The power of connecting with community

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted. There is a lot going on in my family life that is taking much of my attention. My son’s Bar Mitzvah is in less than 2 months, and I must admit that I will be MUCH relieved when that event is in the past. He struggles a lot with various emotional issues, including emotional dysregulation, and his obsession with perfectionism plays a large role in triggering him. And so the stakes just seem much higher with his Bar Mitzvah than with my older son’s. So, two more months to go. My hope is that my overall stress level will reduce when that major life event is over.

However, I was inspired to write about something happening right now in my life, that has made a major positive impact. I was accepted into the Boston University School of Medicine Mid-Career Faculty Leadership Program, which began a few weeks ago. This program consists of eighteen mid-career faculty who are already leaders at the university meeting together and supporting each other in becoming even better leaders, even better human beings. The program began with a 360 Assessment, where a variety of people in our professional life (our supervisor, superiors, peers, direct reports, people who worked with us in the past) answer a detailed assessment of our leadership abilities in various areas. The program compiles all the information and then we examine the report and figure out what are our areas of strength and where are our opportunities for growth. We then choose one specific goal to work on for the year, and then we meet regularly and help each other meet our respective goals.

My goal for this year is to move from being a friendly and enthusiastic dictator to being an effective collaborator who helps develops the leadership abilities in my peers. I have chosen this goal because it has become clear to me that my peer relationships are still the most challenging aspect of my interpersonal dynamics. I have always had an easy time with vertical relationships – my teachers and superiors have usually appreciated my drive to achieve, to follow the rules, to be a people pleaser (and “good girl,” as I have written about before). And my mentees and students have usually appreciated my compassion and interest in supporting them. But it is my peer group that I have always struggled with, my entire life. Connecting with my peers has just been very challenging to me, probably because of my social anxiety.

But this group of peers in this program feels different. We are all there to show up and be vulnerable and acknowledge our weaknesses and help each other. I cannot recall being in a peer group like this, where the goal is truly to emotionally support each other, in decades. Maybe the last time I felt like this is when I was in Resident Advisor Training in college, over 20 years ago.

So, I am really excited. I am really motivated. I am making new friends for the first time in what feels like forever. In fact, I am meeting one of my new friends for lunch today. Especially given how disconnected I have felt over the last few years, what with covid and my divorce and moving to BU, it feels REALLY GOOD to have this group of peers, this community, cheering me on.

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