For some reason I’ve always been hyper-aware of the one life thing. Like- you only have one- so you should enjoy it. My Christian friends might beg to differ, as well as anyone who believes in reincarnation. As for me, I’m hoping reincarnation is the real deal and I can come back and live the way my cat lives.
I’ve always felt that we’re given this gift of life and we should do things for others, but we should also enjoy the ride. Is that selfish? probably. Is that a problem? Maybe not.
It’s okay to be selfish when it’s not hurting other people.
Let’s think about it:
On the surface I do this amazing thing. I help children with disabilities. When they come to me they get some of the help they need. Awesome, right?
Except there’s a crusty undercurrent to helping professions. There’s a theme of “I’m a helper, so I don’t have to do X.” Hell, I’ve certainly felt that way.
- I’m a helper (meaning I don’t make a lot of money), so I don’t have to donate to charity.
- I’m a helper (meaning I’m exhausted and in a rush), so I don’t have to let this person in front of me in line.
- I’m a helper (meaning I have a lot to do after work), so I don’t have to give my husband my full attention at the end of the day.
Not to mention, being in a helping profession there is an unwritten rule that you should be selfless with your time. You should do work you are not getting paid to do. You should work crazy hours “for the children.”
I’m sorry, but no.
I went into a helping field to help children. I didn’t do it to give completely of myself. I didn’t do it so that I could lose myself completely in a career.
I can’t. I won’t. It’s not fair.
It’s not fair to me, but it’s also not fair to the kids.
I remember once I heard something about doctors- probably on Grey’s anatomy, the only show I really watch. Anyway, they were saying that when you go to the doctor at night you are literally the only thing standing between that doctor and their bed. They asked, “Do you think that means you’re getting the best care you could get?” The answer- of course not.
The same goes for helpers. If a child comes to me on a very rough week when I’ve been asked to do more with less, they are legitimately the only thing standing between me and spending more quality time with myself, my family, and my priorities. Does that mean they’re getting the best care I can provide? No.
We are asked to give give give. Maybe not explicitly but it’s an undercurrent of the profession. We do it. We give. Then it’s Friday night, you’re at work laying on your office floor, eating chocolate, and wondering where your life went. You’re wondering, what’s in it for me? Worse yet, you’re annoyed with the people you’re there to help.
I say this as if it is universal, because I think it’s a common cold in helping professions. These jobs ask so much of us and it is so easy to give give give! It’s also very easy to burn out.
So, it’s time to take back something for yourself. It’s time to take some time giving back to yourself. Not just for ourselves, but for the people we’re trying to help. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we create a scenario where no one benefits.
Among other things, one of the best things we can be for our clients is a positive role model. Children, especially female children, need to see strong women who take care of themselves in their lives. They need to see that we value our time and we advocate for what we need. While we fight small battles for more personal time, we might be inspiring a future politician. We might be showing them the value of self-care and self-advocacy. We might be showing them the value of paid family medical leave. We might be making small waves that turn the tides of the future.
No matter what you do, self-care ought to be the next trend at your company
- It helps your clients because you’ll be a happier, more creative, and generally more fun.
- It helps your family because you will be better able to transition from work-mode to home-mode
- It helps you because you will feel more balance in your life and more joy.
So here’s the deal. Pick something you like to do. If you’re like me, this part might be the hardest thing. For so long I told myself “I don’t even have any hobbies!” Not the case. I just hadn’t tried the right stuff.
- Try something new.
- Schedule time for yourself at a minimum 30 minutes once per week
- Make time to spend alone with your own thoughts
- Do something luxurious
- Take care of yourself. Like you’d take care of someone you love.
Here are some of the things that work for me that you can try:
- get a magazine and spend time alone reading
- practice yoga
- make a coffee and drink it (no phone needed)
- paint your nails or get them painted
- put on makeup
- take a bubble bath
- light a candle and put on a face mask
- read a book alone in your bedroom