Community//

How to Take a Break from the Roles You Play to Feel Peace, Find Rest, and Avoid Burnout

For the Women Who Wear Many Hats

Finally!” I sighed, crumpling onto the couch.

I twisted, pulling my feet up to meet the other end and nestling them comfortably against the white pillows. After eight-ish hours filled with to-dos and people, meetings and errands, it was as if the weight of the day was pressing me into the soft, navy velour. I shrugged my favorite blanket over my body and onto my shoulders, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath.

Another day down, Katie, another day down.” I whispered to myself.

This 5:30 couch ritual was nothing new. Rather, I frequently find myself watching the clock, anxiously awaiting the moment that I get to sneak home, quickly shedding my leave-the-house clothes and crawling into something more comfortable.

The irony of this secret pleasure is that I do enjoy each day. In fact, I savor a challenge, find joy in my friendships, and relish in the rush of adrenaline that sneaks in when something rolling off a professor’s tongue finally *clicks* mid-class. I enjoy being a student, a nurturer, a preparer, a worker, a learner, an advocate, a teacher, an employee, and a leader.

But, the truth we as women don’t discuss is the fact that stepping into a multitude of roles each day is . . . well, hard.

While slumped on my couch, buried beneath my blanket and protected from my many roles, I envisioned myself wearing a slew of hats each day, each representing a different role that I play.

Weighty. Precariously stacked, one atop another. Demanding that I wear them all at once and all with poise.

As I pictured myself with this teetering tower of hats perched atop my scalp, it occurred to me that from the moment my eyes flicker open each morning, I spend the day desperately hoping to fulfill all the expectations that come with each “hat.”

Hoping to fulfill all of my own expectations that come with each “hat.”

Wobble-wobble.

Teeter-totter.

I bumble through each day with this weight atop my head, praying I do it with grace.

But, why do I spend each day this way?

I ask myself this question when I finally make it to my couch, drunk from over-analyzing the minute details of my day and tired from critiquing the array of successes and failures that somehow all made their starring debuts, fighting one another for center-stage.

I want to be a multitude of things.

I want to grow, to change, to evolve, and to improve.

And most importantly, I’m thankful for this place I find myself in . . . for the ground I stand on, the opportunities I relish in, the faces I know, this country that, despite its failures, allows me to learn and become a lawyer, and that dang couch that treats me so kindly each day.

But, how will I ever wear each hat well if I have to wear all the hats, all at once?

If your “hats” are anything like mine, it seems that they don’t fit together. Some are square, some circular, others oval, dented, rectangular, or plagued with some other incompatible asymmetry.

Rather they meshing seamlessly, they simply demand that we work hard each day to wear them all beautifully.

QUITE SIMPLY, IT’S HARD TO BE DEDICATED STUDENTS, WHOLE-HEARTED EMPLOYEES, THOUGHTFUL FRIENDS, DILIGENT PREPARERS, AND UNWAVERING LEADERS ALL AT ONCE.

So, surely there’s a different way . . . right?

Yesterday, I spent my evening couch ritual mulling my “hats” over and over again in my head, yearning for a different approach to it all.

I lay there, torn, hoping to find a way to still do everything, to still be everything, but without being everything all at once.

“Therein lies the problem,” I thought.

Not the doing everything or the being everything.

But, the doing everything and being everything all at once.

Yes, I may have this assortment of roles that I step into each day, but but above all else, I’m just Katie.

And you are just . . . you.

And we are not “good” or “bad” based on our ability to wear a plethora of incompatible “hats” all at once.

Or based on our ability to step into a plethora of roles, all at once, all the time.

Based on our ability to do everything and to be everything all at once.

Society yells at us each day, suggesting that to be a successful woman, to be a loveable woman, to be an interesting woman, to be a contributing-to-society woman, to a be a worthy woman, or to be a valuable woman, you must do everything and be everything all at once.

And not just do it and be it, but do it and be it with grace, with poise, and without taking thirty minutes to slump on your couch in a state of exhaustion.

But, it’s all a big sham. A game we play. A facade we wear. A lie we buy into to our own demise.

In fact, I wasn’t created for this very heavy, very toxic, very worldly burden. My mind, my body, my heart, my soul . . . all designed to be Katie, not to be the Katie that is the student, the nurturer, the preparer, the worker, the learner, the advocate, the teacher, the employee, and the leader every day, all day.

And, like me, you weren’t designed for this either.

Allowing ourselves to understand this makes it undeniably clear that we are under no pressure to be everything all the time. Instead, we can just do our best while wearing one “hat” at a time, enjoying each role that we’ve been cast to play that minute, that hour, that day, or that week.

Then, the beauty of it all is that we can take each “hat” off, identifying what we did well, what we did not-so-well, congratulating ourselves for doing our best, and vowing to do our best again tomorrow. Then, we can move on, putting on a new hat and stepping into a new role.


I am, at times, a student, a nurturer, a preparer, a worker, a learner, an advocate, a teacher, an employee, and a leader. Yet, I can find peace knowing that the only thing I have to be all the time is just myself – a girl who wears different “hats” at different times, trying her best to wear each one well.

I want to us to offer ourselves the freedom to take our days one at a time.

Our roles one at a time.

Our “hats” one at a time.

I want us to feel the crushed-under-the-weight-of-it-all feeling.

I want us to just be ourselves . . .

Our selves that don’t have to do everything or be everything all the time.

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