It might sound odd, but sometimes, during a marriage life coaching session, I will encourage one or both spouses to hold a memorial of sorts. Why? Well, whenever they tell me something like, they got married because they felt pressured to do so, or they realize, in hindsight, that they didn't know each other as well as they initially thought that they did, or they think they got married at the wrong time and/or to the wrong person, my first response is not to encourage divorce or even separation. No, what I recommend is that they take some time out to grieve the initial decision that they made—to honor their feelings in that way.
Why do I do that? One, because as a child of divorce, I don't take that kind of decision lightly. One way or another, it affects all parties involved, oftentimes in ways that can't be predicted at the time the divorce papers are signed. Indeed, no matter how many folks do it, divorces aren't as simple as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It is far more serious than that. Two, grieving things makes it easier to make wiser decisions on the backend. Meaning, if you don't go through the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—typically you'll just keep rehearsing your regret (which usually breeds resentment and extreme bitterness over time) instead of putting a purpose-filled plan in place for how to move forward.
And three, it has been both my personal experience and observation that sometimes, once we're given the space and time to fully express our disappointment, once we can honor instead of fight our true feelings, rather than leave a situation, we become strong enough to endure it.
I've sat through way too many sessions to not believe that at least one person is reading this because they can totally relate to where some of my clients have come from. If that individual is you, and you absolutely regret who you are currently married to (not because they are abusive or don't love you; that is another article for another time), before doing anything else, fully process these tips. I'm praying that they will help you to figure out how to save your marriage rather than end it.
Revisit What Regret Actually Means
I say often that I don't feel comfortable being around people who claim that they don't live with any regret. Regret means remorse and, unless you are the most arrogant person on the planet (and you're not; our current president probably is), I'm pretty sure that there is something that you feel badly about doing—past or present.
But here's the thing about remorse. It literally means "deep and painful regret for wrongdoing" and wrong means "not morally right" or "deviating from truth". OK, so if you are feelin' where I'm coming from on the regret tip, and you do regret who you chose to marry, ask yourself if it is because you feel like it was morally wrong to have married them? That somehow you lied to yourself—or to them?
If that is indeed the case, the beauty in having this type of clarity is you can get a foothold on where to go from here. Like if you married them in order to get over someone else or you married them because you were tired of being alone, that doesn't automatically mean that the marriage is doomed. What it does mean is now you have a place of truth to operate from. Now regret is not just an emotion, it's its own call to action in a way.
Ask Yourself If It’s “Currently” or “Constantly”
I can't remember who said it, but I remember hearing a wife say, "I can promise you that you will have a moment, even as early as on your honeymoon, when you will ask yourself, 'What the hell did I just do?' Exhale and move on. It's totally normal." That said, I don't know one married couple (including married couples who lived together before jumping the broom) who doesn't believe that marriage doesn't change something. If you're not adjusting to something as "simple" as another person's living habits, you've got to find a daily balance of navigating through your expectations as well as theirs. Shoot, it can be hard enough trying to find harmony within your own being without trying to do the same for someone else…every single day…hopefully for the rest of your life.
That's why I say that another thing that you need to stop and ponder over is if the feelings that you have are just in this moment or they're pretty constant. Like, is this just a bad week, or can you not recall the last time you felt any real peace and satisfaction in your relationship? Feelings are usually temporary and ever-changing. Asking yourself this question can help to bring some stability and balance back to your emotional state.
Take Your Spouse’s Temperature
Just because the two of you are on the never-ending journey of learning how to become one, that doesn't mean that you are no longer your own individual. Hopefully, that goes without saying. Still, sometimes, when there are low points in a relationship—that can even feel like lulls on some days—knowing where your spouse stands can offer up more insight.
What I mean by that is, if you are wondering if your marriage is a mistake, you ask your husband how he feels and he is on the total other end of the spectrum, that may mean that it's not so much regretting the marriage or even him. It could be that you're feeling dissatisfied across the board, you are going through a growth spurt of sorts, or something else is transpiring that you can't quite pinpoint. Whatever "it" is, you are automatically putting onto your marriage, even if that isn't necessarily the core or cause.
This is why communication is so paramount in a marital relationship. Whenever you're feeling like something isn't working, see what your partner thinks. Hearing their perspective can sometimes do wonders as it relates to where you currently are with everything. After all, they are in your marriage with you. You should take into account where they stand.
See a Marriage Counselor
This is a point that I truly can't stress enough. It really does blow my mind, how many engaged couples will enter something so serious as marriage without signing up for premarital counseling (three 20-minute sessions with your pastor doesn't count; unless you want your marriage to last a little longer than that) and how many couples in trouble exit something as serious as marriage without seeing a marriage counselor as well.
It's kind of an unwritten rule for all of mankind that, in order to gain a clearer perspective on matters, we can't just look at things from the inside out; we sometimes need the help of reputable professionals so that we can look from the outside in too. It's been documented that couples who go to premarital counseling have a 30 percent higher success rate and, somewhere around 40 percent of marriages are saved if they got to counseling after saying "I do" (by the way, a totally invested counselor, therapist or coach trumps someone who simply has a lot of letters behind their name. You can read more about why here).
I will say that, as a marriage life coach whose niche is reconciling divorces, it is difficult (difficult not impossible) to rebuild a house that is almost burned to the ground. What I mean by that is a lot of marriages seek out counseling only when they are fifty feet away from the courthouse. It is so much easier to help couples when they treat counseling/therapy like a maintenance tip rather than a last-ditch effort. Yet, either way, if regret is what you feel, see a counselor. If you don't want to go with your spouse, at least consider going alone for a bit to get some tips and tools that just may help.
Be Careful Who You Talk To
One of my clients, she was something else, boy. While on the surface she seemed sweet as pie, about four sessions in, I saw that she was mean as a bat (a great read is "Married to Jezebel: It's All About Control"). Although she was all for coming to counseling to "fix her husband", the moment she was called out on her own stuff, she started hanging out more and more with a bitter bestie who was also going through a divorce. I could always tell when she was spending more time with ole' girl more than she should because it was like I had to reprogram her mind from all of the "Girl, you don't need that man", "Girl, kids survive with divorced parents all of the time" (that's true but you do want your kids to do more than just "survive", right) and "If I were you, I…" (please avoid so-called wisdom from people who start out their advice with that line; they ain't you).
There are scientific studies to support that negativity is sho 'nuf contagious, and the last thing that you need when you are feeling regretful is a lot of that all up in your space. Instead of hanging around other women who seem to be anything but pro-commitment, find a wife mentor or married couple set of mentors who can offer up support, encouragement and sound advice. Good energy and positivity can work wonders.
Be Intentional About Getting Your Needs Met
A marriage is not going to be healthy if both people's needs aren't being met. With that being put on record, if you feel like you regret marrying your spouse because you're not all that attracted to them (single ladies, please avoid that "church wisdom" about attraction not being a necessity in selecting a spouse; YES IT IS), or you didn't have a realistic view of marriage and you see that now, or the two of you want totally different things and you feel like divorce is your only option, ask yourself why that is the case? Especially since the success rate of remarriages only decline with each one.
The reality is a lot of people end their marriages, not because they can't be saved but they stewed in their regret for so long that they don't feel they have the emotional strength and fortitude to fight to save it.
However, with articles like "4 Reasons You Might Regret Getting Divorced Down the Line", "5 Divorce Facts That Might Change Your Idea of Splitting Up" and "Too Many People Regret Divorcing Once the Dust Has Settled", I think it's far more important to try and focus on getting the needs that you have met than calling it quits altogether. Because if your husband is a good one, while it may hurt his feelings that you are currently going through what you are (which is totally understandable; imagine how you would feel if he felt that way about you), he is going to want you both to feel safe and secure in the relationship. He's going to want to know what your needs are and do his absolute best to strive towards getting those needs met.
Also Revisit Your Marriage Vows
I want to be happy. While that is certainly not a bad thing, I do feel sometimes that we make some rash or irresponsible decisions due to that being our main (and sometimes only) focal point. So, you're going to call out from work for three days in a row because work makes you…unhappy? You're not going to feed your kids because sitting in long lines at the grocery store makes you…unhappy? You're going to allow all of the utilities in your house to get cut off because going through your bills makes you…unhappy?
If you revisit the traditional marriage vows that couples recite on their wedding day, "happy" isn't anywhere in them. At the same time, what it does talk about is sticking through things, when they are awesome and not-so-awesome, for the sake of honoring the commitment that was made. And oftentimes, when that happens, not only does growth in character and a stronger bond develop, but happiness can transpire too.
Regret isn't the best way to feel about a spouse or your marriage, to put it lightly. But hopefully, what all of this did was offer you some other options other than simply ending your union. Life is interesting. Just like you may need to mourn the fact that you didn't make the best decision at the time when you said "I do", you also may need to allow some time of healing and discovery to embrace that your marriage can still be good. If you and your partner are willing to put in the work. If the greater goal is not to regret them but not regret leaving them later up the road.
Grieve it out. But then make sure to choose wisely, OK. On the other side of what you're feeling, it'll be worth it.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating
10 Things Husbands Wish Their Wives Truly Understood
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage
The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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How Black Women Can Get Out Of Survival Mode At Work
We've heard this same song replayed over and over again: Women are stressed and overworked, underpaid, and overlooked in the workplace. Research and everyday experiences back up this claim. And Black women face the added stress of discrimination, even lower pay, and being head of household for a large percentage of homes.
So, how can we get out of survival mode? How can we take deliberate steps to thrive? I'm a huge fan of looking at things from a balanced point of view. I refuse to wear those woe-is-me-it's-hard-being-a-Black-woman tinted glasses often sold to us by propaganda and fear mongers. Here are a few tips that helped me to finally step out of survival mode and into thrive mode:
1. Own your career choices with a mindset shift from lack to optimistic focus and discipline.
It can seem tough to radically approach your career moves as a journey filled with empowering choices, especially when bills have to be paid, and there's stress related to finances. Oftentimes, when I feel the pressure of financial responsibilities, what empowers me is a change in my outlook. I dislike feeling boxed in or forced into anything, including a job or professional role, simply out of financial need. So my mindset has to shift.
I've had to take jobs that I didn't necessarily like. I've also been underemployed before. The key was to think about the goal and focus solely on that. Whether it was to pay off a debt, tide me over while I was in a time of self-employment slump, or save up for a large purchase, focusing on the goal vs. my dislike of the actual job, helped me push through and be more strategic about my career moves.
Once I was able to meet certain goals, I found the freedom to be a bit more picky with the organizations I work with, the companies I work for, and the salary I was willing to accept. It might take a bit of time, but you can set yourself up for this freedom with strategy and focus.
The optimistic piece is key here because it's easy to fall into a cycle of thinking about the negatives of a job or career. It's also easy to fall into shame about mistakes made or about what you perceive you lack, but when you shift focus to what you can control, what you can change, what you do have, and your end goal, you're better able to really be strategic about going for the professional life and quality of work you'd like to have.
JLco - Julia Amaral/Getty Images
2. Get to know what really motivates your fulfillment or happiness at work.
Do you just generally like helping people? Do you like challenging yourself intellectually? Do you love working with children or being a person of authority? Do you like being outdoors or doing work activities in nature? Do you enjoy solo work where you really don't have to interact with too many people all the time? Is your work purpose-driven or more about making lots of money? (It's totally fine to be motivated by the pursuit of financial freedom and wealth, but you must keep it real with yourself in this regard. We all play various roles in this world, and the money-makers among us are vital as well, so there's no shame in that.)
Sit down and think about these things. Write them down. If your current job or career doesn't align with what motivates you to get up and take action every day or it doesn't involve tasks that will guide you to your ultimate goal in life, consider looking for other work, going back to school to get training in something else you might be interested in doing for a living, volunteering, or taking on other projects at your current job in order to really tap into what you enjoy doing.
3. Find other fulfilling activities that fill in the gaps of dissatisfaction.
Some of us can't afford to just quit a job or give up on the years we've dedicated to a company. That's fine. If there are things about your job that are stressors or that are simply just a norm in the work you do, find other activities outside of work that allows you to have some sense of release and balance. It could be sports, spa dates, exercise, church, family time, or solo do-nothing days.
It could be starting a side business, a nonprofit, or a group for other people who have similar interests. It could be therapy or other spiritual practices. If you find you've made your job your whole life, it's a good idea to figure out a better balance so that you aren't consumed by it.
It's great to be an achiever and to do well at work, but there are other human needs that are important, too. Deliberately schedule other activities on your calendar and make them a priority so that you can start to really enjoy your career by having a balanced outlook on your role in it.
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4. Use your voice---especially if you're in a leadership position---and ask for help.
Oftentimes, it can be hard for us to simply as for the help we need. We don't want to seem inadequate, inexperienced, or, dare I say, weak. We want to seem strong, powerful, and resilient all the time. And that desire is a valid one, especially due to the discrimination and toxic systemic issues we face in the workplace.
I challenge you, though, to ask for help, anyway. If you need an assistant, ask for one. If you need time off, ask for it. If you need more time to complete a task, ask for it. Build your tribe at work and get support. Even if you feel your manager or supervisor will say no, speak up anyway.
We have to get into a practice of speaking up because the more all of us do this, the more we empower ourselves and help to shift company cultures. It's really annoying and sometimes insulting to have to justify a reasonable request for assistance, but sometimes, it must be done.
I once had to create a whole pitch just to get an intern to help with the work I had in managing projects that probably should have been split between three people, not one. I ended up getting the intern, but just having to create this whole pitch for something a leader could have used common sense to approve was a lesson in humility for sure. It was as if I had to prove I deserved an intern or help at all.
If you're a manager, delegate. Trust others to do tasks. Empower them by giving them the tools they need to fulfill certain obligations that are really distracting you from the more vital deadlines that you need to meet. Being a superwoman is just not realistic, and to be honest, it's a farce. A true leader serves and is able to give others a chance to be leaders within their own right. You can let someone else shine without dimming your own light.
And managers, speak up for more efficient work processes, better ways to communicate, equal pay, and better protocols that put workers who offer amazing talent and time first. If you have to take baby steps to do this, do it, even if you must align yourself with a privileged ally or seek legal counsel. Again, change in terms of the fight to survive in a career or thrive in one can be sparked with one action from many of us.
5. Quit. Yes, just let that job go.
Burnout is nothing to play with, and it can literally affect your physical health. If you find that you're always mentally exhausted, are oftentimes depressed or angry, or you're coping with work-related stress through overeating or over-indulging in other ways, it's time to take a full stop. If you're literally at your wit's end and you have the family or other support to resign, do it. Talk to your family, a counselor, or a mentor, and take the steps to prep for an exit.
I'd had a point in my life where professional burnout literally led to a mental breakdown. I was in my early 30s at the time. I was overweight, drinking a lot, angry all the time, and wasn't sleeping well. I was working all the time as well, and I was not enjoying my life anymore. I called my mom. "There's something wrong. I cannot function. Ma, it's getting bad. I cannot do this anymore." She simply replied, "Come home."
I felt ashamed and like a failure, but looking back, several years later, it was the best decision of my life. My mom, stepfather, and grandmother really helped me during a tough time. I cashed out my 401K, got on unemployment, and rebuilt. I found love, bought a car (in cash, sis!), went to therapy, moved into my dream home, traveled, and made more money than I had when I was at that previous job where I'd experienced burnout. (I found balance again, both emotionally and mentally, and I felt like myself again.)
If you have the support, tap into it. Use all resources afforded to you to be able to take some time off to get out of survival mode. Change your environment.
And maybe your "letting go" doesn't even include quitting outright. Focusing on the positive outcomes, explain to your HR department or manager, and ask to take a sabbatical. During the break---where your job would still be waiting for you upon your return---map out what you want out of your career, what gives you joy, and what it will take to get your finances in order. Let go of the shame and get the help you need.
As Black women, we deserve all the best life has to offer, and while we must work hard and continue to challenge ourselves, we must also find fulfillment and joy within our career journeys. I hope these tips will help many of you take back your life and thrive.
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