3 reasons to choose you

“I felt stuck in my organization in that I could neither move up a career ladder nor achieve some of my social justice-driven goals. The combination of the curriculum, guidance with Dr. Kim Case, and the supportive nature of my cohort group led to clarity and motivation to take on new work and inspired new ways to imagine my work and direction.”
-2021 Choose Your Own Adventure group member

#1) you tend to put yourself last

Last week someone considering joining my Choose Your Own Adventure group said, “Girl, I’m not sure I can keep up with it!”  She’s right. If we keep doing everything and being on hundreds of committees and projects, there is no way to add something for ourselves. We  don’t seem to have the capacity to say “okay, I am going to remove something from my commitments list so that I can focus on my needs.” My needs. Does that sound self-indulgent? Social justice academics are the WORST at recognizing we have to refuel the tank. You all have an unfortunate gift for putting yourselves last. Not surprising given your social justice values, anti-racism commitments, and passion for supporting LGBTQ+ youth drives your daily decision-making. 

This strength of putting others first ends up being a strength turned up too loud. You tend to put yourself last, and the social justice community surrounding you praises this anti-self behavior. We are all making decisions harmful to the spirit and then patting each other on the back for being the most miserable. Remember I warned you that misery is not required to do great work and move justice forward. Your strength of putting others first means you default to not only putting yourself last, but also recoiling at the idea of putting yourself first even for a few moments. 

Don’t even get me started on how much this is gendered and racialized and classed such that the most oppressed and marginalized by our lovely systems are socialized to never focus on our own needs. In essence, denying ourselves and our psychological and emotional needs supports systemic oppression. We help maintain it by refusing to make time to choose ourselves.

#2) your well-being supports your justice work

When you are healthy, energized, balanced, and feeling emotionally, psychologically, and physically well, social justice wins. As a social justice academic, you harness all of that positive energy into working for positive change. When we are drained and hopeless, we may go through the motions like showing up to a meeting on housing insecurity in the city, but the follow-through and passion to take more action is tough to manifest. I am not saying you do not find a way, but the way is often the least healthy option and probably requires you fueling up on sugar (me) and carving time out of your already sparse sleep schedule. That only moves us further away from well-being!! 

On a recent flight, I was reminded of what they tell us as we prepare for takeoff. Put your own mask on first before you assist others. You need oxygen. As Maroon 5 taught us, “it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.” (Sorry, but I had to.) In this moment, oxygen comes from demanding, protecting, and honoring time for your own well-being. 

#3) you know deep down you are severely burnt

also toast, exhausted, depleted, spent, and feeling exploited.

Over the past 8 months, I would say 95% of the fabulous humans that I coach or consult with or meet at conferences are truly TOAST. My friends are clearly beyond depleted and far beyond “tired.” Many social justice academics at this point are simply trying to get up each day and somehow get through the day. The current tone feels like, “how do I get through today without crying in a bathroom, physically harming someone, or finally letting loose and screaming what I really think in the department meeting?” There seems to be renewed awareness of feeling exploited by institutions, in other words, not supported in the social justice work being done on behalf of the institutions. 

And yet, I witness the same repetitive behaviors with the expectation that something will change. Nope. You keep killing yourself, and for some this means literally slowly killing yourself. Higher education institutions will gladly accept your neverending loyalty, invisible and emotional labor, and life energy. But please do not expect the systems to change simply because you further harm yourself. 

One thing social justice academics can control is HOW to navigate the systems (while working to improve those systems). You know your current state of depletion is unsustainable, so let’s take action now to do something proactive.

A path for choosing you

If you are ready to choose your well-being, get clear on your path, and find a solid community of support, the Choose Your Own Adventure group information link is below.

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Learn more about the White Anti-Racism and Action course I created for (aspiring) white allies and my group coaching program for social justice academics called Choose Your Own Adventure
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