Stop and breathe. This one sounds really simple but it works. On top of the incredibly diminished amount of sleep you experience as a mother, there’s the unrealistic expectations society has placed on Black Women as a whole. I felt a pressure that if I expressed my true weakness, that I was letting everyone down. The only thing that really helped in these moments is when I focused on my breath. Eventually, I was calmer and so was my baby.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Evans.
Andrea Evans is a graduate from Cornell University with a background in management consulting and project management. Andrea’s passion lies in creating a safe space for Black women to find all encompassing resources for their mental, physical and spiritual health. As a mother and Black Woman that has suffered from Depression, Anxiety and OCD, she has dedicated her life to improving the emotional wellbeing of others.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you for the opportunity! After spending the past few years dabling in different industries, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I started to realize how all of my life’s experiences have shaped me into the person I am now. After experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, I realized just how mandatory it is for Black Women to have an abundance of access to resources that can help them develop emotionally. Mental health simply isn’t talked about enough in a context that is truly beneficial for Black Women, and addressing the need for mental health resources for us is the beginning of the healing that is needed in our community.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Since I’ve begun my work in creating HealingSpace for Black Women, I’ve also been adjusting to motherhood. One of the most interesting things that has happened is going to the doctor for a keloid and being lectured by a male provider on how breastfeeding past 6 months is not recommended because children in Africa are breastfed and malnourished. I handled the situation with grace, but his ‘advice’ was completely uncalled for and just showcases how from the point a child is conceived, mothers hear so many unsolicited opinions. Providing a resource for Black Women to share stories like this will not only serve as a safe place for us to vent, but also shed light on how far we have to go as a society.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It had been 30 hours of labor since I was induced. The nurse came in to check how far along I was and my body wasn’t progressing. I needed a C-Section. As the doctor explained to me the procedure my palms were sweating, my underarms started to tingle from sweat and my face simultaneously lost color and flushed so hot to the touch. I had an overwhelming sense of panic as I realized I was having major abdominal surgery.
After reading and hearing so many statistics about black women dying in childbirth in America, the LAST thing I wanted was a white male doctor cutting into me when I already was experiencing preeclampsia. The unplanned C-Section sparked a slew of emotional turmoil for me. After battling with Postpartum depression and anxiety for 6 months, I realized I never wanted my daughter to have to go through this. Black women deserve a safe space to talk about their experiences and heal from their traumas. As a woman that has experienced some of the worst bouts of depression, I feel it’s my responsibility to ensure other Black Women can have better access to comprehensive mental health materials so that they feel seen and acknowledged even in those dark places.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I want to thank my 7 month old daughter. If she never came to be, neither would HealingSpace. She is my muse, my entire world, and my inspiration to lead the conversation on mental health for Black Women.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience: The ability to get back up even after you fall. No matter how hard or soft.
Resilient people are lifelong learners. They’re adapters. They aren’t afraid of change, in fact, they embrace it. Black Women are extremely resilient. Facing adversity from all angles, and still are the most educated demographic in america. Black women are the prime example of resilience.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My mother. She is not afraid to share her emotions with her family. She cries, she laughs. She makes time to relax and works hard. She obtained her bachelor’s degree with 3 children at home. She is resilient.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
In high school, I was among some of the smartest kids in the county, but since I wasn’t at the top of my class, it was pretty much assumed that acceptance to Ivy League was a ‘stretch’. Let’s face it, Black Women aren’t told to strive for their wildest dreams by the media, we’re still the ‘token black girl’ in many regards.
Applying to an ivy was the “reach” school on my list sinceI don’t fit the profile of an ivy league student. I wasn’t white or rich or famous. When I was accepted everyone was shocked to find out and started to see me differently. This was the first time I really felt like I had a path in life that was not ordinary at all.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
When I was 21 I was in an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. It was very hard to break out of and took me a long time to recognize when was the ‘right’ time to leave. I failed a class and the relationship I had with friends and family suffered, I lost 20lbs and my mental health took a turn for the worst. Being a Black Woman, I held this idea that if I ‘suffered’ long enough that I would eventually see better outcomes. This is far from the truth and I think many Black women can relate to feeling.
Once I finally left that situation, I graduated college with two degrees, moved back home to be around family, got my first car and started working for a billion dollar hospitality company where I was one of few Black female interns accepted.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Being the only one in the 5th grade with acne forced me to question my self worth and self image. As I learned over time, self worth and self image can be improved with consistent practice. I couldnt the mean comments on my acne or the color of my skin distract me from my goal and love to learn.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Stop and breathe. This one sounds really simple but it works. On top of the incredibly diminished amount of sleep you experience as a mother, there’s the unrealistic expectations society has placed on Black Women as a whole. I felt a pressure that if I expressed my true weakness, that I was letting everyone down. The only thing that really helped in these moments is when I focused on my breath. Eventually, I was calmer and so was my baby.
- Reflect. Taking a few minutes out of everyday to reflect and gauge your internal emotional well-being will do you wonders. For example, make a habit while wrapping your hair at night to ask yourself “how was I feeling today?” and see how acknowledging your emotions makes you feel.
- Evaluate. Periodically taking inventory of your life and the people you surround yourself with will help you gage how you’re doing mentally. Are you surrounding yourself with toxic people? Are you saying you’re fine just so that other people don’t worry? If so, what are some reasons why you shouldn’t prioritize other people’s feelings before your own?
- Schedule protected time. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take time away from work and other obligations to do things that make you happy. As Black Women we are always striving for excellence. We want our kids to be smart, healthy and well behaved, we want our relationships to be perfect, we want our finances to be in order.. It’s a constant go, go, go mentality and we rarely get the time to just do nothing. It’s time to prioritize doing nothing.
- Pray and/or Meditate. It’s extremely important to take the time to be in silence. Allow your brain to rest other than when you’re asleep! Give your mind a moment to stop trying to solve problems and hand yourself over to prayer or simply being in the present moment.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Celebrating The Vulnerable Black Woman. She is not afraid to show her emotions and put her mental well-being FIRST. Because she deserves that option as much as anyone else.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Add me on Linkedin 🙂
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!