In Part II of How to be a Carefree Black Girl, I encouraged black women who have spent their lives feeling crushed by the weight of society’s racial, religious, gender and cultural expectations, and who would like to get closer to uncovering their authentic selves, to start by practicing self-care.
Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and people tend to associate it with getting mani-pedis, massages, and bathing in an Evian-Prosecco mix. In reality, self-care is just what it says on the tin: taking care of yourself.
Now that we’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, taking care of yourself is more important than ever, especially if you’re someone whose situation has changed drastically for any reason.
In the 21st century, even self-care— literally caring for yourself— has been taken over by capitalism. Buying the most expensive make-up, bath bombs, lotions, and candles is marketed to us as self-care. Marketing psychology is like, a job that people have. But really, self-care something we can practice every day: by enforcing your boundaries, by saying no to people and things that make your life worse, and stop comparing yourself to others.
A degree of privilege underlays being able to think about practicing self-care, even if you’re not exactly wealthy. I — a precariously middle-class person —have had times when the idea of being able to afford three squares a day, let alone a manicure, was laughable (which by the way, if that is something you can afford, maybe keep your mouth shut when someone tells you they can’t instead of saying some unhelpful shit like “it’s just what you choose to spend your money on”. People can’t choose to spend money they don’t have in different ways). But I was still privileged compared to most people in the world.
The next step in becoming a carefree black girl is figuring out what self-care means to you. Start by questioning everything you’ve been taught, whether explicitly or implicitly, about what it means to be black, to be a woman; hell, to be a person.
In my case, having spent my entire childhood in two of the most consumerist societies on earth (Japan and America), I bought into capitalism to an extent that I didn’t even realize (until a few years ago). Although I was never, like, “FUCK YEAH, CAPITALISM!”, it wasn’t until recently that I began to be more deliberate about what I bought, and more importantly, why I was buying it. Even though I knew that people making the products we buy weren’t always working in great conditions, I didn’t really know what I could do about it.
Being a black woman, being “good” meant submitting (something I was never great at doing, to be honest), accepting people’s disrespect, and putting the needs of people who didn’t give a shit about my own well-being above my own.
Same with having children. As I’ve mentioned before, I never wanted to be a mother. It wasn’t until I thought about it that and read feminist theory that I realized that I was allowed to live according to my own values, regardless of what our patriarchal society tells us we should value.
Once you’ve evaluated the values you’ve been taught, you may find that some of them still very much resonate with you, and some of them are total bullshit. The next step in becoming a carefree black girl is to figure out what you really like and value. Do you actually like diamonds, or is that just that the diamond industrial complex, built by stealing black people’s land and then enslaving them, that taught you that diamonds are a beautiful symbol of love? Is having a whole new wardrobe every season actually something you care about, or is it a result of aggressively calculated marketing? Maybe what you really value and enjoy is something entirely different. Maybe you’ve never even had a chance to consider it.
My self-care is working out, reading, hiking, figuring out ways to organize my apartment, hanging out with friends, and *gasp*, the infrequent massage or manicure.
Self-care is about taking care of your own needs, or hell, your own wants. We all have limits to our time and resources, but you still deserve to carve out part of your life to do what makes you feel taken care of.
How do you practice self-care?
Photo credit: Rawpixel