I’ll be honest and share with you that in the beginning, I didn’t make all of these connections.
I started thinking I wanted to help women replenish themselves.
For almost seven years up until 2011 was the Director of an International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) and I got burned out doing all the things. I didn’t know how to take care of myself, and eventually left my job to take some space for myself.
Fast forward to 2017 and I knew I wanted to use the skills I’d developed since (Action Learning Facilitation, Shadow Work Coaching, Story Telling, Speaking, Leading Embodied Movement & Dance sessions) to support those I knew in & around the sector who are exhausted, burnt out and struggling to pay attention to their own wellbeing alongside their work for change.
What I’ve learnt along the way is that there is so much more to it than that.
That wellbeing is not just about self-care and filling ourselves up.
Instead, it’s really about being in radical resistance to cultures that invite us, women especially, to continually do more, do it all and wear themselves out.
It’s about power and resisting patriarchy and capitalism.
And it’s about resisting & refusing to participate in the idea that there are two kinds of people: ‘Helpers’ (predominantly White, Western, Male, Powerful) and ‘People who need to be helped’ (predominantly POC, Global South, Female, Powerless).
These are archetypes of course. We can all name exceptions.
What Matters is our refusal to participate in this story. And that requires humility and a different way of relating to our roles in relation to the change we want to create.
If we want to be in healthy solidarity with people taking action to undo the inequity and injustice in the world, we have to reject the dichotomy of the ‘helper’ (saviour, humanitarian, do-gooder) and the ‘helped’ (people who we might have judged ‘need’ what we have to offer).
So these days I am thinking about Wellbeing as including:
- How we care for ourselves
- Safety from harm
- Our ability to have Work-life-balance
- Being in right Relationship to power (Power with rather than Power over)
- Access to strategies to cope with crisis that work for us
- Cultures of collective care
- A commitment to reflection & humility.
My understanding of what I mean by wellbeing is expanding and evolving.
But I am clear that it requires us to pay due attention to ourselves. To what needs healing in us. What in us is perpetuating the very things we resist (including the parts of us that want to ‘do-it-all’ and exhaust ourselves)
And to form structures of solidarity that are truly cognisant of power and in continual reflection about how to transform it.
So for me Wellbeing, Impact & Collective Care is not about another approach to self-care but about a political way of being.
It’s feminist and radical and it asks you to let go of the notion that you are here to ‘save’ anyone else.
It asks you instead to deliberately look at how you may be perpetuating and supporting structures of injustice, to consider how you might do things differently, to support yourself and think about how to build cultures of collective care with others.
Our collective wellbeing is about justice and equity. It’s about challenging power and shifting systems.
It will take time. Longer than I have. Longer than you have.
But my invitation to you is to think about how you can practice activism that, rather than neglecting your wellbeing, embraces it, knowing that healing is for all of us in this broken, inequitable and unjust world.
My work is about living these sentiments so if you choose to work with me you’ll find that the work I offer is all about bringing these thoughts to life.
To enable me to do so in a way that has some coherence I use a seven stage process which I’ve developed that helps anchor the journey towards reconnecting wellbeing and impact for ourselves and building cultures of collective care so that we can invite that re-connection in others.
If you’d like support around building up your own wellbeing practices to sustain the impact of your work long term, find out more about working with me as an individual or hiring me to work with your organisation here.