When everything you do matters, and your work is too important to stop, prioritising taking care of yourself is a uniquely challenging prospect.
It’s one thing to put self-care on the top of the agenda if you’re a stressed financial executive – shareholder profits really can wait while you attend to your own wellbeing.
But what if you’re juggling a role which provides support to vulnerable people alongside being a carer; or balancing leadership of a vital organisation alongside parenthood?
If giving time and energy to your own wellbeing seems like a luxury that you know you should do but know you probably won’t get round to any time soon, I invite you to take a fresh perspective.
Is the work you do too important to take a break from?
You probably know what the warning signs are when you’ve taken on too much: perhaps you’re becoming snappy with your partner, starting to forget things and make mistakes, or feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the problem you’re fighting against.
If you’re ignoring the red flags and pushing on regardless, you’re certainly not alone – but have you considered the future you’re building when you do so?
As change makers, we face this conundrum on a deep level: We believe so strongly in the causes we’re a part of that we’re willing to make big sacrifices to support them.
That might mean earning less money; doing work that others consider lower status; or speaking uncomfortable truths to the people around us. Often, it’s all of those things. And so, putting our own well being second to the work can feel like just another one of those exchanges.
The injustice of overwork
One aspect of our overwork that we can’t ignore is the injustice inherent in our choice to keep going when we need to rest. After all, we’re fighting for values of fairness, equality and justice. Whatever your specific cause, at Jijaze we stand with people around the world fighting for the rights of the vulnerable, the poor and the marginalised to be free from oppression and to be allowed to live and thrive fairly.
But that ideal, if we really believe it, has to extend to ourselves.
Equality means that everyone – including you – has the right to rest, and replenish, and to work under conditions that don’t cause detriment to their physical or mental health.
If we push ourselves beyond reasonable limits; work until we burnout; or keep going until our friends, family or colleagues have no choice but to pick us up from the brink of collapse, we’re replicating the conditions of oppression which we argue so passionately against.
Taking a stand for ourselves
When we see injustice in the world, we want to root it out. We take a stand. We believe in doing the right thing even if it’s unpopular.
When it comes to ourselves, it’s vital that we extend the same principle. It might be unpopular to say no to a request, to stop working before we’re at our limits, or to risk our reputation for being always helpful and accommodating. Perhaps, deep down, you feel as though sacrificing your own wellbeing will somehow compensate for the unfairness you see in the world around you – it’s a really normal instinct.
But if we don’t believe that other people should be asked to work beyond their limits, exhausting ourselves contradicts our values.
And although we feel that we’re capable of doing it all, the reality is that it’s our closest communities who often end up picking up the pieces when we finally realise we’re human, after all.
We can’t do this alone
Women making change in the world face a unique challenge when it comes to prioritising our own wellbeing. It’s why the support we need to take care of ourselves is most effective when it takes into account the very real context of all we do, and why we do it.
The Jijaze Mastermind is a small group experience designed to support you to shift your working practices to take into account your own wellbeing – and help you to have an even bigger impact. Our work is designed specifically for women in change making roles whether in the public, non-profit, international development or charity sector. We have plenty of experience working in these kinds of roles and now we use that knowledge to support you to create sustainable, supportive ways of working without sacrificing your passion. We also welcome women who are healing professionals, and people who use their careers to answer callings in other ways.
For more details on the Mastermind, including how to register for our next session starting in May, click here.