BY Julie Gange, MSW, LCSW, M.Ed.
Self-preservation is a very precious word in my vocabulary, and I don’t use it lightly. We all need to experience what it is and how to do it.
Self-preservation is not the act of being selfish at all; in fact, it is all about being selfless with ourselves and others. Taking care of ourselves seems to be one of our most difficult challenges.
We should all learn to like ourselves in a nurturing, protective way. Setting limits and boundaries with kindness is the essence of self-preservation. Learning how to do this takes practice and time. As with all changes, self-preservation is a process.
When we face an illness, acute or chronic, the experience will trigger a variety of emotional responses. Do we continue to please others or do we take care of ourselves? There is a balancing act to self-preservation.
Part of this balance is learning to say no. Sometimes when asked to do something, be part of something, or go somewhere, the natural response for many is to say “yes” or “no” immediately. That’s what I call being “all or nothing.”
For many years, I have tried to be “in the grey.” Not the “blah” color grey, but to remain in the middle of a yes or no. How do we do this?
Giving ourselves time to answer a request is a key to success. Time gives us the opportunity to self-preserve. Once we make our decision, which may not be in the best interest of others, and our answer is no- we must say no.
A “no” can be stated in a respectful, dignified way. Self-preserving in this way empowers us to feel in control of our own lives. We are giving the respect and permission to take care of whom? Ourselves.
Another way to self-preserve is to accept help from others, especially in a time of change. So many of us are adjusting to physiological, medical and emotional issues. During such adjustments, so many think either, “I can do this all on my own” or, “I need everyone to help me.”
Again, I bring myself to the color grey- or staying somewhere in the middle of the continuum. Accepting help is not a sign of defeat or weakness, in fact, it is the opposite. It shows both ourselves and others the extent of our strength and courage.