Chaplains’ Corner: Appreciating and rewarding yourself

Aseel Abulhab

This year, I have had the great privilege of being the College’s Interim Muslim Program Coordinator. In many ways, this has been a full-circle moment for me. I graduated from Williams in 2015, and during my time as a student here, I served on the board of the Muslim Student Union, which I then advised as the Davis Center’s Assistant Director before taking on this interim role. As I reflect on this experience and all of the triumphs and challenges of this past year, I find myself wondering, what does it look like to honor and celebrate our accomplishments? 

As an alum, I know how much Williams students carry and how much they balance, from figuring out classes and majors, to trying and participating in a wide range of extracurricular activities, to working on campus, to securing different summer opportunities. Trying to balance time, commitments, and relationships can be extremely difficult and take a toll on our mental and physical health. I personally have a habit of overworking until I have to take a break and allow some time for replenishment, and I do not always proactively think about my needs or appreciate myself for my work and what I offer to those around me. 

With the end of this academic year comes many opportunities to celebrate all that has been accomplished in the last two semesters — departments holding barbeques and picnics, the Davis Center’s Block Party, student groups changing leadership and thanking seniors for all they have contributed to this campus. But what does it mean to integrate celebration and reward into your daily life as a way to acknowledge and express gratitude for yourself?

You may have encountered the term “self-care,” which refers to anything that you do to make time for the things that feel nourishing to you. 

I’d like to suggest that while self-care is extremely important, a kind of active celebration is as well, where you name something you’ve done and do something for yourself to acknowledge that specific thing. 

While completing a degree in social work, I decided to seek out support from a social worker for my own mental health care. One time early on in our therapeutic relationship, I spoke to her about having to do something that I found to be very difficult and how I could best prepare for that task. After we talked this through, she asked me, “So what are you going to do for yourself after you’ve completed this?” I was stunned. It had never occurred to me to do anything for the specific purpose of congratulating myself for doing something hard. We finally settled the conversation on my love of chocolate chip cookies, and I told her that after I finished the task, I would make sure to get myself a cookie from one of my favorite places. 

I encourage you to think about what this might look like for you, and make that extra effort to get that chocolate chip cookie, take that action that commemorates not only your wins, but also your efforts. Building that habit creates a stronger relationship with ourselves, allows us to practice gratitude and appreciation for ourselves, and reminds us that what is hard for us individually is not always what is hard for others and that that is okay. 

I’ve had a few celebratory chocolate chip cookies since that first one, and it always feels as good and joyful as it did the first time! My hope for you is to find those meaningful things that allow you to treat yourself with tenderness and sincere appreciation and to integrate those opportunities in your daily life instead of only during times of communal celebration.

Congratulations on making it through all you have this year, and all you’ve achieved! May this summer be full of joy and celebrations, big and small! 

Aseel Abulhab ’15 is the College’s Interim Muslim Program Coordinator.