A few years ago, I wrote an article called “The Price of Success“; I started to think about the harm of being told that working twice as hard is the only pathway to success.
I now better understand from therapy that overworking is a trauma response. The moment I heard this, I thought, but it’s all I know, yet it is also the moment I realized I couldn’t continue as is.
I am a Black Woman who has imperfectly navigated a nontraditional path into executive leadership while working in for-profit and nonprofit sectors. It’s never been easy for me, yet there are very few safe spaces where I can tell my unfiltered story.
I decided to tweet about unlearning overworking as just a random thought, but the retweets and responses taught me valuable lessons.
You see, I am aware of the imposter syndrome and feeling like you may not be fully qualified to do something even if you are, but this is something different.
I am not the only one feeling overwhelmed by continuing to perform at the highest levels of excellence while ignoring the physical and mental toll it takes on your well-being.
You can be well accomplished and continue to overwork, and one day an ally can turn into an adversary. No manual prepares you for the aftermath, yet you must find a way to maintain your sanity.
Forbes recently released an article called “The Infuriating Journey From Pet To Threat: How Bias Undermines Black Women At Work,” finally, there is a name for what I have been feeling in isolation after achieving extraordinary success in mostly all-white spaces.
According to the article, “Black women, seen initially as likable, moldable novices, become more suspect as they grow in their jobs and exert the influence and authority they have earned.”
One day, while in a women’s group as the only Black Woman, I decided to share my thoughts on my challenges while navigating my career path. I was immediately gaslighted and told it undermines my leadership to show weaknesses and moments of vulnerability. If I want to continue being successful, then I must look perfect and nonthreatening. I couldn’t possibly have any problems because I had a title and accolades. I left feeling like it was a waste of time, especially since the purpose of the meeting was to empower future generations to be successful in their careers.
In hindsight, I was being told to overwork, pretending I don’t have any problems even though it denies my humanness.
I often wonder about the physical impact of experiencing, reading about, and seeing racism play out daily in clips that go viral on social media.
60 minutes released insight into how Black Americans are more prone to health issues because of racism.
The key takeaway from the segment is the impact of constant exposure to adversity. It doesn’t matter how educated you are or how much money you make; racial disparities can negatively affect your health. You can’t overwork yourself out of facing this reality.
Lately, I have been taking more time to reset and scale back my efforts to do everything to the point of overworking.
It is a complete shift for Black Women to prioritize mental health and wellness publicly. I am so proud of young Black athletes for placing mental health as their top priority over the expectations of perfection in competitive sports.
As more Black Women become influential leaders, there must be a space for us to thrive without burning out through the foggy lens of overworking.
Alicia Morgan is an award-winning executive leader who advocates for equity in K-16 education. She is a TEDx Speaker and Dallas Business Journal Women in Technology Awards honoree.