“Woman to Woman: Let Me Tell You Something I Have Never Told You Before.”
by Courtney Reynolds and Kacie Nice
This blog entry comes to you from two women in leadership simultaneously entering distinct yet diverse chapters in their lives. These two define their two-plus year relationship as strong: a relationship built on women’s advocacy, teamwork, and ample time spent learning from one another. However, after two years of working together it took collaborating on this project to realize that there was some vital feedback they had yet to share with one another. While they understood that critical feedback is an area of challenge within any relationship, their failure to share this information with one another surprised them since they both consider themselves to be highly invested in one another’s success. Their hope is that their relationship and their lesson learned is one that will resonate with other women in leadership working collaboratively across the country.
To Courtney from Kacie,
You are the most amazing woman I have ever met. You are strong, intelligent and you have a unique talent for turning a bad day into an inspired one. As my role model you set the bar high, but let me tell you something that I have never told you before: Sometimes I feel like you set me up to fail.
You always push me to do more and to do it better. I appreciate this. I need an extra push sometimes. However, I need you to think about my schedule when you are challenging me to do more and to be better. Every time I see you, you ask “How are classes?” “Are you putting enough time into them?” “How many hours did you sleep last night?” “How close are you to finishing that project?” And my least favorite question is “What fun things did you do over the weekend?” When I did the math I came to the conclusion that if I were to fulfill all of the expectations I have of myself combined with those given to me, I would be 19 hours short of time each week. Enough is enough. These are unrealistic ideals and this seemingly constant failure brings me down. I get the feeling I’ve been set up.
Courtney E. Martin wrote in her book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, “we are a generation of young women who were told we could do anything and instead heard that we had to be everything.” I get excited when we speak of all that I’m capable of but when I’m unable to reach some of these aspirations I feel inadequate. I am just now realizing that I cannot do or be everything and that is a hard idea to accept. I need you to accept it too. Help me take the pressure off myself. Instead please help me focus on a better balance of what needs to be done and how to manage what can’t be done.
To Kacie from Courtney,
You are one of the most intelligent, driven, charismatic, talented, and generally outstanding women I know, but let me tell you something that I’ve never told you before: I’m worried about you.
I’ll be honest, when you walk into my office much of the time you seem worn down. You also have a knack for pasting a smile on your face to convince me you’re okay. I allow you to tell me that you’re alright and then we move ahead with business and our checklists. I send you back out into the world for the week, sometimes even telling you to go take time for yourself, to go for a run, or to go take a nap, but I am worried. I am worried because I know that you’ll go out and take care of every item I added to your workload with attention to detail and deadlines. I am worried because you’ll abandon your own self-care in pursuit of student leadership perfection if you have to. And what’s worse? My careless mention of naps and exercise and other things I’m sure you’d love to do comes with no promise of valuable credit awarded to you. It’s like giving Monopoly money to someone who’s starving and saying “go buy yourself a turkey dinner.” It’s kind of mean. Okay, let’s face it, it’s hypocritical.
In an article published in Spring 2012 by The Association for Christians in Student Development it is said of the college student experience that “women often surpass men in leadership positions, engagement and academic performance. While women tend to move up the ladder quickly in student life and leadership positions, they are unlikely to experience the same outcomes in the workforce.” The article also highlights the issue of the gender gap in time spent on leisure outside of work after college. There’s an obvious pattern that should be the cause for those of us working with women in student leadership positions (and beyond) to navigate this work carefully. Life balance may be a worn out term but a healthy aspiration needs to take the place of “the path to success comes via outworking your male counterparts.” I fear that may be the message that some of our young women leaders are facing.
As someone who I know is a significant influence in your life, I need to work with you to make sure you’re navigating your workload with efficiency and a healthy awareness of yourself. What I need from you is to spend time identifying your boundaries and to practice establishing and communicating them. We need to spend more of our time together being strategic. I have to be frank, this may not result in an exact “balance” but it should result in discovering ways to find energy and a feeling of peace and fairness. It requires things like delegation and assertiveness which aren’t always pleasant. I can help you with these things but I need you to be straightforward and I need you to keep me in the loop. In return I pledge to respect your boundaries and advocate for you along this journey. Kacie, I cannot wait to see you soar.
Articles & Books Referenced:
Martin, C. E. (2007). Perfect girls, starving daughters: The frightening new normalcy of hating your body. New York: Free Press.
Wilson, A. (2012). Female career trends and the implications on higher education. Association for Christians in Student Development. Retrieved from http://www.acsd.org/article/female-career-trends-and-the-implications-on-higher-education/
Courtney Reynolds is an Area Coordinator at Purdue University and also serves as the primary Advisor for Purdue’s Residence Hall Association. You can follow her on Twitter @c_w_reynolds
Kacie Nice is a Management major at Purdue University and also serves as the President of Purdue’s Residence Hall Association. You can follow her on Twitter @kacienice