Often times, talking about self-care can appear to be the opposite of “radical.” I am reminded of a vibrant conversation that was all over my Facebook feed back in 2012. A blogger, B. Loewe, wrote a piece called “The End of Self-Care,” and argued that self-care is a privileged activity that requires time away from community and movements for change. Many other social justice activists responded to Loewe, asserting that self-care is critical in order to keep social justice movements vital and to keep leaders and participants from burning out. These authors demonstrated that there doesn’t need to be a binary between self-care and community care, and that self-care is a way to sustain ourselves so that we can continue to be involved in the activities that give us joy and connection.
I think that, too often, we have been trained to think about self-care as a commodity, or as an item on a to-do list suggested by others, rather than an idea that comes from within.
When we think about the term “self-care,” we might conjure up an image of a young, white woman with flawless skin in a bubble bath with a cucumber mask. Or, perhaps “self-care” conjures up pushing ourselves through a brutal workout at the gym. Perhaps we think about “eating clean” and immediately feel guilty for not making smoothies, doing a “cleanse,” or going gluten-free. There seems to be a never-ending litany of things we “should” be doing to take care of ourselves, and it is so easy to feel guilty when we are not doing it all. Realistically, who has time to devote so much attention to all these things?
Yet, at the same time, many of us go about our days feeling not quite right within ourselves. We feel stressed and depleted at the end of the day, we feel physically tired or sick, we feel disconnected from friends and community, we feel preoccupied with weight and food and with our bodies. Perhaps we feel shame about health struggles. Perhaps we feel that we should be able to do it all. Perhaps we struggle in silence.
In a world where so many of us are taught to hate, deny, or restrict our bodies or to put aside our needs and desires for somebody else, authentic self-care can be a radical act. It is what can keep us doing well in the face of many contradictory and confusing messages about health. It is what can help sustain us in the face of hardship, stress, oppression. To be in touch with our bodies and our needs in a world that is hell-bent on denying them… this is radical.
There is a myth that we can achieve health and well being simply by exerting our willpower. However, there are much bigger factors involved in health such as where we grew up, income level, resources available to us at a young age, pollution, racism, stigma, and discrimination. Additionally, research shows that setting up external rewards or punishments for taking on certain health-related behaviors only works in the short term. Long-term, sustainable change comes when we are motivated from within.
The radical act, is to get to the heart of what is necessary, sustainable, and nurturing for you, for your particular life, and your own set of circumstances knowing that self-care needs change at different points in our lives as well.
In this six-week series, Daxle and I will guide you through exercises to help you tune out the noise and the “shoulds” all around you, to get in touch with your body’s sensations, and to make a plan for what you really need.
There are no right or wrong answers. Our aim with this series is to co-create a community of people also seeking their own authentic, radical self-care. In this community we can support and lift each other up in the process of discovering and embodying our own autonomy.
We hope you will join us. Space is limited. You can find out more information and register here.