Act Like You Matter

With what’s happening in the world today, it is more important than ever to act like you matter. Part of this means speaking out and taking action for change. The other half of it is caring for yourself.

And to be brutally honest, your good intentions mean nothing if you’re not well enough to follow through.

 
Maybe I need to point out here that the “wellness” I talk of is very personal and individual. It constitutes whatever “well” looks like for you – not some homogeneous idea of being like Beyonce or Lady Gaga or {insert your favourite famous, idealised icon here}.

Cliches abound about filling up cups and how you can’t do anything for others if you’re not ok first exist because they’re right, but so often we don’t really understand them until we burn ourselves out and live them.

I would like to emphatically request that you bloody well act like you matter. That you sincerely look after yourself! Do it before you wreck yourself – I speak from personal wisdom.

There are different ways we end up feeling like shit after trying to do good, and I’ve experienced all of them:

1. Compassion fatigue, otherwise known as secondary trauma: When you work with clients, hear their harrowing stories and take them to heart)
2. Moral injury: When you are part of a system that did harm and didn’t live up to your values.
3. Burnout: When the organisation doesn’t walk its talk. It has a crap vision, and even crappier internal staff conflicts.
4. Over work: When you work late nights, weekends, travel a lot and and have to meet tight deadlines.

And it’s even possible to have all or a few of these non-serving situations happening at the same time, wrapped up into a explosive effluent storm that pulls you down.

I believe we need to make a few changes. We need to act like we love ourselves. (We do, right? Deep down..?) Things like:

Take your lunch break.
Eat breakfast.
Drink water.
Go to sleep.
Turn off your phone.
Use sunscreen.

Say no.

Say no.

SAY NO.

We forget that we are in control of our lives. We make decisions about how we want to live, even though they might not feel exactly like choices. Being purposeful and focussed in your actions will ensure you can do good work. Hint: You can’t do everything and do it all well. That also means you can’t work 70 hour weeks long-term and do good work.

Not every activist feels like they’ve been screwed over, but the sheer quantity of self-care articles tells me that it happens far too much.

Alessandra Pigni writes about how self-care also requires our organisations to take responsibility for how we end up. While I wholeheartedly agree, the number of brilliant activists, educators and advocates that I have watched teetle on the knife edge of falling apart, knowingly, yet doing nothing, astounds me.

We know that we need to take care. And yet we don’t.

No one is going to do it for you.

 
We as humans have certain necessities to physically survive – air, water, food, sleep. Yet we neglect to give ourselves these essentials with such a lack of care and forget the coming consequences.

As Jenna Wortham writes, ¨Wellness, I came to realize, will not happen by accident.¨

If you currently feel squashed, exhausted, apathetic, here are some great places to start:

Alessandra Pigni´s book and blog
The restorative work of Christy Tennery-Spalding
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky´s book

I am really passionate (some would say obsessed) about the intersection between doing good work and being well as a change-maker. I support women to find better ways to change the world without burning out. You can find out more on my website Hermosas Chispas.

Photography: By Story Moon on Visual Hunt
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Stephanie May 19, 2017, 8:11 am

    The timing of this article couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time <3
    Well said thanks Pip!

    • Pip Bennett May 19, 2017, 11:14 am

      Thanks Steph! I hope it is useful. Make sure you look after yourself because you’re a special lady! xx

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