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  1. Blog
  2. The Pipeline
  3. April 29, 2024

On Climbing Ladders, Self-Care & Adjusting to the Weight of Independence

Plus, the importance of transferable skills

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Photo by InHerSight

I started painting my house this weekend, a task that has been mentally in the works since I bought it in September. When a project is multifaceted and semi-permanent, I tend to be a muller, weighing all of the options until I wake up one day ready to take the plunge. Saturday morning, I rose decisive and energized to begin.

That said, seven months is a long time to waffle—even for me—and I had plenty of bandwidth to reflect on that as I painted my bedroom a cozy olive green. 

For a long time, I thought I’d been stunted by the overwhelming color selection. (There are more than 1,700 Sherwin-Williams paint colors, and it’s possible I’ve viewed all of them.) But as I carefully edged the ceiling, I realized my hangup with painting was less about the abundance of color and more about work and my own feelings of burnout. 

I bought the house on my own as a single woman, and statistically, I’m in good company there. Nineteen percent of all homebuyers in 2023 were single women, and over the last 40 years, the share of single women buyers has consistently outpaced the share of single men buyers. Living at a time when women are this financially independent—and likely poised to be even more so—is honestly astounding. I never expected to buy a home on my own.

Yet outside of finances, the unseen labor of buying your first home solo is in the self-educating and the decision-making. Since I began house hunting last July, I’ve rapidly skilled up on the housing market, due diligence, loans, mortgages, HOAs, appliances, broken appliances, warranties, and so much more—all without sharing that responsibility with anyone, although I had plenty of guides along the way. When I reached the end of that whirlwind of an educational conveyor belt, I wanted to enjoy decorating and making the space my own, but I was out of energy. Painting felt like another exhausting to-do list. 

What finally unstuck that stuckness for me was a series of meaningful events (and quite a bit of rest): My mom visited and went on her own to buy some test paints of the swatches I was considering. The women in my book club came over, and they weighed in on the colors and the potential of different spaces. And at some point, I decided that painting the walls wasn’t so much a burden, but an act of self-care, because it meant that I could finish hanging art and unpacking, which would make me feel more settled and peaceful.

There are a lot of women, I know, who can relate to the necessity of independence, the exhaustion that comes with it, and the beauty of learning to rely on the support of a community, especially a community of other women. That’s the first thing I’d like to acknowledge and celebrate here. Community uplifts and bolsters us. We burn out without community.

The second thing, which I hope will be a good takeaway as you consider your own approach to different kinds of work, paid or unpaid, is that I’d like you to practice reframing how you view the hard tasks ahead. Is setting better boundaries with work a series of uncomfortable conversations, or is it a way of advocating for your needs and protecting your mental health? Is learning to say “no” or standing up for yourself at work “opening up a can of worms,” or is it expressing self-love by asserting your worth? Is negotiating your salary being “pushy,” or is it caring for your financial needs and future? Is painting a house another long list of things to do, or is it an act of self-care? 

When I flipped the script, suddenly a Saturday on a ladder, pop music blaring and my phone on Do Not Disturb, felt luxurious—tranquil, in the home I bought, because I worked hard for it. 

Managing Editor, InHerSight

A Perspective We Love

Jenn Smith is a former HR leader turned career coach and podcast host. She's featured in our article on fairly evaluating nontraditional candidates.

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