One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that being part of a community is an important part of self-care.
Having grown up in a society that values independence, it’s easy for me to think that when I can’t achieve something on my own, something is lacking in me and that I’ll never be good enough to achieve that goal. The truth is real independence is a myth. Everything happens within and because of community.
Think about it for a moment. The books we read. The coffee we drink. The food we eat. The air we breathe. All of it happens as a result of various processes working together to support one another to make things happen.
When we show up for others while at the same time asking for help, we allow others to show up for us. By doing so we take part in the creative process of making things happen and as a result we experience growth not only in ourselves but also in our community. Therefore, for me, self-care is a movement from me to we to us and back again.
One example of this played out the other day. My husband, who had been teaching himself how to code over the past few months, had been struggling with certain coding problems on his own and he took it to heart. He began to think that maybe he started this too late and that he was too old and that led to other negative thoughts.
Of course, I told him that was all untrue and that I was proud of him for taking on this new journey but I knew deep down inside he didn’t need to hear it from me, but from his community of coders.
After reading some advice from other coders, he opened a twitter account and not only did he find the courage to start voicing his struggles but he also began supporting others starting out in the coding community and suddenly everything clicked into place. He was now a part of a community and, in my opinion, the most valuable thing this community is giving him is perspective. He can now see that the problems he is experiencing are part of the journey.
It makes all the difference.
For me, the importance of community this was made clear when I returned home for the holidays to spend time with my family after a year and a half of absence due to lock down.
It was like night and day.
Before arriving I had been feeling depressed, and emotionally and psychologically unwell. Lockdown and the pandemic had taken their toll. Although I had taken the time in lockdown to continue my education, write my thesis, etc, I found it difficult to feel like myself. Instead I felt very empty.
But this all changed standing in my mother’s kitchen. Seeing my family around the Christmas table I was overcome with an embarrassing amount of deep gratitude that I couldn’t explain. I was grateful for everything in that kitchen from the spoons to the food to the people and to being together. Nothing else mattered. I spent my holidays trying to help out where I could, reminding myself to just show up.
I truly believe that engaging with others in a meaningful way allows us to get to know our true strengths and it allows us to reframe what we consider our failures and our struggles and see them in a new light. Mainly, that we are not alone.