Do You Invest in Yourself like You Do Your Clients?

In this third piece arguing against the idea that it’s possible to “care too much” in care work, I suggest that you keep caring for others, but care for yourself, too.

I have talked about the concept of “caring too much” in care work and the idea that this “caring” leads to bad boundaries and burnout.

I don’t believe it’s possible to care too much. Rather, I have argued that suffering emerges from over-investment in the futures we imagine for our clients, and from over-investment in work itself. The third problem I address in this series is the issue of under-investing in ourselves.

I don’t mean getting our nails done or a day at the spa, although these indulgent acts of self-care are part of it.

I mean moving through your day with the profound belief that you are important. Like, not more important than anyone else, but important. Inherently valuable. Worthy.

While holding that belief about ourselves, it becomes natural to stay in our boundaries and to prioritize our wellbeing. Our decisions totally change when we value ourselves.

Think about it — Do you think you are just as important as the people you serve? Do you practice what you preach?

I believed a past job was so challenging and unpredictable that it was just too difficult to leave work on time. Certainly there were times that the crises were so urgent that it would have been unethical to leave just because the clock clicked from 5:59 to 6:00 pm. But there was a moment where I realized that if I had a hot date to go to, or kids to pick up at daycare, I absolutely would have been able to leave on time on most days. If I felt the pull of my life after work in the same way that I felt the pull of work, I would have lived it.

Picture description: woman seen from behind walking in a forest with bare trees and a setting sun beyond. Fall colours. Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

At first, you may be tired out, exchanging work for Netflix or some other easy escape. But bit by bit, you can add activities that give your life energy, colour, and meaning. You can get creative, physically active, more social, more engaged in the world outside home and work. You might return to an old hobby, or start exploring who you are outside “helper.”

In beginning to make change, know that action can come before feeling. You can leave on time as if you’re the hot date, even though you don’t really feel like it. You do the thing because you are resolved, not because you are motivated or excited or energetic. You’ll start to feel the pull of the thing (the nature walk, the pottery class, the quality time with your kids) when you’re already doing it.

What I’m saying is it goes both ways — when we choose our wellbeing over work, we begin to value ourselves. And when we value ourselves, we make decisions that support our wellbeing.

You can try it with the intention of preventing burnout. Or you could try it just because you want to enjoy your life. I hope you do!

Audrey is an educator, counsellor, and curriculum developer running her own business in Toronto. She writes about social services, mostly. audreybatterham.com.

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