Updated: Aug 17
By Candis Hickman
When I was six years old my parents sent me to a private church school in Brisbane, Australia, which was three hours by bus from the rural town of Cooran, where we lived. We woke up each day while the sun was still finding its way up from behind the mountains and began getting ready for school. I had thick curly hair, the product of mixed African and European ancestry, so every morning Mum would struggle with a boar bristle brush and a container of gel to slick it back into a ponytail puff that was “acceptable” by private school standards.
One day on the way home from school, the bus broke down. My brother and I, stranded miles away from home, spent the night with a nice family from school. By the time bedtime rolled around we had been playing for hours and my hair, which hadn’t been touched for more than twelve hours, was a matted ball of fuzz and curls and my hair tie was trapped in a web of knots. Scared to cause any further inconvenience to the nice white family by asking for help with my unruly hair, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I found a pair of scissors and cut the hair tie, along with chunks of my hair, out of the back of my head. The next morning no one seemed to notice, so I headed back to school proud of myself for solving the problem all on my own . . . until that evening, when Mum saw the mess I had made.
I love sharing this story because it gives people insight into my life growing up as a mixed-race girl in Australia and inevitably creates a deeper dialogue around the many issues arising from this one experience.
Stories are the heartbeat of my entire existence . . . and are yours too—whether or not you realize it yet.
So why do we tell stories?
Stories help us understand who we are.
In early 2020 I embarked on a journey to better understand myself by exploring the stories that shape my identity as a biracial woman. I reflected on and shared stories with others about growing up in Australia to an African American father and a European Australian mother and how that influenced and shaped my worldview. I read the stories of the ancestors and interviewed my father about his life growing up as the son of Black sharecroppers in Mississippi in the 1930s and 1940s. I listened to the inspiring, interesting, and often transformational stories of many brilliant people, and with each story I felt more anchored in my identity and my purpose.
By sharing our personal stories and exploring the stories of those that came before us, we can have a deeper understanding of our purpose and place in the world.
Stories are how we bond with others.
In his TEDx talk on the “Magical Science of Storytelling,” David J. P. Phillips explores how our brains and bodies are chemically wired to respond to stories. Stories are how we remember our humanity and feel connected to others, even those we may not know personally. Building and being in community with others in a deeper way requires our willingness to be open and vulnerable and to share the stories that make us who we are.
Stories are how we advocate for ourselves.
In early 2020 I began exploring mixed-race identity on my YouTube channel. I wanted to understand more about the history, the cultures, and the stories that made me who I am and that connected me with others with a similar life experience. I had no idea at the time that the very topic of mixed-race identity would trigger so many people. Over the next twelve months I was the target of hostility, frustration, and sometimes downright hatred from people who took issue with how I choose to identify, but I also received messages of gratitude from others who resonated with my story and applauded my bravery. In the process of my exploration, I realized that the only way to advocate for myself and for others with confidence was through my story. My story is my truth, and no one can take it away from me.
Whether advocating for yourself, others, or causes you support, stories are a powerful tool for reaching and relating to others.
Candis Hickman is a Personal Branding Coach for rising leaders in the life, wellness and spiritual coaching fields. Drawing on past experience as an on-camera host, commercial model, image consultant, and Occupational Therapist she challenges her clients to overcome their fear, create their stand-out personal brand and become known for their unforgettable contributions to the world. Candis has interviewed entrepreneurs, artists, authors, and celebrities about what it means to develop, expand and manage a successful personal brand. Candis currently sits on the board of the S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective, a non-profit organization whose mission is to interrupt cycles of incarceration in girls and femmes of color through restorative justice, collective leadership, creative expression, and entrepreneurship. You can follow Candis on IG, FB and LinkedIn.
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