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?
This Fellowship has taught me so much about myself as a person, mom, and a community member. My understanding of my leadership has dramatically changed since starting the fellowship. There are various things I learned about my leadership since starting the Fellowship. When I started out in the Fellowship I thought to be a leader was about always being strong, being selfless, always being there at all times for others, and sacrificing time for self to fight the fight as much and as hard as you can.
I thought I always had to be strong and never let anyone see me sweat. I couldn’t be vulnerable and open up to people about where I was struggling. I also felt I couldn’t let people and let them know what I have been through in my life fearing they would see me as an unfit leader. Therefore, I held a lot in and didn’t seek help when I was feeling overwhelmed and doubted myself. Over the last year and a half, I have learned how much this impacted my ability to be a great leader. Now relying on others to heal and to process the emotional aspect of my work was only wearing me down, so I was not able to show up as my full self. It also hindered my ability in working in the community because I was struggling to get people to make a connection with me because they were unable to see themselves in me.
My thoughts around being selfless were rooted in the fact that a true leader doesn’t worry about what they need; they worry about what others need. I would do and or give anything anyone asked of me without expecting to me treated the same in return. Often this left me ran over and other always taking but not being there for me when I need their shoulder or assistance. This year has taught me that all this did make me more emotional and lose faith in the people I wanted to serve as a leader. It also at times left me thinking I didn't want to be in this work anymore because I was feeling so abused by those I was dedicated to helping. I also reflected on how doing this continuously reinforcing to people that it was OK for them to do this and it was hindering their ability to exercise their leadership.
Another lesson I learned was it was not responsible leadership to always sacrifice my time always to show up to be present at everything. I did this because as an organizer you build the relationship through showing up and being a known face to be involved. Therefore, I went to every event and met with every person when they asked even though it was not aligned to my priorities. Going to every event not only affected my personal life and not being able to have work life balance but it also made me less effective at the things that were a priority for myself and work. It also made me feel burned out faster and then I would crash. Once I crashed, I would have to disconnect for periods at a time to refuel.
Regarding how I view self-care in sustaining my ability to lead, I completely see the value in it when once before I always put others before myself. Earlier this year I did some work with my coach to identify eight values that drive the person I am. The eight are as followed: Spirituality, Mothering, Education, Security/Safety, Personal Health, Equity, Community, and Success. Most times this constant need to serve came at the cost of me giving up my value on personal health, mothering to my own to kids, and success. The most valuable lesson I have learned from this is I can’t honor any of my values without carving out time for my daughters and myself. Without doing so everything else in my life lacks the real quality to produce the results I want to see and my desire to develop future healthy leaders is diminished because I am not modeling the values I claim to hold. Subsequently, I learned that sustaining my self-care is not only important so I can show up at work and perform my job well, remain healthy for myself and kids, as well as make sure I am modeling self-care, so the people around me don't feel they practice self-care.