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Making Room for Our True Selves | Julianne Boulware

By Julianne Boulware

How often do you take a moment to pause and think about how you show up in the world? I’m not talking about fashion choices, but the ways of being that you embrace – the aspects of self that come naturally in a moment of ease or crisis. Admittedly, I am a semi-reformed perfectionist with a penchant for taking personality tests, because people having the tools to be their best self is important to me. The MBTI, Enneagram, and Clifton Strengths each provide a nuanced perspective on how our gifts and traumas shape our contributions to the world. COVID-19 has forced us to show up as our unfiltered selves and demanded that we lend our unique quirks and talents to the valiant effort of collective care and survival.

There’s been a heightened push to deal with our anxiety and stress. We’ve been encouraged to practice deep breathing or yoga to assuage the tension in our minds and bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-self-care. I have the Calm app downloaded to my phone, and I pay annually for my guided meditations. However, this pandemic has taught me that making friends with my demons is the key to controlling them. Obsessed with mitigating disaster through planning—hello Enneagram 6 and Clifton Strengths Restorative talent!—anxiety and stress have served as the fodder for my best work.

Like any traditional INFJ, COVID-19 ignited my need to protect those in my charge from an invisible enemy. Although many INFJs will not admit it, we like to be in control of our environments. Having a plan can create the illusion of control in a situation like this, where the variables are constantly changing. Aside from working alongside senior leaders in our organization to create the conditions for our team to be supported during this unprecedented time, I also dove headfirst into creating detailed survival plans for my family.

My younger cousin, who like me is a former classroom educator, and I took the lead on our quarantine operation. We mapped out which relatives lived alone, who was most at risk due to age or pre-existing conditions, and who was healthiest. We assigned runners to buy groceries and medicines for those who were most at risk. On Sunday afternoons, we hosted family meetings to discuss the latest research, and updated relatives on changes to local ordinances. Most importantly, we made time to pray together. The togetherness, even while being socially distant is an essential aspect of our family’s culture.

As the social distancing efforts have extended beyond the anticipated timeframe, I have noticed our unfiltered selves leading in ways we could not have imagined. Leaning into my anxiety helped me create the conditions for increased connectedness with my family during a difficult time. The anxious, the empathetic, the kind, the fearful, the outgoing, the planful, the spontaneous, the calm, the realists, the optimists, the executers, the ideators are each playing their part to outlast this heinous virus. We have proof that there is space for each of us in this work, just as we are, no pretense necessary.

When the time comes for us to transition into our new normal, my hope is that we will continue to make room for our true selves, by bringing our idiosyncrasies to enrich our lives, collective work, and communities.

Julianne Boulware is Senior Director, Talent and Organizational Effectiveness at Flamboyan Foundation.