An Advocate for wellness and racial literacy in law
As a lawyer who practiced in law firms and worked in corporate America, Alyssa Johnson knows only too well the stress of the profession. “Lawyers may be expected to show up every day at work and fire at 100% regardless of how we’re feeling. This isn’t a realistic way of practicing when we look at how our hormones impact our energy levels.”
After working 70-80 hour weeks and having an existential crisis in 2008, Alyssa decided there had to be more to life than working. She began learning about spirituality and developing a relationship with her own inner being. In 2013, she expanded on her spirituality studies and started studying psychology, emotional intelligence, and trauma. In 2015, Alyssa also started volunteering with a nonprofit in Austin, Texas, that works with kiddos who are in the child welfare system due to abuse or neglect. During volunteer training, she learned that the majority population makeup of Austin is White, but the vast majority of kiddos in the child welfare system in Austin are Black or Brown. The only reason for this is because Austin is racist. Because a disproportionate number of children of Color are in the child welfare system, the nonprofit strongly encourages its volunteers to do race literacy work. This is where Alyssa began her race literacy journey.
Today, she is a veritable pioneer – an Attorney Well-Being Teacher & Consultant for Legal Organizations; Race Literacy Teacher for White People; Speaker; and Author.
“I work with lawyers on topics related to well-being. This includes expanding emotional intelligence, finding greater work-life balance, working in partnership with our hormones, and cultivating more pleasure in our lives. What I find is that most lawyers want a more heart-centered legal profession where everyone is valued and treated with respect and dignity. A pathway to creating a more heart-centered profession is by increasing self-awareness, which can build compassion and empathy.
I’m also passionate about race literacy work. The legal profession in the United States is extremely racist, and I work with White lawyers to become more racially literate so we can do our part to dismantle supremacy within our profession.”
Alyssa sacrificed the prestige of a traditional legal career to create her own path. The fact that her biggest challenge was demonstrating ‘why’ things need to change in the legal profession proved that she had made the right decision. “Advancing to a certain title, such as law firm partner, holds a lot of prestige within the profession. But I walked away from that in order to follow my passions.”
A crucial strength that helped her succeed was her ability to do inner work. Because she was willing to look at her wounds, she managed to heal a lot of her childhood and race-based trauma and build internal resiliency. “One of the things I think about to help guide my actions is – What will my legacy be? Are my actions in alignment with the world I wish to co-create with others? Thinking about my life from this perspective gives me clarity on where to focus my energy.”
Yet, her insecurities and fears as a woman have sometimes prevented her from taking action and putting her voice into the world. How can women overcome this obstacle, we ask her. “I think that clarity of dreams and taking strategic actions towards fulfilling those dreams can help women move towards their goals. This means that we need to spend time in introspection and figure out where we truly desire to go. Once we’re clear on our dreams, we need to share our goals with others and be open to constructive feedback. Additional training may also be needed to open up doors.”
As a women’s leader, Alyssa also finds the elusive work-life balance easier now that she’s older and doesn’t feel the need to sacrifice everything for work to impress other attorneys the way she did when she was younger.
Sharing how she now finds inspiration from her family and friends, she says, “They consistently do their inner work, spend time addressing their wounding, and then move forward from a more integrated place. They inspire me to do my work within the legal profession to make it a better place for all attorneys.”
One of Alyssa’s proudest accomplishments is being named an Ambassador for the nonprofit she volunteers for that works with kiddos who are in the child welfare system. As an Ambassador, she speaks about her experiences to potential volunteers.
Another thing Alyssa likes to prioritise is her ‘me-time’ where she loves to walk, strength train, read, journal, connect with her loved ones, and listen to meditations to calm her nervous system and create clarity on her next steps.
Sharing how each one of us can achieve harmony, she says, “You are important. Your dreams are important. You may have wounding that seems unhealable or life experiences that seem insurmountable. Do what you need to do to feel as safe as possible so that you can create – or continue creating – a life that brings you joy. That is an immeasurable gift to yourself and others in a world that often wants us to feel miserable.”