“I hope to inspire women to take back control of their lives - to get off the treadmill of living to please others and trying to live up to what a ‘perfect woman’ should be,” SC&I alumna Kelsey Buckholtz said about her first book “Strong, Calm, Confident You,” just published and available on Amazon.
Buckholtz graduated in 2014 with a Master of Communication and Information (now known as the Master of Communication and Media) from SC&I. While she was a master’s student, she worked as a fellow at Johnson & Johnson through the J&J Rutgers Corporate Communications Fellowship Program.
Participating in the J&J Fellows Program, she said, helped her land a full-time position at J&J after she graduated from SC&I, and today, she is Senior Manager of Product Communication at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
“In the book I talk about how I struggled to balance grad school, work, and home life, and how I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, which caused me a lot of anxiety,” Buckholtz said. “I think many students struggle from this, and I hope that my story can help others learn to manage their stress and balance the workload better than I did. There are many lessons I’ve learned along my journey that I wish I could go back and share with myself!”
When J&J employees began working from home in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Buckholtz said she decided to take advantage of her changed schedule to write the book. “I continued to wake up at 5:30 a.m., like I did when I went into the office, but I spent the first two hours of my day writing before I logged onto my day job,” Buckholtz said. “Mornings are my most creative time, so I knew I needed to maximize that time before work. Knowing that was my time got me out of bed each morning. One thing that I talk about in the book is mind monsters - those negative voices in your head that tell you you aren’t good enough. When you start doing something new and scary, those voices get louder. But I’ll give you the same advice my writing coach gave me, ‘The monsters are trying to keep you safe, but you don’t want to live there anymore.’ I had to fight those voices many times throughout this process, but I knew I had something to share that could really help other women and that kept me going in times of doubt.”
While she said she wrote the book for women of all ages, Buckholtz said men have also let her know it resonated with them too. “I think women in particular often put a lot of pressure on themselves - to be the perfect mom, wife, partner, friend, employee, and on and on. Women are raised to be people pleasers and perfectionists. We’re taught to be good girls and to take care of others first - while men are often taught to be tough. We refuse to ask for help and we take everything on ourselves because we think we’re supposed to, because we think no one can do it as good as we can.”
She became inspired to write the book, she said, through her own suffering. “I lived with undiagnosed anxiety for most of my life, Buckholtz said. “It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I hit my rock bottom and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I was only a few years out of college and I was burning out. I was working for J&J in PR, in a job I loved, but I didn’t feel worthy of it. I ran on positive feedback, to validate my self worth, which made me say ‘yes’ to every project and keep hustling.”
Through therapy, Buckholtz said, she learned she would never be truly happy or fulfilled until she learned to love herself as she was. “As I started to go through this healing process, I realized the women around me were stuck in the cycle of pleasing, perfecting, and performing too, and I wanted to help them. That’s where the idea for the book came from.”
The book is written in three sections, Buckholtz said, specifically designed to help readers benefit the most from the book as they gain skills in each area and then move on to the next section.
In the first section, Buckholtz said, “I explore the topics of people-pleasing and perfectionism, why women are prone to these tendencies and how they can impact your mental health. In the next section, I take readers through my own personal journey to stop the endless cycle of pleasing, perfecting and performing by learning to love my body, mind, and soul. I share my stories as well as practical exercises and journal prompts. The book also comes with a free digital workbook that you can download to put the concepts into practice. I believe this is where the magic happens.
“In the third section, with the foundation of self-love in place, you will learn how to embrace your authenticity. As a recovering people pleaser, you may have been living by other people’s values and priorities for so long that you don’t know yourself anymore. Once you’re reacquainted with yourself, you can learn how to protect your new life by setting boundaries.
“In the last chapter, you learn how to support other women and lift them up. If we want to change the ‘perfect standard’ for women we have to band together instead of tearing each other down.”
Ultimately, Buckholtz said, the book aims to end the desire most women have, either consciously or unconsciously, to be perfect. She said women hurt themselves because “We try to become this ‘perfect selfless woman’ that we’ve built up in our minds and often neglect ourselves in the process. We look at other women and wonder how they have it all together, not realizing they are also hiding behind a mask of perfectionism. Pretending to be fine, while silently fading away on the inside - anxious, depressed, resentful, and burnt out. We’re often left wondering ‘Is this what life is supposed to be like?’”
“I want us to set a new standard for the next generation of women. My hope is that this book will be passed on from friend to friend, from mother to daughter, and from co-worker to co-worker. My goal is to help women love themselves exactly as they are and to live their most authentic lives.”
The views expressed in this article are Kelsey's personal views and are not reflective of her employer.
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