Wednesday, January 26, 2022

to best look after ourselves, we should stop listening to other people's advice on how to it

After my recent "is it just me..?" rant on YouTube about how it costs us self-employed freelance types more to access the same health and well-being supports than our employed counterparts, I started to think a bit more widely on how we might rethink looking after ourselves.

Putting your needs as priority is not just a nice to have but a necessity if you want to continue doing the good work you set out to do.“ - that’s a statement we’ll all have heard at some point, and found ourselves agreeing with, but likely then struggling to figure out how we actually best manage that.

And whilst for some, we’ll be doing that ‘good work’ as part of a salaried role, for others it’s a core defining feature that informs how we approach everything in our work and lives. And that starts to make it hard when looking at other people’s examples of how they’ve created their ‘perfect balance’* to inform our own approach. (What also makes it harder is that if we’re part of the 4.5 million self-employed, the tax system means it costs us more to invest in our own well-being than our salaried counterparts have to pay for the same activity…)

But I don’t think we should be focussing on creating the perfect ratio of client work, meditating, eating kale, walking the dog, and/or taking holidays in vineyards to ensure we’re best looking after ourselves. The world we live in, and our own personal and family circumstances are constantly changing, so perhaps the ways in which we seek those recharging times/moments should also? 

  • Why not start to allow ourselves to be properly invigorated by the outcomes of the ‘good work’ we’re doing? Share in the stories with clients as to the positive outcomes we’ve helped create for people, communities, and the planet in the weeks after we’ve completed our assignments with them (also a good way to potentially generate some new introductions and prospects for repeat business if nothing else!)
  • Instead of fixing hard times each day/week for specific activities, try and use spontaneity and serendipity to show yourself some love: as Agent Cooper of the FBI once said, “every day, once a day, give yourself a present (but don’t plan it)”**
  • And as much as it’s cliched, find ways to share your stories, frustrations, and hopes with other people who really get what it’s like to run the type of venture you do. We can’t wave a magic wand for you (although, I have do have a magic wand that I use from time to time), but the act of vocalising the stuff in our heads, hearts, and guts, has a way of either giving it the power it needs, or reducing the power it has over us.

Ultimately, this is a theme that loads of other people have/are/will write about, and the subject of countless books, podcasts, and TED talks. All of which will be useful for someone (usually the person who created them), but those people aren’t you - and only you will know what works best for you in helping you not ‘see the lights go out’. What works for you will be right for you - try out different things, be kind to yourself if none of them seem to work to begin with; keep trying until you find those things that were always meant for you.

Perhaps the hardest part in all of this though, is that YOU have to make the decision to invest in looking after yourself. And that’s probably the hardest part of figuring out how to look after yourself when we see the need around us that others are constantly struggling with. It took me over 20 years to be OK with allowing myself to be ‘selfish’ from time to time. Hopefully it won’t ever be that long for anyone else.

*the ‘perfect balance’ only ever exists in Instagram posts

** If you don’t recognise this quote or the Agent’s name, then go and binge watch Twin Peaks as soon as you can