Why Self Care?

By Ashley Johnson

I am Black. I am a woman. I am fat. I am cis-gendered. I am queer. I am tall. I can go on and on; these identities affect how I navigate in the world.

None of these are particularly positive identities (unless we choose to reject a hegemonic, racialized set of beauty standards). On a daily basis, I deal with negativity towards at least one of my identities, whether it’s internalized, stereotypes directed at me, or overt actions threatening me.

Self-care is crucial towards my fight as an oppressed person because how could I maintain my willpower without it? How would I be able to teach others and myself about my actual lived experiences? How would I be able to diligently give a voice to those who don’t have one? Self-care regenerates me to work forward.

But, what is self-care?

One could say that self-care is simply taking time to pay attention to the self before, after, and even during stressful times. For me, I identify self-care as a radical act that centers you as the point of focus in the whirlwind of daily activities. Self-care is a necessity, and it’s crucial for my existence.

Surviving in a world that doesn’t make space for me, while simultaneously rejecting me, is nothing short of a revolution. Every day I learn something new about the ways in which people’s lives are threatened, simply because of who they are. As I am constantly evolving and learning more about the indecency that resides along with humanity, I experience lots of emotions. I’m hurt, angry, unsurprised, confused, and sometimes, a mix of these. All I really have to keep me pushing forward is my fight towards freedom. Ultimately, I hope to be free from all of my barriers. Self-care brings me closer to that freedom.

Self-care for some is as minimal as showering after a long day, for some it is as big as a shopping trip. The key to self-care is defining what frees you from the prison that is built around you. I do believe as long as you aren’t harming yourself or others, that you can experience self-care within your means.

I practice self-care every day. This, for me, looks like meditation, lighting incense, washing my hair, drinking a cup of water. It involves making tea, cooking, contacting a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, writing a poem, reading a book, putting on some headphones and blasting music, taking a nap, finishing a piece, or talking to my grandmother.

I’m a working-class woman so I can only do a limited number of activities that cost money. I might take one bus to a tea shop and indulge in some tea, take the bus to the lakefront, travel to my favorite salad restaurant, or walk up the street to the gas station and back. Some of these things center my thoughts and calm me down. As a person with high anxieties about perfection, I wallow in the opportunity to do something without having to prove my worth.

Self-care is subjective, but it is what allows us to find peace in all the chaos and hatred. Our resistance looks like a lot of things, and caring for the self is part of it. Self-care is a liberating, transformative act that shows our thorough fight against our oppressors in order to survive.