How has your understanding of your own leadership changed through the Fellowship to date? How do you now view the role of self-care in sustaining your ability to lead?
One day during my junior year of high school I was in my "Morality" class when my teacher wrote on the board "Truth is" and challenged us to complete the sentence. A few days later, he invited us to come up to the board and share our answers—truth is good, bad, transforming, everlasting, pervasive, omniscient, bold, hurtful, and the list went on. Apparently, over many years of teaching no one had ever completed the sentence properly. Until that day. My classmate got up and put a period at the end of it, so it read: "Truth is."
We are taught to explain, explore, and add. I have a tendency to search for a deeper, broader, or more profound perspective with every interaction. Asking why and continually challenging the status quo has led me to stories, experiences, and impact beyond my imagination. In many ways, possibilities live in the ellipses... in the three dots that can signal... well... anything we want it to signal!
And yet, in a world of incessant comparisons, assumptions, and justifications, there is immense strength in a period. I'll explain more using the fellowship as context. Imagine "I must invest in myself" is on the board and I must complete the sentence. Throughout my leadership journey, this sentence took a variety of forms:
- I must invest in myself because I need a job, and to get a job I need a degree.
- I must invest in myself so I can be more marketable, so I can live up to my immigrant parent's sacrifice.
- I must invest in myself to make a better future for my family and community.
- I must invest in myself because I need to gain credibility and connections to make an impact.
- I must invest in myself so I can be successful and a strong influencer in the community.
While these sentences possess truth or accuracy, they also possess hints and traces of justifying or validating due to external perception. It's less about the words, and more about why I am compelled to say the words. So now, thanks to the Bush Fellowship, I can say: I must invest in myself. Period. Now, do I have reasons to invest in myself? Of course! Have I reflected on why I must invest myself? Absolutely. Am I happy to share additional explanation? Definitely!
Learning to boldly and unapologetically declare actions, with a period at the end, is one of the most powerful lessons the Bush Fellowship has taught me, and how I engage as a leader has changed dramatically through this added lens. I have observed that often the smallest shifts can produce the most meaningful changes, and that's what this is for me—letting go of the apologies, guilt, or insecurities that can sometimes accompany the additional explanation. This is a major shift in my own understanding of leading, and in how I have seen my leadership change throughout the fellowship. And it impacts everything.
I'll share another example, using self-care and sustainability as the topic. Prior to the fellowship, I took nine months between my previous job and current job, including a four-month traveling sabbatical. During this process, I was amazed at how long it look before I felt truly rested. Since then, I have continually taken great effort in prioritizing rest. As I type this sentence now, it really requires no further explanation. But as I reflect on when I first started prioritizing rest, my sentences were full of comparisons, validations, and assumptions.
Again, I make a distinction between (a) me personally knowing my reasons, and (b) me feeling some misplaced and external obligation to defensibly explain myself. Thanks to the fellowship I have a much deeper understanding of what self-care is for me and its role in my long-term leadership sustainability. And I have also a deepened self-confidence and awareness, such that I am not required to qualify each point.
Self-care is investing in myself. Self-care is required for me to be strong. Self-care is sustainability.
Self-care is. It is a force unto itself. It's deeply listening, unabashedly talking, boldly doing, deeply reflecting. It's inhaling and exhaling, reacting and acting, playing and pausing—often without knowing or certainty.
Self-care is prioritizing rest. Rest means consistently sleeping 7-9 hours per night, and more when my body/mind need it. Rest means comfort and warmth. Rest means relaxation, retreats, and being still.
Self-care is prioritizing stimulation. Stimulation means art, plays, and creativity. Stimulation means travel, adventure, and new experiences. Stimulation means challenging conversations, conflict, and disagreements.
Self-care is prioritizing stories. Stories of the past and for the future. Stories from and with friends. Stories of inspiration, sadness, or confusion. Stories of my ancestors. Stories to learn, motivate, and create.
Self-care is prioritizing (re)defining thresholds. Thresholds of discomfort, knowledge, listening, and activism. Thresholds thanks to divergent perspectives and co-existing truths. Thresholds of resilience and fragility.