Self-care resources for community builders

Self-care resources for community builders


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Before you read this, know that I’m not a self-care expert, technically. However, I AM an expert in living my best life, and I’ve said multiple times that I have the best life out of anyone I know.

Those are my credentials!

It’s not as peachy as it sounds, though... more on that in a bit.

Ever since I launched the membership community for Soapbox Project, my life has gotten SO much better, and it’s prompted me to reflect on my living my best life journey, burnout, and everything in between.

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Here’s a few resources that have worked excellently for me:

  1. Privilege I’m saying this a little self-snarkily, but I’m totally serious. I’ve never had to worry about having a roof over my head or running out of food to eat. I immigrated to the US when I was a year old, and money was never in abundance, but I knew I could always depend on my family and my community. I don’t see privilege as a bad thing, as has often been the subtext in mainstream media. To me, privilege is a wonderful tool to live my best life, and then ensure others can live theirs too. The privilege I had of being middle-class, American-living, mostly able-bodied, cis, and straight — this means that I have more spoons than others. This means I have spoons to give and give! Without this privilege, it’s hard to know if I would have become a professional community builder. So cheers to recognizing the privilege we have and using it to take care of ourselves and our people!
  2. Antidepressants Let’s be real — me living my best life still included life-threatening accidents (got hit by a car twice, once walking in 2018, once biking in 2019), chronic pain, lecherous men, racism, panic attacks, and soooossooooso much more. I wish, earlier in the pandemic, someone had given me the permission to try antidepressants. My whole life, being “on meds” was such a dramatic thing. You were either A Depressed Person, or Not. But when I finally went to get help, my Asian-American doctor said, “why not just try it for 3 months?” That BLEW MY MIND. I didn’t have to be ✨Depressed✨ as an identity; I could just... make this choice as part of the thousands of other choices I make on a daily basis! You cannot manage or build community if you’re not managing or building your internal resilience. You have to nourish your soul, or else you will have nothing to give. And if you have nothing to give, you are not in a position to drive a community forward.
  3. Rest Specifically, this book called Rest. (Get it from your library!) The premise of the book is that work and play are partners, not opposites, as we treat them today. Since reading the book, I’ve embarked on an experiment of working max 4 hours a day, in three 90-minute chunks of time. I’m not a morning person, but apparently one must wake one’s ass up in the morning for ✨Productivity✨, so I try to do roughly 8-9:30, 10-11:30, and a chunk sometime in the evening. It’s been going GREAT so far and it feels like I’ve gotten more done this month than the past few combined. The author, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, also recommends an afternoon nap, but I’m not on that level yet.
  4. Breath Yup, maybe you guessed it — it’s a book called Breath by James Nestor. I told you I’d be coming through with tactical resources. Turns out that we overbreathe as a society in the same way that we overeat. Who knew?? Managing my breathing has felt like a shortcut to self-care. (Obviously it’s not, and I need to practice this every day, but it’s a pretty wild revelation.) This is far from new info; mindful breathing has been correlated with health for centuries, but we’ve just sorta forgotten about it. This book changed my life — see if it’ll do the same for you! Regardless of what your community is about, it can be helpful — either as a practice for yourself or with other members — to just breathe. I’m a fan of screensharing this gif in the beginning of events and calling on folks to be present.
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  6. Mindfulness and heartfulness I often use the Headspace app for meditation, but I’ve also started attempting to be more mindful in smaller moments. My mom is the most inner-peace-full person I know, and she follows Heartfulness, which I’m learning more about. I’m very much in the baby steps process for this, but the book The Untethered Soul helped me reflect on these concepts more. It’s funny to me because yoga and spirituality were always a part of my family’s heritage throughout generations, but I’d never thought about practicing these concepts on a daily basis. I attended an event a few months ago where the leader (maybe Carrie Melissa Jones?) started off by reminding all of us to get 10% more comfortable and be present. That’s something I’ve since taken with me everywhere.
  7. The second agreement If you haven’t read The Four Agreements, you absolutely should — it’s like my tiny Bible. We all make Agreements in society — think of the unspoken rules and norms we follow and “agree” to, even if we’re not conscious of it — and this book says to break them all except four. The one that I think of on a daily basis as part of my job is the second one: Don’t Take Anything Personally. This is HARD to do, especially when someone does something upsetting in a community setting. This TikTok puts it almost as profoundly...
  8. Mindful Productivity Ever since Anne-Laure published this article called “Don’t pin the butterfly: not all hobbies need to become hustles”, I’ve thought about it like 1x a week. She publishes a weekly newsletter called Maker Mind on mindful productivity, and everyone who’s attempting to combine wellness, creativity, and productivity should sign up for it. Re not pinning the butterfly: we like it or not, money is important (for now), but when we make all our relationships transactional, it takes a psychological toll. The Soapbox community is paid, and although I don’t feel that it’s transactional, I hate how much financial stress I have around it. All I want to do is vibe! So that’s exactly what I make time for: just vibing. To me, not pinning the butterfly looks like having communities I do NOT monetize and invest heavily in (like my group chat with my best friends; biweekly craft nights in Seattle), reading for fun, and doing stuff I’m bad at.
  9. Knowing my neighbors On this subject of having communities I don’t monetize, I LOVE KNOWING MY NEIGHBORS!! This is the first time since college I’ve met the people in the vicinity of me. It’s a game-changer. Challenge yourself to meet a neighbor, whatever that looks like to you. No matter what goes wrong — getting locked out of my house, wildfires, heat waves, having a bad day — I know I’ll have people around me that I can lean on. My neighbors aren’t the people I hang out with every day, but there’s something special in knowing that I CAN. Knowing my neighbors is a physical totem of how important community is, and it roots me in the work I’m doing.
  10. Communities about community The Circle community and the Build a Community Business community have both been 💯 in keeping me sane and feeling like a valid human being. Traditionally, community has been an unpaid job. Women are default in charge of managing social calendars, planning events, and bringing people together, at least in the society I grew up in. That’s why, for a long time, I was struggling to even explain to people what I do all day — just hang out on the internet and vibe! But it’s a lot more than that, and community facilitation requires me to invest all of myself in my work. I love it, but I also need someone to hold the same space for me. That’s why communities about community are so important to me, and if you don’t have a support group, anxiety party, in-person gathering space, or online forum with people doing the same sorta stuff, GET ONE! I also meet monthly through Find Calm Here, which you should definitely check out if you’re building a community on Mighty Networks.
  11. Clear and kind boundaries In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” She talks about how the most compassionate people she’s met also have the clearest boundaries. Specifically, they have BIG boundaries, which stands for Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity. I love that Carrie has her boundaries linked to her contact page, and it’s been a really inspiring example for me to courageously set my own boundaries. I don’t consider myself a people-pleaser, but I have FOMO from not wanting to miss an opportunity! Thinking critically about my boundaries is helping me curb/avoid/slow down burnout, especially in conjunction with my three 90-minute working blocks throughout the day.
  12. Hobbies This Future of Work venture capitalist once tweeted something about how founders must ruthlessly prioritize and only focus on work, which I think is absolute bird turd. HOBBIES ARE SO IMPORTANT! If you can’t think of any hobbies you’d like to practice, here are some suggestions:
    • Linoleum art
    • Juggling
    • Learning harp
    • Circus
    • Calligraphy
    • Cartography
    • Photography
    • Antique car restoration
    • Pond rehabilitation
    • Mushroom foraging
    • Sailing
    • Leprechaun hunting
    • Tap dance
    • Now, these aren’t actually MY hobbies, I just wanted you to think I’m an interesting person. My hobbies are currently: biking, sewing, cooking, reading, and kayaking, in no particular order. Ok fine reading is #1. Also, hanging out with my friends with no structure or purpose.

  13. Happy Money I have a strange relationship with money, in that I don’t want to charge people anything ever. But I also want to live my best life, you know? I’m pretty sure my college roommates collectively owe me $300+ from all the times I bought olive oil for the house and never Venmo requested them, which is a lot of money for a college student (or a poverty-wage-living community builder as I am now lol). Tatiana recently recommended me the book Happy Money and it’s been a really valuable reframing! I still have a lot of work to do on this money journey, but I recognize that a LOT of my mental space is taken up by thinking about money, and I want to let that go and accept things as they are.
  14. Communities of purpose Through the Soapbox Project community that I started, I work alongside a hundred-ish others to create social and environmental impact. The value you’re finding in your work matters. Purpose matters. The work you’re doing has to sync up with your ideals. If this isn’t already happening for you — for example, if you “just” run a community for non-technical people learning to code — you have a few options, which I think works best when combined. First, you can think critically about your role, if you haven’t already. If you value fairness and equality, how can you use that value to be more inclusive of under-represented people in your field? How can you actively use your platform as a community professional to create purpose in your work? Secondly, find a community of purpose. Think about a larger issue you care about and join people doing the work. Do you feel unsafe in your neighborhood? Great, join efforts to expand education and safe homes for everyone. Do you care about your kids’ health? Great, let’s eliminate food deserts and change the textiles industry so we’re not literally wearing plastic water bottles on our skin (which is what polyester is, essentially). There are soooo many things you can do to feel better about your role as a human, a tiny speck on this beautiful planet! You have so much to give, and I can help you get started if you’re overwhelmed by all the options out there.

I hope you take care of yourself. By working in community, your job is to take care of others, and we need to put our own oxygen masks on first if we want to spread the love. It takes practice, and it’s especially hard during a global pandemic. I hope my humble offerings of my own Living My Best Life Regimen have been helpful — let me know!

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