I served as the first Global Director for Diversity and Inclusion at Tiffany & Co. When I began the role I was excited about the idea of making the company more inclusive, inviting and safe for all employees and customers. After years in the field, I was feeling the weight of the often thankless and at times unpopular nature of my diversity and inclusion work. One day, my boss, who was a supportive Senior Leader saw my high potential and knew I wanted to make a difference but her advice on how to get my next promotion included not really speaking my mind in meetings with the other Senior Leaders and being more differential.
Based on my 12 years of corporate experience, I knew she was trying to help me “play the game” and get to the next level, but at that moment, on that day, something shifted in me. I just couldn't do ‘just one more thing’ for the approval of the HR leadership team. I had already spent 5 years jumping through these hoops, 5 years of putting the company’s mission ahead of my own sense of self, 5 years of not being true to myself or really taking care of myself and 5 years of worrying too much about what everyone else, especially the Senior Leaders thought. I was done. The scales had suddenly tilted drastically toward me and away from others. I now cared more about myself and my own ability to thrive.
I wanted to create a safe space for people to be themselves, to be the most creative they could be, love what they do, have their voices heard and contributions within an inspired work life, but here I was feeling let down, despondent and tired of trying to create this kind of culture for everyone else in the company while not experiencing it myself. I was actually suffering. I now had frequent migraines and I gained 20 pounds over those 5 years without even noticing.
I could no longer stomach putting anything ahead of my wellness, not even the fat checks I was offered! Other DEI leaders had shared their own experiences with the physiological impacts of this work, so I knew I was not alone, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I found that knowing about it and experiencing it were two totally different things. In hindsight, I see that I needed a partner / a coach to help me move through this situation.
Instead, I quit and I immediately took a trip to Bali (dramatic I know). With the guidance of a spiritual teacher, I started to really reckon with myself, rediscover who I was and remember how to care for myself lovingly. I read, journaled, meditated, took long walks, drank tea, got massages (lots of them), did yoga and cried. When I got back home, I went on to take a course on the spiritual path to higher creativity which brought me even deeper into myself and long abandoned passions.
While leaving my role was right for me, I couldn’t help but to wonder: if I had had a partner or coach on the self care side of things, could it have been different?
That’s when I decided to start sharing with other Diversity Equity and Inclusion Leaders about my journey and all that I learned along the way. Things do not need to get so dire before we make a change. If I had the support that I am now offering you and a pathway to maintaining a high standard of self centered nurturing while in my DEI leadership role, it would have made a world of difference. Through this experience I have made a commitment to dedicate the rest of my professional life to helping other leaders access the joy, health freedom and connection I have and they deserve inside and outside of work!
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