Given recent events in my personal life as well as the continued events in our social lives, I want to take a minute to talk about the importance of self-care including protecting your boundaries around time and how you spend it. “Let’s normalize not confusing someone’s free time with their availability,” Broderick Hunter. We have a terrible habit of assuming when someone isn’t working or fulfilling some other obligation that they are available. We’ve been trained from early on to give every ounce of our time to other people. We’ve also been trained to believe that if we don’t give that time that we are selfish. While we are social creatures, we need time for ourselves to recharge and replenish—and those needs are different for everyone. We need to change the narrative around taking that time.
Our work lives play a significant role in this as well. I’ve mentioned before I work in healthcare and the burnout is real. Not that all work isn’t susceptible to burnout, it’s just different when your job is to care for people 24/7. The definition of our roles is to give up our personal time to care for others. The pressure we put on ourselves and each other is immense and taking a step back is the first step with balancing what needs to be done for ourselves and what needs to be done for all. I don’t question the value of the things we do but I do question the value of the effort it takes to get there. If you give up so much of yourself that you’re not fully present, what is the value in being there at all?
It is not selfish to do what needs to be done for yourself. It is healthy and necessary. It is only when we are at our peak that we are able to really give the most in return. Finding what works for you is key. The story we tell ourselves about how people recharge is another narrative we have to change. People need different things. Some of us get lost in a book. Others workout. Some play video games or play with RC cars. We need to do whatever it takes to make ourselves whole in order to do our best. I’m a salaried employee and I make sure to take care of myself by leaving after 8 hours every day. I may still have to do some work later, but I will only be in the office for 8 hours. That is what I get paid for and that is what I stick to.
It has been proven again and again that taking time to replenish is vital to mental health. It’s more selfish to demand others fulfill our needs than it is to learn to fulfill ourselves. Again, we are social creatures, but that doesn’t mean anyone is obligated to do for us what they cannot do for themselves. The reverse is true as well. We are only granted a certain amount of time here and we never know what that may be. It is up to us to define the boundary for how we spend that time. We are allowed to do that in spite of what we have been told.
Life keeps moving forward, jobs will replace you in a heartbeat. So do what you need to do. You are the only person who knows what you need, what is right for you. And if we aren’t careful or if we don’t take the time to know what we really want, it is all too easy to get swayed into doing things we don’t want. That is when we feel victimized or martyred. Realizing that is a choice is the key to stopping it. So respect your time and others will. Even if it makes others upset or uncomfortable, that is not your problem. It’s our job to establish boundaries and to stick with them. Let’s teach a new story—that it isn’t selfish to do what you need to do for yourself.