Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Helping others live their best life has been my life’s work. As a macro social worker, I have led social change movements in communities, teams, and systems towards a more just and equitable world, often forgetting about myself in the process.
All of that changed after a finger wagging from my doctor.
Allow me to explain:
Three months before my 30th birthday, I visited my primary care doctor for my annual physical. I was in fairly good health - or at least I thought I was.
Then my doctor looked at me and asked, “Are you experiencing more stress than usual?”
He must have noticed my pink highlighter with the latest federal rules & regulations on Obamacare I was reading while waiting for him to come in.
He pointed at me and said, “You’ve gained weight, your cholesterol is too high for someone your age, and your blood pressure is too high for anyone at any age.”
Clutching the invisible pearls around my neck, I asked, “So what does that mean?”
He replied, “You have two options: we can discuss medication – which you’ll probably take for the rest of your life – or you can change your lifestyle, come back in six months, and we’ll re-evaluate.”
I went home, tail tucked between my legs, and reflected on what he said. I took stock of the changes over the past year and finally understood.
I had been pouring from an empty cup.
You see, at the time, I had two big, important jobs. One was with a nonprofit that I co-founded & led – an unpaid labor of love. I was also the Interim Executive Director for a statewide advocacy nonprofit – a role I stepped into when my predecessor left after the onset of several health challenges (and at least one stay in the hospital) due to work-related stress.
I was giving so much energy & time to my work and my community, and I was neglecting my own needs. I had lost myself while giving of myself.
I loved my work. I got into so much “good trouble,” and it was fulfilling and energizing. It was also slowly killing me because I wrongly-assumed that that's what was required of me. Nonprofit Land is full of work martyrs, and it didn't take long before I became one. But that fateful finger wagging shook me out of my passionate, workaholic comfort zone.
I had a new job to learn – how to keep my proverbial cup filled so I can fill others’. Because I can only serve others when I have served myself first. My health is still a work in progress, but I've come a long way since that day in the doctor's office.
I've (mostly) learned how to say no. I've (mostly) maintained strong boundaries between work and home (#ThanksCovid). I've (mostly) remembered that I'm a human being, not a human doing. Let's be real - I'm a work in progress. Part of my being-ness is learning new things to do. With and for myself. With and for my community.
Helping others live their best life is still my life’s work. That's how Wellologie came to be – to help other Nonprofit Unicorns strive for their mission without burning out in a blaze of glory. Because we don't need more martyrs - we need more of you.