On leaving work and wondering what to take away

This week’s blog is by Leora Ward, creator of Healing in Service. Leora has worked for many years in the social justice, women’s empowerment, and humanitarian fields.

As I leave my current job, after six years, it feels as if a phase of my life is closing. A circle is about to be completed, and I am left wondering what I should take away. What am I supposed to harvest from this season of my work in the humanitarian field?

This question has been cycling through my mind over the last few weeks. As I have written about it in my journal, talked about it with friends, and even listened to similar stories from other women in the social justice field, I have come up with three things that seem to continue to show up (for me and others) in our community.

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Many of us feel overwhelmed by the scope and scale of need in the world, and the long-term vision required to fully achieve social justice. These feelings (and the associated grief) leave us discouraged, overworked, and isolated. The emotions can be so intense that we consistently feel like we are falling over and maybe flat onto our face. We also typically don’t have the networks or support we need to keep us healthy, grounded, and balanced in the face of transition, instability, and conflict. This is when we are prompted to uncover those resources within ourselves and locate sources of support in our environment, which can help us to anchor our feet back on the ground and into a more secure place.


Most of us are passionate about what we do and have a strong commitment to social justice. We are living our values in terms of our choice to give up daily conveniences, leave home, and physically distance ourselves from friends and family (if working internationally). However, we also disconnect from our daily and immediate needs in order to serve and be there for others. This leaves us tired, exhausted, and fragile as we spend most of our time and energy taking care of the people around us and being consumed by our work. We forget to check-in with our bodies, to remember what’s important, and to prioritize ourselves. We don’t meet our own needs or live our values fully because we quickly become out of touch with our deepest desires and aspirations. 


Many of us tend to judge ourselves about a lot of things, but mostly for not doing enough, not doing the right thing, or not being good enough. These are beliefs we hold internally but also impact the way we show up in the world. This negative self-talk affects how we align our heart, work, and lifestyle in that we hold back and keep ourselves small in order to stay “safe”. Without having effective strategies to nurture, love, and be good to ourselves, we burn out and are unable to serve ourselves in equal measure to others (if not more). We need to learn how to sustain ourselves and make more decisions from a place of power, choice, calm, confidence, and energy.

What other themes have you identified in our community? What challenges exist in your work as a woman in this field? What wisdom have you gained from your own experiences (at home or abroad)?

I have been left with a deep sense of responsibility and longing to address these issues, even more than the ones that we face around programming or services in the field. It is for this reason, I lead a women’s weekend retreat (in April) in which a group of women joined me to break through the feelings of overwhelm and isolation in service to themselves but also to the larger community. If you want to explore this further and also make internal shifts like these other women, I invite you to schedule a complimentary, one-on-one discovery session.

I am committed to building a community in which we are not falling over when things get tough, but instead supporting each other to be strongly rooted and anchored in our lives so that we can show up for ourselves and others during key decisions and in hard moments. Please email me at Leora@healinginservice.com to share your thoughts or visit www.healinginservice.com to learn more about my offerings.


Healing in Service was created by Leora Ward (right) and is driven by women who have a unique understanding of the humanitarian and social justice fields.


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