By Alexis Hinnant
What does self-care as a woman of color actually look like? This is the question I’ve been hoping to answer in my time as a summer intern at Girls’ Night In. I’ve learned that, in short, there’s no short answer, “right way,” or magic solution. In its most general sense, self-care can mean changing your routines so your life fits you like a comfortable slip-on when things become difficult. It can mean auditing the ways you already take care of yourself, adjusting based on your needs, and working (hard!) to ensure no part of you goes without the attention it needs.
But, for women of color, working hard on another thing — even one as important as taking care — can feel like another burden from a society that was not designed to facilitate your wellness.
As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” As a woman of color, I’ve taken that to heart. I find it’s often a question of what to do when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders — something even the most luxurious face mask or skincare treatment can’t fix.
Self-care as a woman of color can mean deviating from the popular methods of mainstream self-care we’re bombarded with every day (I’m talking about you, skincare and fancy fitness classes), because truthfully, they can just feel so out of reach. As a woman of color who finds herself — like many — under the burdens of financial stress and career devotion that does not always allow time for leisure, I often don’t have access to the things Instagram keeps trying to tell me count as “self-care.” I’ve realized there comes a point where you have to find it in yourself to create a version of self-care that doesn’t require shiny things.
Here are some ways people of color can practice self-care that isn’t just a physical practice, but a mental and emotional one too:
1) Give give yourself a break.
Women of color often feel added pressure to “be strong,” which is exhausting in itself. We should be allowed to admit that. We have to practice saying no, and refuse to let those around us drain us of the mental and spiritual energy that is already under constant pressure from a world that was not designed with our success in mind. The truth is, the Earth will continue to spin on its axis even when we put ourselves first (I’ve checked).
2) Be gentle with yourself.
People of color are not always allowed the same grace and forgiveness as others. Because of that, our mistakes often feel like they have greater magnitude. It often can feel we’re living that old quote, “ We’ve got to work twice as hard to get half as far.” I’ve learned it’s important to remember that you’re human, and humans at their core are delicate (something my favorite singer Taylor Swift won’t let me forget). If the world around you won’t give you grace, try to find it within, to afford yourself what they won’t.
3) Surround yourself with people who will help you take care of yourself when you can’t.
In college, when my best friend and I were so overwhelmed by school and the stresses of figuring out how to navigate the real world, we found a safe haven in each other. We created our own traditions and made time to decompress together. When your problems feel too big to handle alone, it’s okay to admit that. Having someone there to remind you that you’re not alone (or as small as you feel) matters.
Additionally, you can connect with people online. Clarkeisha Kent creates a space for everyone to have a voice; following her inspires me every single day. Refinery29’s Unbothered account is also wonderful. Reading through all of the badass things that black women do on BuzzFeed’s Cocoa Butter never fails. I was also part of several groups and slack channels at my previous job that mobilize women of color in the workplace. Find resources or groups that empower you to be the best that you can be.
4) Don’t give up on what you love.
The entire universe can feel like such a discouraging place sometimes, but it’s important to never lose sight of what keeps you inspired. Allowing yourself to be creative when you’re going through a difficult season of life is better than anything you can buy.
If you’re stuck, try compiling a list of five small things that make you happy that you can make a routine out of coming back to when you need a moment of pure and genuine self-care. For me, this can mean watching a YouTube video with no purpose other than to make me laugh or making playlists that put me in a better mood. As simple as these things sound, they are what keep me going. When it comes to self-care, a little goes a very long way.
I made this playlist with love. listen if music is a source of care for you, too. There is something comforting and safe about songs that can describe how you feel when you can’t, so this is my current go-to self-care soundtrack.
I recently discovered the app Stoic. It reminds you to start your day every morning and reflect on your day at the end. This has been incredibly helpful in my self-care journey, and how I take care of myself even on the good days.
As I’m writing this, this Bon Appétit video is making my day. I love David Dobrik and BA so, really, what more could I ask for? Finding videos like this puts a smile on my face and sometimes that small act can do so much more than a face mask.
What self-care means to you can change every single day because there’s no simple or definitive “right way” to do it. We might not be able to view self-care as solution in itself, but taking time to reflect on ways to personalize it to your experience can make all the difference in the world.