If you are giving part of yourself each day of your life, as a profession, volunteer, home carer, or support worker don’t feel guilty about being interested in pursuing personal growth (feeling better in yourself), it does not mean you are a selfish person. Personal growth does affect relationships with others and with yourself.
There is no question about it. We need to have a caring relationship with ourselves before we can expect others to do so. However, being interested in personal growth doesn’t mean you’re selfish. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
In his book, “The Psychology of Romantic Love,” Nathaniel Brandon wrote, “The first affair we must consummate successfully is the love affair with ourselves. Only then are we ready for other love relationships.” In other words, if we don’t even like ourselves, it’s going to be difficult to love others. When I use the word love, it is not just the romantic, or the paternal, or the friendship kind, it is the empathy, understanding and kindness for patients and colleagues.
You see, no matter how concerned we are about others, we are ultimately responsible only for ourselves. If we feel inadequate and victimised, then we have no power to offer another person security and strength. Without that firm personal foundation, we are building our relationships on what amounts to quicksand.
Self-development means being the best you can be and giving the best that you can give. It means asking yourself, “If I were living with me or caring for me, would I want to stay around?” Yes, that’s a big question, one that demands an answer. Then, you change what you need to change according to that answer you have given yourself. You don’t need to make a big deal about it, but realising it, is a huge step forward.
You see, although there are tremendous personal benefits to self-development, it is, perhaps, in your relationships with others that a commitment to personal growth will bring you the most gratifying changes – and a deeper sense of happiness and contentment
If you are in a senior position, then showing your team you care for about yourself, take your wellbeing seriously; they will have a model to follow. Being the leader you would want to follow, sets the example. Not so many years ago practitioners were smoking around patients, they were not sanitising hands or using gloves for general practice. All of these changes have made a difference in patient care.
All staff are overworked and stressed with deadlines, cutbacks and red tape. The more frustrated you become with your situation, your staff/colleagues, patients, the system and life in general; the more you are turning in on yourself.
Taking time to support yourself, allow your feelings to surface, take breaks even very short self-centring techniques can lower your blood pressure and lighten your mood. These are not a long-term solution, but each small step, leads to the next.
Compassion Fatigue is depleting all of our caregiving services, taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It is partly the responsibility of employers to support workers, but at the end of the day; it is your life, your responsibility.
Care for yourself, as much as you care for others. If you want to know how to feel better, let me know.
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Linda Sage MA, BA Ed(Hons) – Caring for the Caregiver