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Much of what we've learned about being "professional" makes us sick

6 ways to do it differently and be well.

I define professional wellness as the capacity to grow, change, and evolve in your professional identity. It also entails a core belief that although professional challenges may be present, they do not hinder you from moving forward or require you to show up as a fraction of yourself. Being planted in a work space that has fertile soil (though it may bring some weeds and challenges ), should produce growth and evolution and help bring out the best version of you-it will facilitate professional wellness. Professional wellness in any role is my wish for all Black women-especially Black women leaders. Though this domain of wellness is critical to our well-being and capacity to thrive, it is not often achieved because it is not part of what we've learned about what it means to be a professional. Much of what we've learned about being professional makes us sick. We haven't been taught how to pursue professional wellness. We've been taught to endure.

Endurance is rooted in survival, and is reinforced by a scarcity mindset and core beliefs that are limiting. For many Black women, there is an unconscious mindset that conditions us to endure abuse, disrespect, and normalize burnout, anxiety, and depression that results from being overworked, over-extended, and in staying in spaces that don't value us. We inherit these mindsets from those who taught us. And those who taught us were schooling us based on the challenges they faced at a particular point in time. But times have shifted. And so we must shift.

Our shift can honor our elders and ancestors survival by thriving. And to thrive, we have to do "professionalism" differently.

To do professionalism differently means we challenge ourselves to see our relationship with our employer as a relationship that has standards, and require us to show up in ways that will center out wellness. Ultimately we are responsible for our well-being, and we cannot wait for others to prioritize it for us.

To prioritize our health and well-being in our professional pursuits, we need to do 6 things differently:

1. Examine our ways of being: Our ways of being is the way we are moving through life, and in this case, how we are moving in our professional settings. Ask yourself, how do we show up. Is it restrictive? Is it as a fraction of ourselves? Do you feel the need to code switch, self-silence, turn down your cultural expression, represent the community, or police your tone. Or is it in the fullness of yourself, operating in your full genius?

2. Identify the core beliefs that drive your behaviors, and if necessary cultivate new narratives: Our ways of being are a result of the core beliefs we believe about ourselves and others, and that world is reflected in how we lead. We have to really focus on what is it that we believe about ourselves. Do we believe that we are worthy of being well? Being valued? Being in a space that brings out the best in us? Do we believe there are better jobs out there and work environments that are more conducive to our mental health and well-being? Do we believe endurance is our only plight? How do we believe we should proceed If someone is committed to not seeing us? Do we believe it's our duty and obligation to change them? The answers to these questions may mean our core beliefs are driving behavior that is making us sick. And if so, we have to pivot.

3. Identify and establish healthy boundaries: Without defining what we deserve as a professional, recognizing when boundaries need to be set and how to enforce them will always be unclear. We have to explore what boundaries need to be implemented based on the unique challenges we face in the workplace and with our wellness at the center.

4. Have critical conversations when boundaries are crossed or when something isn't working for you: In our role as leaders, especially as Black women leaders, there are so many critical conversations that will occur. This is a harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless. There are many invisible forces in the workplace that impact our sense of well-being. Rather than endure the invisible focus that cause harm and stifle our capacity to be effective leaders, having critical conversations helps us to disrupt patterns of self silence and preoccupation with not being the “angry black woman” and instead leaning into conflict to address what isn't working for us.

5. Develop a strategy to navigate ruptures in relationships (because they will occur): Conflict In the workplace Is inevitable, and ruptures in relationships will occur. Rather than avoid addressing the rupture, get comfortable navigating ruptures and repair. No, not all ruptured relationships can be repaired, but some of them can. If you don't have those skills, we are happy to teach them at our workshop.

6. Be intentional about cultivating community. It is not uncommon for Black women to be among the firsts, few, or only in their roles. Isolation is real and it can cause you to question your reality and second guess your standards. Being in community with other Black women helps to anchor you. If community is not present where you spend your time professionally, you have to be intentional about seeking it out.


If you need help with any of these, we got you. The Executive Leadership Development (ELD) workshop is a 6 hour workshop for Black women leaders that brings together women from diverse industries across the U.S. to:

  • help participants identify their core beliefs about what it means to be leaders

  • identify the intergenerational patterns they've Inherited

  • Identify how it shows up in their leadership styles

  • learn the framework for navigating functional conflict, and steps for navigating ruptures and repair

  • then put their new skills to the test through role play and practical scenarios that require them to implement their new approach to navigating challenges in the workplace.

--Dr. LaWanda Hill is a licensed psychologist specializing in Black women wellness She is the owner of Dr. LaWanda Hill, LLC, a mental health and wellness agency dedicated to helping Black women break the generational cycle of survival by thriving.


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