To Present and Future Leaders
These are my insights after attending Ateneo Cares: A Talk on Mental Health for Student Leaders (see the poster at the end).
As leaders, we are considered to be the pillars- the strength that holds and supports everything in place. Our teams or organizations have trusted us with the weight of this crucial task and it entails us to excel in a very important life skill — listening. The beautiful thing about it is that we get to witness the organization’s progress from a safe distance and as we listen or perhaps give our own perspective and insights, we become part of the story of our organization’s growth.
We recognize that the most important asset of our organization is not the activities but the people who animate it and make it all possible. Thus, when I say organization, I am really referring to the people behind it. And here goes the not-so-glamorous part of being a leader- the accountability relied on us, to some degree, creating so much pressure because of each and every member’s stake in the organization.
As the pillars, members look up to us and hold on to our strength to continue on in their journey towards their growth (and the organization’s). But as humans, the pressure of it all may be too much that we, ourselves are slowly going weak on the knees. By taking care of the people and the organization, we may forget or fail to have time for ourselves. By taking care of the people and the organization, we may forget or fail to recognize that we are already empty after days and days of draining ourselves in our endeavors.
I understand those times when we just want to give up and quit but really can’t because of the weight and pull of it all, plus the sense of ownership we have towards our own tasks. And eventually, there just comes a point when we will explode and break down.
And I just did; I wept.
I broke down as I sat on one of the benches of the famous Lover’s Lane. But with the comfort of a friend, I realized it was okay —
It was okay to admit that being selfless was tiring, the same goes for answering repetitive questions, for hand-holding a project from womb to tomb and for going through every single detail.
It was okay to admit that there was a want to be selfish. The same goes for leaving the burden behind for another person to carry it, for tracking down the person responsible for the problems and for just not showing up.
We need to recognize that we, too, are human- and humans are breakable. But what’s interesting is the irony of the situation: As we are able to break down, we are slowly refilling ourselves with every form of expression we let go. It seems perfect to insert Pope Francis’ quote, “When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something… Certain realities in life we can only see through eyes cleansed by tears.”
Yes, we have to be strong for our members, but there is also strength in our tears.
What triggered the break down was a heartwarming text from my Momma saying, “…Just remember WE LOVE YOU. TAKE CARE. SORRY IF AT TIMES I’M BLINDED and short of understanding. Pls do not be pressured. Just be who you are for yourself and your Creator, not for us.”
It’s definitely easier said than done, especially since we are part of a system that scrutinizes everything almost to an annoying and stressful extent. But then again, it’s really just a matter of perspective:
Why do you do the things that you do for your organization?
How far are you willing to suffer for your members?
When asked these questions, it all seems to be clear. I do the things I do because I love the organization, hence, the members that are a part of it and I would go out of my way and my problems to serve and see the organization fulfill its worthy cause. In reflecting the commitment that we have, even more value is added as it is taken from the sacrifice and suffering endured by fellow members.
There is comfort in the fact that we are all in this together and that this dynamic is a two-way thing. The moment I choose to empty myself up for another is also the moment I allow that person to fill me up. And in that dynamic alone is what we celebrate this year — mercy. As what James Keenan defined, and shared by Sir Bobby Guev, “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another” and so many people are willing to enter into this battlefield.
So to all the current and future leaders (in their own way)- to the Pillars, it empowers me to know that I have fellow pillars in this world and that your strength gives me strength as well. In fighting our little battles in life, we are standing strong for one another.