The Strength in Stepping Back: Leadership, Vulnerability, and Work-Life Balance

We all know college is a time for learning experiences. What I’ve already learned in college is how to overcommit myself, overwork myself, and run myself absolutely ragged. What I haven’t learned so much is balance.

I, like a lot of Marquette students, have gotten involved in just about every activity and leadership position that has ever interested me. Last weekend, I went home for fall break, and in doing so, realized that I felt like the world was caving in on me. When I took a step off campus and into my home life, I could see from a different perspective just how much I was doing (and overdoing) in my college life. I had hours of club meetings every night of the week, worked 12–15 hours a week, was trying to get straight A’s in all my classes, and keeping up with my social life at the same time. All of these activities meant a lot to me, and I didn’t want to give any of them up, but I realized that in order to do them all, I was already giving up my mental health.

What I learned this week is how to step back, reassess, and reprioritize. Admitting you’ve made a mistake and need some help balancing your life is scary; no one wants to admit that they can’t handle something. This week, I had to send some really vulnerable emails to my supervisors and advisors, letting them know that I needed help balancing my responsibilities. To be honest, admitting I wasn’t perfect and had overcommitted myself was one of the harder things I’ve had to do. To my anxiety-ridden mind’s surprise, however, no one responded saying that I was letting them down, or that they were disappointed in me. Instead, I was flooded with support. I sat down with the mentors in my life, and even had a phone call with my mom, where I listed out everything I was involved in, what I was most passionate about continuing, and the amount of time I needed for self-care. I set goals for myself for the rest of the year and having a written plan with help from people I looked up to made my commitments feel a lot more manageable. One thing my mom told me that really stood out was that “being a leader and a strong woman means accepting help when you need it.”

Balance is something I struggle with and probably always will but finding a support system and admitting when you need a little help is a good step in the right direction. None of us are alone in this world or in this journey through college, even when we feel like we are. Being in leadership positions especially can make us feel like we have to have it all figured out by ourselves, but we don’t. We have friends for a reason, we have family for a reason, we have advisors and mentors for a reason. Even the most independent people among us sometimes need to realize that taking a break and reprioritizing isn’t a sign of weakness.

It can be terrifying in the moment, but in the end, prioritizing your mental wellbeing makes you a better student, leader, friend, and all-around human.

Some campus resources if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want extra help to get yourself back on track:

- Wellness Coaching: https://www.marquette.edu/student-wellness/

- Counseling Center: https://www.marquette.edu/counseling/

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Marquette University Student Wellness Center

We are committed to advancing the overall health and wellbeing of the students at Marquette University through comprehensive wellness services and programming.