Unapologetic: Liz Forkin Bohannon of Sseko Designs

 

Welcome to Unapologetic, a new monthly series designed to introduce you to millennial women doing badass things in the world. Unapologetic women are fully owning their space, their voice and their vision for a better world - and taking massive action to bring those dreams to life. They also believe in building up other women along the way, and are kind enough to share their life lessons with us here!

As you may be able to guess from my company's name, women supporting women is at the core of my belief system, and it's also a core component of the work that Liz and her team at Sseko do.  When the chance to ask her a few questions came up, it was impossible for me to pass it up. Not only does Sseko Designs create beautiful products, but they employ and empower women in Uganda to pursue collegiate educations. Talk about a serious win-win.

(Psst, in case you're wondering - I am a fan of Sseko and am sharing this message because I love what they do, and what Liz stands for. In full disclosure, they did send me a beautiful tote bag to rock around Nashville, and I cannot WAIT to do so! But I won't receive any monetary compensation for this post or for any purchases or participation in Sseko Designs and/or its programs. Just like to keep it real!)

I believe that by listening to and working with the women around us, our experience and our work in the world actually get better and more fulfilling - so you'll want to grab a notebook and jot down the words of wisdom Liz is sharing with us below! 

 
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Liz, tell us what inspired you to start Sseko. I moved to Uganda after university because I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to write and report on issues facing people living in extreme poverty and conflict zones. The only trouble was...I couldn't find anyone to hire me to do just that! So, instead, I moved to Uganda on my own to learn first hand about the realities facing women and girls across the globe. So, I suppose, Sseko was inspired by rejection! HA! No, although that is what lead me to Uganda, Sseko was inspired by 25 of Uganda's brightest, most courageous women. These women quickly became my community and after meeting them and learning about not only where they'd come from, but their dreams and vision for the future, I was inspired to create Sseko.

What has been your biggest "I feel like a real boss" moment? Oh, well, you many be looking for a more glamorous 'real boss' memory here but truthfully my biggest 'real boss' moment was probably the first payday where everyone else got paid and my paycheck that month went to paying unexpected duties on an incoming shipment or something glamorous like that! That's when being the boss feels for real! You realize that in your crazy dreaming and scheming, other people's (who I guess are as equally as crazy-in-the-best-way for joining you!) lives will also be affected by your decisions. Don't get me wrong, I love being a boss, but there is also a ton of responsibility and not-so-fun moments behind the Big Boss scenes :)

What keeps you inspired and engaged in your work? Oh my. I feel so inspired by our team. Our team in Uganda, here in the U.S. and especially by the Sseko Fellows who are a team of impact entrepreneurs who are building the Sseko brand alongside of us in their own communities. Truly, when I need a dose of inspiration, I hop on our private social network and soak up inspiration, encouragement and bravery of this women in this community! It's truly a remarkable sisterhood of dreamers and doers who are co-creating alongside me every day!

Who is in your support network? Oh, this is an area where I feel FILTHY STINKING RICH! I'm a community fanatic--meaning, I prioritize and work on having authentic, transparent and committed relationships. I lived with six women in college who still to this day are my ride or die women. I'm in nearly constant contact with my sister. I share daily life (and property!) with my besties here in Portland. And through organizations like Praxis and 4Word, I've got a rich community of other entrepreneurs and business mentors. I truly believe that the only reason I am able to withstand the roller-coaster of emotions that is entrepreneurship, is because of my amazing and steady community--both personally and professionally!

 
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What's been the most valuable thing you've learned from your mentors? One of my mentors, Diane Paddison, is an incredibly successful Fortune 500 global executive and non-profit founder and she, by example, has taught me so much about the beauty of pairing boldness with generosity. She is literally not afraid to ask for anything (which is why she's been so successful!) but she is also the first to be bold and use her platform to help others succeed, too. (Myself included!) It's made me realize that there is really no such thing in being too bold when you're generous with your success and intentionally create a rising tide!

What are you unapologetic about in business? In life? I am unapologetic in both business and life with my belief that each and every person was created with and for and on purpose. The world needs more people who believe this and who are committed to figuring out their why and then living unapologetically and courageously into that calling!

P.S. Do you know someone that HAS to be featured on an upcoming edition of Unapologetic? Send me an email at info@thewellsupportedwoman.com!

 

Which matters more: your success, or your story?

Growing up, I thought that one day I'd like to be a storyteller. 

I was always a creative soul, and I retreated into words and pages when I needed to escape. Every day I felt like my heart was torn in two as I tried to decide between spending time with my friends and reading just one. more. page. 

I appreciated the power of story and the role it had in preserving memories, experiences and culture. I thought that maybe when I grew up I could be the vessel that held those stories for others. That I could help to remind communities why stories matter, and why they are worth saving. 

The irony is that when I became a coach I effectively became a professional un-weaver of stories. This time around, though, the stories I was focused on were the ones written on our hearts and minds - the stories about ourselves that we carry with us wherever we go. 

My clients hire me because they're ready for a NEW story. Because one, if not many, pieces of the story they've been telling themselves no longer feels right. Because they want to regain power and control and be given permission to create a new narrative that feels good. To build a new life and experience for themselves. That doesn't mean that un-weaving the old stories is easy. 

Nope. Not at all. 

It's a strange thing, to ask your mind and heart and body to give up some piece of belief that has felt like a cornerstone of who you are for years. To no longer identify with this belief and to recognize that it's not your flesh and blood, your unshakeable reality, but just a wisp of nothing that disappears when you touch it.

A limiting belief is just a belief, and one you've outgrown. By releasing it's hold on you and your experience, you're encouraging others around you to do the same. You're chipping in to the collective energy of your community and the world. You're putting in your two cents of autonomy for all to witness.

So yes, sometimes identifying and rejecting limiting beliefs (aka the stories we have told ourselves and others about who we are that no longer support our growth) can feel difficult, uncomfortable, even redundant. Sometimes it can feel like you're starting at the very beginning each morning when you wake up, and other times the belief is separated from the perceived power you've given it for years in nothing more than an instant. 

It can feel uncomfortable, but if you truly desire to live a different life than the one you're living now, you have to stay with it. You have to ask yourself one important question: 

Which matters more to me: my success, or my story?

The 4-Part Formula to (Temporarily) Become an Extrovert

The holidays are in full swing, and this advice from my dear friend Julie Sellers , Founder and CEO at Ellevated Outcomes couldn't be more relevant. Soak up her wisdom - I know I am! Learn more about her work here.

As the holidays alight upon us, expectations to be social are at an all-time high. You probably have a company party to attend, perhaps some client or social functions, and at the very least: gatherings of family and friends. And for some people, the very thought of socializing this month causes their stress and anxiety to sky rocket. Especially if this label resonates with you: introvert.

While working with clients and prospects as of late, there’s been something consistent coming up over and over again, which has caught my attention: everyone is referencing Myers-Briggs (did they just release a new version or something?). When they ask me, “What’s your type?” they’re shocked that my self-improvement-addict-self doesn’t know the answer.

Although I have taken the test twice, I haven’t committed the results to memory. Here’s why: I notice that when people discuss themselves in terms of their Myers-Brigg type, they are really attached to the type. What started as vocabulary that simply helped someone identify characteristics of herself has become a subconscious crutch. It’s morphed into an excuse for why someone is the way she is, versus a natural tendency that one has the power to adapt.

Let me give you an example: I’m right on the border between introvert and extrovert (that’s the one diagnosis from the test that I do remember). And the reason I remember is that when I told my husband, he was incredulous. As an intense introvert, he could not believe that my sometimes-gregarious self wasn’t on the polar opposite end of the scale.

Knowing myself deeply, the diagnosis felt on-point to me. Yet, from outsiders’ perspectives, I act like an extrovert. Why? Because I work at it. Laura and I got to talking about this a couple months ago, and I casually mentioned, “Oh yeah. I have an extrovert formula that I use when I want to turn it on.”

So whether I’m attending a party, a networking event, or a simple one-to-one client meeting, and I’m feeling a little… internal, here are the four steps I run through to let me inner extrovert shine through:

1. Recall a compliment that someone else has paid you.

I’m fairly confident, but no matter how confident you are, sometimes self-consciousness and fear finds its way inside you and picks at your self-worth. To keep self-consciousness at bay and project magnetism so that others want to be around me, I call to mind a specific compliment that a colleague-friend paid me earlier this year. This thing that she said meant so much to me, and when I repeat it to myself and sit with it until I believe it, my body language and engagement with others becomes more open and shinier.

It sounds corny, but recalling something really special and unique about yourself, as stated in someone else’s words, is a powerful act that will hands-down help you project energy out to others.

 

2. Prepare your response to the question, “What’s new?”

Years ago, someone with whom I’d had a prior working relationship called to recruit me for a job. He asked the typical, “What’s new with you?” And I replied a very typical, “Oh, not much.”

I’ll never forget his response that rattled me: “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

These words seemed to hang in the air, as I felt so stupid. Also, since then, I’ve realized what a conversational dead-end that is. To the contrary, when you respond with something (anything!), you’re throwing the other person a bone, making it easier to ask follow-up questions and keep the flow moving. Your response doesn’t have to be grandiose, but there’s always something going on. Be prepared to share. If nothing else, it’s the polite thing to do.

 

3. When you walk into the room, greet the first person you see.

I absorbed this advice years ago from magician-turned-networking-expert Lee Warren. Do not look for someone you know, do not stick by the person you came with, and do loiter by the door. Approach and say hello to the very first person who catches your eye – even if (s)he’s <gasp> a stranger. Doing this will warm up your extroversion muscles and allow you to take action before you get stuck in your head.

 

4. Keep your phone far, far away (or at least out of your hands).

The minute that you look at your phone – even if it’s just a glance – your body language changes. You’re looking down, you’re closed off, and you’ve put an obstacle between you and the real-life people around you. It literally, physically changes the energy around you. And after you pick it up once, you know that you’re going to do it again… so just don’t break the seal in the first place.

 

If you can do these four simple things during this holiday season, I promise that you’ll have a smoother, less anxious social experience. And the best part is: these are all small actions that are 100% within your control. Although it may not feel like it (especially if Ms. Myers’ and Briggs’ introvert label has doomed you) - extroversion is a muscle, so the more you practice, the more natural being an extrovert will feel.

5 Q's about self care with my fav self care guru, Jessica Dimas!

You know how there are soooo many voices on the internet? Every day my inbox is full of people telling me how to live a better life. Don't get me wrong - it can be inspiring to see everyone's interpretation! But sometimes it's hard to sort through all of the input to find what really resonates with you. Occasionally, those email newsletters and reminders go straight into my archived inbox. 

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Jessica Dimas is one of the voices I NEVER tune out. Her work is always simple, powerful and just what I need to get myself back in the flow of taking care of myself (and finding a bit of magical inspiration along the way!).

I recently had the honor of asking her five questions about how to amp up our self care practices this holiday season - and I know you'll find some gems of wisdom in her responses. Listen up, and maybe take notes! And be sure to follow along with Jessica on her site and on Instagram @jessicadimasblog.

 

Tell us a bit about how your philosophy of self care has evolved over time, and what it means to you these days. 

When I first started doing self-care activities, I didn’t think of it as self-care, but alone time. It sort of started out with me doing what I wanted to do without any interruptions, so I would blog or write my book, but then when my book was done and I had completed everything with the blog, I started to just recharge.

I would journal, read books that were healing (Louise Hays’ You Can Heal Your Life book and workbook truly did heal so much of me), I would play soft music and light candles, etc. 

Self-care now is still all of that but it’s gone down a more spiritual path for me. I’m not only recharging but I’m connecting with the Divine and grounding. I feel like I dwell in magic for an hour or two, which is so fitting because that was the tagline I created for my blog several years ago.

Where do you struggle when it comes to self-care during the holiday season? What are some proactive measures we can all take to get our energetic "stuff" in line before the stress hits?

I mainly struggle with the overwhelm of lots of activity and interaction within a short and intense time frame. I like to make sure I’m as grounded as possible during this season. I try to spend more time in my self-care space, listen to more guided meditations, and I’m huge on aromatherapy. I have several sprays that have grounding essential oils in them that I will spray around myself and I also work with crystals that help me stay grounded, like black tourmaline. 

Mostly I think it’s important to make quiet time for yourself during this season and to connect with yourself frequently, especially if you’re a more introverted person.

The holidays often mean travel, and sleeping on sofas or in spare rooms. Do you have any tips or suggestions for mobile self-care practices? How do you take your techniques on the road?

I take my aromatherapy sprays and crystals! I really do spritz myself several times a day, especially when there’s a lot of interaction. I also always take a journal because I feel like it’s the equivalent of someone who needs to run or exercise in order to release their pent up energy; journaling is like that for me. Once I can write out everything that’s in my head, I can release it and just not feel so overwhelmed. 

Whatever helps you stay grounded and connected, take it with you if it’s mobile. Go to your room every so often and just sit in silence if you can. Take a book that helps you to recenter and read that before falling asleep. I just try to think of little things like that that make a big difference but that aren’t super time consuming.

Do you have any seasonal self-care practices that you add in during the winter months, or is your practice consistent throughout the year? How do you "know" when it's time for a tweak and a refresh?

That’s a great question, I’ve never thought of that! My practice is consistent for a few months and then it changes because my needs change. I do feel like during the holiday season though I’m more focused on my boundaries and making sure I don’t overextend myself. It’s easy to say yes to all of the fun invitations, but it’s not so fun when I’ve got obligations back to back for several days or weeks in a row. 

So part of self-care for me is looking at my week and protecting my time. I am not a good mother, wife, daughter, friend, etc…if I am running on fumes. Making time for self-care or at the very least, time where I have zero obligations, is a must for me. 

I know it’s time to tweak and refresh my self-care practices when I feel like it’s an obligation or I’m just not interested. Usually I’ll just stick to reading inspirational books and journaling when I feel like this and let my desire for my morning routine, for example, come back on it’s own. It’s usually always a little bit different than what I was previously doing.

The Well Supported Woman is all about confidence, clarity and connection - three aspects that can be very trying during the busy holiday season. How has your self-care practice deepened your own feelings of confidence, personal clarity and connection (to either yourself or a higher power)?

My self-care practice has deepened my feelings of confidence, clarity and connection just from being alone with myself. In our busy world, most of us don’t grant ourselves the quiet time to just be still and alone with ourselves. When we ARE alone, it’s easy to be distracted by scrolling through our phones or vegging out watching tv. I’m not against these things because I do them frequently, but I do think it makes a huge difference when you create truly quiet time to just connect with yourself, check in with what you’re feeling and where you want to go, and to just let yourself be still. 

A lot of healing takes places when you’re still and focused on yourself, and your intuition is able to come through more as well which will bring clarity and lead you on a delicious crumb trail to everything you’re seeking. 

Consistent time spent in a self-care practice will get you in touch with your inner guidance, and when that happens, you’ll be in touch with everything you need.

 

Um, yes please. To all of this. Let me know in the comments how you're practicing self care this holiday season!