I have to admit that when my compost-loving, spunky brunette friend asked me to share my thoughts about the times when humans are afraid to care, my immediate thought was… But are we? Are we indeed afraid to care? Yes, it’s true, many of us are. But not all of us. There are also many of us who aren’t afraid to care. This article is for those who may have a twinge of fear ping into their hearts anytime they contemplate making an emotional investment. Because that’s what caring implies: an investment of mental, emotional and physical energy into a nurturing relationship. In this article, I will specifically address the fear of caring for our planet, and how this fear stems from deeper love avoidant characteristics.
1. Because we don’t believe we can make a difference
Fear of failure can be an intimidating emotion. And let’s face it, caring about our environment can seem daunting. After all, you’re one person, and you’re not sure your actions can really impact the wellbeing of our planet enough to make a difference. It’s like one single cell in my body worrying about my overall health… it may seem as a monumental, too big to tackle, impossible type of mission. But is it? If cancer can spread so can health. If pollution can increase, so can preservation and conservation. One single person who decides to live more sustainably, honor our planet, and share that passion with others can be the cause of a movement of monumental proportions. If you add up the members of only 5 of the top environmental agencies in the world you’ll get over 13 million members combined… that’s a lot of cells!
When we fear that our impact may be too small we forget that we don’t have to do it alone. Learning to connect with others who share our passion can be an organic by-product of supporting a cause. The more we spread our caring nature, the more the environment will be cared for.
2. Because we think it’s less painful not to care
Most love stories have certain moments of loss, grief, and heartache in them. To care is to open your heart, to be vulnerable, to put your defenses down and allow connection, connection with yourself, with another being or with nature itself. That’s why I believe that many of us are not really afraid to care, we’re afraid to get hurt, and we think that caring will eventually bring us heartache.
Maybe you’re afraid that caring about our climate and environment will cause you to be sad at seeing all the ways in which we are wasteful and disrespectful to nature. Maybe you’re afraid of the disappointment you may feel when you see that others could not care less. And I’m not going to deny that love doesn’t have the potential for loss, sadness and grief, whether it’s love for Mother Nature or for anything else. It does, but so does indifference.
People who don’t care about anything or anyone are often very miserable, lonely, disconnected people. Not caring does not protect against hurt. Disconnecting from others or from nature for long periods of time is more harmful than it is protective. A person who has stopped caring becomes in time a numb person and numbness is the highest form of pain. Resilience is often a much a more sustainable long term solution to the potential disappointment and hurt that can come with caring. Avoidance is not.
3. Because we don’t even take care of ourselves
Here’s a question to consider: How can we take care of our planet when we neglect ourselves?
In my work with emotional health coaching clients one of the most common comments I hear is: “I want to take care of myself but I don’t know how. How do I love myself? How do I establish and maintain a self-care routine?”
My clients remind me that most of us haven’t been taught how to patiently and lovingly listen to the cues our physical and emotional bodies offer us and respond from a compassionate and nurturing place. If we don’t know how to care for ourselves in a healthy and sustainable way, how could we do that for our planet?
Environmental care starts at home, with personal care. And personal care takes patience, curiosity and quality time. It takes the willingness to ask ourselves: “What are my needs today and how can I meet those needs in a way that doesn’t harm others?” It takes practice. If there is one thing that I have seen change lives more than anything is the simple act of beginning and maintaining a habit of conscious self care.
Whether you don’t believe you can make enough impact to be worth trying, or you’re afraid you may be disappointed in the process, or you’re simply too neglected and spread thin to care about the planet, I encourage you to look at your situation more deeply. Maybe you’re in the process of healing and you are slowly expanding your ability to care again. Maybe we’ve been ready for a while and still finding your courage. Or maybe you’re already leading a community of caring humans into a meaningful mission. Whatever your situation may be, just know that for every moment of doubt you can call upon faith; for every fear, you can summon your courage, and for all the places in which you’ve been neglected there is healing nurture available. It may take a little practice, but when you don’t stop trying, it always gets better.