In your corner: Take time to care for yourself so you can care for others

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I think we need a pep talk. I mean, we really, really need a pep talk.

As my column alluded to last week, college students are so caught up in their own version of busy that they often neglect not only the “why” of their lives, but also the “how.”

Each day, we make choices that inform our ability to accomplish our “why,” the reason why we wake up every day and go about our lives as active, contributing human beings. These choices might look a little something like this: Do I wake up 20 minutes early to make a green smoothie or do I opt to eat the leftover frozen pizza as I run late to class? Do I eat anything at all? Do I stop to say hi to my friend in the parking garage, or glue my headphones to my ears, and my eyes to the cement to avoid conversation because I’m just so introverted and chances are I’ll be surrounded by people all day? Do I do something nice for my stressed out friend, or is that their problem to deal with? After all, I have my own daunting lists of responsibilities to tend to.

That’s just it. If you’re anything like me, I like to believe every choice I make in a day is to bring me a little closer to my “why,” which is tied to you. Everyday, as Student Body President, I make choices that are informed by the student voice, but as much as I like to believe I’m serving this voice well, the “how” in which I go about my life often does little to contribute to the well-being of those around me; not because I’m not thinking about “the other,” but rather that I so often fail to recognize that when I’m not doing well, I can’t help those around me to do well. My tiredness. My rushed-ness. My unattentiveness; the “how” in which I conduct myself in a day all detract from my “why,” often without me even knowing.

If my choice to eat the frozen pizza instead of making the green smoothie becomes a habit, my health will falter. If I don’t eat, I’ll lack the energy and mental capacity to engage. If I never recharge by myself as an introvert and then later choose never to meet the eyes of those around me, I’ll lack the ability to connect with others. If I always ignore the stress of my friends to tend to my own, I’ll miss out on the practices in empathy and compassion that add deep value to our lives. Our choices are not without their effect, and often the “how” by which we engage with others does more harm than good, simply because we ourselves are not doing well.

So, for this week: a practice in “selfish selflessness.” Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of those around you. As my dad so often reminds me:

“Sienna, you can’t help someone out of the ditch if you’re in the ditch with them.”

I have to remind myself that if I don’t get enough sleep, if I don’t eat, if I don’t take care of myself, I can serve no one well; not my closest friends, not the 23,000 students that attend Boise State. It’s a challenge, but not an impossible one. Maybe the first step is admitting we’re not as okay as we let on, and that it’s okay to not only ask for, but accept help. For leaders, this is often a practice in humility, learning to let go of the need to be “perfect,” the high standards and “do everything ourselves” mentality that our ego holds us too, and to allow ourselves to just be human so that we can better relate and better serve those around us.


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