When being Red Worm is better than being a Butterfly: How women can thrive in 2021

I’ve been thinking about how women can thrive in 2021 given how rough 2020 has been for so many.

I keep returning to this headline I read in the beginning of the pandemic:

You Don’t Have to Emerge From Quarantine a Beautiful Butterfly

While I’m grateful to Eve Peyser for the tips in her article, it is the title that has become my mantra.

Most Women are Red Worms

Most talented and caring women are not butterflies. We are red worms. While what we do is worthy of attention and admiration, much of our best work goes unseen.

In 2020, like red worms, we have been stuck underground and turning rot into fertile ground for our loved ones–despite the unusually poor weather and soil conditions.

how women can thrive in 2021
© Can Stock Photo / Mik122

Many people (at home and at work) heavily on the smart women in their lives. Those who have big hearts have a harder time saying no. It adds up, and it is no wonder that women experience more career disruptions than men and are more likely to be caregivers to loved ones.

How I’ve Been a Red Worm

Last December, I too had to drop everything and fly to Seoul to find extra care for my elderly parents. I do not regret any day of the 8 weeks I spent with my parents. I am grateful that I had the support from my family as well as coaching and research clients to be able to take an unexpected and extended leave.

But it did come at a high price. I lost time, money and energy. It took me 2 weeks to get over the jetlag, but my sleep is still disrupted with late-night calls or worries concerning my parents.

This mantra resets my expectations:

I don’t have to be a superstar (butterfly). Instead, I can be a red worm and do what I can for people I love.

I can focus on my parents regaining strength and the smiles on their faces when they see me on Kakao Face Talks. I can take pride in my teenage girls who learned invaluable lessons about the preciousness of life and connections with older family members.

How women can thrive in 2021

  • Rather than ruminate on the many ways you may not be stellar, perfect or always ring-light-ready, remind yourself of things big and small that are going right in your life.
  • Instead of day-dreaming of make-overs, or planning out life-changing improvements, implement tiny tweaks to build on what you already do well.
  • Don’t seek out happiness, passion, or purpose. Test out a small action that can bring you a little more satisfaction. Or, take just a few minutes to practice what you already know gives you a boost of energy.

While butterflies have a life span of just 7 to 8 weeks, red worms live up to a year. Their lives are 6 to 7 times longer.

How women can thrive in 2021? Let’s be proud we’re red worms.

Whose with me? What small steps will you take to thrive?