Being selfish to make a change.
I have lately worked at a summer leadership academy for international students aged 11 to 16. On the last day we wanted the students to write a “letter to self” as part of their reflections. Joining in on the activity and rereading the letter before slipping it into the envelope, I suddenly had a terrible awakening: I am living a very unhealthy lifestyle – and I would argue that many other young active people are doing just the same.
My days are tightly packed: university, night shifts in the hospital, tutoring, teaching at the institute for anatomy, sports, my social projects and all in between time with family and friends, lesson preparations and studying for my university courses. I enjoy all my activities as I am very passionate about them. While I now must admit that this is actually quite a bit that I ask of myself I always feel that I am not doing enough – I could do more, and I could do better. When I am tired, I do a 5-minute nap and then continue working. For the last few years there has been no family celebration where I didn’t at least take one or two things to work on with me. And always I try to hold my face – the face of a determined, strong and powerful young woman. But I am for sure not always that. There are times where I feel worn-out and tired. Times where I am demotivated. Times where I just want to be by myself. Stepping up for other people at all times and with all of the energy and time that I can offer I tend to push away my own needs, fears and personal wishes and stow them away somewhere deep down inside of myself.
In my head I have the ongoing mantra repeating over and over again that all of this is worth the time and energy – it is after all my passions and values that I represent in all my work and projects. It is okay I tell myself. But is it really okay? How long will I be able to continue working at this pace? One year, five years or maybe even ten? And thinking even further (…) Do people not also deserve to see the maybe a bit less efficient, but emotional me? Should they not also get the chance to get a glimpse of my personal thoughts and a chance to be there for me? Isn’t just that – giving AND receiving something, be it in the form of material, emotional or informational help – what makes out healthy, strong and sustainable social relationships?
Every day is chance to take care of yourself.
Every day is a chance to love yourself.
Every day is a chance to be proud of who you are and of what you do.
If you really want to make a change, I challenge you to be more selfish! Give yourself time to rest and recover. Give yourself time to relax and get bored as this will foster your creativity. Give yourself the right to say “no” sometimes. I strongly believe that when we take care of ourselves, we will also have greater potential to have a sustainable impact in the world.