Each year I promise myself that winter will be my quiet season – a time for rest and reflection and to revisit my thoughts. As we start March, I realize that another winter season has passed by and my plans for renewal were buried once again under a to-do list that is without end. Sitting down one day, trying to pull my shoulders off my ears and de-stress, the light bulb went off. Why am I waiting for someone to give me permission to engage in self-care?
It struck me that, as an educational culture, we often put others needs ahead of our own. It is documented in the literature that early childhood educations engage in altruistic behaviors – or acts of selflessness towards others. We make sacrifices to practices in this field in terms of wage, long hours, and often a lack of recognition for the intense work it takes to be in the classroom by society. There are many documented cases of early childhood educators staying in programs that are harmful to self to protect the children in their care.
The concept, then of self-sacrifice, becomes embedded in our culture of care. Self-sacrifice, as a habit, distracts us from taking care of self. We make sure that the needs of the children are met, our families are met, and our friends are met before we turn to ourselves. The danger of self-sacrifice becomes that we become adapt a postponing our own needs. We come to believe that our needs come last in the long list of needs and what needs to be done first. We stop making choices about self-care and start waiting for permission because surely we are not as important as everything else in our lives.
Waiting for permission is a dangerous place, because we give up the power to make our own choices. We think that if we sacrifice ourselves, then we will be acknowledged for our hard work and somehow our burdens will be eased. However, this is not true. Rather self-care is like the instructions that we receive on a plane – first put on your own oxygen mask, and then help others.
Self-compassion then is the act of giving oneself permission to take care of self. It is the idea of moving self to prioritize ones own needs. Taking care of self is not selfish. Taking care of oneself is building our reserves, our resiliency, so we can continue doing the hard work. Self-compassion acknowledges that we are important enough to matter, to be a priority in our own lives.
How will you practice self-compassion today?