5 Things I've Learned About Self-Care As a Black Woman
Author Chlöe Pierre's book Take Care focuses on the history of self-care, and practices to support Black women
Here she shares her five personal definitive lessons about self-care as a Black woman
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I don't speak for all Black women and I wouldn't dream of doing so. What I pride my work on is being able to understand, connect and empathise with the majority of Black women I encounter in real life or via the internet, as well as their experiences, being able to make safe spaces for them in all settings and ensure I highlight them as a demographic not to exclude in every inch of my professional outputs.
One of the biggest accomplishments I can identify in the last four years of working within the wellness industry and focusing on intersectionality, is us being able to connect organically and through the beauty of self-acceptance which we channel through just looking and recognising each other. For the global Black community, I would say that was a defining and pivotal moment for us. As Black women, something shifted.
In my debut book Take Care, I explain this within the context that this shift stems from something else that we may not even realise about ourselves. We have begun to see each other, not just what we look like, but we recognise ourselves in each other and our communal experiences, regardless of where on Earth we are currently situated. We can finally see each other, and we are not afraid to embrace or support each other publicly. We are joining arms in our commonalities. We are lifting each other up – even if it is just by sharing each other's accomplishments, work, experiences, names and stories on the ‘gram. We aren’t holding on to our current locations and bases as a way of identifying or separating ourselves from each other. The diaspora is truly alive!
Being a Black woman in 2022 and the last few years have been tumultuous to say the least. We have had to fight for our families, our brothers, our sons, our fathers, uncles, partners, friends, strangers and kin and in the midst of this we experienced burnout, fatigue which made us realise that we were prioritising everyone else over our wellbeing and checking in to really see how we are doing.
With 2023 upon us, I assume just as every year before this, we will have to fight even harder for our own survival – which directly impacts the ones we love, continue fighting for our voice and respect – but one thing we don't have to fight for anymore is our right to self-care. Partly because that is the work both myself and my fellow wellness advocates are tirelessly working towards but also because we know how to practise it and no longer need to ask for permission to do so.
We are collectively claiming soft life for ourselves and banishing the strong, independent Black woman tropes and stereotypes which continue to put female generations one after the other in a chokehold. We ourselves are discarding the stereotypes placed on the women who came before us and most incredibly, we have a language in order to validate our experiences. This tiresome workload continues outside of the workplace and our homes and descends through generations.
It is therefore, in my opinion that Black women are incredibly and undoubtedly deserving of long periods of rest and prioritised self-care.
But this phenomenon is not new. In my book, I reference and heavily quote Audre Lorder – creator of the coined term self-care and an icon of unapologetic and radical Black feminism. It is Audre herself who has inspired and continues to inspire my work when I too struggle with emotionally taxing fatigue which is under-represented by figures like myself because quite truthfully, we have been just that, underrepresented and silenced. Radical self-love is what Lorder fought for, now she has passed myself and my peers carry this torch.
Whilst there are many articles out there focussing on the negative connotations and statistics surrounding Black women, our health and rights or lack thereof, in accessing wellbeing or luxury experiences, I won't be adding to the heat or trauma with this article. It's 2023 and my goal is to stay consistent and that's what I want for every Black woman and person reading this. That and peace - so without further ado, here is what I have learned about self-care as a Black woman.
1. Self-care is for us and it starts at home
Despite what your local wellness facility/society projects or the lack of representation in the industry and online perpetrates, wellness in itself is for every single person to access – it's not exclusive,
It's a radical and imperative act of self-preservation, sustainability and politics. Simply put, you can access it at any time and have a human-level right to do so.
Self-care is anything that improves your quality of life so it does not need to cost a penny should you so wish. It’s this revelation, the removal of capitalism in a part of our lives which is crucial to our everyday survival, that I want to share with Black women everywhere because it is a choice. You have the choice to start your journey to self-care right now – at home and within yourself.
It could be taking a shower today when you feel your lowest or dealing with bouts of uncertainty, right up to creating an elevated shower experience complete with a meditation soundtrack or eucalyptus oil drops to centre yourself in the moment. This is your basic right and need. Do not be swayed otherwise.
2. Black women need access to therapy
Black women are simultaneously affected by racism and sexism. A lifetime or generational trap of this lived experience is undoubtedly going to result in the growing statistics we see today – Black women in the UK being disproportionately most at risk of experiencing common mental disorders and affected by the Sectioning Mental Health Act at the same time.
Lowering these statistics often felt in the wide Black communities, comes down to normalising therapy amongst all Black women as well as funding. Black women are entitled to explore the situations in their life and how they are navigating them with professional assistance. We are not alone so shouldn't have this view especially institutionally enforced.
3. “I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose” – Serena Williams
This quote from the GOAT Serena Williams says everything and more in a little less than a sentence. When I first heard her say it, it was just as powerful as me writing it out and sharing it with you months later. It’s profound in so many ways, but particularly as a Black woman, to say this publicly, for the world to receive however they receive it is the unapologetic representation many Black women have needed to see and will need to continue seeing.
What I have learnt is that representation is a key component to a Black woman's overall self-care journey. We naturally, as human beings, have a pack mentality and as the famous saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. The collective act of self-preservation means we push closer to our combined goal which is generally equality in all areas both as a woman and as a Black woman and this quote drives the quintessential need back. We aren’t in this alone. You are not alone.
Setting healthy boundaries is a necessary tool everyone needs to protect herself but one thing Black women have had ingrained in them, is that they don’t have the liberty to exercise and should they try to, they face ridicule, abuse of all kinds, ostracism from their immediate communities and/ or worse.
Black women are now in a position to fully embrace their power within communities and the wider society itself so we must remove the invisible superwoman cape or the burden of silence in order to live a longer, happier, healthier life – one in which we dream for ourselves.
To do this we must start exercising our right to say no, to seek help just as often and quickly as others do. If you struggle to say no, try holding your 'yes' to a higher regard and make sure when using the words ‘yes’ or ‘OK’ in agreement to something it's something you hold precious to you and cannot live without.
The lack of self-acceptance amongst Black women isn't normal, it's just been normalised. Because my goal is to accelerate the journey of Black women to equilibrium, one of my practices is to encourage self-advocating for acceptance over the ideology of healing or being healed.
The reason being is I personally believe that not one of us is or can ever be fully healed but we can and are more likely to get further and find pockets of joy, self-fulfilment and unconditional self-love through radical self-acceptance.
The logic is, that through a journey of self-acceptance, we embrace every part of ourselves, not just the 'positive' things. Black women crave and deserve love, real love, deep love, consensual love but those types of love can only start from within.
The only unconditional love in the world is self-acceptance. Realising and embracing this sooner rather than later will be a definitive moment in your self-care journey, as it was for me in mine.
Chlöe Pierre is the author of Take Care: The Black Women’s Guide to Wellness