The Art of Leaning Back

leaning back

The phrase “lean in” is heavily embedded in public discourse thanks to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a book that has received as much praise as it has criticism. The book was lauded for its no-nonsense career advise and approachable tone, and critiqued for its privileged assumptions and instructions. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum on Lean In, because I acknowledge and echo some of the critiques, but I do find myself facing quite a bit of imposter syndrome, and frequently tell myself to lean in at work.

But today is different. Today I’m telling you it’s okay to lean back.

It’s okay to lean back, and it’s incredibly important that we (read: women) listen to our instincts. Listening to your gut is undervalued in our culture that tells women they’re hysterical and irrational, but those gut reactions are often spot on, and even life-saving. If you are second-guessing whether or not you should take on an extra project at work, school, or home, it’s probably a sign that you need a break.

I know this might be sacrilegious, but it’s okay to pass up promotions, opportunities, and social events from time to time, and you don’t even need a reason.

If you are feeling like you can’t handle much more it’s probably not imposter syndrome. Go ahead and ask yourself if it is, but really listen to the answer, because what your head might tell you is, “I’m just fucking tired and don’t want to do anything else.” And that’s okay. There’s a time and a place to lean in, but there’s nothing wrong with being honest about your talents, time, and true desires. It’s not your job to take on every project and engage in some weird Sheryl Sandberg-ian self-flagellation for all womankind. It’s your job to take care of yourself, and the best person to know what you need is you, so start listening to that little voice in your head and take solace as you artfully lean back.


  1. Jennifer Kelley RN MSN, OCN says:


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