“As a new mother of two, my self-care looks more like treating myself like one of my children. It means advocating for my needs. It means disciplining myself with compassion.”

Self-care is a fluid concept. It is vital and it looks different from person to person. Essentially, self-care means doing something kind for yourself, for your mental well-being, for your physical well-being.

Self-care is revolutionary for women of color and, as Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

I hold that sentence so close to my heart. When black women, especially queer or trans black women, nurture and love themselves, it is most definitely revolutionary.

I write so much about self-care in regard to race because of my own experiences as a multiracial, queer woman. I have come to understand the importance of decolonizing vulnerability and self-care because of our own internalized martyrdom when it is specific to non-white cultures.

I still battle this idea in my mind that I should feel guilty about my “guilty pleasures” and that prioritizing myself is somehow selfish or damaging. In reality, those harmful ideas are a part of us because we have internalized systems of oppression. Patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism rely on us valuing paid and unpaid labor over ourselves and our happiness.

Every week, Wear Your Voice will be featuring an interview with a woman of color on what self-care means to her. Our hope is to provide our readers with a better look at what self-care looks like for different people so that we can help decolonize self-care for better resistance. This week, I interviewed one of my favorite writers, Dominique Matti, for her thoughts on self-care.

Dominique Matti with trees

Photo by Femi Matti

WYV: What does self-care mean to you?

Dominique Matti: My self-care has evolved over the years. It started out as the marketed concept of treating myself to whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it, with no regard for financial or unhealthy consequences. I spoiled myself into bad situations. But now, as a new mother of two, my self-care looks more like treating myself like one of my children. It means advocating for my needs. It means disciplining myself with compassion.

I make sure I eat. I make sure I sleep. I make sure I drink water. I make sure I get outside, get some social time, get some alone time. All of those things are really easy to let go of in a role that’s most heralded when it mirrors martyrdom. And doubly, dealing with depression — I’m constantly struggling not to neglect myself.

WYV: What are some of the things that you do for self-care?

DM: The most recent and most effective thing I’ve done for self-care is making sure I get my mornings right. I eat breakfast and drink a bottle of water. I put on music instead of the news. I downloaded a few of those 30-day challenge exercise apps and I do them when I wake up. I find that starting the morning with a gesture of self-care makes it easier to choose healthy decisions throughout the day. It’s been great for my mental health, too.

Related: Sex Therapist Raquel Savage: “Be forgiving and patient with yourself.”

Another thing I do for self-care is allow myself to be vulnerable. It sounds antithetical because vulnerability leaves me open to damage, but I think the only real way to have any support is to be clear about the fact that you need it. So I try to be vocal about when I’m struggling, or what’s hurting, or when my needs aren’t being met, or even the fact that I have needs.

WYV: What advice would you give to women & femmes who are just learning to put themselves first?

DM: I’d just remind them that it’s not rude to say “no,” and that being selfish isn’t always shameful. Sometimes selfishness is a disservice to the self, but often it serves the purpose of self-preservation. You shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for that. Black women and femmes are especially conditioned to serve the needs of others, and others are conditioned to take from us without reciprocity. Think of putting yourself first as taking what your mind and body are owed. Because, most often, the only people taking care of us is us.

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