alt=a woman looking overwhelmed while her commitments swirl around her head

Why Don’t I Give Myself a Break?

Last updated: September 2022

“No one is harder on you than you are,” said my husband Richard recently, and I had to agree!

In this case, I was getting over a tough cold and had been in bed several days. I was talking to him about how behind I felt, how people were waiting on me for responses or action, and that I was being too slow in my recovery and getting things done.

I expect so much from myself

No one has higher expectations of myself than me. Need a volunteer? That’s me. Need some writing? That’s me. Need an event planned? That’s me. Need to get the word out on something? That’s me. I’m determined that once I make a commitment, I fulfill it. I don’t flake out. I don’t ghost. I don’t do it halfway. If I’m in, I’m all in.

The problem is that I forget myself. I forget that sometimes I can’t do everything. Sometimes I need a break and if I don’t get one, I break down. Hence the massive cold that knocked me flat for a week.

Why do I put myself last?

I’m the worst at giving myself a break. If I could fire me, I totally would. I plead with myself—just leave me alone awhile, please? But I get nowhere.

I kid, but it’s not entirely funny. I seriously need to give myself more downtime and recognize when I’m overly busy.

I don’t want to disappoint anyone

It’s partly a problem that I don’t want to let anyone down. I’ve become careful about volunteering for any roles or taking on any new projects. I’ve got limited time and energy, and frankly cannot take on anymore. But I think I have a reputation of fulfilling commitments and people like to ask things of me. They know that if I say yes, I will come through. This is not a bad thing. It’s a huge compliment to be so valued, but I have limits.

I try to take on too much

The other problem is I see so many things that need doing, need attention, or need fixing. I have this compulsion to make things better. It’s a craving that I cannot stop, no matter how hard I try, and there are so many things that need to be better in this world.

For example, there are many problems of disability discrimination like those experienced in health care, getting a taxi, or finding accessible housing. It sometimes keeps me up at night thinking about all the problems that need attention. I can’t help myself; I have to help in some way on at least some of these issues. The rational side of me knows that I’m only one person and that I am not responsible for fixing these things alone, but the emotional side cannot easily let them go.

Finding a good balance with RA

All of this comes down to me frequently considering myself last on the list. Sometimes (ok, more often than not) I don’t give myself the rest or self-care that I need in order to be my best. I’m so determined to not let others down and I really do want to work on issues important to my heart.

I do think my community involvement and activities help with my RA. I feel better when I’m doing things and helping others or when I’m busy with good activities that make my heart and brain happy, but I have a hard time knowing when I need a break, when I need to slow down, or when I need to ask others for help so that I can rest.

Sometimes, I just need a break

I need people in my life, like my husband, Richard, to see the signs and remind me that I need a break sometimes. I need to give that break to myself. I can be generous with others, but I need to practice that same kindness and generosity on myself and for myself. I also need to remember that what is important in life is quality, not necessarily quantity. That I’d rather do something well over having more numerous (but less rewarding) experiences.

So next time you see me, do me a favor and ask: “when was the last time you gave yourself a break?”

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