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Every year, Disney World, Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine host 100 high school students, their parents and the media for a weekend of career exploration, encouragement and inspiration. The weekend is called Disney Dreamers Academy. Every year celebrities and professional speakers come in to encourage the students and their parents. Being at Disney World it’s fun for the media too. But inevitably I find that I needed the inspiration from the speakers and celebrities as well.

My absolute favorite speaker is Lisa Nichols. While many of us might describe Nichols as a motivational speaker, she says what she really does is disrupt people and their patterns. After her dynamic speech to the parents, we had a chance to speak to Nichols about comparison, how to better manage our time and our desire for self acceptance. See what she had to say below.


MN: You mentioned social media and comparison and I know people of all ages struggle with that. So, what would you say to people who find themselves on social media, comparing themselves to what they see?

Nichols: I have this statement that I make and people laugh but I really don’t say it to be funny. I say it to be true: Your job is to get up in the morning and fully like yourself. Don’t move until you say ‘I appreciate this about me…’ And then every other like on social media is bonus. But if you look at social media’s like before you looked at your own like, now you’re caught up in someone else’s perception of you. And my grandmother says, ‘Other people’s perception of you ain’t none of your business.’ To pull that back and go, ‘My perception of me is first and foremost.’

Social media is a necessary, beautiful tool that puts us all in the same room. And, more than anything because of it, you have to know like you know, like you know who you are and what you stand for. Because if not, you’ll be pulled into many directions. Looking left and right is as easy as opening up your Facebook page. So, I say take a stand for who you are. Make it clear. Every morning, before I leave, I would do three sentences, in the mirror to myself.

1. Lisa, I’m proud that you _________

2. Lisa, I forgive you for ___________

3. Lisa, I commit to you that ___________

Everyday, I celebrate one thing, forgive one thing and commit one thing. Then I can go out on social media because I’m already solid in me. People are only swayed when they’re not solid in themselves.


You said you didn’t raise your son to be a good man, you raised him to be a good human being. I thought that was so profound. Could you just speak a little bit about that?

It takes a man to see a man to know how to be a man. I’m not a man. I can show him how to be a good human being. So I was very mindful early on that I couldn’t be everything to my son, nor did I want to be. As his mom, I wanted to be a good woman, show him how to be a good human being. But he has to see a man to know how to model a man. I put men around him and I asked the question out loud, ‘Can you share with my son how to be a good man?’ I didn’t put a lot of men around him, I put three pillars in his life that I knew would stay in his life forever, his uncle, his granddad and his god brother. I can show him good characteristics but there are things that men do, that men need to show a man. So I ate my slice of humble pie as a mom, as hard as it is.


Speaking about time management, you also said something about your schedule giving you freedom. So what would you say to women who feel like they’re living their lives in “overwhelmed”?

That they’re not managing their time well. Write a schedule and live in it. Don’t change in it. Don’t disrupt it. Live in it. It will morph and modify as necessary. My freedom lived in my schedule and I’m the most free, butterfly person on the planet, who didn’t think I would have a schedule. But I scheduled in the things I wanted. I scheduled in a walk, I scheduled in my meditation time, I scheduled in movies, I scheduled in dating, I scheduled in cooking with my son. If it’s important, put it on your schedule. If it’s not important, don’t put it on the schedule. So your whole life you’re treating like it’s not important because it’s not even important for you to allocate time to it. If it matters to me, I allocate time to it. And that’s the idea, a schedule is not constricting, it’s freeing.


Lastly, you said that you didn’t want to lose weight because you said that you felt like women wouldn’t accept you. So what happens to us when we do things with other people’s acceptance in mind?

We want to be loved. We all are tribal. Even people who are loners, they’re only loners because they don’t know how to fit in. We want to be connected. A baby who is not touched in six months, after being born, will die. That’s how necessary touch is. So we will be outrageous and unapologetic and even unreasonable for the sake of acceptance. That’s why kids join gangs. We do things because we want to be accepted. And so that was my dumb dumb thing. I put on this 89 pound jacket called weight because my personality was so big inside this body. And when I was younger, literally, my shape was like Serena Williams because I was an athlete. That and the personality? Women would look me up and down. And I wanted to be connected. So I was like ok what can I do? And then, with all my weight, I became mother earth and all of sudden it was ok to let me in. It took me twenty years to arrive back at my comfort zone to myself to go, ‘It’s my job to love me. If you don’t love me because I’m in this body and this personality, then that’s your choice and I’m ok with that and there’s nothing wrong with that choice. But it took me to grow up and mature enough to be ok with Lisa not being liked by everyone. We all want to be liked everyone. That’s our need to belong. But that’s because we haven’t belonged to ourselves yet. I belong to me and I want everyone to like me but if they don’t I’ll still sleep good tonight. I won’t miss a beat.


I don’t say that disrespectfully. I just had to learn how to be ok with me


To learn more about The Disney Dreamers Academy, click here. If you have a high school student you believe would be good for the program, follow the program’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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