Updated: May 7, 2020
As women, and especially Black women, we all too often develop a "cape complex". That is we find ourselves attempting to be superwoman - all things, at all times, to all people. The reality is, such a thing is humanly impossible. Superwoman is an expectation that we can no longer embrace, nor tolerate.
My cape complex was deep. It resulted in me taking my first vacation in 2019, at the age of 35. I had hit peak exhaustion and frustration. I never went anywhere without my work phone being attached to my hip - I slept with it under my pillow. Never missing a work call. I still haven't learned how to put up a vacation response - this is my next professional goal. On my vacation, I turned my phone completely off - for a full week. To my surprise, when I returned to work everything was functioning. It was as if I hadn't left. What did change was me. Bear with me here, but I realized that my ability to pull away meant it was time for me to go, and in an interesting paradox, it also meant I waited too late to rest. I now hated my job. I hit the dreadful burn out.
This is what happens when you're hellbent on breaking barriers and achieving. So much so that you skip out on the joys of life, opting instead to chain yourself to a desk. This conduct may carry you far in the short-term, but it isn't sustainable.You will eventually hit a wall, burn out. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. The most valuable lesson that I've learned is the importance of rest and self-investment. You have to put yourself first from time to time and invest in your own care and happiness. Take the damn cape off. I do a lot of public speaking, and I'm always asked "how do you strike work-life balance" and "how do you prevent burn out". I hated these two questions because I never had an answer. Admittedly, it took a global pandemic for me to learn the true value of rest. I underestimated the effects of my career burnout - I was supposed to move back home to NC to rest and recover, instead I ran or Congress.
Sisters, I will never again miss an opportunity to travel, to enjoy life and to vacation. We cannot be our best to others, if we aren't our best to ourselves. I will not be your superwoman.