When Black lesbian mother warrior poet Audre Lorde said “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence…” I don’t think she was talking about a $45 self-love baby-tee from Urban Outfitters or a $22 self-care crystal collection from ban.do. A quick online search of “self-care” reveals a mountain of self-help motivational quotes, gifts, tips, advice and even career guides from Forbes and Oprah Magazine.
The conversation on self-care has been co-opted, depoliticized and commodified by capitalist structures, and have turned the need for care into a marketing strategy for companies to make a profit on people’s emotional health and well-being. Just so I’m clear,
Self care is important and everyone should have access to care for themselves, especially those living within marginalized identities, many for whom self-care means survival. But does self-care without politics just become selfish?
The branding of self-care experiences and products means having to put a price tag on your quality of life. A “self care is sexy” T-shirt won’t help you destress, and your cute “self-care” mug or notebook won’t help you relax (or maybe?).
Self-care is about more than “feel-good” products or services, self-care is about practice and connecting with your truths. As Audre Lorde reminds us, self-care is really about “self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”.
Self-care should be free, or at minimum, low-cost and accessible especially to poor and marginalized folks. Ancient practices such as yoga, meditation and spiritual baños have been appropriated by dominant white culture for profit, and that’s not okay. (White folks get your own healing!) Many healing modalities that are now for sale are sacred, belong to a particular people or place, and carry a history of resistance against dominant forces.
The fact is we all need healing. Our current socio-economic, political and natural worlds are crumbling around us. It is often hard to stay positive or excited about the future when our reality is so messed up. This is why it’s not surprising to me that millennials have taken “self-care” on so seriously. It kind of is really serious. But self-care does not remove or exempt you from responsibility and accountability.
What I am interested in is:
How can we go from self-care to community-care? How do people of color protect and care for themselves and their communities when facing and navigating everyday violent systems and structures?
These questions are more fruitful and possibility-filled for me. It signals the hard work of being in conversation with healing and liberation work. It reminds me that have to bring my people into my self-care so we can all get free.
So, I challenge you & myself to try out self-care without spending money or relying on messed up systems.
Ask yourself: Is my self-care accessible or does it create barriers and/or labor for others? Can my self-care include the people and issues I care about?
It’s hard work ya’ll and I think it’s what gets us to larger social change.