How to ensure your self-care isn’t destructive and you're there for those you serve
We’re living in an age where it’s so easy not to show up – at an event, at dinner with a friend, at work (Google ghosting – there is no shortage of articles on the topic). Sometimes, it’s for legitimate reasons – the work of serving others takes energy, time, and vulnerability and we’re TIRED. And even if we are there in person, it can be easy to be physically present and mentally absent to what’s happening around us. What those of us who work in service of others, who work for the hope of a better world know, though, is that if we want to see change, it requires us to show up. No halfway, no maybe I’ll be there, no undecided. We have to be in the work – all in, physically and mentally present, full engagement.
So what will it take for you to show up? Who do you need to show up for? I’ve found that in my time in education and non-profit service that the most important thing I can to in order to show up for my students, for teachers, for my staff, is to take care of me.
Self-care has certainly become a buzzword of sorts. We hear the mantra of self-care, all while thinking, “Sure, if you can add another 2-3 hours to my day – that’s when I’ll take some time for self-care.” And it’s a fine line between self-care and self-indulgence – overdoing the thing that was supposed to help us feel better. Overdoing it to the point that after we’ve done it, we end up feeling worse than when we started. Eating, shopping, binge-watching, social media and so many other things might make us feel better in the moment as we get the rush of endorphins from indulging, but afterwards leave us less able to be there for the people who are relying on us most.
I challenge you to ask yourself a question – what does it mean for you to SHOW UP? Who do you need to show up for? And what will it take for you to show up? Take a critical eye to your “self-care” practices. After you engage in “self-care”, do you feel better or do you feel worse? Are you more ready to show up for those whom rely on you to be your best self? How do you spend time doing the things that bring you light and energy so you can be sustained through the challenges? Leaders who inspire change know that in order to do so, they must care for themselves to bring the whole of their greatness to the world.
If you find yourself saying, “no” more than “yes”, if you find it hard to be present (physically or mentally), if you don’t feel like you are showing up as your whole, wonderful self, it might be time for a self-care audit. Avoid the slippery slope of self-care becoming self-indulgence or even self-destruction. Do the things that fill you up, make you whole, and bring out your best self. Your people rely on you, need you, and are counting on your greatness. It takes work to be a wonderful, whole spirit for change in the world. Do it for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erin Quackenbush began the journey of a lifetime when she joined the corps in Atlanta in 2002 and began teaching at Scott Elementary. In between her nine years of teaching lower elementary grades, working with her school’s Early Intervention Program, and leading the Student Support Team process, she also worked training new teacher leaders with Teach For America in a variety of teacher support and development roles. While teaching, Erin earned her National Board Certification as an Early Childhood generalist and was recognized by her school as Teacher of the Year. Erin is currently serves the Metro Atlanta community as a member of Teach For America staff where she has worked for over eight years in various roles supporting educators at all stages of their development. Currently, she has the privilege of leading strategy, talent, and operations work in support of the Teach For America team. Erin lives in Marietta with her husband Chris, her two kids, Kate and Max, and her dog and cat. When she has a free minute, she enjoys traveling, volunteering at Kate’s school, reading, and being outside with her family.
So this past weekend, we got to travel to Houston to attend a LEE Conference. So, what is LEE? LEE is an acronym that means Leadership for Educational Equity. They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit leadership development organization working to end the injustice of educational inequity by inspiring and supporting a diverse set of leaders with classroom experience to engage civically and politically. The NOW Conference or the National Organizing Workshop, was all about making change from the ground up, and how to galvanize others to make a stand around issues that matter.
For me the most powerful piece was learning first hand how to do the same type of community organizing work Martin Luther King Jr. did to unite the masses, and push for change. We got to hear from several Community Organizers who have advocated for such powerful change in their own communities and today I just want to highlight some of their work, because I was so taken aback by the power of the people. One example was the work of Angela Cobian. As a community organizer with Together Colorado she coached parent teams in Denver Public Schools and parishioners in churches. Together, they lead the change they wanted to see in their city. Through this they achieved better transportation options for students, improved police and immigrant community relationships, and even fought for the right to get driver’s licenses and for strong academic standards at the state Capitol.
Angela Cobian is now the District 2 representative on the Denver Public Schools school board in Colorado. From this seat, she continues to advocate for all students. Cobian won a first term in the by-district general election on November 7, 2017. From this powerful example, I see what is possible not only for Denver & Angela, but for us & Atlanta. We too want to advocate for lasting change. What’s our issue? Dismantling the school to prison pipeline. What is the SPP exactly? The school-to-prison pipeline is the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly black and brown students, to become incarcerated, because of increasingly harsh school policies. Where do we start? Well, we listen to the people of course. Please tell us your experience with the school-to-prison pipeline below, because without your voices no true progress can be made. So leave a comment to let us know if you or someone you know has been affected by this issue and how, because this is just the beginning of our very own fight.