Barbie: the epitome of an Aryan princess with blue eyes and long, blonde hair; she never tires. The only bags she has are fashionably placed in a Barbie Dreamhouse walk-in closet which would only be as meticulously organized by a 6-year-old girl. This same girl felt more small joys in organizing her toys than playing with them. This same girl admired Barbie for her naturally thin, naturally successful, and naturally luxurious lifestyle. Naturally, I aimed to be her.
The truth is you can’t buy a luxurious, much less a comfortable lifestyle, and successful lifestyle without your nose to the grindstone most of the time. I am 26 years old from a middle-class family. I have a schedule littered with classes, film set obligations, and the American-made 9 to 5 job. In comparison to my Barbie, I have more bags than the ones which lifelessly hang from a wire on my wall. I am unconsciously thin because I forget to eat; however, squishiness is taking over more parts than I’d like to admit. My go-to hairstyle is a ponytail, which limply, and flatly, sits atop a face that skips washes and whose main nourishment is an assortment of organic lotions from a more and more often skipped Ipsy subscription. My natural, #nomakeup skincare is rooted in an unwillingness to rise from bed more than ten minutes before I leave for work. If it weren’t for my tidiness and organization from the night before, I would be diagnosed as a borderline slob. Not the Barbie lifestyle I imagined as that 6-year-old girl.
My organization and work tidiness could be mostly contributed to my increasing obsession with fighting boredom, or perhaps a racing mind. I am one of those girls, wouldn’t dream of a dream job or dream family, but dreamt of the act of looking and acting busy. Already at 5 years of age, I was trying to play out my successful, and increasingly busy adulthood, whilst my few playmates looked at me puzzled – wondering why my Barbie abruptly entered the cloth apartment layout only to exit a few seconds later in order to go to work. I didn’t know what job I wanted but I constantly played busy, as if equating “busy” with “important” and “wanted.”
Now, as an adult, I have a tendency to overbook myself past my physical limits – although I’ve gotten better over the years I have to remind myself to not push past my limits. Fortunately, I have self -care to maintain my everyday sanity through 5 basic rules. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m a rebel at heart and I break these rules often; however, they help me reestablish homeostasis when my schedule is at its worst.
Five Rules Barbie didn’t Teach Us:
#1 – Set Boundaries in Work and in your Personal Life
I used to work nights alternating each week onto a day shift – to make a long story short, it was hell on my productivity, my body, and my mind. After a few months of this day-to-night shift, I finally set a boundary and told my boss I didn’t want to work nights anymore and that he would have to find/hire someone else. Surprisingly, it really wasn’t as intimidating or as difficult as I thought it would be. By setting that boundary, I feel so much happier having a natural time schedule and my circadian rhythm back to normal.
So if you feel yourself tearing at work from stress, go for a stroll and think about what boundaries you can set. Maybe you need shorter workdays or an entire shift change. Either way, give your mind and body a break by giving you what you need.
We should work to live, not live to work.
#2- Listen to your body, it’s sending you signals for a reason
This is one of the biggest issues I’ve seen with my friends, family, coworkers, and even myself – is essentially pushing bodies and minds to the outer limits. It’s taken me years to learn to listen to what my body is saying to me, especially in regards to food and rest. Too many times I’ve seen my friends work all day on film sets, in laboratories, and other settings without any food and only drinking coffee and water. By the end of a 12-hour shift, they’re exhausted and cranky. Typically, they take this frustration out on the gear or coworkers. Don’t be the hangry guy, be the snack guy. If you’re hungry often, carry snacks and water to keep your blood sugar elevated. If you tire easily, take a nap – even if it’s for fifteen minutes. Giving your body what it needs will improve your mood and overall functioning.
#3- Seek Alone Time
This is the rule I use most often and one of my favorites. I enjoy being alone. As a complete introvert, I lose energy from crowds or being surrounded by people, even if they’re friends. At parties, you can catch me sneaking off to the bathroom to reset myself for five minutes. A major part of this process is…breathing. Breathing helps me immensely in all circumstances, including large crowds, parties, or driving alone in the car. Take time out for yourself, including away from your significant other, to work on yourself and reconnect with yourself. Too often we unconsciously perform for others, even in our closest relationships – that’s okay – but you need to care for the behind-the-scenes for the play to continue and that requires intermissions of alone time.
#4- Know your Limits, You’re Not Wonder Woman
Knowing my own boundaries is one of my biggest struggles. Too often I overcrowd or overbook my schedule to meet everyone’s needs and events. I clued myself into the fact that being a good friend, a good partner, or a good sister didn’t mean I had to be present for every important moment in which he/she invited me. In other parts of my life, this rule I could apply. At work, I would always stay late, working 12-hour shifts at a time, leaving me exhausted and prone to mistakes. Until I realized, no matter how much I got done in the day, I would still have more to do tomorrow and the list would recompile itself as the day continued. Essentially, work would continue whether I was there or not. I began saving work for the following day. All of it was done on time and within the same time span, but finishing it the same day was not an emergency compared to my wellbeing.
#5- Stop Overthinking and Feeling Guilty (typically about setting boundaries)
A very common response to setting boundaries, typically by women, is guilt. Guilt for reestablishing your personhood outside the workplace. You may be wondering if requiring a self-care/mental health day makes you somehow, less of a person; or a less capable person. SETTING BOUNDARIES DOES NOT MAKE YOU LESS OF A PERSON. Knowing your limits means you are aware of yourself and your health. It shows maturity by knowing and accepting your capabilities for what they are – you. There is no changing you or your limits. You could fight them- and I’ve been down this route, I was not a happy or nice person – or accept them for what they are and begin to work with them. Once you begin to work with your body, the uphill, capitalist struggle, isn’t so much of a hill than it is a slope with formations in the way which you may have to walk around. It begins with taking a few small steps towards what you want out of your life.