“The messages we learned as children were less about us and more about the folks teaching those ‘lessons.'”
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 Jasmine Banks, mental health activist and digital organizer for NARAL Pro-Choice America, for her thoughts on self-care.
Wear Your Voice: What does self-care mean to you?
Jasmine Banks: So often it seems like we are conceptualizing self-care as what we are doing to avoid pain or to check out from pain. I believe that self-care is what we do in order to move THROUGH the pain. Self-care is a choice in resistance and resilience that we do in service of those we love: hopefully “those we love” starts with ourselves. These conceptualizations of self-care being a manicure and massage is just another way that capitalism and consumerism infiltrate everything. Not to say that those things cannot be parts of building resilience, but they are not the center. The center is a radical statement of affirming our humanity and vital participation in community through grieving, moving through pain and loving ourselves and others more deeply.
WYV: What are some of the things that you do for self-care?
JB: My self-care habits start by giving myself space and permission to show up without perfection. I evaluate the ways in which I’ve perpetuated habits of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism and actively resist those behaviors or create a plan to do things that counteract them. I remind myself I can wear whatever bikini I want, because all bodies are good bodies. I check out from work and spend a few days journaling and slowing down to evaluate and be present with my grief. I find ways to move my body that feel good. I have a lot of sex. I eat meals that are nourishing and drink water. I check in with other womxn and femmes of color who affirm me. I have a rich network of incredibly dynamic womenfolk who hold me accountable, teach me and love me. I’d be nothing without them.
WYV: What advice would you give to womxn & femmes who are just learning to put themselves first?
JB: I would encourage us to remember that the messages we learned as children were less about us and more about the folks teaching those “lessons.” We were all taught stories about ourselves that were never really ours to own. We have permission to reject those narratives and instead the write the stories of ourselves that are more aligned with who we know we are.