I was raised in a black community where I saw professionals at work. I had black teachers growing up who didn’t try to sugarcoat the world for me. I’ve had interactions with black civic leaders who modeled Black excellence. I never believed that my race could limit my capacity to achieve my goals. I was raised in a community that exemplified the idea of working hard, despite the desire to give up. I now look back and see how my black community has glorified being overworked rather than caring for yourself. That creating boundaries and setting limits made people look soft rather than strong enough to care for themselves. In some sense, it was modern-day slave-driving. We learned how to ignore our needs for completing the task at hand.
When I left that black community, I went off to a historically black college that supported my beliefs that achieving anything was a possibility. I knew that this would come with a willingness to work hard and engage the platform of whatever my calling was. It wasn’t until I enrolled in a predominantly white graduate program that I heard the term self-care. Though it was foreign then, and in some sense still, for now, I thought to investigate what this meant. I saw it as a means of enforcing mediocrity. It would permit us leisure in our work or even limit our potential. Self-Care was a difficult topic because I didn’t know if I could engage in the concept as my peers would.
As a Black Christian, I often find myself revisiting the creation story, in which God identifies as “us”. Knowing that I am formed in the image of God suggests that I, too, can identify as “us.” Self-care calls for us to engage in a relationship with every aspect of ourselves. Not just our physical body, but our mental and spiritual selves as well. This thought process calls for me to consider the reality that there is more to me than what others see about me. I am more than my physical. Unfortunately, the thought of caring for self in the black community is often only caring for what meets the eye. When I think back on my childhood, I was only taught how to take care of the physical aspect of me. I was told how to maintain my physical appearance. I know how often I’m supposed to get my haircut. I know that it is good practice to schedule a physical every year around my birthday. I know the importance of seeing a dentist at least every 6 months. I know the importance of exercising a certain amount of time per week. The idea of taking care of my physical has always been a part of the conversation, but I cannot think of one conversation I’ve had about the other components of the self with a member of my community.
Maybe this is why the concept of self-care comes so foreign to me.
When we consider the pandemic, Self-care has become a hot-button topic throughout our nation as we try to mitigate burnout. However, it seems that the mechanics of self-care and how best to implement it are rarely discussed. The action of actually caring for the self is not about going to get a manicure or going out to do activities that make you feel good but being present with yourself enough to know how you need care at the moment. It’s not one activity, but it’s something you have to be intentional about making time for yourself. Self-Care looks different for us each day.
Many of us, as members of the Black community, can identify a few moments where we witness someone caring for themselves. However, we have seen members of our community forego their basic needs for the benefit of others. These memories permit us to let obligation and responsibility serve as deterrents of our self-care.
Here’s the wrestle: When I consider the role of self-care, I realize that I typically only engage in self-care when I find myself nearly depleted. At that point, it’s no longer self-care. It’s a coping mechanism. Self-care is the action of building a relationship with yourself. In some sense, it’s almost an out-of-body experience. Self-care calls for us to court ourselves in the ways that we would court someone we’re dating.
One of the things I love most about the Black community is the mentality of the village. The village mentality calls for others to care for you, even in the moments when you can’t care for yourself. The village sees you in the purest form, which develops the ways you see yourself. Every member of the village desires to help manifest the best version of you. Hence, the reason it takes an entire village to raise the child. While this is the case, those who are giving care are those who need it the most. We often recognize that others need care because we have been in that space before.
Thinking of our plurality of self, allows us to be the villager who sees the needs nestled within us. Nevertheless, the only person who needs to see us is us. This reminds us that when we examine ourselves honestly and openly, we can see the best way to care for ourselves.
What Does care look like, and how do you care for yourself?
I’ve learned that how I care for myself dictates the ways that others can treat me. If I don’t find enough value to care for myself, no one will ever see the value within me.
I am a firm believer that I can’t anticipate reaching the purpose of which I placed on the Earth until I can take care of the temple given to accomplish it. That’s why we care for ourselves! It shows that we’re responsible enough for our destiny. How do you care?