Self-Care for the Chronic People Pleaser

If you’re anything like me, taking care of yourself has a lovely, dusty little corner in the very back of your brain. A spot that occasionally gets a flashlight shone towards it, but rarely gets entered. For the last three years, I have heard the term “self-care” at least once a week. It is a heavily discussed topic within social work. Yet, no matter how many times I’ve heard the term, I still struggle with it. You see, I think about it and I know what I should be doing, but I rarely do it. Whenever I try to plan self-care into my schedule, I find something “better” to be doing with that time. Whether it be working on homework, helping a friend, or doing something for my internship, there is always something else that comes up. I’ve noticed that, even when I do find the time to perform a little act of self-care, I often feel guilty for doing so. Thoughts like “I should be doing something more productive right now” and “I wonder if any of my friends need my help” run through my head.

I have always been a people pleaser. Disappointing people is genuinely one of my biggest fears in life. I have never been good at saying “no,” even to people I don’t know well. If I know that a friend needs something, I will drop everything to help them as much as I can. I’ve skipped class, left my internship early, and canceled plans all in the name of being there for a friend in need. However, I’ve recently started noticing what a big tole taking care of everyone else has been taking on my own well-being.

Thankfully, within the last couple months I’ve started acknowledging and then dismissing the intrusive thoughts that creep up during self-care acts. I’ve started saying “no” and working towards maintaining my own well-being first and foremost. Its definitely not an easy task, and I still struggle with the whole self-care thing on a daily basis, but I have noticed the drastic difference it has made in my state of mind and my ability to help others. So, if you’re anything like me, here are my tips for self-care.

  1. Self-care is not selfish. You HAVE to take care of yourself. There’s really no other option. If you don’t, you will hit a point where you just fall apart. In order to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself. Maintaining your own physical and mental well-being is crucial.
  2. You don’t have to light yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. Yes, you can help your friends. But make sure that by saying “yes” to others, you’re not saying “no” to yourself.
  3. Make a list. There are plenty of self-care strategies out there but deciding what to do in the moment can be hard. Take some time to come up with a list of self-care strategies so that you have something to reference when the time comes.
  4. Schedule it. If you make time in your daily schedule to perform acts of self-care, there will be virtually no excuse to stop you from doing it.
  5. Self-care is not going to be immediately easy. It is something you have to practice over and over again before it becomes second nature. It will be hard at first. You will have intrusive thoughts. You will feel guilty for saying “no” to a friend. You will feel like you are wasting your time. I promise, it will get better. Just don’t give up on yourself.
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Faith

I’ve been thinking about this thing we call faith lately. Religion. Its kind of a funny concept when you think about it, right? Like, its supposed to be this thing that brings people together, but, more often than not, it is what tears us apart from other human beings. I mean, we have wars over it and, regardless of what religion you belong to, I think we can all agree that none of our religious rules tell us to kill people because of a difference in opinion or belief (I’m no expert on religions, but from what I know “thou shalt not kill” is a pretty common theme).

I don’t really talk about my faith all that often. I mean, sure, there are short spurts of conversations every once in a while, but nothing too serious. The truth is, I don’t really know where I stand with my faith. I mean, I know that I believe in a higher power (we’ll call it God for lack of a better word), but I don’t know about any of the other details.

Let’s talk about Heaven vs Hell for a minute. There are days where I feel like I believe in Heaven because, there just has to be something after life, right? More often than not, these days are ones in which I am thinking about my grandparents or someone else I knew who passed away. It’s comforting to think that there’s a better place where we can have life after death. I like to think that I can talk to them and that they hear me. I like feeling as though they are watching over me and taking care of me. But there are also days when I feel like Heaven was made up so that some little kid could be convinced that, if they’re good, they will go to this magical place called Heaven. If I think about it too much, it just sounds too good to be true. I mean, this magical place above the clouds that has golden gates and a man with a long white beard. It all just sounds too…fluffy. Like Heaven, there are days where I feel like Hell should exist because of people like terrorists and serial killers. But another part of me thinks that Hell was only created to scare people out of doing bad things. The thing is, though, I don’t really know. It doesn’t help that my thoughts on the existence of these places change on a daily basis.

Moving on to the concept of God. My brain is very logical, but something about it can’t wrap my head around the earth being created solely by science. I mean, sure science does amazing things, but there’s just something more amazing about this world than science could have created. At the same time, I need to know more detail than just “God wanted this thing so here it is.” Like, okay, that’s great and all, but how? What was here before the universe existed? Where did it come from? My brain tends to overload with questions to try to find some sort of logic behind sheer existence.

Bottom line is faith is a complicated, fluctuating, highly individualized matter. And, as unfortunate as it may be for those of us to like to have answers to all our questions, we probably won’t know anything for sure until whatever happens after life happens to us. I can’t say for sure where I stand with the idea of religion and faith, but that’s okay. In fact, its probably a good thing. Having things to question and wonder about is part of the magic of life. So, instead of having these wars over a difference in beliefs, let’s talk about them. Let’s discuss why we believe what we do. Let’s talk about all of the different possibilities. Because there is no one true answer as of right now, and we won’t know what that is until we die. So, while we’re alive, let’s learn from each other, let’s share with each other, and let’s try to make the most of the time we have.

The Beauty of a Storm

Have you ever thought about how cool lightening is? Its created when positive and negative charges within a cloud reach each other, react, and neutralize. The sparks form to counteract the charge. I guess people are sort of like clouds in a way. We have all of these positive and negative emotions going on within us and we are best off when they are neutralized. Balanced. If we have too much negativity, we need a spark of some sort to help us neutralize. Maybe that spark is watching a movie or taking a nap. Maybe it’s spending time with a friend or a long drive in the middle of nowhere. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, chances are it’s pretty beautiful.

 

Like lightening, these things can be quick, sudden bursts that create a spark of light. They can also be longer, more drawn out stripes with different roads to travel down as the spark splits into a feather of light. And, just how lightening can be sort of scary, getting yourself out of a negative mindset can be scary. Its not always easy. Like the clouds, we get used to being out of balance for so long and, as the balance gets more and more out of whack, the clouds get darker and darker preparing for a shock to neutralize.

 

We all know the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night, in a pitch-black bedroom, and being blinded when we turn on the light in the bathroom. With time, we become so used to the darkness that we are blinded by the sudden light. However, as our eyes adjust, we begin to appreciate the light that we so recently were angrily blinded by.

 

Coming out of a negative mindset is often much like this. We sit in darkness until something forces us out of our comfort zone – our darkness, if you will. We typically become so used to our darkness that we lose sight of what it was like to be in the light. We become comfortable with this darkness and, therefore, this forced positivity is often hard to come to terms with in the moment. However, ones we return to balance, we tend to come to appreciate this state of equilibrium.

 

We don’t often recognize the beauty of a storm as we are in the middle of it. When we are in the middle of a negative mindset, we don’t usually look at all the opportunities to add in positivity. We don’t look at the rain and lightning thinking “wow, look how beautiful it is that the atmosphere is neutralizing so we can have a sunny day tomorrow.” The truth of the matter is that storms, both literal and figurative, aren’t always easy to get through, but the process often leads to beautiful things.

 

You Are Where You Need to Be

So, there’s this thought that I have every so often that never fails to both amaze and terrify me. There are so many people in this world that I will never get the chance to meet. There are people that could have been my best friends. Best friends torn apart by distance and language among other things. It truly baffles me that the people I am friends with today are people who live in the same area and speak the same language as I do. What would happen if I was born in Jamaica or England or Russia? What if my birth parents hadn’t given me up when I was born? What if I spoke Spanish or Sign Language instead of English? The fact that my life went in the direction that it did and put me right where I need to be is truly amazing.

Unfortunately, this thought often occurs to me in the dead of night as I lay staring at my ceiling after my eyes have adjusted to the darkness of my room. This thought completely escapes me when I need it most: when everything is going wrong, when I can’t seem to figure out exactly what I’m doing, when nothing feels it is going the way it is supposed to.

When things are going well, its easy for me to sit here and tell you, and myself, that the reason you are where you are in life right now is because it is exactly where you need to be. Its easy to say that the thing that happened yesterday needed to happen in order for you to get where you are today and that the things that happen today have to happen to get you to tomorrow. Its crazy how easy it is to be optimistic when things are going right; when everything is all sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, we need to remember this all the time; especially when things seem to be going wrong, when the world feels like its spinning out of control.

I’m not writing this to make you feel bad for being pessimistic when things suck because, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. I’m just saying that, as hard as it is, sometimes things just have to suck for a bit to get us where we need to be. Maybe it’s teaching us a life lesson, maybe we’ll meet someone who will turn out to be really important in our lives, maybe its just our turn to experience the sucky for a little bit. Whatever the reason, I promise there is one, even when – especially when – we don’t know what that reason is. In this moment, you are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing. Try to remember this, if for no other reason, for your own peace of mind.

Slow Down, Take the Chance

It blows my mind how little we truly pay attention to the world around us. We see things constantly around us and never seem to truly recognize them. That is, until we have to. More often than not, we don’t recognize the beauty of people we see and interact with on a daily basis until that routine changes. We are more likely to notice the absence of things than we are to notice the presence.

Let me give you an example. Exactly two months ago, on Sunday, April 22nd, there was a shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, TN. Most of the time, we see shootings on the news and recognize the tragedy of the situation. We recognize that change needs to happen. We pray for and send healing thoughts to the families of victims and move on with our days. Or at least that is what I typically do. However, this one made me pay attention. This one hit far too close to home. This one changed my life.

I hate admitting this, but it’s only fair that I do so. Before this tragedy, I obviously knew that I saw the people in my cohort on a daily basis. There never was or ever will be a doubt in my mind that this group of people is made up of beautiful souls who I care about quite deeply. However, I never sat down to think about this. I never took the time to tell them that seeing each of them brought joy to my life each day. I never looked at each of them individually and came up with a list of what specific qualities they possessed that I felt made each of them a good social worker, friend, and person. In the back of my mind, of course I knew all these things, but, despite the fact that I was reminded of these things every single day, I never took the time and energy to express them.

That is, until we were missing someone. One of the victims of this shooting was someone I saw every single day. If I was on campus, I was spending time with her. When DeEbony passed away, we all started talking about our favorite things about her. We spoke about memories of her, some from in class and other from out of class. We talked about her personality and what it was that made her the girl we knew and loved. It got me thinking about all the people in my cohort. It possessed me to make sure each and every one of them knew exactly how much they meant to me and that they brought something important into our cohort. Into the world. I was not about to let anyone else leave my sight without knowing how loved and cherished they are.

There are so many things going on in the world around us. It is easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle. There are so many things that we let slip right by us. We rarely take the time in our busy lives to recognize the beauty of the world around us. We rarely take the time to slow down the pace of each and every day to notice the details surrounding us daily. Before the shooting, I never realized how many Waffle Houses there are in the Nashville area. Now, however, I pass them on a regular basis and I’m reminded of DeEbony each and every time.

Seeing a Waffle House may not be an important part of your day. In fact, its probably something you will drive right by and not take a second glance at. You won’t think anything of it. But, for the love of god, please don’t do that to the people you are surrounded by. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in your busy life that you can’t see the amazing people you see on a regular basis.

Stop and notice the beautiful people around you. Notice everything about them. Observe the way they enter a room, their personality, their likes and dislikes. See their bright smiles and the way their eyes light up when they talk about their passions. Detect when they’re having an off day and be proud of the fact that you have been paying enough attention to know what to do to help them feel better. And, please, please, please, don’t let anyone leave your sight without making sure they know how much they mean to you. Tell your friends you love them, remind your coworkers to drive safely, let your classmates know that they are appreciated. Take the extra bit of time to appreciate those around you. As morbid as it sounds, you never know when it may be your last chance to express your love and appreciation for those around you. Please don’t let that chance slip through your fingers. And to you, yes, you, the one reading this, you are loved and appreciated and I am so glad you are here in this world.

Let’s Get One Thing Straight…I’m Not

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a people pleaser. For as long as I can remember, I have been terrified of hurting others’ feelings, getting rejected by those around me, or disappointing those closest to me. I guess that’s why this post has taken me so long to write. You see, I’ve started writing this multiple different times in the last year and a half. However, every time I’ve started a post on this topic, I find myself talking in circles. I end up making little to no sense or just not getting to the point at all. So, this time around, I decided to keep it simple. No restrictions or trying to phrase things in a way that will please everyone. Just me myself and I.

 

If you’re someone I’ve met in the last 2 years, or someone who goes to Belmont, chances are, this post will probably lead you to think “well, yeah, no shit. Why’d you wait so long to post about it?” or something like that. If you’re just now starting to figure out what this might be addressing, well, welcome, and I hope I don’t blow your mind too much.

 

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not straight. Surprise! I identify as asexual, ace for short. This is one of those things that can mean a variety of different things depending on the person, so the definition I’m about to give you is purely my own and does not apply to any other asexual person you may meet. For me, being asexual means that I do not experience sexual attraction. I have no desire to have sex with anyone in any way, shape, or form. I can recognize that certain physical features of a person make them look beautiful, but when someone labels someone as “hot,” I have pretty much no idea what that means. I don’t see people as “sexy.”

 

However, before you go getting your panties in a wad, just because I am asexual does not mean my dreams of someday getting married and raising a family with my best friend have changed. Those are very much still some goals in my life. And, yes, asexual people can still fall in love and get married.

 

Keep in mind that sexual attraction is completely different than romantic attraction. So, while I am asexual, I still experience romantic attraction. Meaning I still want to have a romantic relationship with someone. The cuddling and kissing and loving parts of relationships are indeed possible without sex. Sex is not the end all be all to a relationship.

 

Romantically speaking, I’m not sure how I truly identify. I have had romantic crushes on females, males, and non-binary people. Knowing this means I’m pretty open to dating just about anyone as long as they’re not a total asshole. The gender of the person I’ll end up sharing my life with remains a question that we probably won’t know the answer to until it happens. You’re guess is as good as mine. I don’t feel like this is something that needs to have a label on it just yet and, in all honesty, I’m not too worried about it.

 

Don’t ask me why I decided to say something publicly about it right now. The short answer, its pride month. The long answer, well, that’s a whole other story. Bottom line, the people who I feel most “needed” or “deserved” to know, knew pretty much as soon as I knew. Some people have speculated for a while and this will be the answer to all their unasked questions. For others (and, no offense, but if you haven’t been at least a little bit curious about my sexuality you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last 2 years, if not longer), this is a complete shock and you may need time to process this.

 

If you’re completely against this for whatever reason, and I know some of my family and friends may be, that’s fine. It can be something we never speak of again. After all, what I do (or don’t do) in the bedroom is none of your business. I won’t ask you what you do, you don’t ask me what I do, and we can all stay in the little “everyone is straight” bubble that so many people like to be in. If you don’t care, cool. We’ll move on business as usual. If you’re supportive, awesome. Having allies on my side is always appreciated.

 

If you have questions, ask them! I’m more than happy to answer them as long as you ask them in a respectful way. For example, don’t ask me if I’m a plant. Yes, you are right, plants reproduce asexually. Good job, you remember basic science. However, if you ask me that, I’m pretty likely to ignore you and every other conversation you may try to have about my sexuality. Also, don’t tell me to get my hormones checked. I’ve heard this time and time again and I promise my hormones have nothing to do with this. Telling me this is just simply invalidating my identity and, again, I’ll be likely to ignore you. Ask me things like what being asexual means to me. Ask me what my ideal relationship looks like. Ask me about otters. No, otters have nothing to do with being ace, but I love otters and will talk your ear off about them.

 

So, no, I’m not straight. I’m not gay. I’m ace. And darn proud of it.

Dear Mimi

It’s been 21 days. In some moments, these past 21 days feel like the longest of my life. In others, it seems they’ve flown by.  21 days of unexpected grief. Unexpected tears. Unexpected loss.

When I got the phone call that you were in the hospital, I responded with a panicked “why?” and held my breath. I calmed down as my mom explained that you had fallen but were going to be okay. My response was “okay, good. Because I have decided that 2018 is going to be the year no one dies. It will be the year I don’t lose anyone.”

Less than 24 hours later, I got the news. After a multitude of missed calls and texts from my dad between the hours of 6 and 7 in the morning, I got a text that said “call me when you get a minute before class.” Well, I don’t have classes until 11, so I had plenty of time. Or so I thought. He called me again and, in my half-awake state, I answered. All I heard was “I just wanted to let you know, Mimi passed away this morning”

In all honesty, I don’t remember much of the rest of our conversation. It was like I was underwater trying to make sense of the world above water.

At first, I didn’t believe it. I still don’t want to believe it. When I talked to my mom all I could figure out to say was “its too soon.”

And it is. Its too soon for me to accept the fact that you and Pawpaw are both gone. Too soon for me truly see that this is what you wanted and that you were more than ready. Too soon to think about next Christmas Eve – the first one I will spend without you.

Since I was 12, you’ve been telling me every time we say goodbye that “this could be the last time” and that I need to be a good girl and make you proud. Over the years, I learned to brush off that final comment. I took advantage of the fact that, no matter how much you said that, I did, in fact, always see you again.

I can’t help but think that I should have called you. I should have called over and over again until you answered. Even if I thought I didn’t have anything of value to say.

I wish I told you more often how much you mean to me. I wish I hugged you more. I wish I had the chance to tell you I love you just one more time.

I hope I’m making you proud. I hope you know how much I love you. And I hope you know I miss you more than words can say. I love you, Mimi. Forever and always.