Happy New Year all!
At UMD I ran into an old friend who reminded me of my previous blog posts where I would encapsulate my hopes for the coming year in one word. I was able to consistently do this practice in 2010 (Achievement), 2011 (Renewal), and 2012 (Destiny). I suppose after that I fulfilled my destiny of spreading myself too thin in my first years as an assistant professor (if you’re confused you can read more about what I mean here) because I haven’t done that practice since.
Regardless, I was humbled and flattered that my colleague was still doing it, and I thought about other practices to ring in the New Year (such as Liz Gilbert’s homemade NYE ceremony, which I actually did myself to ring in 2016). I thought back to when I would write down New Year’s Goals (which, come to think of it, was what ended up taking the place of the word practice from 2013-2015), and I’ve decided that maybe it’s time to get back to some consistency when it comes to ringing in the New Year, because rooting oneself in traditions can help bring stability in an oftentimes very turbulent life.
Before I came to this realization, it occurred to me that maybe the universe was already trying to tell me something. I am ONE PRACTICE AWAY (noooo!) from completing Yoga with Adriene’s #yogarevolution practice, and in one of the videos Adriene asked us to root ourselves in a word, and after some brief soul searching I settled on this one:
So why self empathy? This was a concept that writer Wendy Chin-Tanner mentioned in a recent Dear Sugar Radio podcast…that so happened to be recorded live in Portland for the Writer’s Resist movement (I participated in the Memphis event, check out my bad ass pic below), and it truly resonated with me.
As I alluded to in the above description of my former (super stressed out) life, I wasn’t being empathetic to myself AT ALL. In fact, I was burning myself out being empathetic to others; by being a helpful “team player” I was actually hurting myself and my true potential by running myself ragged in the process.
In other words, as a friend quoted to me the other day: I was setting myself on fire to keep other people warm.
And lemme tell you: IT. WASN’T. WORKING.
My tendency to overcommit and work beyond expectations has been something I have been personally struggling with for a while. It took a lot of therapy, a wonderful social support network, a patient partner, and yes, even health issues in the form of kidney stones to get me where I am today. But something that has stuck with me through this process comes from my dear and wonderful mentor, Dr. Lynn Pelco.
Knowing that my empathy can perhaps drive me to become more self-empathetic (how interesting is that?), she very pointedly asked me how my stressed out mental/emotional state would look to my students.
“Is this what you want to role model for your students?” she asked.
Well damn. I hadn’t thought about it LIKE THAT before. In an effort to be a more empathetic person, I NEED to first be self-empathetic, otherwise I will never have the true mental/physical/emotional energy to help others at my highest potential.
…so at first glance this practice may seem selfish, but the reality is that our society needs more self-empathetic folks than ever before, otherwise we will implode from stress and we are never going to get through this year.
And so for my own sake, and for the sake of my friends and family who I love wholeheartedly, and for the sake of my students that I hope to inspire and mentor, and for the sake of the communities I want to advocate and champion for, I am taking 2017 to be more self-empathetic.