Cultivating Growth and Building Community, Part 3: Caring for Ourselves and Recognizing our Value

Welcome back to my June blog series on cultivating growth and building community!  Looking back at my June 1 and June 8 posts and working on this one, I’m realizing that this is my third post of the month and I’m only just now getting to Day Two of the Black Women Leading LIVE Summit!  Reading over my notes and pulling them all together for these blog posts, I’m reminded all over again what inspiring and impactful discussions we had.  I’m still sitting with many of the things I learned, and I hope you’ve been able to find some “gems” that are meaningful to your life in these reflections as well.      

Leveling Up in Our Careers

Day Two of the conference had a thought-provoking and productive start, as Black Women Leading founder Laura Knights led us through a morning session focused on our next level career growth strategy.  Laura structured the agenda so that this was a working session guided by a worksheet for us to complete and a guided set of discussion topics.  We first examined our “current state” in our career and shared about our “vision state” and the things it might take to get there.  With our table-mates, we talked about our current strengths, our “gaps,” and skills we needed to develop to get to the next level in our careers.  The worksheet also helped walk us through an inventory of the relationships and resources we need to move close to that vision state.

Some of the questions that I wrote for further exploration for myself: Am I pushing myself?  Is this really what I want to do?  Am I being safe? Am I sitting in comfort?  I’ve definitely taken my career to new levels over the past couple of years—with moving into a more senior leadership role and my full-time job, launching my business, and tackling my longtime goal of pursuing ICF coaching certification —but I still think it’s important to take time to reflect, with intention, on what I want that next “next level” to look like, and to set new goals as I achieve my current ones.

Living Better through Better Sleep Habits

Then we got to hear from Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell whose session was called “Sleep Better to Live Better:  How to Elevate Your Life Through Better Sleep.”  Dr. Holliday-Bell shared seven tips for how to start doing this:

  1. Prioritize sleep
  2. Learn your sleep need to function optimally.  (Some of us need more sleep than others in order to feel healthy and well-rested.)
  3. Start your day with sleep in mind
  4. Manage daily stress and anxiety
  5. Create a soothing bedroom and bedtime routine
  6. Protect your relationship between your bed and sleep
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This session spoke to me in so many ways!  I’m fortunate that I don’t often have trouble sleeping, but some of these tips (especially #4 on managing stress and anxiety!) are ongoing things I need to work on.  And I’d never really thought much about sleep as something that’s essential for us to protect and prioritize, so Dr. Holliday-Bell really got me thinking about how important it is to be intentional about sleep and rest.  I know that I can work to implement some of these practices to function more optimally in order to live better.

Another High-Energy Afternoon

After lunch we got a special performance by Tarrey Torae whom I had never heard of before but I’m looking forward to listening to more of her music.  She even did a mini lesson on stepping and had everyone up out of their seats learning how to step—another great example of ways that the conference organizers came up with to pull us out of that typical post-lunch energy slump! 

The afternoon continued with a panel of the Black Women Leading Coaches and there were sooo many gems dropped that I’d run out of room if I shared them all, but some of the most impactful ones that I wrote down were about boundaries and wellness.  The panel talked about how setting boundaries is really about teaching people how to treat you; setting, communicating, and upholding boundaries; and holding yourself accountable for maintaining those boundaries.  That can be tough to do, but we were reminded how important it is to be consistent in enforcing boundaries and not to waver—because ultimately, we won’t reach the level of success we aspire to without setting firm and clear boundaries.  Like many of us, I’ve sometimes struggled to set boundaries or say “no” to things in the past.  The panel reminded us to stop apologizing for your boundaries and that we don’t have to apologize for taking care of ourselves.

After discussing boundaries as a form of self-care, the panel shared other ways that we can look after our wellness, such as taking time to rest—and not only taking time, but intentionally scheduling those rest breaks so that we can be sure we take them!  This resonated with me because in the past I’ve sometimes caught myself falling into a pattern where I keep meaning to take time off, but then something always comes up that gets in the way or makes me think I should postpone my break to take care of whatever thing that popped up that seems more urgent or important.  I was grateful for the reminder from the panel that we deserve to take care of ourselves and as one panelist said “we are worthy of pampering ourselves!” and need to give ourselves permission to do so.  Everyone emphasized the wellness is a lifestyle and a practice. I came out of that session feeling re-committed to prioritizing my wellness and well-building and I’ve been using the phrase “I will chose self-care for myself” as an occasional mantra these last few weeks.

Knowing Our Value

Turning back to career considerations, our next session was Salary Negotiation with Lenna Turner.  This is a topic that is SO important for women and for Black women in particular as well as other women of color.  It also resonates personally with me because—perhaps like many of you have experienced as well—I’ve been in positions over the course of my career where I realized that I was being underpaid and undervalued and wished that I’d been more assertive in my salary negotiations in hindsight.  Of course, it’s hard because as women we’re often socialized to be nice, agreeable, non-confrontational, etc.; to be grateful for a job offer we’re given and worried about coming across as “greedy” for asking for more money.  Pay discrimination is also very real.  Employers and policymakers bear the primary responsibility to end it, but while we’re collectively worked toward this broader systems change, Lenna shared some great tips to help us raise our voices in the salary negotiation process. The core principle that Lenna shared is “Know Your Value,” and from that, take steps to convince your boss of your ”value contribution.”  Be prepared as you head into a salary negotiation, use specific examples, connect the dots between your accomplishments and skills and the value of your work, be confident, and be open to feedback.  While I’ve improved in my salary negotiation skills over the years, I’ll definitely be channeling some of Lenna’s advice when it’s time for my next compensation discussion with my boss. (These principles are also helpful to me in thinking through how I price my own services in my business.)

Making the Most of that Salary (or Business Revenue)

Our final session of the day was “You Earned It, Now Protect It: Financial Management Strategies” with Nikki Tucker.  Now, I thought I was doing an okay job with my finances.  I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I’ve also developed quite a bit of expertise in personal finance and financial coaching through my day job in the nonprofit sector.  But this session gave me some great new ideas!  To be honest, I was even a little overwhelmed at first—Nikki gave us a list of about 15 “to-dos” for our finances but also encouraged us to give ourselves “permission” to take only what we need.  I’m not going to try and be an overachiever and tackle all those 15 things, I’m going to take them one by one and over a reasonable time frame.

Nikki started by letting us know “we can’t protect what we are not aware of”; in other words, the first step (even though it might be a little scary) was taking stock and taking an honest look at where we are with our finances.  She gave us a “You Earned It Worksheet” to use during the session and for follow-up after the session.  It was broken in the following categories:

  • Security
  • Credit
  • Assets
  • Love/Marriage/Divorce

And the session ended with an “organizational pulse check” (kind of like a quiz) which I got 80% on–but who’s counting. (I can be competitive with myself but have to remember that it’s not a bad thing that I still have room to learn and grow! 🙂)

Winding Down

After another incredible day of conference sessions, dinner on Day Two was on our own.  While I had so much fun turning it up with the other conference-goers at our dinner cruise the night before, it was also nice to have some quiet time to myself to unwind.  I took time before dinner to go to the beach and take a few pics.  Then I laid out my towel, turned on my praise & worship music and just reflected on the past two days of the conference.  Taking the “rest,” “wellness,” and “self-care” themes from the session earlier in the afternoon to heart, I used this as my time to relax by the beach, hear from God a bit and just listen to the waves.  Wherever you are in the world—beach or no—and whatever wellness and self-care mean to you, I hope you too can find some time this week to relax and reflect.