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Why Showing Up for Yourself Can Be an Act of Caring for Others

My friend and I recently introduced another friend to Queer Eye on Netflix – don’t ask me how she’s never watched it until now y’all, but it’s true! So naturally, my partner and I have been re-watching the entire series from the first episode. Re-watching the Fab Five do their thing has been its own form of self-care for us. It’s been neat to see the transformation the show itself has taken on year to year. As with every episode, we find ourselves crying and laughing through our tears, growing alongside the “heroes” as the Fab Five refers to them.

I find myself taking something new from every episode upon watching them again…a life lesson, a glimmer of hope, a beautiful new metaphor to apply in my own life and thinking.  So what does Queer Eye have to do with mental health? Why am I rambling on and on about the Fab Five? Is it because I want to be their next she-ro now that they’re filming in Austin? Yes.  Ahem…Maybe…heh.

Aside from the obvious wham-bam total life makeover every episode focuses on, I appreciate the thoughtfulness sprinkled into every interaction the Fab Five has with their chosen hero for a particular episode. It got me thinking.

What We Can All Learn from the Fab Five

Every episode focuses on some kind, giving, oblivious but deserving sweet soul. The takeaway is always that these people lose themselves in one way or another – usually in showing up and caring for others before themselves. The Fab Five twirl into the picture and turn life upside down for the hero, teaching them in one week how to be a new and improved version of themselves.

As a therapist, I have my reservations about how realistic it is to help someone change their entire life in just one week. But hey, I haven’t experienced the magic of The Fab Five myself (Hey Tan France! Let’s be BFFs. Please?).

The thing is, whether it’s one powerful week, one year, or one decade of work – the Fab Five are on to something. Showing up for ourselves can be an act of caring for others.

Okay, but how?

When we listen to our wants and needs, when we create boundaries and uphold them, when we learn to say no when something doesn’t feel right or good – these are small ways we not only show up for ourselves, but extend care to others in caring for ourselves. Sun Tzu is credited with saying, “A leader leads by example, not by force.”

If our example is simply what we want for ourselves, best believe it can impact others to respect us and reexamine their own selves.

As a mother, I am often faced with the reminder that what we say and do matters more than we realize. I’m a bonus mom to two middle schoolers. Both girls. My older daughter is officially a teenager. I often find myself worrying about the possible negative habits I may have unknowingly passed on to her in my own journey to practice self-love and show up for myself in the way I show up for others.

It’s my goal in life to help raise these two into strong, independent women. The more time that goes on, the more I have to contend with the fact that it starts at home, it starts with us. It starts with the way we talk to ourselves, about ourselves, and to others. The way we show care, the way we listen, and the way we work at bettering ourselves.

I am often encouraging my clients to practice self-care. In big ways and little ways. Buy yourself a candy bar because you deserve it. Take time away from screens and soak in a hot bath, because you deserve it. Spend a little extra time snuggling under the covers with your partner, make the most of the moment!

The thing to remember about self-care is that it is not selfish. It is not this idea of putting yourself first at the expense of others, rather it is the idea of carving out time and space for ourselves, mindfully.

Self-Care as Community Care

The whole point of putting ourselves first from time to time is to ensure we can show up for others around us – whether that be our family, friends, community, the earth. Humans are inherently social creatures. If we aren’t feeling our best, it affects more than just our individual selves. And sometimes, the healing we need is right within our own communities. This is why social justice matters. Why showing up for each other can be so meaningful.

My insightful colleague Natalia said, “we can’t always defend ourselves on all fronts, we need other people and we need to show up for other people…the give and take needs to be balanced.” We need to learn how to give care and receive care. Sometimes that care is from within. Other times it requires us leaning on our community for support. Sometimes, the best form of self-care is admitting we need help. That is when we should reach out to our community for the help we need.

If you have been overextending yourself, is it possible to turn inward, and give yourself some of the same kind of care you have been giving to others in your life? If you have been more inward lately, do you have some loving energy you can share with others? This is a trying time for many. Let’s spread a little kindness and care.

With three kids, life can get hectic. Some days the only time I can manage to carve out for myself is when the kids are in bed, and I get ten minutes to myself to enjoy an ice cream bar. Other days, I am able to set aside an hour or two and paint something new.

The point is less about what we do, and more about how we do it. Big or small, the way we show up for ourselves, the way we express love and care to ourselves, shows others how they can show up for us.

About the Author

Yumnah Syed-Swift, LMSW

Yumnah Syed-Swift, LMSW

If life is an obstacle course, Yumnah's got a field guide on resilience and determination. Blending hope, intersectionality and humor in psychotherapy, Yumnah helps people create a new vision for their future.

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Yumnah Syed-Swift, LMSW

Yumnah Syed-Swift, LMSW

If life is an obstacle course, Yumnah's got a field guide on resilience and determination. Blending hope, intersectionality and humor in psychotherapy, Yumnah helps people create a new vision for their future.

Share Wisely

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

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