On a cold, snowy January morning, I laid on the couch with my foot elevated, two weeks post-op from surgery to repair torn cartilage and ligaments in my right foot. In an attempt to regain some semblance of normalcy, I checked my email for the first time in two weeks. There it was, an invitation to serve on a community advisory board. My immediate thought was, “how can I respond favorably in my condition?” My second thought was, “how can I let them down?” Feeling conflicted, I put down my phone and knew I was in a quandary.
Feeling both overwhelmed and torn about my limited bandwidth, I began to think about how to respond to the invitation. As I thought through the situation, I realized this predicament was not unique. As a matter of fact, it is a common challenge for many professionals, especially those who work in the non-profit sector or a smaller organization. It is essential to realize that none of us is a real-life super hero.
As a bilingual network weaver and public health professional, whose familial roots in Denver can be traced back over 100 years, my generational community involvement and experience are often sought out. Although I serve on several other community advisory panels and coalitions, there truly was a viable reason to recognize and welcome my own limitations. Many years ago, I realized prioritizing my work, was imperative to ensure I maintain a reasonable work-life balance and to be able to say, “not now,” instead of “NO”!
One successful strategy I had previously employed to maintain my sanity and physical well-being, was to identify an alternate individual in my network to fulfill a specific request or gap. Recalling this previous strategy not only freed my mind, but also allowed me to focus on my recovery. Consequently, I pulled out my contact list and identified someone to fulfill the vacancy on this board. Immediately I felt a sense of relief when I contacted a colleague and explained the board opportunity. Thankfully she was extremely excited and interested in pursuing a new adventure.
As a result, I contacted the individual who sent the invitation and explained the situation. This problem solving exercise not only assisted me in identifying an emerging leader to fulfil a leadership role in the community, but also provided a new and challenging opportunity for my colleague. Ultimately, this experience facilitated an opportunity to be a mentor, while enabling me to grasp the urgency of sharing the workload.
Embracing my limitations has been a step in the right direction, to liberate me from my self-imposed pressure, to be “everything to everybody.” As I continue to grow in my career, it has become abundantly clear that prioritizing my work also includes knowing when to check my ego at the door and when to bow out gracefully. In the end, this strategy has also enhanced my network weaver expertise and allowed me to accept and promote the importance of a limited bandwidth, which has lifted an albatross from my broad shoulders.
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About the author:
Stephanie is a second generation native of Denver from a mixed Native American and Latino background and is fluent in Spanish. She possesses over 20 years’ experience working to address social and economic barriers to health and health/education inequities in high needs and under resourced communities. She also has extensive experience in grant writing, grant reviewing and providing training and technical assistance and is a Promotora de Salud. Stephanie recently earned a Master’s in Public Health from UCD-Anschutz, after previously earning a Masters of Nonprofit Management from Regis University. She is currently the Regional Health Connector/Director of Community Engagement at the Mile High Health Alliance, where her work is committed to improving overall health outcomes for Denver residents. She serves on several community advisory panels and committees in Denver.
You can contact her at email@example.com