I recently guest hosted a wellness-themed #k12prChat on Twitter, which quickly turned into a busy discussion of various approaches to create wellness in a demanding profession.
As the chat was wrapping up, I saw a tweet that really made me pause. As soon as I read it, I remembered a moment a few months ago when I found myself face-to-face with this struggle — and it wasn’t easy.
In February, just a few months after starting my new job, I was invited to participate in my company’s leadership challenge weekend, a program that connects employees with company leaders, as well as team members across the country. One of the three days we met included reviewing confidential feedback from colleagues who we asked to complete an online leadership inventory prior to the challenge.
If you’re like me, you immediately page through a report like, looking for comments. (Who has time to decode data bars and Group Norm indicators when there are juicy bits of narrative to read?) But as I skimmed through kind praise and positive reflections, my eyes suddenly stopped on a single comment from one of my 10 reviewers, under the “Follows through on commitments” category.
As my thoughts unraveled, I fought to pull myself back to center. (Brene Brown readers will notice this was a textbook shame spiral.) Even the mildest of criticism is hard to swallow when it hits in a place of such great vulnerability.
The weekend wrapped up, and I headed home. A long sit in the San Diego airport allowed me time to decipher the bars of data and Group Norm indicators — which is when I noticed that the lowest score I got on the Commitment category was a 7 out of 10. I found no shame in that. I also remembered that all those who completed the leadership inventory were people I knew and trusted, making me certain that the comment was never intended to be mean.
As I reflected and shared the weekend experience with a few others over the next few weeks, I realized that few things affected me more personally than that comment. But each time I shared the comment — with my husband, with a close friend or two, and eventually with my therapist — I realized that it was far more triumph than failure. After all, I had tried for a solid two years to put my family first. Maybe this is how it looks.
Eventually, I reworked my understanding from letting the world down to ensuring my job doesn’t force me to let myself or my family down. And that, my worried friend, is the importance of boundaries.
Fact: We are master jugglers in life. There are at least a half dozen balls for work, plus balls for our family, our friends, our own wellness.
Fact: We can never juggle all of them, all of the time.
So perhaps instead of asking ourselves who we might let down now and then, we remind ourselves that we’re at our best when our job leaves room for what matters most. And that begins with an honest conversation with your boss about healthy professional boundaries.
This post was first published as an e-mail to the #k12prWell distribution list.