I recently read an article in the New Yorker, entitled The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death, in which they stated
At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system.
I was emotionally moved by this statement. Yes, it was a sad social commentary on the current economic system. However, it's also a sad social commentary on my life.
While I won't go so far to say that I'm obsessed with self-reliance, I do err on the side of channeling my inner Olivia Pope proclaiming "it's handled" whenever something comes up. When I reflected on my life I realized that was a common practice.
Voted Most Versatile my senior year of High School, I was the first chair in the flute section of my band, managing editor of the yearbook, captain of my volleyball team, honor society and dean's list student, and was on the dance team. Can anyone say overachiever? Of course this pattern of "doing it all" continued throughout my adult life to present day.
When it comes to dialing it back and making myself a priority, that's were I too often drop the ball.
Audre Lorde wrote,
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
In my practice as a labor and employer lawyer I advocated for the rights and equal treatment of employees. As an academic I advocated for the rights of my students through my curriculum and student development policies. My current consulting practice is built around the practice of self-love, self-worth and empowerment for my clients--high performing successful professionals who struggle with engaging in these practices for themselves.
However, when it comes to myself I still find that I neglect to advocate for my own self care. Even thought I've done a lot of work on this issue, I'm constantly reminded that self care is a prudent act of survival. As Audre Lorde said, "...it's self-preservation and an act of political warfare."
It's an unfortunate truth that women are bombarded with messages that they can do it all. Intersectional feminist and sociologist, Patricia Hill Collins spoke on the mythology of the "strong black woman." The idea is that women who can do all things and bear all things. I call bullshit. That somehow to "do it all" means you are strong but to ask for a break, time off, or help means you are weak.
I talk a lot about self care and taking time out to do something for yourself, and while I believe these periodic acts of self-focus are necessary, we have to do more. A great bubble bath, finding a great pair of shoes, or getting a massage are great, but we must start to protect our mental and emotional wellness and our time. Yes, it's an act of political warfare. It's the gender politics of survival.
We must start paying attention to those times we are feeling tired, anxious, overwhelmed and fearful and not judge these feelings as weakness. Instead of going for the tangible indulgences of drinking and shopping, invest in your emotional well-being. Engage in understanding why we push ourselves to the brink of overwhelm and not just take a break from it only to go back with full force and effect. There's no better way to "treat yo' self."
Investing in self care (whether with a coach, therapist, or taking the time to work on yourself) is not a frivolous self-indulgence or a waste of time. Remember your thoughts create your reality. What you think about you bring about. So if you're not managing your thoughts and emotions effectively you'll begin to experience self-doubt, guilt, fear, and anxiety. The imposter syndrome will creep up and your inner mean girl will run unchecked shaming you into believing if you just do more, achieve more, or looked younger or slimmer you could have peace of mind and happiness.
Protecting your time will help manage your mental and emotional health. This will support you in achieving your goals in life and business. You'll have greater clarity and make more thoughtful and mindful decisions in your life. You'll not only be a better version of yourself, you'll be of service to others.
These words are a love letter to all women (myself included). As a social scientist my work has always centered around the mental, emotional, and physical well being of women. While we live in a society that loves the idea of "one size fits all". But when it comes to the resiliency of women, nothing could be further from the truth. We have to reject these concepts of "working our fingers to the bone" and wearing poor sleep and eating habits as a badge of honor. We have to learn to define success on our own terms. Grounding it in an appreciation of self and life purpose. We must limit external demands to engage in the highest forms of self care.
Live, laugh, and unapologetically shine!