How I Take Care: Shine's Co-Founders Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi
Welcome to How I Take Care, a new interview series from Shine that aims to amplify the unique ways people care for their mental and emotional wellbeing.
We'll be sharing conversations with experts, thought leaders, Shine members, and more who are doing the work to care for themselves and their communities, especially during these challenging times.
To kick off the series: We chatted with Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi, Shine's co-founders and co-CEOs. Marah and Naomi created Shine four years ago after realizing they didn't see themselves—a Black woman and a half-Japanese woman—or their experiences represented in mainstream wellness.
Here's how they're practicing self-care as they grapple with building a small business during COVID-19, and how they show up for themselves and each other in the fight against racial injustice.
On why self-care is important in their lives:
Marah Lidey: Self-care, to me, is about prioritizing my mental and emotional wellbeing above all else, even if just for five minutes a day. I know it can be hard —we all have a lot going on. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, speak our needs, prioritize our boundaries and just take a few moments to check in with our feelings—we ultimately won’t be able to reach our goals, and we can’t be there to support others.
Naomi Hirabayashi: For me, practicing self-care boils down to being grounded in the present moment, creating space for the people and experiences that bring me fulfillment, and being compassionate with myself about what I’m able to get done in a day.
"If we don’t take care of ourselves, speak our needs, prioritize our boundaries and just take a few moments to check in with our feelings—we ultimately won’t be able to reach our goals, and we can’t be there to support others."- Marah Lidey
On how caring for their mental health has changed over the years:
Marah: Growing up, I didn’t think of my mental health as something I could prioritize. I often excelled in structured environments, like school—geeking out over creative projects, collaborating with others, and focusing on problem-solving. But home life was more difficult. Living with a parent who struggled with addiction and mental health issues, navigating racism in mostly-white spaces and moving frequently caused me to develop anxiety at a pretty young age.
As a kid, I couldn’t name what I was dealing with—which made it impossible to know how to work through it. I’ll never forget the moment that changed everything for me: seeing a flyer in my college dorm for free therapy.
I was anxious about opening up, but my therapist was incredible. Weekly sessions with her for a year ultimately gave me the language, tools, and support I needed to realize that I wasn’t alone in my struggles and that I could work through them.
Naomi: The biggest evolution for my mental health has been setting more boundaries for myself, my time, and for the relationships that matter most. My background as a middle child from a complicated divorce, a half-Japanese woman, and, with my sign being Cancer (known for being nurturing, and also very sensitive)—it all has manifested throughout my life with wanting to make people happy.
In the best-case scenario, my background helps me be more compassionate with others, more empathetic to different experiences, and build deep connections with friends, co-workers, and family. At its worst: I’m over-extending myself in an effort to make other people feel good, I’m allowing people who don’t deserve my time to take it, and I’m over-committing at the expense of my mental health.
On their daily self-care rituals:
Marah: Self-care for me, on a good day, is all about my morning. As a first-time entrepreneur, I used to start my mornings going hard on business books and podcasts. Cramming episodes of “How I Built This” and “The Pitch.” Over time, I realized that starting my day with other people’s concepts of success was a real drain on my energy — and actually left me comparing myself and our business to others, instead of tapping into my own instincts.
Now, on a good self-care day, I start off by listening to or reading the words of some of the people that inspire me to tap into my own truth— Cleo Wade, Ekhart Tolle, I mean…Oprah. Then ideally I get some time with my people: texting a friend to check in, maybe FaceTiming my Dad or my sister and niece. And lastly, I try as often as possible to write down a value that I want to focus on for that day. It helps center me before I get lost in the day and caught up in the details—and reminds me what I’m doing it all for.
Naomi: Pre-pandemic: It was trying to make sure I got an hour with my daughter in the morning before I would head to work. Without that dedicated time together, I felt like I was playing catch up the rest of the day if we didn’t get as much time at night. During the intensity of the last few months, one of the bright spots has been that I’m working remotely so I get to be with her during the day. That, of course, comes with a lot of challenges too—especially during the first three months without any childcare—but it’s been mostly positive.
The balance is making sure that I still find time to get intentional time with her where I’m not distracted. Snuggling up, holding her hand, and seeing her take in the space around her helps me feel more grounded.
On what balance looks like for them:
Naomi: I love that our generation is challenging the "perfect work/life balance" which often can feel like a moving target, and you’ve never fully arrived.
For me, I’m striving more for feelings of fulfillment. And part of that includes recognizing that often the sum of our life is made up of a lot of small, meaningful, everyday moments—versus huge, momentous, next-level feelings of joy.
"I’m striving more for feelings of fulfillment. And part of that includes recognizing that often the sum of our life is made up of a lot of small, meaningful, everyday moments— versus huge, momentous, next-level feelings of joy."- Naomi Hirabayashi
On how they calm or ground themselves when they need to self-soothe:
Marah: One of my favorite ways to self-soothe is to get lost in a good book or movie. From cheesy murder mysteries to cringeworthy rom-coms to Oscar-winners—I have no shame in my content selection and range, as long as it’s good enough to laugh or cry at.
Naomi: “Be where your feet are” is the grounding mantra that’s helped me through so many anxious or distracted moments.
It’s a gentle reminder—especially for someone like me who can overthink things, overthink what I say, outline all of the different ways something can unfold, etc.—to focus on the very thing we can easily miss, the present moment.
On finding moments of joy right now:
Marah: I’ve been spending my quarantine in Atlanta, which is a quick drive to my hometown of Savannah. Getting more quality time with my Dad, stepmom, little brothers, sister, and niece has been life-giving.
Seeing them every fews weeks, getting some home-cooked soul food, and laughing and loving each other from 6 feet away has brought me so much joy.
On learning to be kinder to themselves:
Marah: My practice of self-compassion is a constant work in progress. For years, I unknowingly rationalized my negative self-talk as “ways for me to be better,” often without leaving much room to give myself grace. After I gave a presentation, led a meeting, sent an email—my inner-dialogue would almost immediately, in veiled politeness, say, “Ya know, that was OK—but you could’ve done these 10 things better. Good data for next time!”
While I love my drive to constantly improve, I’ve realized that giving myself positive feedback, and noticing the areas I’m excelling or what I’m grateful for, can act like an off-switch for that negative voice that’s always pushing.
Naomi: It seems so obvious, but I’m thinking about how much compassion I extend to other people around what they’re able to get done in a day. But then towards myself, I’m often thinking: "You can get these 10 things done today, right? RIGHT?!” And I would pretend like that was physically or emotionally possible.
It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting better at identifying the one big thing I need to get through each day. And I’m being more realistic with myself about what’s possible, especially against the realities of what’s happening in the world and what we’re trying to manage emotionally as a country.
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