I had a wonderful “catch up” visit with a long-time friend and WIB (Women in Business) member this past week. As we caught each other up on our kids’ ages and stages, this very talented and driven single mom asked me, “How do you do it, Darlene? How do you wear so many hats professionally and still manage to have a home life? How do you have so many balls up in the air, yet find a way to make them all work? How much time do you spend on each?” She continued as I could see the honest anguish in her plight, “How do I keep people from confusing the various hats I wear or knowing which ‘me’ they are getting?”
I suspect that many of you are shaking your head affirmatively and maybe wondering the same about some woman you know? Is it all a smokescreen?
I did not have to give it much thought to answer her. Not because the answer came so readily to me but, rather, because I had asked the exact same thing with the same anguish just a year ago.
I only wear one hat. I only have one brand.
Let me try to explain…
Have you ever tried to thread a needle? I was really great at it in my younger years, when I could see the hole in the head of that needle so easily. Today, actually threading a needle is a lot more difficult. But, threading my metaphoric needle has come quite easily. Consider this: You are the largest, strongest, most powerful needle in your sewing kit and the thread you are using is unbreakable. You are the brand that you present to others. You know all those “hats” or different jobs, job descriptions, labels or titles you have? They are additional needles in your kit that that can either remain separate and loose at the bottom of the bag OR you can use that same original needle and unbreakable thread to tie them all together.
In my professional life, I am a banker, a rep with India Hicks, an author/blogger, an advocate for children, and a board member. In my personal life, I am a wife, a mom, a best friend, a daughter, a sister. ”So how do I decide which brand I am in each instance? I can assure you that I am the same Darlene for any one of these as I am with the others. You see, SHE friends, I am not a girl who represents many brands. Rather, I AM the brand. The brand is Darlene Ellison and all of those hats are simply “the things I do.”
So how do I “thread the needle” or find harmony between my interests? Let’s do an exercise together:
On a piece of paper, write down each of the “hats that you wear.” Under each, list what it is you do when wearing that hat, who your serve/help and WHY you do it.
Now, look at those responses collectively and find the common links. Those links, SHE friends, become that unbreakable thread that starts with you and, well, “threads the needles.”
In fact, there is a yoga pose called Thread the Needle that is believed to be a gesture of acceptance and calmness. When we shift our mindset in life just as we shift our body in our yoga poses, the result can bring an ease and peace that cannot be described in words.
As I shared this idea with my dear friend, her eyes brightened and her shoulders relaxed. I could see her wheels turning and she could not wait to get back to her home office do this exercise herself. Just assuring her that SHE was the brand was huge. All she needed to do was to figure out the commonalities of her many “hats” and answer her WHY. All she needed to do was to thread the needles. I’m not saying that threading the needles in our lives is easy, but once you do, wearing many hats can be oh, so fulfilling.
Note from the SHE Files: Thread the Needle to Find Your Joy