As we move into the next year, unpacking the ways in which oppression has influenced our history, plays out in our current affairs, and its connection to sexual violence, we want to take time to care for ourselves. Self-care is important to continuing the work of supporting survivors and ending sexual violence because we cannot give from an empty cup. Checking with ourselves, seeing where our hearts and thoughts are, keeps us in tune with how to meet our personal needs.
It can feel overwhelming when we look at the scope of violence in our communities. We’re bombarded with news reports of violence, abuse, and harassment on a daily basis. Many of us witness even more violence and trauma in our professions as well. The cumulative toll this takes on our souls can wear us down, leading us to compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout. It can often feel like we’re not doing enough to make things better.
When these moments come, we can step back and look at the spaces we occupy in our everyday lives. What are the small ways we’ve made a positive change? Keeping our eyes focused on those small moments helps keep us grounded in the work, without risking overwhelming us with the vastness of sexual violence. As we launch NJCASA at the Intersections over the next year, the following tips may be a helpful part of your self-care plan.
Some of us may be further on the journey of learning about oppression and allyship than others, and that’s okay. It can be tempting to try to push people to where we want them to be, instead of allowing them the space to move at their own speed. This does more harm to both people and can create a lot of tension in relationships. Accepting that people are in different places, and respecting that is an important part of self-care. Ultimately, we are not responsible for the growth of other people. All we can do is offer them information and be available to learn together. It is their decision if they want to join us. Some ways to maintain boundaries include:
- Know your limitations and accept them
- Be flexible with what you can or can’t give
- Meet people where they are at
- Have realistic expectations for yourself and others
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” - Audre Lorde
Have a support system
A network of people to discuss what you’re learning is a valuable resource. Share what you’ve learned, ask questions, and discuss your thoughts with each other. Feeling confused, or even defensive, about new information, is part of the growth process. Having people to discuss that confusion with can help you understand your responses better. It can also be frustrating learning to apply these ideas to daily experiences, folks in your life with more experience can help teach how to go about doing it in a healthy way.
TAKE A BREAK
Oppression and sexual violence is a 24-hour issue. That doesn’t mean our personal advocacy has to be. We are not in this alone, we have an entire community of people working alongside us to support survivors and end sexual violence and oppression. Let the community share the burden. We aren’t under an obligation to read every news article, to challenge every person, and to learn non-stop. This isn’t to say that we can abandon responsibilities, it does mean that we have the right to say “Not right now. I’ll come back to it” and take a moment for ourselves.
Check-in with yourself
We aren’t always in a space to receive new information and feedback. That’s okay. Making a practice of self-check ins can help us know if we’re in a good space to learn, or if we need to press pause. Ask yourself what you’re feeling, where it may be coming from, and what you need to feel balanced. Self-awareness is a powerful tool that can change our approach to challenging situations.
We can’t pour from an empty cup, no matter how passionate or motivated. We also can’t be the best possible partners to the movement to end oppression and sexual violence if our own needs are not being met. Carving out time for each day to reenergize and inspire yourself is critical to sustaining our own work in this movement.
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