my life, I was a people-pleaser, I held other peoples’ voices louder and larger than my own, I had challenges with stepping out and being myself, and having the courage to be seen and heard. I noticed that so many women (and men) around me had the same problem, where they were hiding in their own lives. For example; several people I went to school with went to law school because they didn’t know what else to do, just to hand the degree to their mom. They racked up loans, invested time money and energy in something that they had no interest in because another voice told them it was the way to get respectability, to get LOVE, which is ultimately what we all want.
That is a strong linchpin and motivating factor, especially in this modern environment – the need for love or the lack of it, which manifests itself in so many ways in our society.
AA: People feel like, “If I outshine my family, my friends, or my culture or my community, then I won’t be loved. If I am too big for my britches, then I won’t be loved.”
Even if people get to that level of self-awareness, they may not have the tools to do anything about it. You are doing a very amazing service in that regard. What is a rejection you feel that WOC and Black women, in particular, need to work through, work with, and/or learn to gain strength from?
AA: This is such a powerful question. Thank you so much for your acknowledgment. That’s what I want for womanifesting.com, for people to get the tools and share it with their sisters. I think that the biggest rejection that Black woman feel – this is very controversial and people get triggered when I’ve said this- is from ourselves. When President Obama was running for office, I was so excited that I volunteered for the campaign with MoveOn.org. I still didn’t feel like it was possible for him to win, but I felt like it was necessary to participate. I lived in Harlem at the time, and I felt so happy the day after he won. It was incredible that I was living in a Black Mecca, and this family that represented me was [now] in the White House! I went to my local bodega to get the newspapers and in there were these two Black women talking about how ugly Michelle Obama was. She was so “dark and ugly”, and “why did he get with her.” They were older Black women from a different generation, which you might not have heard from yours or mine, but it was such a punch in the gut, that these women who might have been cousins of Michelle Obama were not rejecting her, but rejecting themselves, their own brown skin… so abhorrent the day after the election, that that was their focus! Our biggest rejection is internal. Of course we are living in a patriarchy, of course there is white privilege, of course there are socioeconomic issues that are structured to keep us in a particular place, but there is a need for human beings, whoever you are, to take responsibility for yourself, for your life, for your own self – acceptance. If you cannot accept yourself, then you cannot expect anyone else to. Ever. Period.
You are the first person in your family to be born in the United States, pretty much everyone else is a first-generation immigrant from Guyana. As a Black woman of recent immigrant ancestry, how do you travel in your skin?
AA: I love this question because I spent a lot of my childhood, my teen and young adult years being ashamed of the fact that I was from an immigrant family, and just wanting to fit in with the African Americans that were teasing me on a daily basis, telling me to go back to where I came from. I was trying to unlearn my accent, even though I was born here. At the time I didn’t know to embrace it. Black people make interesting demands of Blackness like it is a certain thing. On social media, “all Black people do this and that,” but my Auntie makes a mean curry and roti, but she doesn’t make sweet potato pie. For most of us that are immigrants from the Caribbean or different countries are no less Black. I walk proudly in my skin as an African American Caribbean New Yorker, and I refuse to play down or take apart any part of it to fit in to be worthy or accepted. It took a long time for me to get to that place. My family was trying to assimilate into Black American culture, not White culture. I love this moment now where all of us can stand in our truth that being Black is not a monolith.
How do you “walk the walk”? How does one practice self-worth?
AA: I think that often the idea of self-worth is too enormous for people to grasp. If you begin with the idea of self-acceptance, that is a little bit of an easier place to get to. What that means is being willing to see yourself – the good, the bad, the ugly – and everything in between. [It means] being meticulous about the people that you allow into your life, the foods that you eat, the things that you do. Things that are seemingly irrelevant, the more you fall in love with yourself, become unacceptable. If you have to play down yourself to the people you spend time with, then you gotta cut them off or minimize the time you spend with them. How we do anything is how we do everything and all of it plays a part in your self-acceptance and ultimately your self-worth.
“How we do anything is how we do everything.” That is really about cultivating a culture of consistency.
AA: Our life is made up of our daily habits. If your workouts are always scheduled for tomorrow, if you are in an unhealthy relationship and you say “well I’ll get to it,” if your boundaries are being pushed and tested by the people in your life and you don’t stop them and say “that is unacceptable,” then you start to die a little bit inside. Being able to be your own best advocate is really key.
You said in a recent article, “We all have a sacred duty to have each other’s backs.” In what ways do you encourage this in your retreats, events and interactive tools?
AA: It can be so challenging for people to find support in their real and everyday lives. In my retreats and virtual spaces, I help to create partnerships. In my retreats I always pair roommates, adult people with their own suites, to create sisterhood. Even in my coaching program [Spiritpreneur Guru Academy], I help spiritual women entrepreneurs to feel comfortable enough and have the tools to create their own businesses where they can empower other women. I give people an accountability partner. We’re not in this by ourselves. I think that people do have a duty. I have a duty to have this conversation with you. If you think about Guyanese culture and other immigrants with an interconnected culture, people live together on the same property, and that is so foreign here. The power of community cannot be underestimated. Don’t operate from a place of shame.
How does self-love influence the traveler when he/she is abroad? How does it resonate with how that traveler interacts with other people they meet?
AA: I have made it a key part of my life to travel the globe and bring my work globally. The way that you move in the world depends on how much you love, honor and care about yourself. For example, the way that I choose locations for my retreats: I don’t want to plan my retreats where we’re just going to a country and being there like a parasite and just leaving. Learning a part of the culture is important for me. I chose Belize because they have a Garifuna culture and ancient Mayan culture, so I invited healers to work with my group while we were there.
What is the most rewarding aspect of incorporating locations into your Spiritpreneur ™ coaching model?
AA: The most rewarding part is that my Spiritpreneur Guru Academy and Womanifesting courses online are all virtual. I have a free online sister circle, a Facebook group [the link is at] www.imanifestmagic.com. There is a greater transformation that can happen in person. Putting people in a safe, immersive container where we are eating organic food, working with healers, visiting Mayan ruins, we have yoga, belly-dancing, hiking, that is incredible and unbeatable. You don’t have to go back to your regular life and family at the end of the night, but when you go home you now have the tools to create lasting change in your life.
How do you choose your next travel destination?
AA: I’m thinking of South Africa. I weigh a lot of factors: the cultural elements, but also the travel. Bali was amazing but it took so long to get there, that we lost a day in travel. Belize was closer for most people. What is most important is a location that offers a capacity for me to arrange several experiences that people don’t have in their everyday life. So spa massages, and specific cultural experiences for that region.
Finding the courage to be seen is a very powerful objective. How did you come to this as your business objective?
AA: So many women were coming to me and saying that they wanted to do what I was doing, writing books, being an empowerment coach. They were trying to copy my business, but it wasn’t working. What I realized is the element that was missing was the courage to be seen. Because so many of us are hiding, [having] the courage to be seen is transformational. By me having my voice out there and you putting your voice out there, when each one teaches one, shares one, we are enabling the next generation to say, “That’s somebody like me, so I can be more comfortable to show up as myself in the world.” I always say that if we don’t heal it, we pass it on. It is really powerful and necessary.
AA: I want to offer a free gift to the women that read this interview. The men can partake if you want. Come and hang out in my goddess group on Facebook at www.imanifestmagic.com. The free gift is one of my meditation albums, Chakras on Fleek. Download this at www.chakrasonfleek.com!