Oke Chinye is a Psychologist, Consultant, Corporate Trainer and Author of two published books: “Living The Life” and “Building The Dream”.She is also an Inspirational Teacher and Speaker who is passionate about equipping people to rise above their limitations and actualize their God ordained purpose. This happily married mother of grown children recently turned 50 so I decided to glean from her wisdom.
Please tell us about yourself (growing up) what you do, educational background etc:
I am the fourth of six children and we were brought up in a close knit family. My father of blessed memory was a doctor and my mum is a retired school principal. My parents were quite protective of us. We were not rich, but we were comfortable. My dad was the type who was always contented with what he had. He taught us about humility, hard work and contentment.
We grew up in a small town in the then Bendel state, where I had my primary education and then I went to Mary Mount College Agbor, for my secondary education. I left secondary school with the best result in my set and gained admission into University of Benin, Benin-City to study pharmacy at the age of 15years. Upon graduation, five years later, I did my internship and proceeded to the then Gongola State for my youth service. I began my Pharmacy career in Warri, where I worked for a few years before I met and married my husband in 1995. Today, we are blessed with four wonderful children.
I know you are a psychologist, life coach and so much more. How did you find yourself in this sector which basically deals with helping other people?
As I already mentioned, my first degree was in Pharmacy, I practiced for a few years, before resigning as the Pharmacist in charge of a group of clinics. When I decided to do a Masters program after my career break, I decided it would be Public Health. As I was getting set to apply, I somehow stumbled upon a Psychology Masters degree leaflet. I was so intrigued by what I read that I decided to study Psychology instead. Psychology is about the study of human behaviour. From studying Psychology, I understood myself better and got to understand and relate better with people. Today I have two Masters degrees in Psychology and I am looking at doing a PHD in the same subject.
I believe I was meant to be in this profession of helping people. Before I knew what my calling in life was, I was so drawn to inspirational and motivational books. I was involved in the teaching ministry in church and every venture I started or got involved with had to do with helping people get better.
So obviously you are walking in purpose ? How did you discover your purpose?
I am a very spiritual person, who spends a lot of time in prayers and bible study. I also spend time in introspection and journaling. It was during one of these times that I caught a vision of what my purpose was.
The vision I had was of a slim lady standing before a group of people, teaching and inspiring them. This was the very first impression or picture I had of what my purpose was about. The strangest thing about this vision was that it was very different from my reality at that point in time. In reality, I was a size 22, wearing only slacks with elasticated waist bands, with very little confidence to stand before a crowd. But as I envisioned it, my brain caught a picture of it and invariably, my life began to move towards what my heart and brain had captured.
I suddenly began to embrace personal growth. I became a personal development enthusiast. I become so intentional and ruthless about developing myself in every area of human endeavour. Knowledge became my new source of power. I developed an insatiable desire to learn. I was particularly drawn to Inspirational books. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to learn. Over the years, I have been to Harvard Business School in Boston twice, I have acquired two Masters degrees from prestigious universities in the UK. I have attended several certificate programs and am still hungry for more knowledge. This is why I know that my purpose is to build and equip people. My intense love for the subject of Psychology also confirms this.
You are a mum and wife now your children are grown but when they were young how did you cope? Any setbacks and how did you overcome?
I had to take a career break at some point during my child bearing and rearing years. My second child followed almost immediately after the first one, and I literally had my hands full.
Initially, I enjoyed being at home, but years down the line, it became really challenging. Whilst my husband was away at work each day, I was alone. My young children were the only company I had. There was no one to connect with intellectually. Back then in the nineties, access to the internet was not as commonplace as it is today, so I was not developing myself in any way. My career break spanned a period of seven years, during which time I struggled with a number of challenges. The first thing I realised was that my diction had begun to falter. Choosing the right words and phrases to complete my sentences became difficult as the years went by. I would start a sentence and get stuck in the middle. I also discovered that holding conversations with my husband about topical issues had become a real challenge. These all had a negative effect on my sense of self-worth; my self-confidence began a downward slide. I recall turning down invites on several occasions, preferring to remain indoors.
But then, one morning, I took a long look at myself in the mirror and I knew I had had enough. At this point in time, I had gained a lot of weight. When you are mostly at home, you really don’t notice the weight pilling up, you wake up suddenly to find that you are a different person. I stood in front of that mirror for hours without even realising it. It was my moment of what I have now come to term ‘psychological impasse’. I was so certain I had gotten to a major crossroad in my life, because when I eventually walked away from that mirror, I knew there was no way I would go on like this. Getting to this point and allowing myself to feel the different emotions of shame, fear and self-pity enabled me to begin my journey of transformation.
Tell us about your support system
My major support system was my husband. He identified with the challenges I struggled with and tried to help in the ways he could. For instance, when I found it difficult to find my size of clothes to buy, he would go from shop to shop looking for the largest size in their collection. When I decided to reinvent myself by going for a Masters program, he identified a University in the UK where I could do it. He still is my number one supporter. My faith in God is also a major source of strength I rely one. My spirituality has helped me forge on during very difficult times.
What advice for young mums trying to pursue they passion and purpose while parenting?
It’s all about balance and juggling. As women we must learn to allot time to each role. Having the right support structure in place, such as a house help and an understanding husband is also very essential. The truth is that women who are desirous of building a career or pursuing their dreams need to work twice as hard as the men. There are days I close from work same time as my husband and head straight to the kitchen to prepare dinner, while my husband heads straight to the shower and wait for his dinner.
Life presents several crossroads for women. Our desire to fulfill our productive and reproductive roles is one major crossroad, we must navigate. In essentially all countries, responsibilities for childcare and other homemaking tasks fall predominantly on the wife and mother. The prime childbearing years come during the period when careers must be launched. So, it can be a very difficult period, but some women are juggling both and excelling. But every woman’s situation or circumstance is different. I would therefore say: know yourself, understand your situation and them decide how to proceed.
Very good advice, you are 50! Congrats and tell us how you feel as a Jubileean?
Turning 50 is a good place to be in. It brings with it a certain confidence that you can take on anything in life. So, how do I feel? First and foremost, I feel grateful to be alive and well, I give God all the glory for that. The experiences I have passed through all these years have made me wiser and stronger. I am an advocate for life-long learning, so I have developed myself a lot through the years. I have grown in a number of ways. Now, I believe I have come into my own. I have become my own person. I can say of a truth, that I am at peace with myself. I am not afraid of ‘tomorrow’ because I like what I did ‘today’.
You look amazing what is your beauty secret?
Thank you for your kind comment. I actually do watch what I eat and exercise regularly. Unfortunately, I am not one of those who don’t have to punish themselves to stay fit. I have a slow metabolism rate, so I have to rev it up every now and then. I am very careful too about the products I use on my skin, particularly on my facial skin. I however believe strongly that God’s presence in my life makes all the difference.
You have a book titled “Building the dream”please tell us about it
My new book was written to share my story of transformation from a place of crossroads to a place of purpose and meaning. During the crossroads years, I struggled with low self-esteem, insecurity and fear. These were giants that prevented me from moving forward.
In my current practice as a Psychologist, Counselor and Career Consultant, I have encountered and continue to encounter people who just like I was, are facing the greatest battles of their lives. I have been approached by people who seem to have it all but who struggle with feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, fear, low self-esteem, lack of confidence and an identity crisis. I have encountered adults who are unfulfilled and miserable in their lives. I have encountered people who are passing through “the what is life all about crisis” and in the fiftieth year of my existence on earth, I felt burdened to help in some way. The vision for “Building The Dream was birthed out of the burden. It is a book for anyone tired of being stuck in one place and seeking to find purpose and meaning in life.