Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Written by QCMHA Co-Chair Ali Jones
Self-compassion is something I struggle with every day. I often find myself in a state of negative self-talk, telling myself I’m not being productive enough, I’m not doing enough for others, or I’m not good enough. While these thoughts are something I continue to work on with my therapist, some days I find a complete absence of self-kindness. I forget to acknowledge that my worth is not determined by my productivity, that I am valued by the amazing people in my life, and that doing my best is more than enough. In order to better remember and reinforce these acknowledgements, I take more time to pause and take care of myself. When it comes to self-care, I don’t mean the type that is advertised in the media–face masks and drinking tea. Sometimes, self-care can be ‘ugly’-- I put this in quotations because I think self-care has become a glamourized phenomenon on social media. Sometimes, self-care is allowing yourself to release your emotions and cry. It can be sobbing to a trusted friend, telling someone about how you have been struggling, or acknowledging scary feelings. Self-care may also entail doing difficult things that are ultimately for the benefit of your mental wellbeing–leaving behind people who don’t make you feel good about yourself, finding a therapist, or choosing to allocate more time to yourself over school.
One thing that I have needed to do, in order to take care of myself, is to set boundaries. As a mental health advocate, I often act as a support to those around me. With this, I have to keep track of my own capacity for others–in other words, how ‘full my cup is’. After interning at a mental health company in the summer and dedicating myself to QCMHA, I realized that there is a lot of emotional labour associated with doing work in the mental wellness space. I have found myself having to cope with emotional burn-out and compassion fatigue--in the midst of an extremely difficult year and a half in a pandemic.
While mental health advocacy is often associated with supporting others, I believe that true advocacy is about taking care of yourself to make your wellbeing a number one priority. This shouldn’t be mistaken for selfishness–you owe it to yourself and deserve to be taken care of. The more you take care of yourself, the better friend, brother, sister, or partner you will be. After realizing that I was taking on too much, where providing support was starting to act as an emotional burden, I started setting boundaries with my friends. I started saying things like:
“There are going to be times when you come to me and I may not be able to take on your needs and provide the support you’re expecting. This is not because I don't care about you, nor is it a reflection of your value. I need to take steps right now towards becoming stronger myself so that I can better support those I care about. Because I care about you and know that your needs are valid, I do want to ensure that you are supported by helping you find resources.”
If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it’s to make a commitment to yourself to be a stronger and more resilient person by directing more energy and kindness towards yourself. It won’t be easy, but there’s no one else who can do the work for you. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend--someone who you love and appreciate. Remember that you deserve this attention and every step brings you closer to being the person you want to be.