Reality Checks

By: zehra imam

Last summer, during our travels with the Illuminated youth-fellows, we exposed our youth to a spectrum of self-development of which all (s)heroes remain aware. The spectrum looks like this:

  1. Self-hate
  2. Self-harm
  3. Self-preservation
  4. Self-care
  5. Self-love

We were in Chicago, I was in a home-stay with two of our fellows, and it was the last leg of the trip. I was at my wit’s end with one of our beloved students because we had spent way too much time around each other. But then something he did really struck me – he applied the spectrum that I had developed for the program on me!

“Miss, do you know where you’re at?” my student asked me, “You’re at self-harm. And, you’re kind of trying to get to self-preservation, but… you really need to try harder.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.52.57 AM

Needless to say, I was…horrified. Not completely surprised, but horrified, because he was right. I was burnt out. And while it was really exciting for me that my student was utilizing a language for articulating how he’s doing in terms of self-development, I also knew he had given me a major reality check.

Where are you on the spectrum as shown by your behavior? Where is your community on the spectrum? What do we need to work on to shift our place on the spectrum? These are some questions we used when first trying to understand how the terms on the spectrum are defined, what they look like in our lives, and how to remain aware as we work on ourselves and with our communities.

Shortly thereafter, I took off six months from my job to understand and experience what sustainability, self-care, and self-love mean. As we move forward, the Illuminated team will be incorporating self-care practices into our programming, and we are looking forward to sharing them with our 2015 fellows!

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