In a Zoom call with a group of professional women last week, one of the participants said, “I need to make space for me.” All the women nodded their heads in resounding agreement.
As we enter COVID year No. 3, we have been asked to: “get used to the new normal,” “roll with this crisis” and “face this new challenge.” This burden has disproportionately fallen hard on workplace leaders, especially many women. I surveyed 20 of the women I work with, as an employee benefits counselor, to check-in and see how they are living with the insane changes we’ve been tasked to navigate from coping with Zoom school for our kids while working remotely, and striking a healthy balance between work and family when your office is in the dining room. The overwhelming consensus was “tired,” “weary,” and “exhausted.” In fact, when I talk to employees of any of the companies I work with, they use the very same words to describe their current life.
The more I ponder this idea of “making space for me,” the more real the concept becomes. At first, I thought it only meant blocking out time on the calendar for personal time, but it’s so much more than that. If we don’t plan to take care of ourselves, the time will quickly get swept up with clients, meetings, and home and family responsibilities. All that rests on our shoulders, and it’s only exacerbated by managing COVID. If we are not diligent, we will ultimately lose the struggle for work-life balance. So, it is vital to look at and solve this dilemma.
As I delved deeper into this idea, I realized we were also talking about something more important than time. What will we do with the time set aside for ourselves? How can we look inward and uncover our strengths, get quiet enough to hear our truths, and understand the best within each of us? If indeed we can reach inside and find “it,” we can unleash the superpowers we all possess that we are trying to untap. I’ve learned that purposefully making space for me—or making myself a priority—allows me to show up fully as myself, with all my experience and strengths, and ultimately brings all of who I am into every aspect of my life. This is the secret to nurturing your unique superpowers.
At a recent Zoom meeting with more than 100 professional women in attendance, I found myself overwhelmed. This was my first time visiting this group and honestly, I was initially concerned about the temperature of the room, but it turned out to be such a positive, joyful experience. Having that many women working together to encourage one another— professionally and personally—was a powerful thing. Inspired, I started thinking more about what it means to make space for our authentic personal selves balanced with the ability to keep performing at our highest level.
It takes courage to give yourself what you need. It’s very easy to busy yourself with so much that you forget to listen to your own body, mind and soul. You are worth prioritizing, and your strength and value do not come from what you do for others.
The Best Version of You
No one else is you. What you bring to the table for others is a unique and compelling expression of your capabilities. Finding your unique self with introspection will prove to be your edge in business and during difficult times. Here is my list of tips to uncover your best self:
- Write down what you need and what you are grateful for.
- Prioritize rest, food, exercise and time in nature.
- Encourage others—a simple word of encouragement is all it takes sometimes to brighten another woman’s day.
- Let friends know you appreciate them. Maintaining relationships will help sustain you. I like to grab note cards and, when I see the opportunity and send out a hello-you-matter note.
- Be transparent. Instead of suffering in silence, open up to those in your circle of relationships. We are all in this together, so let’s have empathy for one another.
- Practice patience and grace with yourself and each other. I have plenty of patience and grace for others, but I sure am hard on myself. Being gentle is a work in progress for me.
- Take time to remove the distractions and focus. This helps us focus, maximize energy, and creates time for other things. Right now, this has become more difficult, and yet more vital.
Emily Hodges Wallace is an employee benefits consultant for Arrow Benefits with more than 20 years’ experience. Emily concentrates on meeting employees where they are with local knowledge and services combined with national resources. Born and raised in Healdsburg, Emily enjoys living on her family ranch off Dry Creek with her husband, Scott, and 90-year-old mother. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (707) 789-6980.