Nikka Diaz is a Natural-Born Empath

Nikka is a 21-year-old graphic design student and part-time graphic designer who tries her best to live day by day and cherish every moment. She lives in Quezon City, Philippines.

Prologue: I believe the stories we tell one another have the power to change the world. Especially the stories we tell one another about ourselves.

As a society, we focus so much of our attention on the bold-faced “success stories” of CEOs and best-selling authors, the famous and infamous. We get accustomed to glossy, polished anecdotes that are fun to read but hard to relate to. Too often — especially during these times of isolation and separation — we miss the remarkable stories that live all around us.

The neighbor across the street.
The woman behind the cash register.
The co-worker we see every day.

Captivating, inspiring, powerful stories live inside each of us. This series celebrates those stories with 15 interviews of women whose voices you likely haven’t heard before. (Since March is Women’s History Month, it seems like the perfect time for it.) I asked each of these women to share some of their personal story, and talk about how they have found — or are still finding — their own voice.

Today, we hear from Nikka.

Growing up, my mom would always tell me that each person that I encounter will have different views and carry different truths from me. She reminded me to always listen to others and to never be tired of being teachable.

I grew up in Quezon City, which is one of the largest cities in the Philippines. I like to consider myself as one of the lucky ones because I have a family that is very open to each other.

As an only child who lives with my mother and grandparents, they often encourage me to tell them what I feel when I feel it. They taught me the value of listening to others despite having different opinions and views in life.

This has enabled me to listen and connect to people more. Doing this gave me the opportunity to gain friends who have the same heart as me. I feel beyond blessed for having good people in my life who are so selfless and so loving.

The Philippines is a very religious country that often encourages women to be more conservative. Women are expected to be like Maria Clara, a famous fictional character from the books Noli Me Tángere (Latin for “Touch me not”) and the sequel, El Filibusterismo, written by José Rizal in the late 1800s. Maria carried herself in a demure and self-effacing manner. This is how women are represented in Philippine literature.

Despite the expectation that women be like Maria Clara, as time progressed, we became more vocal and learned how to stand up for the things we believed in. We learned not to hold ourselves back and to accept ourselves for who we are.

What is something you’ve made that you’re really proud of?
At the start of the pandemic, my group of friends and I decided to start a passion project, which we called the Stoko Design Studio (ig: @stokodesign) where we take design commissions.

We decided to launch this to earn money to donate to different organizations to help the frontliners. After getting a few projects, we realized how much we loved designing and how we can use this passion of ours to create for people who need help for their business, etc.

I think starting this passion project, despite the pandemic, really opened my eyes to my own capabilities and how I can help people in my own way.

What gets you out of bed on the worst of days?
My love for art and people.

What fears hold you back?
The fear of not being good enough and the fear of failing.

Despite these fears of mine, I learned to accept that failing is an opportunity to learn, and the fear of not being good enough can help me strive to learn to accept myself and to continuously improve myself without being pressured to be something I am not.

What are 3 things about yourself that you did not choose?
Three things I did not choose but I was blessed with are:
1. Being an only child
2. Growing up with my mother and grandparents
3. Being a Filipino

What are 3 things that you did choose for yourself?
Three things I chose and continue to choose are:
1. My set of friends
2. My set of values that I deeply consider as my non-negotiables
3. My career path

I am proud of the people I have in my life. I have never met such selfless human beings who continue to strive to live not only for themselves but also for the betterment of the lives of others.

What aspect of your identity is most precious to you?
Being a woman. I think growing up where women were viewed as vulnerable gave way to the feeling of wanting and striving to become stronger.

How do you express yourself most effectively?
I communicate well through speaking and through my art.

What are the situations that are hardest for you to speak up in?
Situations where I find myself in a room of people who negatively talk about others make me feel the most uncomfortable.

Even though as humans it is inevitable that we talk about others, I do believe that it is better to be careful with the words we choose to say and that if it is needed, it is better to confront and simply be honest with the things we feel.

How do you want to use your voice?
I want to use my voice as a way to make people feel more accepted.

Who is a woman whose voice you can’t get enough of?
My grandmother, Carmelita. I have never met a woman so gentle, selfless, and loving as she is. She even inspired and made me excited to become a grandmother someday!

What is a story you have to tell?
It’s not so much of a story but something I have learned through time — that we can always choose to love.

In moments we are filled with anger and our patience is being tested, we can always choose to step back and be the better person.

Headline History

The titles for the VOICES Series come from Exercise #2 in the Permission to Speak Workbook. The exercise, “You have more power than you know,” encourages participants to choose a title from a list that is offered, or — if none of those titles feels right — to make up one of their own.

“Each of us is our own harshest critic, most of the time,” the workbook says. “We don’t always see ourselves as we are. We instinctively try to hide many things about ourselves — our failures, our mistakes, our weaknesses, our obsessions. …But the things that make you you also give you power.”

Each woman interviewed for the VOICES Series either chose a title for herself from this list, or gave herself a title of her own making.

Reader. Writer. Hangnail biter. @wordsbyladonna