If you feel exhausted or overwhelmed with everything going on in our lives and our world today… If you’ve been hustling, breaking glass ceilings, and making space for yourself and others at the table… I see you, go-getter, and this is for you. This past year, all of our coping mechanisms have been challenged by social isolation, stress, grief, and anxiety… sometimes, all at once. Now that the 56-month-long hot mess that was 2020 has finally (finally!) come to an end, it may still sometimes feel difficult to make time for YOU.
Trust and believe: you deserve some self-care, self-love, and some much-needed “me” time. Caring for yourself will help you level up your game in all areas of your life. As women, we are often underrepresented, underpaid, underappreciated, yet overworked. Prioritizing self-care (even if we have to literally schedule it on our busy calendars) equals more energy, more creativity, and increased ability to provide quality service to our clients & customers.
If you’re a woman-identifying person in a tech or creative role, read on for some tips:
Ask for What You Need.
I know, I know. Asking for help can be the most difficult thing to do sometimes. But as Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, is quick to point out: it’s okay to receive without giving. In fact, let’s normalize asking, and let’s normalize letting others help us. It doesn’t make us selfish or dependent. It doesn’t mean we get to beat ourselves up or feel guilty afterward. Accepting help can help you reach your goals quicker, whether professionally or personally. And, as Tiffany says, “Generosity is like karma; it ebbs and flows.”
Another tool for your toolbox is your inner circle, your community, your crew. Surrounding yourself with the right people can have lasting impacts on your career. Consider finding mentors and sponsors to help you advance your career. Ask them for help, advice, and resources when needed.
For instance, when I was starting a coding camp to encourage other women to join the tech field, one of my sponsors let me know there were existing, open-source frameworks that I could use without having to reinvent the wheel. (Looking at you, Adobe and Treehouse!) Standing on the shoulders of the giantesses who came before me saved me a ton of time, effort, and energy.
Our communities are also our support systems when times get tough. As a woman in tech, and even as a woman with the privilege of white skin and decades of experience, I have been told that I have no place in my industry, that I don’t belong at the table. A former boss (herself a woman) once looked me in the eyes and told me, “I see no evidence of real talent in you, and the only thing you have going for you is your positive attitude.” The community of women at my side were the support system that got me through those moments, providing insights and advice, and talking me off that ledge when I began to question my worthiness in my own field. I will forever be grateful to my mentors and sponsors, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
In addition to asking your sponsors and mentors for help, also consider sponsoring and mentoring others. Remember: it’s about collaboration, not competition. We are stronger and more powerful together.
This tip might be unconventional for a “self-care” list, but hear me out. Negotiating for your needs – including asking to be paid what you’re worth, asking to be included at a table, or asking for the respect you deserve – can absolutely be an act of self-care and self-love.
Unfortunately, we as women are socially conditioned to “people please,” to “know our place,” to play nice, and this can lead to lack of negotiation skills. If you’re a creative or a woman in tech, negotiations might include things like asking for a raise or promotion, or negotiating for a work schedule that allows you more family time and work-life balance. It could even include negotiating for more time to process new information and weigh out all options, especially if you’re living with any form of neurodiversity or neurodivergence.
Whether you’re just getting started with negotiations or whether you’re a seasoned pro looking to level up, here are some resources that can help you in your journey:
- Know your BATNA – your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. In other words, have a Plan A (what you really want) but also come up with your Plan B (the minimum that you’ll accept if the other party denies your Plan A).
- Understand game theory. As someone who’s played video games for years, yet is fairly new to negotiations, I was shocked to learn of the overlaps between the two. As it turns out, negotiating draws upon game theory. Think of a negotiation like a strategic chess or checkers game. Read up on game theory to help understand what motivates the other party, and identify ways to play the negotiation into your favor. If games are your jam, Google some AI-powered simulation games to help you practice before negotiating in person.
- Know when a situation is zero-sum or a distributive negotiation. Then, change your approach accordingly. For instance, if you’re negotiating with someone who is generally warm and reciprocal, you might get further by being polite in an adversarial situation. However, in a zero-sum negotiation, you’ll need to take a tougher approach. This means adjusting your language, your tone, and your brevity to the situation.
Read the above resources, wear your best outfit that says, “I did not come here to play with y’all,” then go out and get what you deserve. Added bonus: you’re paving the way for the next woman to advocate for herself and overcome generational poverty cycles, too!
Protect Your Energy
Call it magic. Call it energy. Call it sanity. Call it whatever you want; just protect it from getting depleted. It can feel isolating being the only woman in the room or at the table. It can feel exhausting having to continually negotiate and advocate. It can feel draining to be interrupted, to have someone speak over you, to have colleagues take credit for your ideas, or to be “mansplained” to again during a business meeting. If these experiences take their toll on your mind and emotions, press pause and listen to your body. In the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
We live in a society that doesn’t want people to speak up for what’s right. We live with systems that want to keep us in our place. Even if you’re a seasoned pro at balancing your personal and professional lives, getting it done, and negotiating your worth, you will occasionally need to recharge. And that’s more than okay; it is healthy and normal.
Even if you can only afford a few minutes per day, here are some ideas for protecting your energy:
- Have boundaries. As the brilliant Coach Colene says, we’re all constantly teaching others how to treat us. Set and maintain healthy boundaries in the workplace. Be clear about what you will (and will not) tolerate from your trickiest clients and coworkers. This podcast episode from Natalie Lue of Baggage Reclaim discusses workplace boundaries and how to avoid the pitfalls of wanting everyone to like you.
- Practice radical self-love. Follow thought leaders like Sonya Renee Taylor of The Body is Not an Apology, who says that “we can’t build any of those things that we said we want to build without first building the infrastructure inside of ourselves.”
- Give yourself grace. Follow poets like Alexandra Elle — whose book After the Rain changed. My. Life. Don’t give into imposter syndrome. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate difficult situations with human imperfection.
- Breathe. MTG: morethangraphics podcast guest, Michael Tonge, provides some gentle meditations called The Serenity Project to help you get centered, even amidst a stressful workday or heavy emotions like grief. (Proceeds from this project benefit a nonprofit network of Black meditation and yoga teachers.)
- Implement healthy mind-body-spirit habits. Odyssey writer Maya Elie recommends doing whatever you need to do to raise your vibe, whether that means drinking more water, getting more sleep, or making a playlist of your favorite, uplifting songs. (Check her playlist and her list of daily affirmations here; trust me, you won’t regret it.)
Whether you’re a creative, a woman in tech, an entrepreneur, a mother/stepmother (or bonus mom!), or any combination of the above, I hope these words resonate with you. Prioritizing your self-care can be incredibly difficult, but on the other side, it can also help us feel more grounded and balanced. The resources I’ve shared in this article have helped me feel more enabled to carpe the H-E-double-hockey-sticks outta this diem. I hope they will help you, too, whether personally or professionally.
Brittany Robinson is a supportive bridge, using instructional design skills to connect people to knowledge and opportunity to true potential. After realizing the lack of equity, diversity, and inclusion in tech, she began creating and facilitating code bootcamps throughout the nation. She’s a Coro Northern California Women in Leadership Fellow, and a former cohost of the MTG podcast. With 10+ years of experience at the intersection of technology and andragogy, she helps universities, enterprises, and governments transition to online and blended learning in our post-COVID world. Many of her courses reach 500 students per month. She currently serves as an Instructional and Learning Experience Designer at Fidelity Investments. Having started her career working for a federal criminal defense law firm, she’s also an Instructional Design Copy Editor at CAP Law, a national leader in the legal education field. She enjoys making eLearning effective and memorable, changing tech ratios, and helping new information sink in like settling sands. Learn more at https://www.notanotherbrittany.com or connect at https://www.linkedin.com/in/brittanythompson/