Self-care isn’t impossible in culturally unsustainable environments of enclosure (difficult, even toxic working environments), but it does tend to be rendered unlikely, unless you make ready, strengthen your sense of presence and resolve, and clarify what’s important to you before entering the arena. When all around you is swirling, it’s important that you don’t start swirling too. You can go into it convinced that all will be well, that the integrity of your ego and confidence will remain intact. Some people go the other way, actively wanting their personalities to be displaced, dissolved, and reformed, but the consequences of that can be disastrous.
People work in difficult environments for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they love the buzz, the conflict, and the drive. That stress can get addictive. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they have no option but to, on account of financial necessity. Sometimes it’s out of a sense of family loyalty. Whatever the reason, the most difficult work environments often shroud their cultural unsustainability through high employee turnover. Staying in a difficult environment for a number of years will grind anyone down, even if you rise to the so-called top of the pile. Sometimes it’s as simple as your adrenal system just deciding to pack it in.
For survival and personal sustainability, it becomes crucial to learn to distinguish yourself from your environment and to learn to sense the pressures that draw you away from yourself. You participate in any environment, but the environment, the cultural climate, does not have to define you. Neither does it have to squeeze out any and all possibilities for you to define yourself inside and outside your work in ways that don’t align with the intensities, toxicities, or pressures that tend to characterise your working day.
Leaving a difficult environment of your own free will takes clarity, integrity, and numerous moments of opportunity and pure luck that in time wake you up to the possibility that there may be other ways to live your life. Listening for those moments, and learning to move with the timing of the context of those moments, is a skill usually earned with scars, whether metaphorical or real.