Rediscover Your Voice With Havalee Johnson
Meet Havalee Johnson. Havalee is not just a pharmacist; she's a heart-centered force of nature with a passion for service and advocacy. From Jamaica to Canada, she's walked a path of self-discovery and growth, choosing to amplify her voice and impact the lives of others. Through her venture, Immigrant PharmAssist, Havalee opens doors for individuals seeking to transition into the Canadian healthcare system, bridging dreams with reality.
Havalee's journey echoes a universal struggle – living under the weight of 'shoulds.' Society hands us a script: go to school, follow a certain career, check certain life boxes. For years, she carried the echoes of 'shoulds.' Be quiet, be seen but not heard, be invisible, and these words etched deep, but Havalee refused to let them define her.
With time and resilience, she reclaimed her voice. Now, Havalee stands tall, her voice a powerful instrument for change. She's not only discovered her gift but she's also learned to wield it with grace and purpose. Her journey is a testament to the strength that lies within us when we shed the 'shoulds' and embrace our true selves.
Watch Havalee's Story
Jennifer: Welcome to the I Don’t Give a Should Show – a podcast exploring ALL the ways that women SHOULD all over themselves. How many times do you find yourself acting out of obligation or doing what everyone ELSE expects from you without stopping to consider why? Where do all those beliefs that are driving you come from? If you’re tired of feeling resentful, overwhelmed, stuck, exhausted or pissed off you’re in the right place.
Shoulding all over yourself is a real thing, but it doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat.
I’m your host Jen Sherwood, and I spent waaaaay too many years trying to prove that I was good enough and worrying what other people thought while avoiding conflict at all costs. Today, I don’t give a should – well not as many anyway and neither should you. I’m talking to women like you who figured out how to stop shoulding and start LIVING.
Today, my guest is Havelee Johnson, a heart-centered, multi-passionate Jamaican pharmacist who self-sponsored and moved to Canada. She's been evolving and discovering how to use and amplify her voice through advocacy and in service of others. And through her company, Immigrant PharmAssist.
I love it so through her company, Immigrant PharmAssist to create a pathway to transition into the Canadian healthcare system from outside of Canada.
It's so good to have you here - welcome!
Thank you for having me, Jen, how are you?
Jennifer: I'm great.
This is such a joy to be here with you and for those of you who weren't off camera with us, we've been having a good time giggling and getting ready to get started. Now that we're here, and we're ready, I can't wait to share your story. To just ask you the question, what was it like for you when you were living under the shoulds?
Okay, so I just want to say it's a pleasure to be on this platform with you and so I want to thank you for having me.
So for many years, I have been living under the shoulds and I thought I'd borrowed this from someone recently who said that our biggest competitors, the status quo, you should go to school, you should get this type of job, you should get married, you should have children, you should buy the business you're working in. I was having such I wouldn't say it was a hard time but I don't think I was living true to my alignment living under the shoulds. I've been told by a parent, you should assist your older sibling in paying their rent, you should buy the pharmacy that you are working in, that would be a better decision for you.
I've been under so many shoulds, and right now, I'm so happy that I have stepped into my calling. I have been doing much better - I mean, a lot better mental space. One of the biggest shifts for me was as a child, I was told that I should be quiet because I was a very talkative child, but then I was told that I was ugly, so I should be seen but not heard.
I was told that I was ugly, so no, I should not be heard, and I should not be seen. I've had to live with that for many years, close to three decades. It was like an albatross around my neck, for sure, and recently, I have rediscovered my voice.
I am amplifying my voice and I'm using it to help other people and I believe that is a beautiful gift and I just need to learn how to hold it.
Oh my gosh, okay, so much to unpack here.
I love that you're already, you know, shifting to the gifts of what you've learned when you were a child and I have heard this from a lot of clients that they really had heard as children, you know, that old adage of children should be seen and not heard.
It makes it really difficult to speak up so you said this, that terrible thing was dropped on you. And then you were told you were ugly, which is so not true. You're a beautiful woman - I can see you for those of us who can't see heavily right now. She's absolutely, and she's got this just million-watt smile, so you know, none of that stuff that we're told as kids is.
It's true, but we take it in as true, so you said there was this albatross around your neck. Can you talk a little bit about those times as you were growing up and deciding what you wanted to do? How did those shoulds around you and the things that you'd heard - how did it affect how you how you walked in the world, how you felt how you made decisions, you know, what came out of that for you?
Actually, I actually believe that the lie that was told to me for the first 11 years of my life, yeah, but even after I discovered the truth, I still subscribe to that subconscious bias that I'm ugly.
I would step away from positions of leadership, I've been nominated head girl before and I declined. I usually stay away from any sort of position that will highlight my strengths my gifts, and my talents, but inevitably, I would come forward and take over a group as the leader because it is just a part of my DNA. It's just who I am, but for many, many years, I suffered low self-esteem.
A lot of people don't know this because of the way I operated. I seem to be operating within the norm, but I know that I was living a mediocre life. I wasn't living true to who I am at my core, being told that I was ugly, being told that I should keep my mouth shut. It caused me to be in vocal suppression. It affected my self-confidence and my self-esteem, and even though I seemed as if I was driving, I was doing, you know, living the average middle-class life; I was told I should be grateful for what I already have because I was aspiring to go to Canada.
I was told you have to, to good jobs, I had two jobs at the time, you have a nice apartment, you have a nice car, what more do you want, but I knew that something within me felt like I felt like I was with her inside, I felt like something inside of me was dying. I needed more, I needed to do more, so I had to answer that calling, and I had to step outside of that box. I was boxed in, I was in a mental box and I needed to step outside of that because now I'm realizing that there are people who are waiting to hear my voice, knowing that I can advocate on other's behalf and advocate for myself.
For many, many years, I was confined to that box, and it affected my self-confidence and my self-esteem.
I think it's so interesting what you're saying.
I think a lot of women can relate to this, that while on the outside, we really look like we have it all together. We're very good at putting it together and accomplishing things and getting things done. On the inside, I would imagine there was a lot of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, fear and doubt and maybe some shame about what people had said about you, and then, you know, kind of piles on top of it.
You're supposed to be one thing, but you don't quite feel that way, and so it just all this sort of impostor stuff shows up. Is that what it was like for you?
Honestly, I suffered a huge bout of imposter syndrome, and it was just in 2021, when I started my more personal development inside communities that empowered women, that I realized that I had impostor syndrome.
I'll just give you a quick example here: I was contacted by the president of my high school's past student association. I was told to get a headshot, write a quick autobiography about myself because they were publishing this book that was going to be sent to past students in the diaspora. I could not find good things to write about myself as an accomplished pharmacist with five years work experience.
I felt I single handedly self sponsored myself and moved to Canada, where I started working as a pharmacy intern, even though I was told I should get Canadian experience first, before I venture into that sort of thing. I suffered impostor syndrome and it's very liberating to know that I'm aware and I'm doing something about it. I'm not there yet, but I'm a work in progress.
For anyone who's listening, who maybe doesn't know what impostor syndrome is - it's particularly strong in women, but it's when you don't feel like you've earned your accomplishments and you can't take credit for them. There's this fear of being an imposter that somebody's going to figure out some day that you aren't what it appears that you are, which is ridiculous, because Havalee has plenty of education and degrees behind her.
That's not enough to convince our subconscious that we are doing good things and that we are accomplishing our goals. There is just this feeling of not being good enough that is so deep within us that sometimes it doesn't matter how many degree initials we have behind our name, or what you I mean, I love this that you bucked the system at every step where people at home were saying, just be grateful for what you have. I mean, what more could you want?
You have a car and an apartment and your insides are screaming, this is not what I'm destined to do. This is not it and you said you were in a box, but you kind of just kept kickboxing through the side of the box to get to the next thing.
There was this internal tension, there was this internal struggle? I don't know. I didn't know how to articulate it to the people around me because they were coming from a place of love, but also from a place of fear.
If you evolve into who you are meant to be, they are going to lose that connection that they have with you. It's also fair that you're showing them that they aren't actually advancing in their life when they could be doing much more for themselves as well. I think that's where that came from, and I'm glad you mentioned the part about feeling shameful. I felt very ashamed to speak because I was called a chatterbox. I was told to keep my mouth shut and I just couldn't help it because whenever I'm speaking to people, I'm speaking life into them, I'm empowering them. I'm encouraging them.
That's when I feel most alive - I've been suppressing my voice for so long, it was killing me inside and I couldn't do it any longer. I had to stand in the truth of who I am as a person.
It's not surprising when you think about the fact that you couldn't articulate it. We are not a culture that emphasizes really examining how we feel we're a culture that suppresses it.
We grew up in different places, but I imagine it's not that different. I can't imagine, you know, there's not a lot of cultures that are really good at this. If you don't know how to articulate what you're feeling, and on top of that, you were told don't speak up.
It's not surprising that you couldn't articulate it. I am very curious, Havalee, was there something that happened that really made you start seeing that you were responding to other people's opinion and what had happened in the past?
Absolutely, I was.
I recently told an audience that I'm a recovering Yes woman. I would actually prioritize other people's, you know, what, whatever they imposed on me. A lot of people like to super-impose their beliefs onto us.
They would ask all these favors, and I would put aside the things that I needed to get done to, to people, please, basically, because that was where I found my worth, I thought I had to be altruistic, I thought I had to serve everyone else's needs. Honestly, that came from the things that happened through my childhood, where, you know, children's personalities are developed during the first seven years of their lives.
Whatever trauma we experienced, then it carries over and transcends into our teenage years and into our adult years. I basically found my worth in my academics, that's where I found my worth, and actually trying to get people to, like me, I knew my family loved me, but they did not know how to nurture and foster my curiosity. They would say these things, it came from inside the house first and then when I went to school, I got bullied.
I actually was a reinforcement of what happened, and honestly, I am just so happy. I'm so thankful that I've come to the realization that I am not responsible for the things that happen to me. I'm also responsible for how I respond to it going forward.
Yeah, I think that's beautiful.
What's interesting, and I really want to point this out for our listeners, this is very common for women, we are very socialized to believe that our worth comes from external sources. We go in, we seek it out, we're looking for approval, we're looking for praise, looking for that a right like women do really well in educational environments, because we can work hard to get that approval that that external, add a girl, you know, mentality, and it really is ingrained in us.
It's unfortunate, but thankfully, we see it and hopefully, the more we talk about this, the more we share about it, the more women will see it, and hopefully impact the generation coming up behind us but it's really there. It's so buried in us, we don't even know, and like you said, it comes from the home first. Those folks were raised in the same way, so you know, they're doing their best, and yet, it was imposing upon you. For some reason you had this fire in you, that wasn't going to stay at a little pilot light, it wanted to turn up the gas on it.
I remember at one point in time, I was told, you know, in the household that I should do this, and I should do that. I also felt a duty and responsibility because I'm coming from, let's say my background, very humble beginnings where my dad did not progress beyond elementary school.
My mom didn't progress beyond high school and it was just about two, three months ago that I recognized myself as a first generation University grad. I just liked it for so many years. I graduated from university nine years ago, and I did not even acknowledge the fact that I was a first-generation university grad.I was told I should be grateful that there was a family member and speaking my truth, I know it may hurt some people's feelings, but I have to speak the truth. We can't sugarcoat everything. I had a family member who was stealing from me and I was told that I should be grateful that they are actually taking things from inside the house and not from without, like from outside.
So wait, you were told you should be grateful that they were coming from within the family rather than from a stranger.
That it was happening inside the house, and that family member was not going to somebody else's house.
That they were robbing you and not someone else - either way, it's that you would be told that-
Honestly, I don't know, I have moved beyond that. I have, and I'm so grateful that I recognize that it was something that was very wrong, and I don't hold them hostage to it.
Being told that I showed, I think that is absolutely wrong and I know that I'm not the only person who's been through that, oh, no particular scenario, people have been going through a lot of these things. So grateful that Jen, you and I can be here and highlight these things and amplify the voices of other people, because I'm sure people are going to step forward and say, your story resonated with me, because I went through a similar situation.
That is the hope that's the whole reason I do this podcast is because generally speaking, women who are responding from expectation or shouldn't realize that's what they're doing.
They're just living their lives, and so I'm hoping that as we share these stories, somebody will do exactly that. They'll see themselves in it and think, oh, hold on a second because when I was in my own shit story, I really had no clue that things could be different.
I just thought this is the way it is - I didn't realize I had choices, and then I literally was making choices. Maybe just not from the place I wanted to, I just didn't know it.
It is very disempowering, actually, and at some point in time, like I had that fire, as I told you before, I felt like I was withering inside. That little flame, that little flame that something really ignited that I am not quite sure where that exact light bulb moment came from but I kept pushing through, I kept breaking through barriers, I kept setting goals for myself and keep smashing, I kept smashing through them. Eventually I feel like I'm in a place where I'm feeling more liberated, and then no longer a victim of should, because we live in a shared economy, right?
We should go to school, you should get a job, you should get a particular job because a lot of people are actually surprised that for the past couple months that I stepped away from the dispensary. They're like, I can't see you not working in a pharmacy because I've been in a pharmacy for 14 years. That wasn't a decision I took lightly, and it's not that I have no intention of going back to the dispensary. It is that you should keep your pharmacist job because you have your pharmacy degree. It's unfortunate - that's how many people operate in their lives that we live under the shoulder economy.
We subscribe to it, and we believe.
It goes beyond just economy to right, you should get married, you should have children. I mean, the way we think, you know, the way we think about women who choose not to have children, I mean, all of these things.
It's amazing, so okay, we're on the other side, there will always be sure how we respond to them and I think that's an important message. It's how you decide to interact with them or not, so what would you say life is like for you now, happily, when you're really looking at being in alignment with yourself?
Yeah, actually, it was when I started doing more mind work - I know you're big on mind work, but it was when I started doing more mind work. I started figuring out what my true values were, I did an exercise where I figured out what my top five values were. And I didn't realize that I was living true to most of my values. I just couldn't clearly articulate the actual value. And ever since I got into that place, it's like I stepped into my power. And I am liberated from being told you should do this. I am operating in my authenticity, I'm operating in my own strength and know that I know that my voice is my superpower.
My friend who was having this discussion, we were like, we have no special gifts, no special talents, we don't play any sports, we can't, you know, do we can't do any technical things. We don't know how to do fancy hair. We just did not know what our true talents were. And it was just recently, since I hired my pharmacist coach, that I recognized that my voice is my superpower.
I'm amplifying my voice because even as a kid before I was suppressed, I was my siblings advocate, whenever they needed anything from my parents, like I was their spokesperson, I wasn't afraid to ask for anything that I wanted. I was like, fearless girl. And then when I got into that space of being shut down, it's like I lost my power but now I've regained that.
It's very liberating, it is very empowering.
Isn't that so interesting that your natural gift was to advocate for others and to speak up. And that was, I imagine that was too powerful for your parents. They were like, ah, you need to close that down and of course, as a child you did. That's what we do, but it's so beautiful when you can figure that out as an adult.
I love that you have this story that you're like, you don't have any superpowers. Now you're like, oh, my god, I have an amazing superpower and I can use it to help others.
It is a light bulb moment when you find out what your true power is. A lot of people feel powerless, going through the motions, living the same life every single day, not stepping back, not peeling back the layers, not recognizing what is at the heart and center of what it is that they ought to be doing, what your true purpose is.
I'm so happy that I'm in a space where I can advocate for others and actually empower them and help them to see the light.
Yeah, and I just want to say to anybody who's listening, you don't have to uproot your whole life and move to a different country and start a business that isn't necessary.
This is Havalee’s journey, but to be able to figure out what you value and live from there. I love that you brought this up. By the way, I just hosted a retreat, I don't know when this is going to air relative to real time, but I hosted a retreat and that was part of what we did was really looking at core values because they're guideposts. You know, if you live like we do as women, and you're told that all of your value comes from outside of you, it's very difficult to follow a path and make decisions. Once you have an idea of your core values, I love that you brought that up, and it sounds to me like you are living from those core values.
I can imagine there are people listening who might be interested in following along with you pharmacist, not pharmacist, Jamaican, maybe Canadian, American - it doesn't matter.
How can people find you if they want to, you know, have a little more Havalee in their life?
Okay, okay, so I'm actually on LinkedIn, which is currently my favorite platform. I'm using my real name. I've been asked what your real name is, and my name is Beverly Johnson.
I'm also on Facebook, and on Instagram and if you search Immigrant PharmAssist - you will find me as well through a search engine optimization.
We'll put that in the show notes, but before we wrap up, I do want to ask you, just to expand just a little bit on who you work with and what your business is doing.
So basically, I'm the pharmacist who's assistant, mainly international pharmacists, graduate graduates who wish to transition smoothly and seamlessly into the Canadian healthcare system. This basically stems from me working with colleagues who are internationally trained as well but they have lost their sense of empowerment, when they come to Canada, they get stuck, you know, in the position of either an assistant or thinking that they're not good enough to pass the board exams, which has a really relatively low pass mark for international graduates.
I've seen what damage it has done to people's self-confidence, so I want to help people across the world pharmacists, especially to break the barrier to change the statistics to smash through that 41% is pretty low. I know that all pharmacists, they are very well trained, highly educated and skilled professionals, they are capable, but they need to have that sort of GPS out roadmap, somebody who's gonna stand in the gap for them and advocate for them and that is where I stepped in.
I love it.
What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing you've created. You figure this out for yourself, and now you're here to advocate for others. So fabulous - thank you so much for being here.
It has been such a pleasure to hang out with you today, and thanks for sharing your story.