From birth, Black women have been socialized to be caregivers and nurturers to those around us. We’re taught that our worth is based on how well we care for others. And for those of us who were raised in the Christian tradition- this was further reinforced by sermons that praised women for the supporting roles that they played. Yes, it’s important to be an active part of your community. However, I’ve learned that in order to contribute positively and meaningfully, I must first nurture myself.
Many of us have been tricked into thinking that self-care is selfish. To be honest, I was once that person. I felt that because self-care is a self-centered act that it was also selfish. As I was forced to make my self-care a real priority (by way of burnout), I learned that that was far from the truth. Selfishness means caring about yourself more than other people. However, self-care means caring about yourself specifically.
Self-care is not selfish. Instead, it’s about making sure you don’t destroy yourself. It is being attentive to your own needs and wants. Across the board, Black women score the lowest in well-being assessments. We also consistently have shorter life expectancies compared to our peers. On average, the white American woman is expected to live to 81 years; for Black women, the life expectancy is 76 years. While this is multifactorial (we can’t dismiss the impact of system racism and sexism), the fact remains that we aren’t taught how to truly care for ourselves in a way that nurtures our bodies and spirits.
If self-care isn’t part of your normal, let’s define it.
For me, self-care is defined as any activity that helps you to get well and/or maintain your holistic wellness. Self-care activities can be anything from prayer/meditation to eating nutritious foods to getting consistent physical activity, adequate rest, and much more. The media has commodified self-care so much that it’s easily confused with lavish spa days, expensive trips, and activities that the average person likely isn’t able to regularly participate in. While the aforementioned are great, they merely scratch the surface.
Self-care is taking a real interest in yourself and getting reacquainted with parts of yourself that you once abandoned.
But self-care is not just for survival. It is also for the discovery of new, beneficial ways of doing things. Even more than that, self-care is for the creation of new ideas. When we nurture ourselves, we’re able to see things with greater clarity and have a heightened ability to create lives that are in alignment with who we actually are. The introspection that comes from genuine self-care allows us to cultivate a more loving relationship with ourselves. As a result, we’re able to show up fully and more meaningfully in our everyday lives.
Lastly, self-care is our Divine right. It isn’t something that needs to be earned or that is meant for only a few. Self-preservation is natural. By participating in activities that sustain us holistically, we are embodying the Divine within.
If we want our important relationships to be flourishing ones, we need to take care of ourselves. If we are not healthy–physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually–we will be unable to meet our own needs let alone the needs other people have.
As women, we automatically wear many hats. We’re likely the driving force of our homes and workplaces and usually set the tone for the spaces we occupy. When we’re sleep-deprived, anxious, and overwhelmed, we bring that energy with us wherever we go. Conversely, when we’re calm, well-rested, and clear-headed, we’re able to communicate and care for those around us more effectively.
Lastly, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Nobody knows your own needs and wants better than you do. So, you’re the one best qualified to address your needs.
If you haven’t been great at consistently caring for yourself, don’t beat yourself up. The fact that you read this post speaks volumes of your intent. You’ve got this and I promise to cheer you on along the way!