• Educating Charlie

Investing in Myself


“Staff well-being” is a common phrase nowadays along with the talk about mental health, workload and stress. It is something I have heard mentioned a lot within my school, on social media and other educational platforms and something I have wanted to be more conscious of, but I’ve never been confident of how to improve my own well-being, or that of those around me, without actually adding something to the mix.

I feel I have now found a brilliant tool to help me on this journey of investing in myself, improving my work/life balance and becoming the best version of myself. Found innocently through my new-found love for EduTwitter (if you aren’t on there you should be! Twitter is full of fantastic educational conversations and kind, supportive souls who will share resources as well as help, advice and general amusement). I am glad I found the book “Leaving Work at Work” by James Birchenough, further details can be found at the end of this post.

The main thing I hope to achieve is a better work/home/life balance. It has already improved dramatically from reading this book and realising immediately that I need to do something, anything. I want to work to live rather than live to work. I need to. I want to spend time doing things I enjoy, find things that I enjoy. I began teaching at the grand old age of 21 and the career has consumed a lot, probably because of the moral purpose of teaching but also because I do enjoy teaching and learning, and I want to be the best I can be. I cannot change those around me, but I can change myself, my perspective and my attitudes towards myself, my life and my work. I can invest in myself. I owe myself that much.

Being a ‘passive Patsy’ as Birchenough puts it, or a pasty as I kept reading, will not help me reach these goals, or any goals in fact. I need to speak my mind, find my voice and do what I need to do. For me. A therapist I spoke to helped me realise a few issues in my bid to avoid conflict and ‘go with the flow’ and just hope for the best. As he discussed speaking my mind and trying get me to understand that I will not feel success until I demand it, I was more concerned with how I would be perceived by others. “I don’t want to be rude or selfish” I repeated, “I don’t want people to think I am being unreasonable!” “It was the unreasonable person who walked into a room and decided a light needed putting in there,” he replied. It is the ‘unreasonable’ person who demands change. So, my goal was set: Be respectful AND assertive.

Session 3 of this book really resonated with me. I have a habit of getting frustrated but not dealing with it, which turns to resentment and anger and any other connected emotion; it is unhealthy and unhelpful. This is my tell-tale sign that my mental health is not up to standard. I am grateful I stumbled upon this brilliant resource for providing hints, tips and ideas to accept, understand and process my emotions so that they are dealt with and will not impact or takeaway from other moments. I look forward to having space to live in the moment and having feelings that change throughout the day.

If anyone reading this feels that they are in a similar position it may be worth researching drama triangles. I was introduced to drama triangles as the ‘most well known story in humanity’. It is the story of the fairy tales, books and films. There is a victim, a persecutor and a rescuer, but this is a vicious cycle that doesn’t end. Instead people just change their roles, the victim becomes the persecutor because they want someone to blame so that makes the persecutor the victim and the rescuer can become a persecutor because they are bored of saving others. And so, it continues. This is what we know and, as creatures of habit, this is what we seek. But there is a way to break the cycle. It is a change in perspectives which changes the dynamics of each role. See the persecutor as a challenger, not an enemy. The victim needs to become a creator and manage their own circumstances meanwhile the rescuer can now take on the coaching role and so will not be needed in all eventualities.

A major impact of this book is helping understand and consider the impact of your actions on others, all actions have consequences after all. Even the ‘harmless’ actions such as being the victim in the drama triangle, or even just thinking about work whilst at home. Thinking about something else means you aren’t fully in the moment and your memories and experiences are tainted by work. I recall meeting my parents for food and drinks after a busy working week, but I found the environment too loud, too busy, just overall too much because of work situations and my inability to ‘switch off’. Negative emotions take hold easily and are most difficult to shake off. The time I spend with my family should not involve work though, those emotions should be dealt with and left in their box.

So here I am, with a resource that is helping me to see the simple changes that can make a huge impact. A book that can help provide the baby steps for a much better future for myself and my family. I have read the book twice so far with excitement, happiness and eagerness, but I can guarantee I have not read it for the last time. As my thoughts change, the book will help me clarify more and more.

I am making the following commitments to myself, because I deserve it. I deserve to invest in myself.

  • Say no. I will not turn down fantastic opportunities that are available, but if I do not have time or the capabilities or the engagement then they are not actually opportunities that are available. If I need to say no, I will do.

  • Focus on things outside of work. Pick up the clarinet again and become a confident player once more. Get creative in the kitchen with delicious food. Perhaps even become an expert gardener and grow my own vegetables. The possibilities are endless; explore different areas, spend the day in new places, perhaps even spend the weekend away!

  • Have a plan and stick to it. If I’m not completing work, then I don’t need to consider work.

  • Ask for support if I need it. I have a fantastic support network around me of family, friends and work colleagues, I just need to remember to ask. Just in the same way I want others to be able to ask that of me.

  • Put in to action some recommended strategies from this book. One at a time. One day at a time, or a week if that’s needed. That is how change happens.

  • Stay grounded. Always come back to “what is the worst that can happen” because it is rarely actually bad.

If you would like to find the book I talk about: “Leaving Work at Work: A Practical Guide to Improving Work/life Balance for Educators” by James Birchenough, visit amzn.to/2Y56jbk

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