When black women, especially queer or trans black women, nurture and love themselves, it is most definitely revolutionary.
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.
Pain, self-sacrifice, submissiveness and unwavering support of our elders, husbands (in cishet marriages), friendships and cis men colleagues seems to be the only approved role for us. Self-care, as a practice and as a lifestyle, is an ongoing effort for women of color. To center ourselves, our needs and our goals often feels counter-intuitive.
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.
What I want is for us to learn how to dismantle the negative feelings that we have attached to caring for ourselves. It is vital for us to learn how to be kind to ourselves, not necessarily for the benefit of others but for our own benefit.
I want us to thrive. I want us to be well-rested, well-hydrated, moisturized, glowing and in love with ourselves, despite a world which tells us not to be. But what does that look like when you have kids, multiple jobs or when you’re struggling with PTSD?
The basics become self-care. There are times where I become so anxious that I am in a state of dissociation and I forget to eat or drink water until someone reminds me. I have had to set alarms on my phone when I am at work to remind myself to take five minutes to eat a snack and drink some water. There are times of great stress where my husband does all the labor at home because I am too anxious to do anything at all.
I do not ask for help. I do not want to shatter the illusion of my strength. So I carry trauma on my shoulders until I break. I don’t want to burden anyone with my needs because I don’t want to be an inconvenience to anyone. Part of learning to love myself means shedding that sort of thinking. It takes time, but this piece is a step towards a positive direction.
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.