‘Many women are held back from achieving set goals by their mindset’
Amaka Chibuzo-Obi is a ‘Life and Confidence’ coach, helping women who are shy and lack self-confidence to overcome fear, self-doubt and low self-esteem so they can build self-confidence for visibility and impact. Through her organisation, Wivesroundtable, Chibuzo-Obi is providing valuable information, tools and resources to help women live a wholesome life.
The graduate of Computer Science from the University of Calabar, with an MBA in Marketing Management from the Lagos State University, is passionate about women’s growth and has coached scores of women to step out of the shadows and shine their lights. She is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) certified practitioner, family life practitioner and certified positive psychology practitioner.
Now, she is improving the lives of low-income female entrepreneurs in her community with digital and entrepreneurship education. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for empowering women by building their confidence.
Share with us your journey into being a ‘Life and Confidence’ coach?
GROWING UP, if anyone had ever told me I would not just be preaching confidence but also making a living by leading other people to a life of confidence, I would probably have fallen on the floor, laughing at them. This is because I grew up shrouded with a feeling of inadequacy, self-doubt and low self-esteem. I lost my mum when I was eight years old and, as the only child, her death affected my life immensely. I went through many experiences that ended up creating many limiting beliefs within me.
Beliefs such as I wasn’t worthy, I was inadequate, I wasn’t loved, I wasn’t pretty or good enough and I didn’t fit in. I grew up with all these feelings, practically stumbling through life. I remember I was born a confident and outspoken child, but life and its experiences locked my voice in.
I found myself hiding away, not wanting to be in any sort of limelight, not speaking up when it mattered, looking for love and attention in the wrong places and generally sabotaging myself in various ways. I was that child that would rather get flogged than raise her hand to answer a question in class, and so everyone doesn’t look at her.
I was that young working adult who would mutter an idea under her breath at an office meeting rather than speak up, and then get very sad when someone else speaks out my muttered idea and gets accolades for it. I was that woman who couldn’t let go of a dead-end relationship, just because she thought she couldn’t do better. But in all these, somewhere deep down inside me, I knew I was made for so much more. Deep within me, I knew I was to impact the world and transform lives. I know I was not created to be ordinary or to hide away or to be invisible. And so, I started on a journey of personal development and training with lots of introspections. And as I took on training and got certifications, I gradually began to love myself again. I began to reclaim my power and find my voice. I began to realise that I was so enough that, nothing I did or didn’t do was needed to make me enough. I was enough, just the way I was. And with these realisations, what I was called to do with my life in the world kept getting clearer and clearer. I was called to be a light-bearer; to shine my light so bright that I inspire thousands of other women to find the courage to turn their own light on and shine it, unapologetically, to the world.
What drives and inspires you?
The need to bring out the best in every woman I come across. I belong strongly in the ability of women to bring about great, positive change in the world. The need to be a part of this revolution drives me. My personal mission is to populate the world with highly confident, superstar, highly impactful women who aren’t afraid to shine their lights everywhere they go.
Do you think Nigeria provides an enabling environment for females to thrive in their careers and businesses?
It is no secret that Nigeria is a largely patriarchal society, and in every patriarchal society, women have to fight to be heard or recognised. I am, however, very happy at how far we have come as a nation, today, as we see more women break the mythical glass ceiling daily. At no time in Nigerian history, have we had six women being managing directors of banks at the same time. But we have it today, here in Nigeria. So, even though more can be done to level the playing field for women as for their male counterparts, I am happy that women are rising to the occasion and taking bold strides towards thriving and being successful in their careers and businesses.
What is your take on cultures in Nigeria that promote primitive laws relegating women to the background especially as regards pursuing their careers and visions in life?
Every region or area in Nigeria still practices this to an extent; they have rules, sometimes unwritten, that relegate women to the background. You hear things like a woman’s place is in the kitchen and the other room’. You also hear people ask ambitious career women, ‘what are you looking for, wouldn’t you go home and take care of your family. Subtle gabs such as these promote the ideology that women are supposed to be relegated to the background. This is a warped ideology that Wivesroundtable, and thankfully, so many other women-centred organisations, are looking to conquer. Education is a key way to live above these. This is the only way to change the age-long mindset. And by education, I don’t necessarily mean the formal kind only, even though that is highly essential. There is also the informal kind of education we do in our communities and through the media like the Wivesroundtable talk show. However, the most important aspect of education, in my opinion, is modelling. So when women put in the work, thrive and succeed, they show other women what is possible and they show the men who still think that women should not be heard, that women are capable of whatever height they choose to attain.
You are passionate about empowering females across Nigeria. How did you find yourself doing this?
I have always believed that a woman is a strong influence in every family. I strongly believe in the quote by Koffi Annan that says ‘When women thrive, all of the social benefits and succeeding generations are given a better start in life. This is why I do what I do – to do my bit to create a better world. And this is also why I trained as a Life and Confidence Coach for women so that I can support women even further to build the confidence they need for visibility, impact and profit.
Advanced countries continue to appreciate the place of women in leadership and are making deliberate efforts and laws that promote gender equality. Where is Nigeria in this development?
The journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with a step. I say that it actually begins with a decision. From what we see going on around us today, with banks and other organisations giving more women opportunities to lead, Nigeria has started on the journey. There is still a long way to go and a lot to be done, but at least, we are seeing some promising signs. I am confident it will keep getting better.
How do you juggle between your distinctive roles?
First, I have to acknowledge the place of grace – the Grace to be and do so much and make it appear as though it’s easy, even though it isn’t. Then I have a great team of people around me who key into my vision and who I can call upon depending on what is needed on the ground per time. I am able to delegate and allow the people entrusted with a particular assignment to do what they need to do to get the assignment done without micromanaging them, as long as they have shown effectiveness over time. And then, I am big on creating balance. I take it one thing at a time. I find what is top priority per time and focus on that till it’s done or at least, almost done, before I put something else in view and focus on that. I don’t try to do everything at the same time because that, I know, is a recipe for burnout, overwhelm and stress.
What advice do you have for young women seeking to define their career path alongside family life?
As a woman, especially in a clime like ours, there are many duties and responsibilities ascribed to you by default. Throw in marriage and motherhood, and the pressure becomes even more. But in all this, I would say – never neglect yourself. There will definitely be times you will feel overwhelmed, running around to be everything for everyone but always remember, you are important too. You matter too. You will not be of any use to yourself, your career or to your family if you break down or if you don’t take care of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Always remember this. Also in my journey as a Confidence Coach, I have come to realise that many women are living way below potential. They feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied with their lives, even career women and entrepreneurs who seem to be doing well. And many of them are held back from truly going after their goals and dream by their mindset, fear as well as the inability to properly balance their lives. So, I would say to every woman reading this, learn to put yourself in the equation. Invest in yourself, personal development and growth. Surround yourself with people who are moving in the direction you would want to go. Live intentionally.
What is your life’s mantra?
If it has been done by anyone, then I too can do it. This is a mantra I adopted as I built up my confidence from a chronic ‘low self-esteem’ person to a confidence coach today. I used to feel so inadequate, so not good enough and not capable. But after a series of mental reorientation and personal development, I have come to see that, whatever limitations I see, lies in my mind. And that I can do whatever I set my mind to do, whatever I desire to do, in line with my dreams, as long as it’s humanly possible to achieve.