By Tekita Bankhead
Let’s face it. Self-care has become quite the buzz word over the last few years, especially within the millennial Black community. With a quick Google search, the resources for self-care tips for Black women are endless. Pedicures. Yoga. Mindful eating. Binge-watching Golden Girls (Ok. Maybe that’s just me.). Either way, you don’t have to look very far to find a place to melt away the weary weight of our being.
What many resources fail to mention is that self-care is not created equal and that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Despite what the internet tells us, self-care is not always glamorous or Instagram-worthy. We have learned to associate #selfcare with these elaborate, indulgent acts of self-reward. Yes, those are necessary components of self-care, but there are also much more taxing acts that might provide even greater restoration. Some of us are walking around with deeply rooted trauma that we have yet to resolve–much of which we are unaware and unable to recognize in our daily lives. It can show up in our dry text responses to loved ones. It can be the reason we isolate ourselves in times of great stress. It might even be the reason that we feel that we are drowning in all of our responsibilities and just can’t keep up. The key to managing the effects of your trauma is to begin paying attention to signs, even the smallest ones, that you are dipping below your “best self.”
The first step to developing a self-care plan that specifically caters to your needs is to learn what you actually need to be your best self. What parts of your life need to be in alignment so that you are able to operate at your highest level? For me and many Black women I know, self-care doesn’t always look like what other people would expect. Here are a few of my personal strategies that others might not immediately recognize as self-care:
Learning to accept compliments.
I know way too many Black women, myself included, who can be their own worst critics at times due to our high standards for every aspect of our lives. Despite our unparalleled beauty and splendor, some of us are uncomfortable accepting compliments. Aside from the compliments that are misogynistic in nature and downright creepy, compliments can be really affirming. Many times, we can struggle to speak to our inner selves in a positive and encouraging way. By accepting positive observations about ourselves from others, it helps to normalize the verbal reinforcement of our strongest assets. Why, yes! I am the shit. Thank you for noticing.
Stepping away from technology.
We spend the majority of our days with our eyes glued to some sort of screen. I have the horrible habit of checking my phone as soon as I wake up. Then, I work on a computer for most of the day at my job. After that, I am either responding to friends on various social networks or creating content on my laptop. In between, I feel compelled to respond immediately to all text messages and emails I get for fear that they will pile up beyond my control; thankfully, I’m getting better at this and realizing that a few extra moments won’t hurt. By the time I get ready for bed, I’ve easily spent at least 12-16 hours of my day staring into a light. If I keep this up, not only will my vision be negatively impacted, but I will become disconnected with the beautiful world and people around me. Once we are aware of the intense attachment we have to our electronic devices, it becomes a bit easier to detach from time to time. Find something else that you used to enjoy before we had so much technology. One small step I have started to make is to power off my phone for at least one hour a day. I started reading paperback books again, and it has really helped slow my brain down when the world is just doing way too much for me. What task could you recommit to?
Setting firm boundaries.
This strategy works best for me in professional settings. As competent and ambitious Black women, it’s easy to be called upon frequently for your talents to the point of over-exertion. Over the years, I have gained more confidence in “saying no” and have become less afraid of it having a detrimental impact on my career. For example, I do my best to refrain from responding to emails after work, on weekends, and on vacation days. I also designate certain days periodically that I will not do anything work-related. What I have learned is that if you firmly advocate for your personal time and explain how it contributes to your ability to perform your duties, colleagues will typically respect your requests. Of course, you will have emergencies or people who may push your boundaries, but it’s still your right to follow the advice of our illustrious Auntie Maxine Waters and “reclaim your time.”
Closure is often an overly romanticized concept that does more harm than good. Toxic relationships can have an extremely damaging to our psyche, and sometimes, we hold on to them for much longer than we should. Whether a family member or a fuckboy, I have learned that every person does not deserve access to you. In an effort to maintain personal peace, it’s essential that we evaluate the reciprocity of the relationships in our lives and find the courage to let go of the ones who do us no good. Believe it or not, loving folks from a distance is a form of self-care, too.
Not justifying your self-care.
Hear me loud and clear when I say this: Black women are not obligated to explain our self-care to anyone or why we need it. When we feel the need to justify taking personal time for ourselves, it has the potential to send a signal to yourself that there should be a level of shame attached to your self-care. That’s absolutely false. If you need to skip out on an invitation to a party to recharge, do it. If you need to take a spontaneous trip to your favorite place, go. If you need to have that one glass of wine after a long day, sip away, sis. Your self-care does not have to make sense to anyone but you.
Header Photo: Eye for Ebony via Unsplash