Self Preservation as an Act of Service

Those of us in the sustainability and social justice space are changemakers. We are not only purpose-driven; we are also focused on doing the hard work needed to bring about substantive change. And now, as more of us are engaged in tackling racism, we seem to be in a never-ending cycle of self-sacrifice in the name of social progress. Precious Stroud, entrepreneur, convener, storyteller, and Founding Executive Director of BlackFemaleProject, shares with the Presidio community her insights on self-awareness, self-compassion, and setting boundaries.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” —Audre Lorde

Much like 2020 did, 2021 has offered countless opportunities to be preoccupied and dismayed. The alternative to getting whisked away in the news, though, is the opportunity to turn inward. To focus in on ourselves and the work we have to do to continue growing and learning. An affirmation: I am not faint of heart and I will not be swayed by the headlines of the day.

The work I do with BlackFemaleProject is helping me remember to stay anchored in the power of commitment to collective well-being. In the midst of so much distraction, I encourage you to stay grounded in the legacy of where you come from, who you represent, and what you stand for.

The intensity of what it means to be an equity-centered leader in this time is complex and demanding. And while the need for rapid problem solving, decision making, and revisioning is motivating and even exciting at times, it’s important to keep holistic well-being as a top priority. You can’t take care of anyone if you’re not well enough to do so—and that requires taking care of you.

I invite you to:

  • Commit to wellness. Pause. Take time to rest and restore yourself. It’s okay to take time to be still.
  • Educate yourself and be open to learning from others.
  • Share what you truly feel in a safe environment.
  • Listen to your intuition; it will get stronger as you use it.
  • Learn from each experience and be guided by the wisdom that you acquire.
  • Above all, maintain your integrity. Always trust your values and let them guide you.

I continue the work I’ve inherited from my ancestors—work that confronts, challenges, and dismantles intersecting and overlapping systemic oppressions—in order to create positive impact and uplift humanity and dignity for all. Sometimes this work involves undoing the internalized oppression that lives in each of us. Sometimes it’s helping young people identify strategies for navigating society. Other times it’s caring for an elder, taking food to a neighbor or friend, volunteering at a local organization, or making a donation that serves the needs of the community.

And sometimes it’s about making sure I am okay. It may mean sitting still and taking care of yourself. Finding calm, joy, and laughter.

Honor the gifts that this time of year brings: feelings of renewal, blooming, and the excitement of summer just around the corner. As an academic year like no other comes to an end, some of you will be graduating and starting new adventures while others use the summer to refresh and prepare for a new learning schedule in the fall. Start to give yourself more spaciousness by removing just one task from your list today. Set aside specific time that is all about nurturing you.

My vision is clear. The work ahead is full of as many opportunities as it is challenges. Let’s go together.

In support of your well-being and leadership development, I invite you to journey with BlackFemaleProject by way of a leadership tool, 8 Weeks of Self-Discovery. The purpose of this offering is to increase self-awareness and continued growth among leaders. Learn more and download the guide today: 8 Weeks of Self-Discovery Guide.

Continue to hear from thought leaders in this space by following our Racial Equity in Action series on the Presidian Blog, where we explore how, as sustainability and impact leaders, we can move the needle toward a more equitable and just society. Our series sits at the intersection of racial justice and social responsibility and features insights from the PGS community as well as external experts and thought leaders. Our goal is that through these shared insights we can better address racial inequity as a part of our day-to-day interactions and careers. If you’re looking to accelerate or shift your career while living your values, consider joining an upcoming cohort at Presidio.