Self Care

By Penn Garvin
Originally posted in the Broadsheet, a rural PA newsletter

There is self care of oneself and there is also self care of the movement.  Self care of the movement means that we look closely at (1) how we treat each other (2) how we support each other (3) how we give each other permission to rest, relax and have fun (4) how we hold each other accountable for saying what we do and doing what we say (5) how we model a movement that those not presently involved are drawn to be a part of and (6) how we come through this difficult period of time better and not bitter. With all else we have to do it may seem difficult to also do this work of self care.  However, in order to build a strong and lasting movement, it is critical to all the other work we do.  

Keep tuned for more information about self care in the upcoming Broadsheets. We will look at each of the topics listed above with questions that you can use for discussion in your organizations and groups. For more information and to have someone come to your group, please contact Penn.


As I wrote above we are going to look at each of these topics individually.  I would suggest that you think of your own reactions to what is written below and then ask for time at your next meeting (if you are a part of an organization or group) and share this information and have a discussion.

This is part of a larger article written by a friend of mine who lives and works politically in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is hoping that folks will sign on to a declaration called “Americans for Humanity.”   If you want more information, please contact me and I will send you the 8-page document. What follows can seem rather harsh but please dig deep inside yourself and see where there are grains of truth and then talk with others. The first step to making change is always to be honest and name the problem.

An Argument for “Americans for Humanity: A Declaration”

Activists undermine progress. We’re afflicted with human tendencies that reinforce fragmentation and drive away recruits. Not everyone suffers from all of the following personal problems, but most of us are burdened with many of them. They’re rooted in biological instincts that our hyper-competitive society inflames. These weaknesses include:

  • arrogance

  • being judgmental

  • disrespect

  • assumptions of moral superiority

  • the urge to dominate

  • bias

  • prejudice

  • ignorance

  • discounting privilege

  • being insensitive

  • not facing reality

  • failing to “connect the dots”

  • scapegoating

  • demonizing

  • name-calling

  • shrill rhetoric

  • not appreciating everyone’s essential equality

  • lack of self-respect

  • blind loyalty

  • envy

  • automatic submission

  • not relating to others as equals

  • tribalism (which inflames emotions, distorts reality, and undermines rationality)

  • dogmatism

  • dwelling in abstractions

  • neglecting feelings

  • lack of emotional intelligence

  • lecturing rather than listening

  • lack of empathy

  • too much short-term thinking and not enough long-term thinking

  • being unwilling to accept timely compromise

  • dishonesty

  • hypocrisy

  • living in issue silos and echo chambers

  • reducing people and the environment to objects to be used

  • selfishness

  • excessive ambition

  • caring too much about winning

  • not caring enough about the good of the nation

  • not cooperating with like-minded organizations

  • short-term thinking that ignores long-term consequences  

  • neglecting or discounting spirituality.

None of the above negates all the healthy ways we interact and all the good work we do!  But let's see where there problematic ways of thinking and acting that we need to change.  

If you are interested in more information and/or would like a facilitator at your meeting to help look more deeply at these issues, contact Penn.


In the two previous Broadsheets there were write-ups about “Self Care of the Movement” and in this one we will explore what we mean by “how we support each other.”

There are many ways that come to mind when we talk about giving someone support: listening to them when they are having problems, helping practically with childcare or fixing dinner when someone is in the hospital are two examples.

There are other ways to give support that we often don't think about:

(1) Giving positive feedback and thanking people for the work they do develops a group atmosphere of caring for and celebrating people. (2) We can also develop an atmosphere where we give people honest feedback when they are not carrying through on tasks or being difficult. This is not easy to do but if we speak directly to the person and not behind their backs, we make a safer working environment in which people know where they stand. We know that gossip makes for bad working conditions.

We need everyone's energy and input in the political work we are doing. By being honest in our communication we give the message “you are necessary for the work we are doing and that's why I am willing to risk talking with you and giving you this feedback.”