It’s Friday night and you’re just getting home after a long week at work. You got home late because your coworker asked for your help with something “real quick” as you were preparing to leave that took an hour.
On the ride home, you got a call from a friend who was upset and wanted to vent so they spent your whole ride home (the time you wanted to be quiet and destress) presenting problems to you and asking you what they ought to do.
As soon as you walk in the door your partner/child/family member/neighbor/random person walking by asks you to help them with blah, blah, blah….
And dinner isn’t prepared..
It's two hours later and you’re still in your work clothes. You haven’t even sat down and your back and feet are screaming. You are utterly and completely drained and have nothing left to give.
Then you hear the cellphone ring………
Does any of this sound familiar?
While it is so easy to blame everyone else for your exhaustion, most of it could be resolved with a simple thing that everyone is talking about all the time these days.
What is that miraculous and simple solution?
Self-care. And that first word says it all. Self. That means it's something YOU do.
What Is Self-Care Anyway?
Self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
It’s what you do to promote your health and well-being.
It can be simple or it can be grand and as long as you feel an upward swing in your energy and/or more calm and peaceful you should feel the benefits of good self-care. We all know that going to the hair/nail salon doesn’t always produce those feelings. Don’t get me wrong, they can, but not always.
Why Do I Struggle To Take Care Of Myself?
Even though you know somewhere inside that you are running on fumes, you don’t always just stop. Or more accurately, you don’t ask yourself what to change so you can feel better.
You have probably even advised some of the folks who reach out to you to take better care of themselves. Some of you may talk about the benefits of self-care all the time.
But doing it for yourself is a nonstarter.
It’s even worse knowing that you’re hurting yourself and that you need to do something, but you continue to set your own needs aside. And you have absolutely no idea why you do that. Let me help you with some possible reasons that you always seem to fail with your self-care:
You’ve been taught to believe that what makes you a good person is putting others first
I think they must put this one on replay in the bassinets of baby girls in the hospital as some type of brainwashing tool so females leave the hospital already knowing what they’re supposed to do. Or the indoctrination may start when as a toddler you’re forced to share your toys with various children who invade your space. The adults admonish you for not sharing with little Johnny or Jane who is never going to return the toy. And you get patted on the head and told you’re a good girl when you comply.
The self-sacrificing can start early.
Your value and feelings of self-worth come from others or sources outside of yourself
Kids can go through a stage of life where they want to be seen by adults, so they try hard to get their attention. We see them working to entertain us and we laugh, and clap, and praise them. And then they keep going, and going, and going. Eventually they turn into surly teenagers though, so it doesn’t last too long or forever.
Some of you, however, never stop needing that. Your worth is tied completely to your ability to respond to someone who needs help. Or rather, your worth is tied to you feeling needed by the people you help. You sacrifice time, energy, money, health, etc., to be thought of as the person that is always ready to step in.
By the way, were you ever thanked for the extra time you spent helping that coworker last Friday?
Most of us spend our 20s and 30s trying to figure out who we are and what we want. We often search for that through our relationships with other people, how they view us, how we want to be viewed by them. We compare ourselves to others as a way to determine how well we are doing at life. But a shift occurs as we mature, and we start feeling a tug to find meaning and the desire to live a life of purpose becomes stronger.
While this shift may feel like it is coming out of the blue, we are following an established pattern that we all experience. Erik Erikson, an ego psychologist, developed a well-known and influential theory of psychosocial development that identified stages that we go through as we age. In each stage we experience a crisis or conflict that will help us reach the next stage of our development.
At around 40 years of age we enter Erikson’s seventh stage of our psychosocial development, middle adulthood, and the conflict or crisis of generativity versus stagnation. We exit this stage at 65. Erikson defined generativity as a “concern for establishing and guiding the next generation”. It’s the engine behind our concern for the future or our desire to leave something behind. It’s why we even ask ourselves the question “what is my purpose?”.
According to Erikson, if we successfully negotiate the stage we’re in, we develop strengths and skills that will help us as we enter into the next stage. If we do not resolve the crisis successfully, we won’t develop the set of skills the conflict is intended to develop and we will struggle with succeeding stages. Finding a purpose in your life after 50 sits squarely in the middle of the generativity versus stagnation stage.
The pain of loneliness has been a part of the human journey since the first primordial man walked out of the muck. There have also been viruses and bugs that we have had to adapt to as we developed into the current model of human being that exists today. And every season there is something new that we have to develop an immunity against for future generations. Throughout history, epidemics and pandemics have driven people into their homes to quarantine themselves to be safe. What’s different about this? Two things. It’s our turn and we are more interconnected at this time than any other point in history and we can more easily share what we’re going through.
while being so interconnected has many benefits, it does make it more difficult to find time, space, or even the desire to disconnect from each other. We all carry devices that make it possible for anyone to reach us any time and any place. Spending time disconnected is the luxury that we all believe we cannot afford as doing so would cause untold calamity in our lives. If we’re honest, I’ll bet many of us thought first about how we were going to stay connected to work before thinking about how we were going to stay connected to our family.
In a recent study of 20,000 people conducted by Cigna, 47% of respondents reported feeling alone or left out. 13% reported feeling that there was no one, 0%, who knew them well. This pain of loneliness has now followed them into the quarantine and it is where many of us have been introduced to it in a sustained way for perhaps the first time in our lives.
Real-World Strategies for Dealing with Implicit Racism Today
Implicit racism has always been around, but what is implicit racism today? Here’s an example.
Last month I went to the bank as I normally do every week to handle the business that I have to do in person. I was rushing and arrived in the parking lot at the same time as another customer. While I normally get my deposit ready before going to the teller, this time I was rushing and knew I was going to have to get the small deposit ready at the window.
I had resolved to be a nuisance and so I rushed in so I could go first. I will admit that it may have been a juvenile move, but I was in a rush and had to get home before my next client. Now here are two facts that I have observed in the 18 months that I had been going to that bank every week. First, they have deposit slips at the window that the teller will give you if you need one. Second, I have never seen the tellers complain or ask someone to wait for someone else to go who is already prepared.
I knew I was in trouble when I ran in, went to the first teller and asked if she had any slips and she pointed me to the desk where the slips are kept. I grabbed one and took it to the second teller and this is when I got kicked in the gut. She looked at me and said “Oh, you’re not ready?” She both looked and sounded very annoyed with me. Then she said, “You should have waited to go after someone else who is actually ready.” And she pointed to the well-dressed white woman behind me.
I said to her “Well I didn’t realize that it was required for me to be ready when I came to the window”. She looked at me with that tight little smile that exuded annoyance and said, “Well you could wait for someone who is ready already….” I looked at the customer and asked her if she was ready since I didn’t see anything about her that indicated that she was. She didn’t answer my question, just looked uncomfortable. I turned back to the teller and asked, “How do you know she’s ready?” She didn’t respond.
Things moved quickly after that. The first teller who pointed me to the desk invited the white customer to come to her window and the teller I was standing in front of gave me attitude and hostility for the duration of my transaction. Did I mention that she was white? Up to that point we always had pleasant exchanges and I never suspected what lay beneath the surface. I was angry. But even more profoundly I felt hurt and humiliated. My hands were shaking throughout the rest of the exchange and I could barely keep my thoughts together.
You might wonder why I felt humiliated. Well for one thing, it was embarrassing. She scolded me for not letting the white woman go first. Second, and this is the most humiliating part, if the white woman had said she was ready I may have stepped aside and let her go first. I have great shame admitting that. I would have let that teller make me feel small enough to step aside and let the preferred person go first.
Do I think the teller’s actions indicated a racist brewing beneath the surface. I don’t know if that’s true. I think its deeper and hence more problematic than that. I believe that I was subjected to implicit racism. That’s a form that’s harder to see and can be difficult to explain when it happens to you. When it does, it can often lead you to a “WTF just happened?” response as you know you feel like crap but when you say it out loud you sound petty.
Melissa Watson-Clark has been practicing as a psychotherapist since 2010. Working primarily with clients suffering with anxiety and depression she focuses on the power of nature to bring healing and restoration to her clients.