Name: Elise-Christelle Woappi (prefers Elise)
Hometown: Born in Cameroon
Grew up: Hanover, Pennsylvania
Current Residence: Manhattan
What does it mean to have a voice? To be able to express yourself without setback and accomplish success despite the challenges you might face.
How did you find your voice? I focused on developing my mental and emotional health so that I could grow as a person and build my self-worth. Developing my voice is an ever-lasting process, and I continue to work on it.
What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?
My maturity and independence were tested in my late teens when my father was diagnosed with cancer. Losing a parent is something that most children will struggle with at some point in their lives; if they’re fortunate, it will happen when they’re much older. My immediate family has always been pretty close. We often did – and still do – many things as a family unit and spend most of our time interacting with each other. My relationship with my father was loving and caring, but it did have its ups and downs. As a teenager, I spent most of my time hanging out with my family and friends or attending school. My whole world was essentially centered around family.
When my dad passed away, I was nineteen and his death took a major toll on my self-confidence and mental health. Life turned into a reflection of a future without my dad. The years of having my dad’s protection and the comfort of having both my parents were gone. I would graduate college with a single parent, embark on adulthood, and enter relationships knowing that my dad’s guidance and protection would no longer be around.
I struggled for months to find a balance between letting go of the past and accepting the present and future. I turned to family, close friends, and counseling to help me with my grief and mental development. The experience of having to lean on others to find the strength to fully express my emotions taught me the value and importance of self-expression. It taught me to make the best out of the life you’re given, and remain strong through hard times. It was in those moments of self-reflection and grieving that I developed my strength, independence, and confidence.
Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
I fully developed my voice in my early-20s when my mental health and emotional well-being were in need of some strengthening due to grieving my dad, experiencing love and separation, and trying to navigate entering the “real world” post-graduation. Getting older is much more challenging than I anticipated. At a younger age adulthood felt exciting, but after graduating college at twenty-two, adulthood was scary. As thrilling as it was turning into an adult, moving to a new city, and making new friends; the world around me still felt distant. There were numerous times throughout my early-20s that life felt too draining, and I needed a way to center my thoughts, take control of my emotions, and improve my well-being.
There are many resources that were available to me at the time of my self-discovery and growth (mainly meditation and exercise.) Hiking, doing Pilates, and traveling were some of the activities I did to clear my head and refocus. Exercise was a part of my journey but meditation played a huge part in finding my voice. I discovered meditation through referrals from friends who had embarked on spiritual journeys, and by watching YouTube videos. I meditated consistently for about three years, morning and night, until I developed a stronger sense of identity. Meditation played a critical role in teaching me how to process my thoughts and emotions. Prior to meditating, being in control of my emotional stability was a bit more challenging. It was often difficult to find peace and serenity in my chaotic world. I made the conscious effort to take time for myself by meditating. I’ve spent every day making sure I look at myself in the mirror and identify reasons why I love myself, things I’m proud of having accomplished, and things I forgive myself for. I’ve focused on developing my mental and emotional health so that I can grow as a person and build my self-worth. I’m now in my late-20s and adulthood feels more intriguing. It’s no longer as scary as it once was, but rather empowering.
Define “voice” and why it is important?
To have a voice means to be able to express yourself without setback, act on desired goals to achieve your dreams, and accomplish success despite the challenges you might face. Having a voice is important to me because it allows me to remember who I am, the kind of person I want to become, and whether or not I fully express and realize my dreams. I’ve always wanted to be someone who can look back on life and its memories without regret. Expressing myself and remaining true to my character is very important to me. Having a voice allows me to love myself as I am, and to always stand true to my values and beliefs.
What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?
I would say to forgive yourself, praise yourself, and commit to yourself. In order to find and develop your voice, you first need to be comfortable with who you are as an individual. Understand your strengths and weaknesses to find ways to appreciate yourself. Some of the techniques I use to build my own confidence and believe in myself : (1) say ‘I love you’ to myself in the mirror once a day; (2) listen to soothing meditations on YouTube or Apps; (3) write a list of things I’m grateful for in a journal; (4) practice being more kind with my internal thoughts; (5) surround myself with positive and uplifting people; (6) saying no to things that aren’t for my highest good.
Elise Woappi was born in Cameroon and moved to the United States at the age of ten with her family. She grew up in Hanover, Pennsylvania and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations at Penn State. She’s worked at nonprofits and corporations in fundraising, data research, and marketing. Elise founded Tchuento in August 2017, a creative design and marketing company, to help entrepreneurs and business growth. Elise hopes to create a legacy that embodies her journey as a young immigrant, a black female, and entrepreneurs.