For the person experiencing a carer’s role, it can seem relentless and exhausting. It comes naturally the desire to help our loved ones first, then treating ourselves as a secondary priority. The problem for most carers, myself included, is we lose our sense of worth. I am not talking here of Facebook likes or amassing friends and acquaintances as these provide us with a false sense of who we are. Our personal sense of worth goes more deeply than that and is beyond our carer role; it’s about respecting oneself unconditionally.
So what is respect? It’s about having due regard for your feelings, wishes and rights to be who you want and need to be. It’s about making decisions that preserve your mind, body and spirit and allows you to stand strong in your power. Respect is to be acknowledged and supported by boundaries that allow us to sustain a sense of worth and sense of our importance. Self-respect does not make you narcissistic or conceited, in fact, it about self-love and showing our loved ones, friends etc. that you are worthy of receiving love and in turn, giving love.
Here are my 3 tips towards self-respect.
Learn to say NO
It’s ok to let others know that you can’t do everything for everyone. It doesn’t make you a bad person; on the contrary, it shows you are strong and that you respect yourself and your time. A carer’s role can be relentless, so create more time for you and do things that make you happy.
Whatever l get done today is enough
With the multitude of responsibilities a carer has, it is easy to chain ourselves to a ‘to-do’ list, but is this really how we want to live? Self-respect lies in not being hard on oneself and avoiding the self-critical assessment we find ourselves doing from time to time. Believe it or not, even as carers we have choices. A choice to say ‘l have done all l can today’, ’I won’t get everything done and so it is’. By doing this, we are respecting our bandwidth and not placing unreasonable demands on ourselves.
I will do what makes me happy
Time can be a precious commodity when you are pulled from many directions to maintain a home, family, earn a living etc. With all these responsibilities, there comes a time when self-respect means taking time out to do something that makes you smile. This could be as simple as sitting down with a great cup of coffee, reading a book or visiting friends. We all need time out to rejuvenate and experience people, places and situations that can take us to a place of quiet and peace. It is important not to forget about your own happiness, for as carers, we carry the torch of hope for our loved ones who fight depression.
In closing, remember that our loved ones and the rest of the world see what we put out there. Hold yourself up with grace and purpose and respect yourself. It starts and ends with you.
Carmela Pollock is a voracious reader, spirit junkie and mental health advocate. Her current project sees her advocating the role of a mental health carer, providing support to caregivers through her voluntary work with Beyondblue and contributing to the Deakin University Delphi project as an Expert Panel member establishing guidelines for carers of people with major depressive disorder. She is due to release her first book in June 2016 titled ‘Grieving for the Living’, that captures her story of supporting her husband of 18 years with depression.
If you have a story to share as a carer, we are currently looking for contributions to a new book written by carers, for carers and how they are managing their journey. To register your interest to contribute, click here and follow the link.