I recently attended a True Colors© workshop. I believe that was my third time hearing about True Colors©. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a workshop that looks at different personality types, based on colors. Similar to a Meyers Briggs. I love the conversations and realizations that come with figuring out “your color(s)”. It opens up dialogue and increases understanding about why you, or any particular person responds the way they do, based on their color scheme. Without going into it too much, there are four colors; Gold, Green, Blue and Orange. Each color represents how someone thinks and responds in certain situations. I am very clearly a Gold, especially at work. In short, Golds are structured. We like everything to be in order, notoriously make lists and are focused on checking things off those lists. As a Gold, I am drawn to other Golds. We find value in comparing notes on all of our accomplishments. It would go something like “I was able to get 8 of the 10 things checked off my list today, plus order groceries, start laundry, make dinner,….” To me, how much I’ve been able to do in a day has historically boosted my self-esteem and validated my self-worth. It has also historically made me exhausted, short-tempered, grumpy and no fun!
Recently, several of my co-workers (a couple of whom also happen to be Golds) experienced some challenging life situations (a COVID diagnosis along with their whole family, a negative reaction to the COVID vaccine, significant family health issues, etc). With each circumstance we were able to support one another. We covered for one another, stood in the work gap. We freely gave permission to miss meetings/extend deadlines so they could focus on family or their own well-being. We encouraged stepping away and reprioritizing. There was grace and flexibility. There was no judgment or condemnation or devaluing them as a person or colleague. It made me wonder then why I (we?) can be so quick to do that to ourselves. It seems so natural to give grace to others but then neglect to extend that same quality to ourselves.
The same can be said for taking time off work. I’ve noticed how congratulatory we are for others who go on vacation. We can be quick to say, “Good for you!” “You deserve that time away!” “Enjoy your break!” but then hesitate to allow ourselves a hard-earned reprieve. (Although in all fairness, it is difficult to take time away during the school year, with a shortage of substitutes and with some already established built-in breaks.) However, my point is we often show support and flexibility to others more than we give that to ourselves.
The unstated yet expected work culture across the country in many fields, including education, seems to be one of “don’t stop till you drop”. How many extra hours you stayed after school, or didn’t sleep, or worked on the weekend to grade papers and prepare for the next day’s lessons becomes a status symbol. There is almost a competitive edge to it. “I only slept 4 hours last night getting ready for this new math unit, what about you?” “I worked all weekend to get the finals graded, I couldn’t even spend time with my family.” The fact that this is accepted, celebrated (and in some cases required?!) is not ok. And like I shared above, I’ve been there myself.
My hope is that we can begin to shift our mindsets around our priorities, not just individually but within the educational system and perhaps even eventually as a culture, and learn to stick to our values,(which is the “S” is S.L.O.W.) In every self-care training I conduct (and I’ve been doing quite a few of them lately, for obvious reasons), we talk about values and without fail, every.single.time. “health” and “family” are some of the first ones shared. Granted for the Golds of the world, hard-work and the sense of accomplishment are also highly valued, but so are our health and family. If we could collectively attempt to start reinforcing decisions with one another and personally, to not stay late at work, to enjoy downtime over the weekend, to praise full nights of sleep, perhaps we can move towards genuine expressions of “Good for You” not just for others but for ourselves. (which is arguably more important).