Be Selfless, Not Selfish: Take a Break by @ArtistThink

Be Selfless, Not Selfish (1)by Carrie Brummer | Featured Contributor

One of the largest obstacles I hear from people interested in trying the arts is a lack of time.

They are wrong.

It’s not that we don’t have free time, it’s how we choose to use it that’s the problem.

We feel guilty and selfish if we take time for ourselves.

It’s true. You know it, and I know it. To take time for ourselves is to take time away from our family, our chores, our job…. you name it, there is a reason we use our free time for anyone but ourselves.

It’s time for a reframe.

Making time for yourself isn’t selfish: it’s selfless.

Read that again. It may take a few times to really sink in.

A few years ago I was so excited for my promotion. I got a job as an assistant principal. I was working in a school community I already cared about. I could bring my desire to help others to the next level. I got to be a part of everything just as I said. I also got really sick.

The transition with two new members of the leadership team (we had a new principal as well) made for a big change in the community. There were many stakeholders who needed reassuring, we had to prove ourselves. I place a lot of pressure on myself to do everything I do well. That meant this drive to achieve was placed above everything else, including: a home that felt clean, healthy food, enough sleep, and certainly social time and my art.

I assumed my art practice would be the stress release from the intensity of moving from the relaxed art classroom to the office of discipline. It wasn’t. The arts are a wonderful tool for relaxation and fun, but you have to create to reap those benefits.

Why do we push ourselves so hard that we become ill? We celebrate working until our breaking point before we give ourselves the break we need. By this point, we are sick and exhausted, unable to give anything else to people in our lives. My partner had to step in for me in so many ways because of my choice to work as I did.

I was so tired when I got sick that my husband did all the cooking and cleaning. No more shared responsibilities. I don’t think I did a single load of laundry that whole year. I came home, wiped out from a day at work to lay on the couch, eat dinner, and go to bed. By working so hard, without a break, my husband had to change around his schedule, and our shared house commitments. If you ask me, he was being selfless!

Circumstances changed. We loved living in Dubai but my husband got a transfer to the country of Oman. We talked about it. Would I continue my contract and we’d commute to see each other? I thought about it for all of two seconds. I already spent a year prioritizing my work over myself and my family. I wasn’t doing that anymore. I gave my notice that week.

I’m not alone in stories like this. And yet, we keep hearing the same story. Why? Because we continue to celebrate the notion that time for ourselves is selfish. I felt guilty shutting my office door to catch my breath, take a ten minute meditation, or for doodling in my notes while I thought about how to reach a particular student. Had I taken that time each day, I wonder, would my experience as assistant principal been different? Similarly, what would my free time at home have looked like?

It’s time for a reframe.

It’s selfish to work so hard that it’s at the expense of your health and your family.

Making time for yourself isn’t selfish: it’s selfless.

Certainly many people in my life can attest to not only the change in my health, but the change in my mental space now that I’m making time for myself. I have room for them again. Being an achiever, working for myself doesn’t mean I have more free time: I always feel like I should be working; it’s the burden and blessing of being our own boss. But I know I give more to my work and my loved ones when I take time for myself.

Time to myself means I have more energy, my mind is more creative, and I am more present for the people in my life. I am more productive at everything I do when I make time for myself.

There is more to give when we are generous with ourselves first.

I’ve decided to skip mopping the house this week. I’m going to paint instead; my family deserves it.


Carrie Brummer Carrie Brummer – Educator, Creative Play Advocate, Arts Empowerer – living in Muscat, Oman (for now!)

Carrie Brummer is an artist educator nomad. Teaching and leading in school systems for 9 years in the USA and the Middle East helped her see the gap in education that prevents people from accessing interests they love. She has tired of the countless stories from people all over the world saying, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw,” or, “I wish I could write a novel someday.” It’s become her mission to share her passion for the arts and encourage everyone to take creative risks in their lives.

Carrie’s current creative baby is to encourage creative play for adults; everyone can use an opportunity to slow down from their hectic lives. Creative play is not only important for children, it makes adults happier, healthier, and more fulfilled human beings. Carrie actively exhibits her artwork worldwide and teaches courses in art history and the arts.

When Carrie isn’t painting, doing yoga or baking chocolate chip cookies, she is playing board games with her husband, looking for new learning opportunities, or planning their next trip. You can read more about her adventures in travel and the arts onArtist Think.

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