Changing the standard on self-care in social justice work

We are living through tough social, economic and political times. For those of us working within vulnerable communities to solve social problems and achieve democracy and equity, we lack enough energy, time and resources to get everything done. Despite bold visions for social justice, the public, nonprofit and private sectors collectively are currently not effectively addressing extreme inequality and ensuring a good quality of life for all in our communities, as evidenced by the millions who struggle to thrive or survive in our society.

Workplace strains, budget constraints, demands on social justice organizations and programs, and burnout diminish our well-being. We are tired and stressed, and, ultimately, less effective. As we sacrifice physical, economic, emotional, social and spiritual health and personal happiness to serve vulnerable communities, we find ourselves unhappy and dissatisfied with the conditions in which we work, our work process and the results of our work.

This unhappiness and dissatisfaction has consequences on our individual happiness and well-being and reduces our organizational effectiveness. Despite global evidence that links organizational effectiveness with worker health and happiness and that correlates health more strongly with happiness than any other variable including income, many organizational development or leadership development solutions focus only on the individual or the organization, without recognizing how the two are connected.

Sweet Livity’s focus is to sustain the engagement of people and organizations in social justice movements by helping them become healthier and happier through the process and results of their work. Therefore our services are designed to address both individual and organizational well-being to increase personal and organizational sustainability and capacity to achieve successful results. To win social justice causes!

Audre Lorde believed, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  In contrast, in our work Sweet Livity finds that the people who perceive themselves as the most revolutionary are also the people who are the most resistant to the idea of self-care. Self-care is viewed as a selfish act rather than as essential to achieving more powerful results in our communities. As critical to preserving and sustaining not only the movement, but the movement’s most precious resource – its people.

So, a challenge and opportunity in the work is to strongly articulate and demonstrate the clear connection of personal happiness, well-being and sustainability to the well-being and effectiveness of movement organizations…to more powerful results. Sweet Livity wants to join with others ready to shift the conversation on self-care. How is self-care related to the scale of transformation required to win social justice causes, to achieve democracy and equity?

Self-care towards power and sustainability

Self-care towards power and sustainability

Over the coming months, Sweet Livity will be sharing stories from the ground about what it takes to change the movement’s standard on self-care and move towards greater sustainability and results from our work. And, we will encourage others to share their stories. As Robert McKee has said, “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”