After college, I successfully landed an entertainment news role. I was passionate about my work and grateful for obtaining a job in my desired field. But like most entry-level positions in the creative industry, the pay was left to be desired. I quickly realized that I needed a second job to pay my bills.
Multiple career fairs later, I started a position with an insurance company.
My new role felt like my first “big girl” job because it had full benefits, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Plus, I could work this job during the day and my other gig at night. I excelled in my new role – exceeded the required enterprise accuracy score, received several cash awards, and was consistently selected to train my team members on different learning variances.
Everything was great initially, but unfortunately, the job that guaranteed financial stability became a nightmare after a while.
The first red flag was that this insurance company had an extremely high turnover rate primarily due to the relentless workload; therefore, teams were forced to consolidate and change leadership constantly. I was quickly burning out but overlooked the deteriorating company culture because it allowed me to keep my journalism gig and offered endless overtime. Also, the manager I had at the time was great – he provided opportunities for growth and mentorship.
It wasn’t until I reached my fourth manager that I had my first experience with a hostile work environment.
After several months on her team, my manager started the process of “quietly firing” me despite excelling on the team.
Team Building refers to quiet firing as a “passive-aggressive approach to performance management.” Supervisors will create unpleasant work conditions, which can cause an employee to suffer mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically.
She stopped providing feedback, blocked promotional opportunities, and eventually denied my yearly raise. I felt hopeless. I couldn’t properly do my role some days because my manager spent most of her office hours avoiding her team. All issues on the team were ignored, and any work-related questions went unanswered.
Whenever I walked into the office, it felt like a dark cloud was cast over me because most of my day would consist of doing others’ jobs or explaining to other managers why I was reaching out to them instead of my own. It wasn’t until I worked myself nearly to death that I realized this job wasn’t worth it.
My health declined rapidly. I started to experience excruciating body aches and fatigue, and my hair was falling out. Clocking into a job where I was just a number, and work still had to be completed despite my failing health was exhausting. I ignored constant pleas from friends and family members to get help out of fear of being unable to pay my bills.
The last time I was admitted to the hospital, my manager called me, and instead of asking how I was, she asked when I was returning to work. The team’s numbers decreased drastically, and upper management wasn’t happy. My manager couldn't care less if I was okay as long as I made her look good. I’m not sure why it seemed like a shocking revelation at the time, but it did. The next time I went into the office, I resigned.
After a few years of forcing a working relationship that wasn’t meant to be, I finally left.
And in all my years of working, that job was the only one I ever walked away from. Although the toxic environment influenced my decision, something about quitting made me feel like a failure. Truthfully, I felt guilty for quitting at first. I believed it was irresponsible to quit without a backup plan. However, I later learned that my manager's hostile tactics, which I loathed, ended up being a blessing.
The entire experience made me realize that God had repeatedly shown me to leave that toxic job, but I was too afraid. It wasn’t until He made me sit still that I learned that this door was meant to close. Strangely, I’m happy my manager acted the way she did because I would’ve never had the courage to leave since that job equaled stability; I was complacent because I could pay my bills.
And that’s the life of so many currently – staying in an uncomfortable position because it offers stability.
That job also taught me the importance of pivoting. It doesn’t matter what your plan or backup plan is; you must be able to pivot at any time – be flexible and adaptable. The last lesson it taught me was never to settle for a job regardless of pay. I am no longer afraid to turn down a job if it’s not a good fit.
My physical and mental health is far more important than a job that can easily replace me at any moment.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by FG Trade/ Getty Images
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
Featured image courtesy
Developing a wellness routine is essential to your mental well-being. When we neglect ourselves, that neglect can bleed over into every aspect of our lives. As a wellness founder, for a minute, if I'm honest, I thought I had wellness down to a science. I assumed it would be easy for me to keep up with my routine because I fought so hard to get here. That falling off would be impossible for me until I did, and I realized that healing is, unfortunately, not at all as linear as I thought it would be.
Navigating through the pandemic took me through levels of depression and burnout that I never thought possible, and one day, I looked up and didn't recognize myself in more ways than one. My yoga mat that had once been at the foot of my bed for daily stretching was rolled away into a dark corner. The dust had formed on my gym bag and gua sha tools, and I hadn't seen my massage therapist in over five months. The wellness rituals that I held close became a stranger to me, and I found myself asking, "How did I get here, and more importantly, how do I get back to what feels like home to me?"
Many times I felt ashamed and embarrassed and couldn't put language to the fatigue that I couldn't shake. As a Black woman, especially one that has accomplished some level of success, there's the pressure that you put on yourself, and then there's the pressure from those around you to keep going, to work harder, to keep soaring. I never wanted to do the opposite, but I yearned for solitude.
It's such a strange feeling to be happier than you ever have in your career but simultaneously feel yourself slipping away.
Once I discovered that I had been experiencing cycles of burnout, I knew that I had to take action to pull myself out of the hole I found myself in. If you're struggling to grab hold of your wellness routine, it's still possible for you to apply these practices in order to get back to putting yourself first.
1. Be gentle with yourself.
Give yourself grace and gentleness as you form these good habits again. Ignore the urge to talk down to yourself and harp on what you can't change, as it will not only delay the process of you enjoying the routine again but because it isn't kind. Negative self-talk is the last thing you need; extend gentleness to the part of yourself that needs to step away and welcome her back into your life.
2. Slowly work your way back into your routine.
If you were a 5 a.m. gym girl, perhaps you should head back to the gym on the first day at 7 a.m. and, by the end of the week, work your way up to 5 a.m. Did you have a morning journaling practice for twenty minutes a day? Start back up, taking the pressure off with a five- to 10-minute session. Allowing yourself to start slow gives you a small victory on this journey.
3. Get clear on your goals.
As we change, so do our needs, especially as it relates to wellness and routines, and as a result of that, your routine might need to look different this time around. Sit with yourself and determine your wellness goals - mind, body, and spirit- and then create a game plan. From there, decide what habits you used to enjoy still hold to your needs now, and as time progresses, merge the needs of former you and who you are now together.
4. Create systems of sustainable rest.
Burnout and exhaustion are often so normalized for Black women, so we have to go out of our way to ensure that we are cared for. Often, as a society, we view rest as something that you do when you're tired or overwhelmed in order to refuel and get back to work, but we've had it all wrong, especially when it comes to Black women.
Our rest is crucial because our lives depend on it. Working until we can't go anymore is not the way. As Nap Bishop Tricia Hersley once said, "Rest is resistance." Your rest does not need to be reserved for summer vacation or PTO. Your rest can be a nap, moving and working slower, not feeling the urge to respond to messages and calls immediately, or moving at a slower pace.
Find your way back to yourself, sis. You got this, and I can't wait to see how your life has changed once you begin to prioritize yourself and your wellness again.
Featured image by Eva-Katalin/Getty Images