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.