Look out for number one so you don’t step in number two.
Speak up for yourself.
If mama’s not happy, no one is happy.
These are just a few of the messages that pervade our culture. Self-advocacy and self-determination are important, but they have been perverted. Even the most well-intended “take care of yourself,” conveys the message that we are in this alone. If we are to survive, much less thrive, we must attend to our own needs first and foremost. Further, these messages suggest that the people around us are a potential threat to our well-being. Our health, safety and happiness must be singularly promoted, protected, and guarded.
By prioritizing personal gain over community health in this way, we have fostered a whole culture of isolation. Not only that, our self-absorption has fueled a separation, fear, and anxiety that is perpetuated at the societal level. The by-products of our self-absorption are ubiquitous. Addiction, loneliness, poverty, mental illness, and physical illness are just the most obvious outcomes. Played out at a national and international level, we have created enormous humanitarian and climate crises. This worldview is not serving anyone. It doesn’t have to be this way.
We are all in this together.
There is no doubt that self-love and self-compassion are foundational. Self-care is absolutely important for each one of us. Community-care is essential for all of us too. Being held in the concern of others and caring for one another enriches and expands our sense of belonging to the human family. I choose to stretch beyond myself and beyond my nuclear family to include the wider community in my sphere of attention and care. I am stepping in with intention to ensure that I am sharing the responsibilities, challenges, and privileges of my life journey with others – and inviting them to share their journeys with me. It is an intention that requires daily attention and diligence. To the extent that community-care is counter-cultural, it also requires opportunities to be overtly public, inviting others to step out of their stories of separation to meet me in connection, collaboration, and community.
My support can be as practical as sharing a meal or as subtle as changing my language. The next time I am tempted to respond to a friend who is facing hardship by encouraging “take care of yourself,” I’ll try one of these instead.
I’ll be thinking of you.
How can I be of help?
Can I check in with you tomorrow to see how things are going?
Would you like to tell me more?
I am here for you.