Teachers, Stop Holding Back On Your Self Care
Updated: Aug 2
If you are an educator of any form, I personally salute you. You are:
and sometimes the only thing that stands in the way of stopping your students from slipping into a life of despair and bleak life chances.
But you a human being. You too need some tender loving care.
Self-care is not a buzzword. It's a duty that you owe us, your students and most importantly yourself.
In the first blog on this 2 part series, I will be looking at:
1) The key life lesson that you must learn from my mechanic to stay fit & healthy.
2) The toxic 'friend' who is ruining your life.
3) How our modern life is making you sick. Literally.
Tune in next week to find the solutions I used to get my life on track.
Très bon. Let us continue.
The Message From The Mechanic
I come from a family of real petrol heads — my siblings and my cousins are the types that will sit down and calculate the cost per gallon, the braking torque and what is the metric horsepower of the engine shaft of every car they see on TV.
I am not one of those people.
Give me the car show me how to drive, brake and park and I’m as happy as Julia Roberts on an awards stage. I will drive the car until the wheels fall off — literally.
One of the things I hate the most in the world is taking my car for it's MOT. Once a year, you take your car to the mechanics and they do a number of detailed tests to check to see if your car is still roadworthy.
If your car passes with flying colours, then great! You just pay for the test, but if it fails then either you have to pay an arm and leg for repairs or you have to put the car down.
But luckily, a couple of years back, a good friend of mine introduced me to my current mechanic, a gifted man called Mukesh has looked every one of my cars for 10 years without destroying my wallet.
Mukesh over the years taught me the early warning signs to look for that would show me when my car was ready to give up the ghost and simple little tips and tricks keep it going like the Fast & Furious movie series.
Mukesh always preached about the importance of looking after the engine of the car. Simply put if your engine goes, then it's time you got a new motor.
Mukesh would always joke “people love to make the outside of the car pretty when the engine is rotten — these people will have pretty disasters.” From then on, I have been ‘pretty’ consistent on making sure that my car’s engine is well cared for (pun intended).
Mukesh also applies that same lesson to people. The people that didn't invest in the correct diets, resting & doing things that replenished themselves risked their lives 'blowing up' like a loosely fitted head gasket.
This changed how I looked at my life.
I Can See Smoke Coming Out your Ears
Teachers, how many times have people asked you if you are OK?
I bet you said you were fine right?
But were you?
How many times have you felt like you close to breaking point?
I have. & I know too many teachers that felt exactly the same.
Unfortunately, many of us look good on the outside but we are one incident away from completely breaking down on the side of Life’s road.
I have met many teachers who because of the demands of the job, were treading water and hoping that they can make it through the day.
I have seen teachers breakdown in tears because they just couldn’t cope with the absolute tsunami of things that they had to do by the end of the day and to top it off, Johnny Tableflipper and Mary Paperthrower kicked off in their class again earlier that morning.
This is the reality of teaching. It’s rewarding but can be an extremely difficult job to do.
From my experience, most teachers go to work genuinely to make a difference in the lives of our students — it’s a calling, not a career.
Teaching is one of those jobs that you can’t just wing. You have to commit your mind, body, emotions and a lot of blood sweat and tears to this gig.
But there is a dark side to this calling. Most of us don’t show that same compassion to OURSELVES that we show our students and that’s a massive problem.
But you know what holds you back from looking after yourself. It's your toxic best friend. Let's go meet them.
Your ‘BFF’ For Life
Let's play a little game. Imagine that you had a best friend called 'Jamie.'
Although you’ve known each other forever, your relationship with Jamie is… Tricky. Jamie is very opinionated and inconsiderate of your feelings.
Jamie loves when you only do things that are “comfortable” – things that won’t rock the boat and that are routine. Jamie doesn’t like it when you try anything new.
But if you go against Jamie’s wishes, and try something new, Jamie gets vicious: Jamie becomes downright mean and opens a verbal can of 'whoop-ass' on you.
All you will hear is:
“You’re a loser! I told you it wouldn’t work!”
“Everyone is laughing at you! They think you are a fool!”
“I knew they would find out about you sooner or later! You’re a fake!”
Would you stay friends with that person for long? Or would you treat them like Uncle Phil did Jazzy Jeff and throw out of your house? But what if you couldn’t? What if Jamie lived in your head all the time?
Your Inner Critic
For most people, ‘Jamie’ or that ‘little gremlin in your head’ is a daily reality. After doing a little research, psychologists call this voice the ‘Inner Critic’.
Researchers believe that the Inner Critic is actually a psychic defence. The Inner Critic was birthed in our childhoods & represents all the rules, judgements and expectations of our parents, family systems and even society itself.
The theory goes that the Inner Critic is there to stop us feeling anxiety, pain and shame. Now although most people have an Inner Critic, some people may have a harsher Inner Critic if they had:
Significant childhood trauma
Being raised by caregivers who were not affectionate & did not give them positive affirmations
Being pushed to always achieve and be ‘perfect’
Now the inner critic is NOT your conscience. Whereas your conscience may push you to do things for good or moral reasons, the Inner Critic is out to punish and criticise you.
It’s not your friend. An out-of-control inner critic can lead to anxiety, depression or in the worst-case scenario, suicide.
We live in the most technologically advanced period of human history, with people living longer and having a better standard of living. But there are some very worrying stats.
In the UK alone:
And the stats keep coming in. There's a serious problem.
Why Is This Happening?
Many theories have been tossed around from the breakdown of the traditional family unit, growing individualism, globalisation & even our environment. But talking from personal observations, here are a couple of reasons:
Increasing work pressure & increasing in costs of living.
Less time with family & friends.
24/7 culture & information overwhelm.
Seeing friends & family on Facebook living more ‘successful’ lives.
Because of external pressures (parents/society) feeling like a failure when they don’t hit certain life goals at a certain time (be married with kids & have purchased a house by 30).
This makes the Inner Critic go nuts.
I have met too many teachers let this 'inner-critic' ruin their life, including mine. It manifests as perfectionism, workaholism, imposter syndrome and burnout.
We work harder & harder to try to please our students, our managers & society & we end up destroying ourselves.
We want to make that difference.
We want to make life better for our students.
We are perfectionists, constantly trying to improve our lessons and our craft.
But when we make a small mistake, we brutally criticise ourselves and repeatedly use that mistake as a baseball bat to beat our mind to a pulp.
We fight with the racing thoughts, the anxiety and the daily fog where you feel that all the days are rolling into one and we crawl into our weekends.
We yearn for the holidays, only to spend most of it in bed and dreading coming back to it all. If this continues, then you face a real danger of damaging all aspects of your health, which that could become permanent and debilitating.
Likewise, many of us sacrifice the good things (relationships, health and meaning) for material things (money, power, status) and we end up lonely, sick and depressed and wonder why we are so miserable. It’s bad maths and it needs to stop.
What we really need is self-compassion.
I'm gonna try to help you with that.
In Part 2, I am going to look at the science-based principles that will help push your self-care to the next level so that you can be the best teacher you can be.
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Karl from actionheroteacher.com