Meet: Kayley Reed
We are excited to share the first of several continued conversations with Syzygy speakers.
First up: Kayley Reed. Kayley is a creator, writer, public speaker, startup founder and self-care advocate. This past fall, she joined us for Syzygy's Self-care Supper where she led the conversation on valuing self-care in the midst of pursuing your dreams. Kayley has been so honest about the ups and downs of running a business including the toll it takes on your mental health. Recently, she made the big decision to step away from her startup (Wear Your Label) to take some much needed time for herself and pursue a new passion project: Self-care Sunday. Given that it's #SelfCareSunday, we thought it was definitely time to share this honest and refreshing conversation with Kayley Reed.
How has being the CEO of your own company challenged you and what have you learned about self-care in the process?
I have learned so much about myself over the past three years, and I think it has been the most difficult time in my life as well. On the outside looking in, it’s always really exciting. There is so much good: press, sales, social following, partnerships, validation, recovery. But entrepreneurship is challenging in ways that I had never experienced before. Growing a business comes along with numerous external pressures, financial pressures, risk, and uncertainty. You have to put all of yourself into your business to be (or look) “successful”, yet by nature of putting your whole self into something outside of you… you’re not prioritizing self-care.
The first couple years of building my business, I really threw myself into it. I would work every day, all day, and it was all that mattered to me. It felt like life or death, as if I took a day off, I wasn’t working hard enough. I think that’s the nature of startup culture. I personally find it toxic; the idea that “hustle” and “busy” is the ultimate goal, or somehow validates your success as an entrepreneur.
“I personally find it toxic; the idea that ‘hustle’ and ‘busy’ is the ultimate goal, or somehow validates your success as an entrepreneur.”
The past year I’ve been pretty religious about self-care. I started #selfcaresunday as a way to dedicate time out of my week for myself. Yes, for bubble baths and Netflix and writing, but also to do laundry and clean my apartment, and get myself set up for the week ahead. I probably avoided a major burn out by just giving myself time to refresh every week. Entrepreneurs need that. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned about self-care, is that I am a whole person outside of my work. I am allowed to have hobbies. I’m allowed to have interests. And I need time away from my work in order to be the best version of myself for work.
Too often, the price for "success" seems to come at the cost of our health or personal lives. Is that your experience?
We so often position it as an “either/or” scenario, when it can be both. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our health for “success”, nor should we. Particularly as an entrepreneur, I’ve found it really difficult to disassociate my own worth from my company’s success. When things with the business are good, I feel good. When things with the business are bad, I feel bad. It sounds simple, and maybe expected, but that connection between business success and personal mental health has been hard for me to move away from. I truly have had to learn how to disassociate myself from my business. I think that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned about self-care: that I am a whole person outside of my work. I am allowed to have hobbies. I’m allowed to have interests. And I need time away from my work in order to be the best version of myself for work.
What are your self-care boundaries and how do you protect them?
Separating myself from work is very important to me now. It’s so hard. Incredibly hard! But I’ve removed e-mail notifications from my phone, and I try not to do work e-mails at night or on weekends. Two years ago, I never would have even considered that – now, I need that mental space. Nobody’s going to die if you leave a 9 pm email until 9 am to reply.
You’re a self-care advocate. How are you currently advocating for the self-care of others?
I think setting an example and practicing what I preach is important. If I have a bad mental health day, I’ll take it off work. If a really negative email comes through, I try to encourage our customer support staff to take a day prior to responding. Flexible hours are really important to me, and especially working with people who have mental health challenges, accommodating those good and bad days is necessary. I also try to be vocal on social media, whether through Instagram stories and posts, or my own blog. Sometimes, I find it challenging, because I’ll be having a bad day and the last thing I want to do is go on social media and talk about it… But sometimes doing just that reminds others that they’re not alone, and the feedback is always worth it.
Tell us about your new podcast!
I’ve started a podcast called Self-Care Sunday. It’s not out (yet), but we’re launching in 2018. It’s a personal creative project to further these conversations, outside of the mental health community, touch on subjects like self-care, entrepreneurship, and the idea of success. I’m really excited to share the honest conversations we have and continue to provoke awareness around the idea of health > hustle.
"Social media can be this powerful tool for change, and a safe space to build communities. But it’s also draining. It’s a bit of a black hole."
As an influencer on social media, you often open up about your personal life online (like in this interview!). Does it ever affect your mental health?
Social media can be this powerful tool for change, and a safe space to build communities. But it’s also draining. It’s a bit of a black hole. And no matter how well I curate my feed to be a positive influence, and no matter how many positive interactions I have, it’s still this distracting illusion from real life. Unfortunately, when it’s an important and embedded part of your job it’s really difficult (and sometimes not possible) to disconnect. But even something as simple as turning off notifications can be really soothing. I think this is why I’m excited to start a podcast – it’s just a different medium than other social platforms. It’s a bit more human, in my opinion. But in terms of self-care and social media, it’s all about balance. I don’t think there’s a right answer, but I think it’s something that’s going to become more and more prevalent as social media becomes further engrained in all of our lives.
We loved having you at Self-care Supper! Why is sisterhood important to you?
Something that became prevalent to me as I became seen as a “businesswoman” is that this world – the business, leadership, startup world – is still very much dominated by men. I had a male co-founder, and many male mentors, and just found myself craving sisterhood within the startup world. There are things we experience – whether in the workplace, or at home, or in the media – that are different than those experienced by men. And I think spaces dedicated to sisterhood are really important to foster conversations that lead to action around equality for women in our daily lives.
“I think spaces dedicated to sisterhood are really important to foster conversations that lead to action around equality for women in our daily lives.”
What was your favourite part of Syzygy’s Self-care Supper?
1) The overall vibe. As soon as I stepped into the venue, it felt buzzing with positive energy. As the guests arrived, it became such a warm space.
2) Unexpectedly, the slam poetry! I love listening to spoken word, and hadn’t heard a live performance like that. It was the perfect way to set the tone of the evening.