Maybe it’s because I was helping take care of my dad this past weekend after his surgery, or because I’ve been fighting off a cold, but I’ve been ruminating this week on one particular thought. In the current culture of uplifting self-care are we abdicating our responsibility for taking care of each other? Self-care is vital to a healthy life – I’m not saying it’s not important or people should not practice self-care. But I have been thinking maybe in this current world of increasing isolation and fracturing of old community systems this is one more visible crack. We just don’t check in on neighbors, friends and family like past generations. We no longer see ourselves as “our brother and sister’s keeper.” Instead of truly caring for people we shout at each other behind keyboards and smartphones.
I have had three best friends since I was 22 years old. We all moved to Washington, D.C. about the same time and met and became a fast foursome. We went out on Saturday nights and hopped in the car at the last minute for a weekend roadtrip adventure to the beach or mountains. But we also took care of each other – cooked dinner and called the others and said “come on over.” If one of us was sick we stopped by the drug store after work to pick her up something she might need. We were a tribe. We still are, although two of us are now in California and two in Virginia. We maintain a group text and try to take vacations together each summer but it has become harder as time and distance grind on. But we are mindful of our relationship and work hard to maintain our friendship and caring for each other because it is still something we all highly value.
At Torii Coaching & Consulting we talk a lot about finding your tribe. We coach people to find those people – either blood relatives or the family-by-choice to surround themselves with. We coach companies to find employees who match what they value for maximum long-term success. Research shows human beings thrive when they feel safe, supported and as a valued member of a community. However, city and suburban life can make it easy to be anonymous or separated from those around us. A town does not necessarily make a community. Social media and the breakneck pace of life in the 21st Century is breaking down those millennia long mores.
Instead of simply existing in a family unit or community, often we must choose community – commit to a tribe. But, by choosing to move forward with not only loyalty and acceptance, but with a level of loving-kindness to those around you, that shows authenticity and gratitude for those around you and a realization that we’re all in this together. There is real blessings and joy that can come from this realization.
You need support from people that really believe in you for you. People seeing you for you. We hear that a lot, right? We see it posted on Facebook or where ever, but to actually feel it in action from other human beings that accept us for all of our suffering and for all of our flaws and really want to see you succeed without any sort of gain on their end, that has a very healing quality to it. But that is only half of the equation – if you are only ever finding people who believe in you and do good things for you, you are not in a relationship. You are a sponge. Community is a two-way street and it is important to be present for those you care about. That does not end with posting on their social media that you are sending good thoughts or prayers or texting gifs (as awesome as it can be to get a funny gif in the middle of the day from a friend).
The more we surround ourselves with people who care for us and that we care for as well, the more new friends and mentors start to appear, new opportunities start to develop, your energy changes and you become someone who thrives off of doing good for others, which can be every bit as healing and recharging as “self-care”.