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  • Writer's pictureMarlou Cornelissen

“Put your own oxygen mask on first.”

Most people working in the social sector will be able to relate to that feeling of urgency, of importance, the feeling that what you do matters. Because, with every email you send, every strategy you create, and every decision you make, you feel like you’re contributing towards something bigger than yourself. You’re impacting the lives of actual people, adding value to the world around you, and making a difference.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

Because that feeling, that thrill, that excitement you get becomes addictive.

It is also extremely exhausting, overwhelming, and lonely. If you work in the social sector, it's because you care, you are passionate, and the causes you fight for become personal. The work never stops because there is always more work to do. Your growing to-do list keeps staring at you from your desk, and, for every empty tick-box, you’re going to need to do something - no matter how small - to make you feel like you’re doing things that are worth people’s time (if you work with volunteers) and money (if you receive donations or grants).

This constant cycle of chasing tails, feeling like it's never enough, and the rush of endorphins when a project is finished is something that I know a lot of us resonate with.

All too often, the work becomes about outputs and impact - not about the people doing the work. Rarely do we recognize the time and space that creators, CEO’s, leaders, visionaries, founders, makers etc. need to stop, to reflect, to take a deep breath, and to focus on how they are doing and feeling. Because HOW you show up is probably the biggest factor in the reach and impact of your work.

You need to put your own oxygen mask on first” is a famous saying flight attendants use to help people understand that, if you do not look after yourself first, you will not be in any condition to look after others.

It is this that always drew me to Emily’s work.

Deep down, I always knew that the work I am doing is too important to be sabotaged by my own inner struggles, pains, triggers, or blockers. The healthier I am, both physically and mentally, the better I am positioned to bring about change.

Emily and I first met through a NEXUS conference back in 2015. Although we didn’t really meet at the conference, we connected afterwards, and our 45-minute Zoom turned into a 3-hour long phone call. As I sat on the kitchen floor in our office, she and I talked about our past, our present, and our future. We talked about our collective vision for a better world and realized we share the same sense of humor. To say that we hit it off is an understatement.

Throughout the years, Emily and I have always stayed in close contact and shared opportunities if and where relevant. Emily joined most of the in-person gatherings of the charity I was leading and made an incredible impact with her work on hundreds of young people from around the world. During our many long conversations, we’d often talk about how one day, hopefully, we would work together…

I am so excited to share that NOW is that day!

Earlier this year, I started my own consulting company, Jibe, and I am so proud that the first mission I get to work on is Emily’s ChangeLight! One day a week, I am her side-kick, developing Strategy and building Partnerships. Currently, I am leading the incredible ChangeLight Children's Program we are designing to deliver her work to children and their caregivers around the world.

Every time Emily and I speak, I am in awe of the clarity and determination she demonstrates towards bringing this work into the world. If hurt people hurt people, then healed people heal people. Right? So what is the best way to make this world a better place? To heal people from within so they can have a more profound and positive impact on the world around them. Therefore, at ChangeLight, we teach people how to do inner work for greater good.

We all deserve to know who we could be in an ideal world. We deserve to have the tools to guide us there. We deserve to live a life free of inner struggles and trauma - a life filled with light and fire - and to share that with the world around us.

Prioritize yourself.

Your work is just too important to be sabotaged.


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