Living in Naarm and considering that we’re just coming out of lockdown (and re-entry anxiety is real), I thought this would be a perfect time to reflect on ways to move gently back into being in community with others.
I don’t find being in community super easy at the best of times. I’m pretty introverted for starters, and I’ve had social anxiety for the whole of my teen and adult life. But, as I’ve gotten older and learnt how to better manage my social anxiety, I’ve found that community care might just be one of the greatest possible forms of practicing self-care. In fact, to me they could even be considered one and the same. When we care for ourselves, we care for others, and vice versa.
So, without further ado, here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt about community care as self-care. Hopefully it can also help you with your own post-lockdown community care/self-care situation—whether you have social anxiety or not!
1. Learning that hope is a discipline (and trust is a practice!)
Portrait of Mariame Kaba (https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2021/01/mlk-keynote-speaker-start-where-you-are/)
“Hope is a discipline” —Mariame Kaba
This quote by activist, writer and abolitionist Mariame Kaba is a fundamental part of community-building and community care for me. Showing up and caring for others starts in my head—it starts with how I think about them. It depends on whether I decide to practice feeling hopeful and trusting toward them, or whether I give in to more judge-y/mean/critical thoughts (which is way too easy at times!). Often, my social anxiety leads me to feel like the world is a scary and untrustworthy place, and that can make me assume the worst in people. But when I challenge these thoughts and practice assuming the best in people instead, I find it so much easier to show up for them.
[Obviously, use this at your discretion. You don’t owe anyone this practice if you feel there is a fundamental lack of respect or reciprocity on their end.]
2. Finding out my values and figuring out how to follow them
Finding out more about what my values are has been huge! It has helped me:
- Learn more about myself
- Build my relationship and trust with myself
- Build my relationships and trust with others—because I can approach them more honestly and authentically!
Do you know what your values are? To start getting a sense of what my values were, a year or so ago I sat somewhere nice and quiet with my journal. Once my thoughts became more still, I asked myself, “what is my heart telling me my values are?”. If you want to try out this exercise, you can just write down the first four or five things that come to mind. Don’t worry, they’re not set in stone—these values will probably shift and change over time as you grow, or as you get to know yourself better. I know mine did!
When you know what your values are, you can start trying to align your actions with them. This is the hardest part, and a bit of a lifelong journey, but it means you can start feeling more yourself around others, and even choose to be in spaces and around people that feel more aligned with your values.
3. Learning what my boundaries are (an ongoing process!)
Portrait of Prentis Hemphill by Ociele Hawkins (https://www.them.us/story/prentis-hemphill-finding-our-way-podcast-interview)
“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously” —Prentis Hemphill
This was said by Prentis Hemphill, a healer, organiser and former Healing Justice Director of the Black Lives Matter movement. Learning our boundaries is like learning our values—they also require settling your mind, and listening to that quiet, centred part of yourself and asking it what it needs. This way you can learn about yourself so you can better be around others.
Speaking to my needs and boundaries can feel really scary, but it’s a life-changing skill, and I think it’s gonna be super important as we move out of lockdown. It can be as small as saying “I’d love to see you, but I really want to make sure we’re both safe—are you vaccinated yet?” to “I’m not ready to hang out in big groups of people just yet.” When we speak to our boundaries and encourage our friends to do the same, it means we can show up as our full selves, and love others for being their full selves.
4. Centring my life around relationships (and not trying to be a lone wolf rockstar!)
In Western capitalist society, we can really hold onto this idea that the only worthy pursuits are becoming highly successful individuals, overachieving in our careers. But at what cost? I’m not talking about basic financial needs being met, which is a necessity, and I’m not talking about finding a career that is energising, uplifting and nourishing. I’m talking about chasing hyper-success and hyper-individualism. They’re like carrots dangling at the end of a stick that keep us competing with others and constantly feeling like we are not enough. Nice things and career success don’t feel quite the same when you don’t have people you care about to share them with. By learning to centre my life more around my relationships rather than stuff or success, ironically the stuff and the success that has come my way (whatever that even means) has become so much more enjoyable.
5. Knowing when to tap out and replenish myself
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
Ahh, crawling back into my hermit shell at the end of it all—the best bit! Hehe, just kidding (or am I?). Being in community with others feels so much better when I know I have some delicious alone time scheduled later that day, week or weekend. It means that instead of using alone time as a vice which I overindulge in, I can use it as a reward for gently challenging myself to be in that social environment. If my tank is running on empty, it’s hard to give any sort of positive energy toward others, but when it’s been filled by doing all the fun me-time things I love to do (listen to music, be in nature, journal, play video games…), I feel like I can really show up as my best self when I get back into social situations again. Plus, if you’re coming out of lockdown like I am and have socially anxious tendencies, you’re definitely going to need that down time to replenish. Fill your tanks, my bbs!
Stay safe, take care of yourselves, and take care of those around you!
We are all deserving of care, of feeling a sense of belonging and of being able to contribute positively to the communities around us, whether we are super self-assured, or shy as heck. The secret is a little bravery, a little trust in others, and some faith that there will be lovely moments of connection wherever we go. I’m wishing everyone lots of luck with coming out of lockdown. Stay safe, take care of yourselves, and take care of those around you!
KOMANG / ROSIE CLYNES
Rosie Clynes (she/her) is an artist, music producer, workshop facilitator and event organiser based in Naarm. Under the moniker ‘Komang’ she weaves together traditional Balinese and Javanese learnings with electronic r&b and dreamy trip-hop. She also works as a workshop facilitator at Creatives of Colour, a community-centred platform for Bla(c)k and POC artists, as well as The Push Inc., a youth music organisation. She tries to centre relationships and community in her work, finding joy in the people she works and creates alongside.