Marie-Pascale Gafinen –


Sustainability and Self-Care

What does self-care have to do with climate action?

Many clients know me for translating sustainability topics into illustrations. For a while now I’ve also offered workshops for self-reflexion and selfcare. The latter is often associated with bubble baths and face masks and is therefore seen as a luxury. Transitioning to a sustainable way of living on the other hand is so crucially necessary it hurts. So what do they have to do with each other?

Self-worth, work and exhaustion

We live in a world that tells us, we have to work hard to be worthy. If we follow that mantra we end up either working or exhausted or feeling worthless – or all three at once. The problem is, that in that state, none of us will come up with innovative ideas for a more sustainable future, nor organize a political demonstration or go the extra mile to make your private life more sustainable. We will much more likely pant to the next to-do and then collapse on the couch. “But”, you may say “what about people who change the world for a living?”. True, some people’s “work” actually creates a more sustainable tomorrow. But even those can’t stay on that treadmill of “work, work, work” forever or they will eventually burn out. Change needs resources. And you don’t have resources if you’re exhausted. So taking regular breaks, reflecting on your life, and making adjustments is actually a requirement to be a part of the change that our society needs.

quote Marlee Grace

Consumption and happyness

Marketing also tells us that we are insufficient and that buying stuff will make us better and happy. Many of us are very open to that, especially if we are always working or exhausted or feeling worthless (and therefore unhappy). So we buy more stuff and experiences (think of flights or air-conditioned hotels in hot places). Well and that’s not sustainable but we somehow have to make up for all the hard work, don’t we? Apart from the problem that all that consumption is ruining our planet, there’s another catch: The more we have, the more we want and the more you want the more we have to work to earn the money to pay for that livestyle. And then we’re chasing our own tail. Stepping out of that hamster wheel to reflect on what will actually make you happy is a great contribution to social change.

Why I shifted

If you’re skeptical about the 40-hour workweek and somewhat critical of consumption these thoughts are probably not new to you. I’m repeating them here to explain a shift I  made in recent years. Social scientists have known for a long time, that the lack of sustainable behavior is not caused by a lack of knowledge. Climate and sustainability knowledge is widely available. In my experience, what people actually need are personal resources. An opportunity (time, space, facilitation) to make up their mind about how they relate to climate change and what they want to do about it. In our busy daily lives, there’s simply no time for that! And that’s why additionally to explaining sustainability topics I decided to offer more of these opportunities for reflection. Because I am passionate about groups and I am passionate about social change.

If you want to pause to reflect the direction of your life, have a look at the online summer retreat I will offer in July.