“This has become such a critical time for vulnerability, and the self-work we do creates a fertile environment for prioritizing diversity and inclusion work.”
As a business owner, Paria has first-hand experience with the highs and lows that come with uncertainty. In her recent work, Paria has come to understand the importance of self-reflection – both personally in her work.
“The current environment has slowed me down and created space to do a lot of self-work. Looking internally has helped me identify ways to do better in all aspects of my life. My clients have been afforded this same opportunity to slow down and look at their own team dynamics, see how they're functioning, invest in talent and development, and improve their practices. This has become such a critical time for vulnerability, and the self-work we do creates a fertile environment for prioritizing diversity and inclusion work.”
In this article, Paria shares how she stays grounded in the face of chaos.
Shifting course amidst crisis
Paria’s work empowers marginalized groups through talent acquisition, but with COVID-19 the day-to-day functions of the organization have shifted.
“If you look at the research, marginalized groups are getting hit harder than others. As a mission-driven organization, I’ve gone back to the basics of what my community needs to shift our approach to better support these groups.”
Though there have been notable layoffs and downsizing efforts in response to the crisis, many companies are still hiring. In fact, some industries, such as digital security and media, are more critical than ever. While the overall hiring landscape has slowed, Paria sees this period as a critical moment to build the structure upon which D&I initiatives can scale.
“When hiring quiets down, it's time to skill up your teams. During periods of high growth, when companies have countless open positions to fill and a network that is not naturally diverse, fundamental strategy adjustments tend to be deprioritized. Right now is the perfect time for companies to level up so that when hiring resumes, D&I is more ingrained in the process, structural changes have been put in place, and you have a more diverse network. There is also a heightened awareness of race and privilege. While individuals are self-reflecting, they’re also forced to recognize the inequities in their organizations, so our work with our clients has expanded and become even more critical.”
While there is a proven business case for D&I work, Paria has observed a foundational shift happening where organizations are forced to self-reflect in the wake of world events. Consumers want brands to take a moral stand against racial inequities and take action to address it. Individuals are calling on organizations and leaders to respond to injustice and live their values.
“As someone deep in the work of inclusion, I am constantly reading the research, listening to Black employees, and seeing first-hand the barriers Black people face in the workplace, the community, and in our society as a whole. While team training is impactful, it takes personal work within oneself to recognize individual biases and racism. This work is hard, deep, and constant. Between COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd, it has been surreal to see our society finally reckon with what has been true for many for a long time. It truly feels like a movement, not a moment.”
Whether it’s personal or external, we’re in the midst of change. Younger generations want to shape a society that prioritizes taking care of one another. As a result, we’re seeing a great deal of self-reflection at the individual, organization, country, and global levels.
“I want to model what we’re trying to bring into the world by doing our own self-work so we can better care for one another. I’m prioritizing relationships and going deeper. Going deeper inward and in our relationships are both so important.”
“There’s an evolution happening in society around raising consciousness and self-reflection.”
“There’s an evolution happening in society around raising consciousness and self-reflection. It’s incredible to see the kind of content being shared and the conversations people are having with their company leaders. The depth varies, but the conversation is happening. The combination of COVID-19, urgent demand for racial justice, and the generational shift is contributing to a whole different set of norms.”
As we approach this new norm it’s increasingly important to understand our emotions. To create a space where others feel comfortable, we have to start with ourselves. Understanding how we feel and what it means will empower others to feel comfortable to open up.
“Vulnerability humanizes everything, and it’s a much more satisfying way to live. I love seeing other people’s families on video calls. I’ve found myself opening up more about my own home life, which I don’t always do as readily. These are the things that connect us, especially during this time.”
Like many of us, Paria has found it difficult to balance the need for connection with technology burnout. Her tight-knit family has had to readjust their normal ways of coming together, and in many ways, this has pushed Paria to look inward.
“I come from a really big Iranian family. My grandma and I are very close and she’s immune-compromised, so it’s been hard not to see my family the way I used to. Family is a constant in my life, but the pandemic has forced us to separate – not to mention the added worry about high-risk family members. My grandma is alone and needs to get out sometimes for her mental health. We’re all grappling with that fine line between mental and physical health, but it’s intensified when someone you love is at risk. I’ve had to learn to focus on what I can control.”
As a leader, Paria strives to bring her dispersed team together, while also creating space for people to recuperate from exhaustion and over-stimulation.
“People are tired of virtual meetings. Instead of virtual hangouts, I’ve been encouraging my team and I to take micro-breaks. Even if it’s just to wash the dishes or take a walk – we all need a respite from the screen. For me, nature is a huge component of that. It reminds me that life is bigger than our day-to-day and can bring some much-needed perspective.”
As a result of some of the technology burnout, Paria has found herself spending less time reaching out to friends and family.
“It’s been a problem because I want to keep in touch, but I just don’t have the energy or mental bandwidth to schedule a virtual get-together or call all of my family members.”
In these challenging and uncertain times, it’s also easy to fall into negative conversation patterns. It’s helpful to commiserate, but sometimes that can quickly spiral into negativity. These conversations can be draining and actually hinder meaningful connections.
“You have to be really aware of where things are taking your energy and become comfortable with opting out of things that aren’t good for your mental health.”
“I’ve had to be more thoughtful about how I spend my time and who I spend it with (even virtually). It’s easy to focus on the worst-case scenarios and the negative. While it’s important to talk about how I’m feeling, these conversations can leave me feeling more depleted afterward. I have to be really aware of where things are taking my energy and become comfortable with opting out of things that aren’t good for my mental health. That means being extra mindful about how I spend my time during this unusual period where we don’t have typical coping outlets, such as seeing friends and family in person.”
While in many ways, technology has made it possible to stay connected during social distancing, it has also contributed to a sense of exhaustion.
“Limiting my virtual interactions in order to re-energize and just acknowledging the discomfort has been helpful. I talked to my mom recently and explained how I’ve been trying to change my schedule and might be less available – she totally got it. It was a huge relief to hear her empathize. I still connect with my family and friends but now the recipe is less about frequency and more about substance.”
Self-care deepens connections
The external circumstances of COVID-19 and urgent discussions around racial injustice have made it harder yet more critical to balance caring for yourself and your community with work responsibilities. But this balancing act can quickly lead to burnout, so it’s critical to prioritize self-care during this time.
In many ways, this global experience has forced us to spend more time with ourselves. Where before many of us were cramming our schedules, the shelter-in-place has forced us to reflect on how we actually want to spend our time.
“Now that I am forced to stay home, I’ve come to realize how chaotic my life was in many ways. This experience has impelled me to go back to the basics and look inward.”
While this introspection can be dark at times, it also helps us realize that we actually need this self-reflection to build meaningful connections.
“Starting my company taught me that I need to ground myself in times of chaos. Even just watering my plants, having coffee at the same time each day, and building some sort of structure helps me stay grounded. We’re all in mass uncertainty, and creating stability through routine gives us the room and space to look inward. It’s hard to look inward if we’re constantly treading water.”
There’s a tendency to seek satisfaction from external sources – whether it’s events, seeing friends, or traveling. While these experiences can be enriching, they can also distract from some of the internal work we need to do. During the pandemic, many people have had to accept that they’ve been keeping things a bit more buried than they may have realized.
“Even in the morning, now that I’m not rushing to get to work on time, I get to start my day in a different way. I have time to meditate, pet my cat, and drink coffee with my partner. These simple but beautiful moments are something that I’m so grateful for, and they’ve also completely shifted how I show up for the day. When I am able to slow down, I understand what's important and react more productively and emphatically to matters that come up.”
Many of us are used to working long hours and putting our personal lives second in order to achieve success. In many ways, this pandemic has forced organizations and individuals to rethink their priorities. We’re seeing that vulnerability and balance are truly necessary for business success.
“There’s so much value in investing in ourselves, our home, and our community.”
“One thing I’m going to take away from this experience is recognizing that we don’t have to pack the calendar. There’s so much value in investing in ourselves, our home, and our community.”
Start with you
When we make that time to be introspective, we’re better equipped to go out into the world and build deep and genuine connections with others. There's such a hunger for that connection right now and it’s also a critical component to diversity and inclusion work.
“The small stuff I’m doing – slowing down, implementing routine, and watching my tech intake – leaves room and space for self-work that I couldn’t do in the same way before. It’s showing to be a fertile moment for this kind of introspection, both in my personal life and the work of my clients.”
Understanding your emotions, how to navigate them, and what grounds you will help provide secure footing during periods of uncertainty. Having hope and setting goals – personal and professional – helps us keep moving forward and not get bogged down by fear and stress.
“Setting personal and professional goals for myself gives me a sense of purpose. Even if I don’t see the point in the moment, I push myself to do it. The value has been that when I’m confused or overwhelmed, those goals give me the focus that I need. Change isn’t easy, but I’ve come to learn that pivoting is the new norm. A mentality of optimism and a commitment to continuous personal evolution can be powerful co-pilots for gracefully navigating this new norm.”Read less