Unapologetic“I stayed true to myself, allowed my light to shine and it began to do something in the hearts of those around me. I felt proud to be me.”
For most of high school, I struggled with my identity. I found my worth in my academic performance and social activism. As the cofounder of my school’s first African-American Culture Club, I prided myself on being “woke” and on fighting “the system.”
But after taking a gap year from high school, I realized how empty I truly was and how I used my accomplishments to fill a hole in me that they were never meant to fill. I’ve since learned that being “woke” is not where one finds fulfillment. Honestly, my “wokeness” made me bitter and further trapped me within the boxes that I so adamantly tried to deconstruct. I realized that my anger was only feeding an unjust system.
On my own journey of self-discovery, I’ve learned that we don’t have to live in boxes, or in a preexisting niche of identity. I now firmly believe that there is a point of intersectionality in which we can think and live and breathe and be free; it is this intersectionality that creates the ideas that enables us to fulfill purpose. Each idea provides a new lens to see the world; combining my unique combination of experiences and identities enables me to be the most authentic version of myself. These identity boxes, whether perceived as privileges or disadvantages, can come together to create the most authentic self. They aren’t to be thrown away; I am Black and a woman and quirky and corny and intelligent and low-income, but I am also simultaneously none of these because they are oversimplifications of the Nicole that I am. It is imperative to never forget that I am not a product of identities but rather a phenomenal creation made by the Creator.
In 2019, I published my first book entitled “The Unboxing: A Black Girl’s Journey of Mental Health, Faith, and Identity.” The inspiration came during my time in Senegal (my gap year) as I was realizing how much I allowed the way I defined myself to limit me from pursuing my dreams and more importantly, what Christ had in store for me. In the book, I discuss my struggles with depression and anxiety. It was my faith in God that led me to reconceptualize how I thought of myself. God taught me that I was not defined by what I did or what happened to me but solely by His love.
The only identity that truly matters is that we are daughters and sons of the Creator of the Universe. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image (Psalm 139:14). We have to allow God’s call of love to define us and not let our families, our pasts and our present circumstances define our capabilities. Over time, God has stripped me of all of my facades, all of my desire to be accepted by others, all of my insecurities—and He is replacing them with His perfect love. Without Him, I am nothing. But with Him, I am everything. With Him, I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made. With Him, I know I have nothing to be afraid of.
When I returned home from Senegal, I determined to start my online ministry on Instagram under the username, @unapologeticallynicole. At the heart of this account and ministry, there is the fundamental belief that each and every one of us has the right and duty to ourselves to live without apology. However, because of the societal conditioning and pressures we as young women (and men) face, living unapologetically is a lot easier said than done. To live unapologetically means to live fully conscious of the things that influence us and reclaim the control of our lives. I can tell you from experience that this is a daily uphill battle, but it is simultaneously the most fulfilling journey we could ever choose to begin. As someone who struggled with insecurity and grew up feeling like I had to perform a certain way to feel significant, I know personally how difficult it is to begin living a life that feels true to oneself. On my platform, I freely share what the “unapologetic life” has looked like for me, and how each of us has the potential to become our best selves.
Over the past few months, God has been so clear to me now about my purpose on Princeton’s campus. I know I have been called to represent God and to be a light. I know that God has set me apart. I know He has called me to be unapologetically and authentically myself.
In God’s clarity of my purpose and vision, He has also been clear about the adversity I will face. He has been clear about the pain and tears I will go through. Thus, I have been all the more committed to my devotion and prayer. I know that I cannot fulfill the things He has called me to do without Him. Before getting here, I planned on being fully prepared for the adversity. I knew the peer pressure would come; I knew I would have to set what many would perceive as abnormal boundaries: I knew I would be an outlier.
In my freshman year, we attended a Diversity Discussion where we essentially learned about the importance of diversity and inclusion on campus. Although insightful, the experience left me feeling alone and glaringly aware of what a privileged place Princeton is. At first, I had set my mind on being silent, but then I felt God say, “Be you. Speak.” I was nervous about being perceived as “that Black girl” but I did it. I spoke about power dynamics within a room that often silences marginalized groups. I spoke about practical measures to be more inclusive and explained what microaggressions were. To my surprise, others opened up as I spoke. I had overcome my fear of being unapologetic in this new place. I stayed true to myself, allowed my light to shine and it began to do something in the hearts of those around me. I felt proud to be me.
While I am now free from the need for others’ approval, it can still be difficult to be authentically myself. It can be easy to silence my voice out of fear of not being heard. But while it will definitely have its ups and downs, the journey of unapologetic living fulfills me, and inspires those around me.
This past summer (2020), I founded LUNA Empowered Inc. LUNA empowers students to pursue higher education within a spiritually and emotionally healthy context, unapologetically. We are an organization for students, by students that seeks to provide practical resources for every student to thrive academically, emotionally and spiritually. In an environment where students often aren’t afforded the intentional space to reflect and take care of themselves, it’s imperative to create those spaces amidst the fast pace of student life. Every young person has the right to develop an intimate relationship with God and be emotionally healthy while they pursue their academic goals. Everyone’s journey is unique, and each person has the right to grow unapologetically into the person God has called them to be.
For further Study
Follow me on Instagram (@prophetessnicolewilliams) and YouTube where my team and I post daily content on how to grow in our relationship with God and live in freedom. Also, check out LUNA’s Mental Health and Faith journals (lunaempowered.org) that are empowering students to invite God into their inner struggles and build identity on the foundation of His Word.
Nicole is an author pursuing her degree in sociology at Princeton University. She is the author of “The Unboxing” and several other eBooks. She is the CEO of Unapologetic Nicole LLC, a faith-based business that helps millennials grow in their relationship with God through 1:1 coaching and online courses. Learn more at unapologeticnicole.com.