“I think of myself as someone who is really and empathetic, and really sensitive as well. And lots of humor. I think there have been a lot of challenges in my life, and thankfully that hasn’t curbed my enthusiasm, but because I am so sensitive, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and so I’ve been really hard on myself. So I’m learning to relax right now. Because I just care a lot, I’ve got a lot of feels.”
A kid at heart.
Yes, I do feel like a kid at heart. Just because I feel like I’m still slipping on bananas in life. And I’m very curious. That’s something that I really like about myself because I really am interested in everything, sometimes to a fault. But I think children are always so interested and have questions, and they’re so unfiltered. So as you get older you become a little bit more reserved and critical, and you stop asking those questions and you stop becoming as curious. And there are times where I definitely get that I’m holding back. But on my alone time and me time, I’m reading all the time. I’m asking these questions. I’m wanting to have these conversations. I’m talking to my friends about it. So I definitely have an outlet to still express that childlike beauty. And thankfully, I have space for it.
I think a lot of it is that I’m more selective about my company. I have a great relationship with my mother. And some really great friends that I can share myself with. And that allows me to really connect and dismantle. And the company I keep, keeps me in check and keeps me accountable. And I know they’re coming from the best place possible, so I’m not on the defense. But I think having that outlet to express yourself is really important in keeping that sort of wanderlust. And eating well. Eating well helps. Drinking in moderation, yeah [laughs].
Being raised by a young single mom.
Yes, we’ve always been close. But there were definitely some times where I think my mother challenged me as a young child. She put a lot of responsibility on me. So it definitely made me have to grow up really fast. But because my mother is so young, too, there is this really great relationship that we have because of her age. And she’s just a party girl so that helps. She’s just so supportive and nurturing. She’s a young mom so she had to raise herself, so I have a very strong-willed mom who’s very practical, versus me where I kind of live in the clouds. We definitely work well together. So I’m very thankful for that relationship.
Did she have you when she was really young?
Yeah, 16. And so I was growing up with my mom. Sometimes I feel like the adult. I hope you don’t see this, Mom.
My mom is really tough, too. She did a lot of ass-whooping. My mom was so hardcore, all she had to do after a while was give me this stare and you knew you’d have to shut it down, like really fast. My mom had put that kind of fear in me so when I was out being a teenager and even in my early 20’s, I still thought about my mom. Like, what would she say? What would she do? She scared me. And I didn’t want to disappoint her because she was a single mom, doing all this extra to help my brother and I just maintain a life with her and all the hard work she had to do to do that. So knowing that about my mom, definitely dictated making some really bad decisions when she wasn’t around, so…
I bet you didn’t know that, Mom!
Willow & Oak — born from a life-altering health issue.
As a woman I had a lot of hormonal issues that were happening to me, where my body became very overwhelmed with uterine fibroids. These are like hard callus/soft callus forming tissue and they obstructed bladder flow and rectal flow. And I became very bloated and at times it became very hard to urinate. So long story short, I did have to end up having to opt for surgery. It did help but unfortunately it has left my bladder partially paralyzed. So in the research of trying to figure out how my body became unbalanced, there was all this research talking about estrogen changes and food and chemicals and metal. It was like, “Oh my God, I can’t do anything. Everything I eat, everything I put on my body obviously is affecting and absorbing into my body and making all these things go crazy.”
And so I opted for a gentle holistic approach to see if I could shrink them or get rid of them, but that became very aggressive because you get so desperate and you feel so bad and you’re just like, “I just want to feel better!” During that process I learned a lot about herbs and I came became very fascinated with how to incorporate them into my diet. Like the Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha––anything that was hormonally balancing. I did raw vegan for a while, too. All of those helped, but eventually I was very debilitated. I was super anemic and had no energy and was super depressed. Food was amazing but then I started thinking about what I’m putting ON my skin, and I always was fascinated with that. I have a cosmetic background so I love makeup and the rituals of lotions and things that smell really nice, made me always feel better.
So I just started experimenting in my kitchen with infusing herbs. Vanilla bean was probably the first— it was easy. Then I got into sourcing flowers, botanicals, roses and lavender. And I diffused those into oils and I would make this beautiful salve and put it on my skin and I was like, “Eureka!”
The biggest one was a deodorant. I felt like I had to create this deodorant cuz I’m I putting it under my arms and it’s near my breasts, and women do a lot of shaving. Even if you don’t, if you’re man or whatever, you’re putting things near glands that really take in a lot of toxins. So that became like a really defining moment where I was like — if you can eat it, you can wear it. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before, and that became life to me.
Then I started playing around and went to school and took online classes and went to herbal classes, anything where I could learn about herbal alchemy, really. Folklore is so fascinating you know. Everything like I’m into feels very natural, so I feel like there is some past life kind of thing going on. But definitely listen to our ancestors. Because before we had all these painkillers and all these sort of band-aid medicines and stuff, we had herbs. We had plants. Plant medicine. So that became more fascinating to me because I felt like it was a better approach to getting to know a little bit about yourself. Instead of taking something that numbs the pain and allows you to forget what’s going on, and doesn’t allow you to dig a little deeper into why you got to this point in the first place.
“Doctors should teach nutrition, not pharmaceutical addiction.”
I grew up with someone who was always sick. I shouldn’t say always sick, but [my grandmother] was in and out of hospitals for a good amount of my life. And it was painful to see her like that and all she did was pop pills. So there was a cabinet of pills, and I think most people live like this. I’ve gone over to friends’ homes and there’s pills everywhere, prescription pills or whatever. And I think early on, I was like — these things didn’t make her better, and she ended up passing away due to all kinds of issues, but none of that helped. And so it made me very wary of those methods.
As a kid I had this bumper sticker that said — Doctors should teach nutrition, not pharmaceutical addiction. So I was very being very radical then. I love doctors, don’t get me wrong. But I think that was definitely something on my mind because I felt like that didn’t help my grandma. And so when I started to become burdened with some of these issues I was going through, I thought, “I don’t want surgery. I don’t want medications. Because I really want to understand how I got there.” Again, that curiosity in me just like — what happened to me? And my grandmother never had that opportunity to sit down and evaluate. We weren’t as aware as we are now either about these different approaches we can take. There wasn’t this yoga and acupuncture. I didn’t know about those things. I definitely know she didn’t know about those things. And so now, those things really work. They’re gentler and they might take longer, but I think that is important because, again, it gives you some time to sort of sit with yourself. Instead of rushing to find a cure. A cure isn’t something that happens right away anyway. It took a long time to get diseased. So the cure is this new opportunity to find out about yourself.
Willow & Oak , a constant teacher.
So when I started to change how I ate and I started to change what I was putting on my body — I mean that shift to Willow & Oak––I guess it almost started as, “Oh, this is going to be a hobby.” But it shifted in a way where it was like––I have to share this with other people. Especially with other women. Not to be biased, but it was really important for me to advocate for women in having better products to choose from, at price points that were accessible.
Willow & Oak, even for me, has been a teacher. I’m a constant student at formulating and crafting all these things and coming up with these ideas. I just feel like I’m here and I’m just channelling. The questions I’ve asked and the things I want in my life, you just have to sort of sit and let it channel through you. Willow & Oak has been that teacher for me. And I hope that it can teach [other people] something about self-care and ritual and sitting with yourself to be more mindful. And it’s not about living in a bubble and being so strict about everything in your life. But if there is an opportunity to pick better, I think that’s something I want to give other people. And myself obviously.
Maintenance, I think that’s the word that definitely resonates with me. It’s something I didn’t really understand. I didn’t have great rituals but they weren’t terrible. They just weren’t consistent. My rituals now––first thing in the morning, I drink water. And this helps to rehydrate from a night of sleeping. And sometimes if the sleeping is not good, there’s stress. So water helps to rehydrate you, get things going, get your mind moving, get your body moving.
And then I always sit down for a little while with myself and I think about how I want to approach this day. There were many, many years where I wasn’t approaching my day at all. I wasn’t giving myself that time to think, “How do I want to feel?” It’s was just like, “Okay, here we go.” It was like Groundhog’s Day. And I knew that moving forward with Willow & Oak and trying to share more mindful approaches, this had to change within me.
So again, Willow & Oak being that teacher. And giving an opportunity to sit with myself and talk about how I want to share myself with people today. So meditating, breathwork, breathing, you know? I think that’s something important that we take for granted. Because the stress definitely restricts and so starting your day with breathing and rehydrating is so important.
The importance of self-care rituals.
Self-care to me is slowing down. It’s checking in. It should be something you look forward to. Because at the end of the day, as you live your life, that maintenance is necessary to continue to give you that vitality to get up and go. So if you don’t make these rituals a habit, you really lose out on opportunities and things that you’d like to do. If I had never checked in with myself and thought––what’s going on with my body and how can I make changes––none of these rituals would have happened to better me, if I had not really wanted to better myself.
And again, Willow & Oak being that teacher, was like, “Just SLOW DOWN…I mean what are you doing?!”
I’ve gotten a lot out of my system, like the normal things to get out of your system. I did the partying and the drinking, I’m definitely a big socializer. But I’m not going to miss any of that. I’ve done it, and now it’s time to come to a place where I just want more me time. That maintenance of meditating, the breathwork, working out, eating foods that are high vibrational, are going to serve you long-term. And so that’s really important to me right now.
When I come home after any kind of day, whether I’m out with family and friends, any kind of work that I’m doing is strenuous, I almost kind of repeat what I do when I get up. There is a moment where I sit with myself. I’m doing my breathwork. I’m evaluating my day. And if there are things that didn’t sit well with me, asking why. And I don’t think I’ve ever done that. The old me was I just kind of being really bitter and complaining and blaming, so this is where I’m like, “Oh god, I’m an adult!” Or maybe I’m more mature or something, because now I’m like, “Okay I didn’t feel good about that, but why? Was I projecting?” All these things and being really gentle with myself. The day’s over. Take whatever you feel like you can learn from that and just give it love and understanding. And just be really gentle.
I think myself and lot of people that I attract, we’re so hard on ourselves and it’s just not productive. Especially when you want to put greatness into the world. And I want to do that, you know? Because I care, and if I’m sitting here being bitter and angry, I can’t do that. So the tools have to change.
I work a lot on my feet. So I do do a lot of foot-massaging. I need to come up with some Willow & Oak foot stuff, but I do use a lot of my oils there and on my calves. But it makes me feel so much better. Again, taking that time out for myself, and thankfully I have that. I’m very grateful that I have that. I don’t have any children. My boyfriend and I really appreciate our own time. So he gives me that space, too, and I can sit there and be me.
What do you do when one of your friends is going through a stressful time?
This is a great question. Because this stuff has happened to me — and a lot of people, when they’re in any situation where someone is having a lot of stress, they feel helpless. So you really want to go to that place, “Oh well this what you can do…” And it’s so easy to have an answer, but I think, just in the last couple years, something that I’ve definitely learned is that I need to just sit and listen more. And give that person that space. Because I think my situation was so not normal for people, they didn’t know how to handle it.
Some people are uncomfortable with people who are very depressed, like, “Oh, this is a lot!” But I think a lot of my upbringing, and me having to take care of my family members, also put me in a position where I was very easy to talk to, and I always wanted to help you. But I always had an opinion. I always had an answer. I’ve had to learn to just be quiet and listen.
A lot of times I find that people don’t want to be advised. Some things you need to advise, but most situations when someone is upset and hurting, it’s giving them the space to express themselves. And they can come to their own conclusions. Asking them, “What do you feel like you need to do?” Putting it back on them, because they’re the ones who have to deal with it anyway. And then finding humor.
If it’s your friend, find something that’s going to make them happy, making that a suggestion. Let’s go for a walk here. Let’s go movies. Let’s get a bite to eat. Something that’s going to make them feel better. Maybe it’s just a temporary band-aid, but you definitely need to follow up with some reassurances, something they enjoy to do. If you’re able to do that, if it’s on the phone obviously, you can maybe talk about a memory and reinforce something. We forget how beautiful we are. So reinforce their beauty, that’s really important. Especially when they’re upset, and their whole world is falling.
On what it means to be fulfilled in life.
In my 39 years of life, I don’t know if I’m fulfilled. If that’s ever something that gets quenched. When I’ve done things in my life that I’ve accomplished, I’m not a bragger. And I don’t feel a sense to brag about my accomplishments. I feel like once people get to know you, they’ll see it anyway.
And so, it’s this kind of quietness. This kind of humble energy that people that I’ve met who I feel are very fulfilled in life or they’ve accomplished things, they just kind of have this energy or this essence. And I’ve always loved that because people who are talking too much about things that they’re going to, or that they need to do, are really probably not doing things. And can really set up some bad expectations for people. Setting up empty promises.
So I think fulfillment is just staying to your personal goals and accomplishing them. And you don’t feel like you need to talk about them. It’s there, that feeling is there. And you’re moving. An energy is there. This is, in my mind, what fulfillment feels like. It’s this beauty that resonates from all that you’re working on on the inside. It just kind of comes out that way.
And I’m not fulfilled totally now, but I think that I’m definitely working toward a Nikki that I really, really like right now. And that’s not easy to say.
We explore self-care rituals inspired by the cultural and generational wisdom from women around the world. We curate a global collection of natural self-care products by female-powered independent brands that are accessible, practical and inspired by real women. Visit our store at daughtersbrand.com.
#WeAreAllDaughters: Nikki, creator of Willow & Oak Skincare was originally published in we are all daughters. on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.