Self-Care is Not Selfish

If you told me at this time last year that I would have the above statement anywhere in my writing, let alone as the title of a blog post, I might call you crazy.

Needless to say, life circumstances can change your outlook.

The past year has been an absolute whirlwind for me. From changes and promotions professionally, to the loss of two relatives (including my grandpa, who was the sort of person I aspire to be), to having yet another relative experience worsening Alzheimer’s, I have experienced many changes in my life. Those changes, both good and bad, were so great and happened so quickly that they ended up taking a major toll on my own mental health.

But, even as my mental health was on the decline in early autumn, I had this attitude that “I should take care of others and not really worry about myself.” I was worried about others instead of myself.

And then, a good friend of mine gave me a nice little reality check through what she said: “I know you want to worry about everyone else and make sure they’re taken care of, but you need to take care of yourself too Brendan. You need to take some time for yourself.”

Thankfully, that reality check came at the right time (a time when my mental health was quite poor) and with someone who really was looking out for my best interests. She knew that I was really worried about others and not caring enough for myself. And, of course, she knew that I was wrong to think that way.

I was wrong to think that way for so many reasons, but I will touch on a couple of major reasons that might resonate with people who, like me, always look to help others no matter how they are doing themselves. For one thing, it is hard to take care of others when you are not doing well, physically or mentally. For another thing, if you personally are not doing well physically or mentally, then the biggest help you can often be to friends is to take care of yourself.[1]  Ultimately, even if you’re someone like me (someone who wants to help others all the time), the biggest help you can be to those you want to help is to take care of yourself.

As such, I therefore hope that what I’m about to say is also coming at the right time for someone out there: “Whether you are struggling or not, you need to take care of yourself physically and mentally. You need to exercise self-care, and self-care is not selfish.”

Note: As taking care of oneself is something I consider “blindly just,” this is a “blindly just” post.

[1] Believe me…after the occasions I kept roommates awake at night because of my coughing when I was sick, I truly believe that sometimes, the biggest help you can be to friends is to take care of yourself.

Why I Blogged Today, Even Though Columbus Day was Yesterday

Anyone who has followed my blog over the last several months would’ve noticed that I don’t blog on weeks of federal holidays. It was a practice I started with Independence Day and Labor Day, and I will continue this habit with Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day in the next few weeks.

But this practice will not extend to Columbus Day. Not this year, and probably not ever.

The reason is that, quite honestly, this blog is supposed to expose injustices instead of celebrate them. As a result, I felt that not posting for the week of Columbus Day would be a de facto celebration of Columbus and a number of injustices related to him and the way he is celebrated.

I am not going to go into all of the injustices related to Columbus, but here are a few:

  1. When Columbus got involved in “America” (which wasn’t actually America but places in the Caribbean like Haiti), he and his people enslaved many, treated many people brutally, and saw many people die as a result of mistreatment from him and those who helped him. It’s fair to say that people in the West Indies weren’t exactly flourishing while he was the governor there.
  2. Columbus and his entourage claimed the land for themselves, even though other people were on the territory many years before they “discovered” it. This sort of claiming of land is not worth celebrating.
  3. The way Columbus treated indigenous people in America started a pattern of how Europeans often brutally treated indigenous people in the New World. In other words, this pattern of mass enslavement and brutality against indigenous people continued for many years after Columbus died. Basically, Columbus was a trendsetter in all the wrong ways. This is also nothing to be celebrated.
  4. Brutality aside, he was not the first person to discover America, because that was actually done many centuries before Columbus went on his voyage. For that matter, he was not even the first European to discover America, as there is strong evidence of a Viking presence in Newfoundland. Actually, Columbus never even landed in mainland North America, in spite of the continuously popular myth of his “discovering” America. So Columbus Day is a holiday that is built on all sorts of false premises about what he “discovered.” As a result, even the way he is celebrated is, in a way, unjust.

I am not a scholar on Christopher Columbus, so people can probably find even more reasons, on both sides of this argument, about why he should or should not be celebrated. But these are a few of the big reasons why I will not celebrate him by having an “off week” on this blog.

Instead, I hope to use the week of Columbus Day in future years to do as I’ve always tried to do here: discuss injustices which many of us may be blind to or blindly commit.

Introduction

Before beginning to blog, I want to introduce myself, as well as my blog and my hopes for this blog.

I am Brendan Birth, a recent college graduate who is pursuing a career in advocacy. While much of my advocacy is in ageism, I am also passionate about other forms of discrimination and injustice. In my spare time, I like to serve my home church, track major snowstorms and hurricanes, closely follow multiple sports, and make lots of puns.

For years, I have been passionate about a number of injustices—racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and more. I have cared about issues like these for years, but I became even more passionate after I went on a spring break service trip with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Spring 2015 in the Anacostia section of Washington, DC.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I still care deeply about injustices like the ones I mentioned above. What has changed is my view on how injustice looks like.

I used to believe that injustice was committed by a select few people such as those in the Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan. But now I realize that injustice is within and around so many of us, myself included. Furthermore, many of us, myself included, remain blind to the injustices we commit ourselves or see around us until someone else points out the injustices to us.

This blog is an attempt to start eliminating the blindness that many of us have to the racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and other injustices within or around so many of us. Through blog posts which candidly talk about the injustices I see, my hope is that I can make others aware of the injustices within and around them too.

Happy reading!