I have strived for excellence my entire life. I am a recovering workaholic…language that I know is negative. Ideally, I would find a way to describe my issue in a way that is more positive, but I honestly haven’t gotten there yet. It took me a long time to realize that there was a cost to the way I was operating – my health and wellbeing.
Wellbeing was a foreign concept when I was growing up. It was not part of the vernacular like it is today. But even so, other substitutes like “self-care” and “wellness” were not spoken into the ether. Not at home. Not at school…and certainly not at work.
What is the purpose of this wellbeing campaign?
The past two years, I have been very open about sharing my wellbeing challenges and my journey towards integrating practices that support me. Time and time again, people have thanked me for speaking up.
It is not very often, so I am told, that people of color and women put their business out there. With so many folks in traditional media and on social media connecting and sharing their stories, I thought, “How can that be true?” But it is a big world and I recognize that if people are compelled by who I am and what I am sharing, I am happy to be the messenger.
I was recently reminded that one year ago, I was averse to sharing my personal business in a public forum. I believe that stepping outside of my comfort zone is when growth happens…and my intention for 2020 is to be bold!
So, I consider this my year-long Public Service Announcement. If you want to hear the voice of a black woman business leader who lived a life of janky wellbeing and has learned from it, then read on. And if you have, or still are, living that life, now you know that you are not alone.
My Campaign Goals
I believe that we can Live in the AND. Meaning, we can perform at work and at home in a powerful AND healthy way. We just get to be clear about what is important, identify the tradeoffs and make choices that will move us towards how we want to be and what we want to accomplish.
By the end of 2020, I want to accomplish three goals with this campaign.
- Build awareness around the many wellbeing domains. Why? So it will be easier for us (you and me) to identify goals and practices to support integrating wellbeing into our personal and professional lives.
- Create safe spaces for us to share and be open. Why? We get to have support and it is difficult to receive support if folks do not know when, how or why to give it. There is so much power in sharing (and there is such a thing as “TMI”).
- Reinforce that we get to lead by example. Why? Leadership is about leading and inspiring others to create and how we (you and me) show up – no matter where we are – matters.
Follow my campaign at Shamis2020.com.
How did I get here?
After my stroke and bout with TB, I started seeing a plethora of specialists. When they asked me about my life and how I spent my time, they looked at me in horror when I explained how I spent my time (um, at work, duh) and how I managed my stress (nonexistent). I thought work/life balance was a myth and I told them as such.
For many years, I endured sleepless nights. A constant churn in my stomach. Localized alopecia (aka, chunks of my hair falling out that required several rounds of steroid shots in my scalp). Losing 20 pounds because I was too stressed to eat. Rapid heart palpitations. And, my personal favorite, my limbs not moving before I had to get on a 12 hour flight oversees. Likely a panic attack. (sigh)
It took several years of stress absolutely consuming me before I made a commitment to myself. You might be wondering, “Why didn’t you just go to the gym and workout?” I did. I got a wonderful personal trainer that helped me look like a Nubian Queen. However, I was only pulling one lever. Wellbeing is multi-faceted. I look at my wellbeing like a game of whack-a-mole. More on that another day.
What does “wellbeing” mean, anyway?
Wellbeing is a tricky word. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.” That has been my New Year’s greeting and resolution for several years now. So, I guess I should have been wishing myself and others a “Happy Wellbeing”. Ironic that I am posting this on the first day of the new decade. No coincidences. Yet, I digress.
If you know me, then you are aware that I am a big fan of research and evidence. I know what wellbeing means to me; however, In preparation for this campaign, I went looking for consistent definitions from various academic and scientific sources to ensure that I was covering all bases and, if I chose to eliminate or add a component, I wanted to be transparent about it.
I will focus on the following components of wellbeing; therefore, I have provided definitions so we are on the same page.
Mental wellbeing: This includes emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing.
- Emotional: The ability to practice stress-management techniques, be resilient, and generate emotions that lead to good feelings.
- Psychological: I will use Carol Ryff’s six factor model, which includes 1) self-acceptance, 2) positive relations, 3) autonomy, 4) environmental mastery, 5) purpose in life and 6) a sense of personal growth.
- Social: The ability to communicate, develop meaningful relationships with others and maintain a support network that helps you overcome loneliness.
Physical wellbeing: The ability to improve the functioning of your body through healthy eating and good exercise habits.
Spiritual wellbeing: The ability to find inner peace and harmony, usually stemming from beliefs, faith, values, ethics or moral principles that provide purpose and direction in our lives.
Societal wellbeing: The ability to actively participate in a thriving community, culture and environment.
I am not going to focus on economic wellbeing, i.e., having present and future financial security. I get to stay in my lane and there is only so much time in the day. I will note that the pursuit of economic wellbeing is intricately related to the other components on which I will ruminate.
I will not explicitly focus on workplace wellbeing, i.e., the ability to pursue your interests, values and purpose in order to gain meaning, happiness and enrichment professionally. My rationale is that the components that I discuss address us as humans, which, of course, impact how we want to lead by example everywhere.
Basically, everything I am talking about encompasses workplace wellbeing. I am simply not going to use that language. Many of the conversations I will be having this year will integrate multiple facets of wellbeing at any given time because the components of wellbeing are complex and interconnected. Make sense? Are you with me? Fabulous.
While I have many credentials, I want to say right now that one of them is not a degree in psychology and I do not have a medical background. I am speaking from my own worldview, as a human with a diverse personal and professional background who has experienced a number of ups and downs during my years on this earth, as we all have.
As with everything I do, I seek to connect, learn and share everyday. I will approach these conversations authentically by being in inquiry. That is, creating space to actively listen, learn, reflect and ask questions. I hope you find my journey compelling and engaging. Join me!