I have a confession. I’m tired of hearing the word self-care.
I believe that it has gone so mainstream that it is being diluted into a simplistic act with no depth in purpose. As a social worker, from the time I began graduate school to now being in the field full-time, we are told to practice self-care. In activist circles, girl friend circles, work circles, and spiritual circles self-care is a constant topic.
My main issue with self-care is not the act of taking care of yourself. My issue is how self-care is used as a way to avoid the depths of what we are really experiencing in life. Self-care is used as a way to escape, a way to band-aid our problems with temporary feel good moments. For me to feel good and to love myself, I have to go deeper than a moment. I have to confront what I am trying to escape in a moment to make way to life-long peace and stability.
Self-care is an act of resistance and political warfare as Audre Lorde so profoundly affirmed. I believe if Audre Lorde was alive today she would be disappointed about the lack of resistance in self-care. Caring for yourself is more than doing something soothing, it is actively resisting every thing that prevents you from taking care of yourself.
For that to happen, self-care has to become less passive and more active. If I am at a job that has me working 60 hours a week instead of 40 with less than 5 hours of sleep of day. The solution is not to do yoga, the solution is to tell your boss if they value you, to give you less workload and hours. Those extra 20 hours in a week can give you plenty of time to do things that bring you joy and peace. If you have a partner that does not do their share in assisting with taking care of responsibilities in your household, the solution is not to go shopping. The solution is to demand that they do their fair share.
Within the mental health field, self-care is used as a way to reduce symptoms; which is helpful. However, I believe that there are some external stressors that make it impossible to truly practice self-care. If those external stressors are rarely addressed and people continue with band-aid solutions, the current practice of self-care as it stands would not outweigh the impact of the external stressors.
Black women experience external stressors that deeply impact our mental well-being and I believe our self-care has to go deeper than a feel good moment for our survival.
Self-care must return to being an act of resistance that actively confronts what is killing our mind, bodies, and spirits. Once external stressors are wiped out or minimized, it will become effortless to truly care of ourselves.