By Jamie Kirk

There’s an old saying that says, “excuses are the tools of incompetence. They build monuments of nothing, and those that specialize in using them are seldom good for anything else.” 

This quote is so deep and appropriate right now because I think it’s an easy out for us to just continually give in and give up on our life plan and our destiny. I think many of us are so quick to defend our complacency, especially with our country’s state. Being able to blame a lack of diversity and inclusivity for not finding a new job. Being able to blame gender inequality for not asking for a promotion. Or perhaps eating junk food and snacking because you are always going to be “thick.” Excuses, excuses, and more excuses. 

Having the ability to put your self-care on the top of your to-do list is the most important thing you can do. Putting yourself first is intentional, it’s deliberate, and it’s rewarding. When you can prioritize what is important and act upon it, it will speak volumes to how we live our lives and how we want others to treat us. When folks watch us writing out a to-do list or seeing us heading out to the gym on a rainy, cold morning or sacrificing our weekend to go and care for an invalid relative or friend, they can’t but honor and respect our approach to life. 

Self-care is so important during this time of year, ironically, because of THIS time of year. Holidays seem far away, but yet so close. The weather is not hot or warm, yet we don’t have the need to have on a fleece. It’s not time to give up on the year, but we are a few months away from 2021. It’s like we are waiting for something to happen that may not occur. It then becomes increasingly hard to step away and recognize when things are out of balance. It’s not easy to sort out our lives while living our lives. When we are living our lives out loud on purpose, we don’t really care about judgment, opinions, or even criticism of our decisions or choices. Putting ourselves first means everyone and everything else becomes secondary. Secondary to everything that does not support our roadmap for self-care.

Peeling back the onion on the word road map. We can’t expect to have a self-care initiative or initiatives if we don’t have a plan. We have to assess what is working, what isn’t, and the activities to get us where we need to be. And let me be clear, self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health and prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (quality and quantity), lifestyle (outdoor activities, sports, etc.), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.), socio-economic factors (income levels, volunteering, civic responsibilities, and our cultural belief system), and my personal favorite… self-medication. Our road map has to encompass each and every one of these for the plan to be successful. Omitting one of them becomes a danger to the rest of them. 

As we look in the rear-view mirror of what all has occurred in 2020, we can’t but help to wonder “why.” But in wondering “why,” we can’t put on the breaks and allow our lives to stall. This year will be looked back (at least in the history books) as likely one of the most challenging years in our lifetime. Have there been other years that were just as challenging – absolutely. But because we are in the eye of the storm right now, the issues of social injustice, racial divisiveness, questionable leadership in the White House, higher than normal unemployment rates, forest fires, and just an overall feeling of “what the hell could possibly be next,” feels like the absolute worse 365 days one could experience. 

But we can’t focus on that; we have to go onward and upward. We have to hunker down and avoid making excuses. These less than ideal circumstances could cut us some slack. We can’t allow abbreviated times or heck, even no gym times to cause us to avoid physical exercise. We can’t allow no races to have us not train for the Boston Marathon in 2021. We can’t allow no church to allow us not to tithe or stream our choice service. We can’t allow restaurants having limited seating to shy away from having a date night. Now, more than ever, we can’t allow excuses to dominate our thought process. We have to be diligent in our approach. We have to be steadfast in our position. We have to be determined that nothing or no one will hold us back. Not everyone you will find will be in your corner. There is no need to broadcast your efforts; show people, don’t tell them. 

As we prepare to prepare for a new year, placing our emotional, mental, and physical health first must be the tip-top priority. Personal self-care and the ability to live our lives out loud is the biggest WIN we can ever have. People are watching, and our inner child is watching. We have to show up for ourselves for our family and our friends. The only way we can do that is to be good to ourselves. Not just good actually, but great to ourselves. Folks are gonna treat you the way they see you treat yourself. Make them exhausted in giving you what you want and desire from your life. No excuses, no exceptions. 

At the end of the day, we can celebrate Pride, march for BLM, join the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at work, volunteer to Feed the Homeless, help out with at the local food bank, but if we are not putting ourselves first and making our needs a priority; nothing else will matter. It won’t matter because we can’t give it 100%. We can’t give what we don’t have. We can give our mates, jobs, and community what is left over from our 100%. But we owe it to ourselves to give “us” every bit of our 100%! Anything less just won’t do.