Seeking Self- Preservation 2017
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ― Audre Lorde
Through the course of my childhood, my mother birth 11 children. By the time I came along, I already had 5 (actually 10 when you include my five older brothers on my father side.) protectors, in the form of my older brothers… isn’t that every girl’s dream? If so, it wasn’t mine, to say my older brothers were extremely protective of me — might be an understatement. I could barely sit outside on our porch, without one or more of my brothers lurking in the background. Even at age five, my brother’s behavior drove me to become very independent. There wasn’t anything, I thought I couldn’t do and if my brothers were good at something, I wanted to be better.
After me, my mother had five more children — three boys and two girls, which made me the typical middle child. In a household overflowing with testosterone, I found myself struggling to be heard, to be seen. So I did everything I could to stand out, which included over committing myself … (something I still wrestle with) and overlooking my own self-care, to take care of everyone else.
Stepping in to help care for my younger sibling was both a necessity and something I thrived in doing. For the mornings my mother didn’t make it home, it was my job to make breakfast and ensure those who were old enough to go to school … did and if they weren’t, I missed school to stay behind. For most of my childhood, I didn’t really mind taking care of my younger brothers and sisters because it gave me control, at a time when I felt so helpless to the conditions around me.
It wasn’t until recently when I realized how so much of my childhood had carried on into my adult life. Most of the time, I still feel like I’m shouting into rooms filled with the egos of men, as they “pat” me on the head while saying “You’re too young to know anything of substance”. But the biggest baggage I carried around with me, was my inability to put myself first. There were times, when I got so consumed by work I would sometimes forget to eat or I would sacrifice doing something personal in order to ensure others had what they needed.
Two years ago, I relocated to Washington, DC … I had a much needed “come to Jesus moment”. I was tired of lying to myself and people around me, when it was asked “how I are doing” and of course my response was “I’m great”. I wasn’t great, I was over trying to save everyone but myself. I was finally ready to put my self first. So what did I do?
- I stop saying “yes” to things I didn’t want to do
- I created short and long term goals… with me at the center
- I starting building better relationships with my siblings, that wasn’t based on what I could do for them
- I was finally honest with myself about what made me happy
- I eliminated people from my life, who were just taking up space
- I started taking care of my health, including working out and eating better.
Now I won’t pretend any of this was easy, last thing I wanted to do was hurt anyone or make them think I didn’t care. But after having some tough conversations, the people who understood and supported my decisions were the ones worth keeping around.
So if there is one thing I’ve learned is, no one is going to save you but you. Be your own hero … first.