I am a youngest child. So I bask in being barely responsible but also being a pretty big know-it-all. I always on the receiving end of advice, so whenever I get the chance to talk about an experience and what I learned, I jump at it. So this post this week is about exactly I do for my own self-care. I use a pretty harsh method to other people’s eyes because I spent, like many women, far too long thinking that I needed to please everyone so they would like me. Sometimes being driven is great, because people know what you want. Other times, it comes off as aggressive and rude.
These are some tips that work for me. I’m no psychologist or expert. Just a 23 year-old who is slowly breaking into the arts with some authenticity and honesty.
1.) My schedule has to work for me, not the other way around
It took a lot of trial and error to realize that I am inherently driven by a busy but productive schedule. I’d rather do 12 hours straight at two different jobs than have a break for a nap. I always need a project to keep me going. Otherwise I’ll watch Netflix the whole weekend.
What do you need? Do you need built in time off? Do you like the traditional 9-5? Do you need accountability groups to keep networking?
2.) I have to boundaries or people will take me down
My family really hates boundaries. Time off from people, or from expected tasks. If I let them keep violating my own self created bubble, they will because I let them. It’s not like they are inherently bad people, they just really want things done when they want.
And it’s the same way in the art world, especially in academia. When you aren’t actively selecting your own boundaries or your own projects, people will just give you things they want done. So for me, I won’t become an academic or a take a position when I will get called for non-emergencies. If the basement isn’t flooding, I don’t want to hear about it until I get back in tomorrow.
What is a no go for you? Is it not being appreciated? Is it tied to financial renumeration?
3.) I set expectations
People will violate your boundaries if they think it’s ok or if they don’t realize there is a boundary. If instead of always saying yes, it is ok to say, “not right now” or “I can do this on Wednesday if you get parts X, Y, and Z done.” If there is an expectation stated clearly, it’s easier to either not help them in the future or discuss what you need in the future.
And yes, this is possible in an entry level job. At the Clements, if I’m asked to stay late, I can always say “not today.” At the coffeeshop if they ask for extra things to be done during a shift, I always say, “is this more or less important than the usual tasks?”
If you always say yes and set no expectations, your boundaries are unclear and harder to maintain. People just think you’re the person they can dump things on.
What’s the consequence if someone violates your boundaries? What are your boundaries? How do you need to communicate them in a way that works for you?
4.) I learn everywhere
Any job I’ve held will make me better for the art world. Being a shift manager at a high volume coffeeshop taught me quick problem solving. I can resolve most situations quickly and efficiently with people smiling. And if I’ve done all I can to make someone happy and they just aren’t, it’s not on me. I worked hard for that knowledge and the ability to work quickly under varying conditions will serve me well.
I am not above any job. I could be making burgers at McDonalds and as long as I’m treated well, I will learn. I will work hard for anyone who treats me with any decency. Because I will learn something from a job no matter what. And I will leave when I’ve stopped learning.
How can you keep learning? What skills do you need to be successful in your future positions?
5.) Doing what I wanted
I believe above all else in “You Do You.”
I get to decide what the hell I do with my time. If I want to write for feminist arts blog, then do it. If I want to get a PhD because I want to be a professor of Art History, then I will do it. If I want really want it, I go for it because it matters to me. Not because someone told me that I would be good at Law or Research.
And then I stop when I don’t want to anymore. If I decided I actually hate Art History, I would leave the PhD program and do something else.
Yes, there are limitations to this but if we are going to spend 40 or more hours a week doing something, we should like it. Because frankly, I am a better person, friend and worker when I’m not burnt out. So I’ll be selfish in running towards my goals and putting my mental health above what other people might want from me.