“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
These days, I find that I’m spending a lot of time talking with clients in therapy sessions about the importance of self-preservation and how we can best cope with the state of the world right now. It’s not that the focus is new, per se, however it seems like it’s more important than ever to embrace self-care and self-preservation.
With so much happening in the world, from COVID-19 to the threats and killings of unarmed Black people, coping with our current circumstances is a more daunting task than ever. While most of us have tools to cope during “normal” times, it seems more and more likely that we need self-care more than ever. But what is self-care, really?
What is Self-Care REALLY?
If you take a step back from the glossy definition of self-care, away from the mimosas and spa days, you learn that it is really about physical and psychological self-preservation. Self-care is actually about doing what is necessary to stay as healthy as you can. Self-care is about maintaining a sense of mental wellness amidst huge societal ills and disease. Without a doubt, that becomes infinitely more difficult in times such as these.
I’ve had more conversations recently with folks as they try to navigate what self-care looks like these days. Some people feel a lot of pressure to participate in protests and related activities but feel guilty for not feeling safe enough to put their minds and bodies at risk. This can lead to a lot of shame and guilt. It’s an ongoing struggle. But, there are plenty of ways to help us as a society advance. Sometimes, that starts with self-care and then extends outward.
Self-Care As a Revolutionary Act
As we celebrate Pride month amidst the backdrop of the United States under siege, I’m reminded of queer writer Audre Lorde’s infamous quote about self-preservation: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” When your life, or the lives of your loved ones, is deemed as less valid, how revolutionary is the act of self-care? How political does caring for your own wellness become when the State sees nothing but danger in the color of your skin?
Caring and rest is political. It is VITAL. That’s not to say that those who are able among us should not use their current capacity to advocate, educate and inform. They should. We should! But, we each have to find our own way in advocating for change when we believe it necessary – and take care of ourselves first. After all, as activist April Reign said, “…you cannot save your village, and you cannot save your family, if you are not saving yourself.”
Also more poignant this Pride month is the idea that self-care, and self-preservation, helps preserve yourself while the world often seeks to change you – or, as reality as shown us, eradicates you. In a world where queer and trans POC have to fight to preserve our lives as well as our identities, self-care reminds us that taking care of ourselves is a necessary part of the fight. As violence against the trans community mounts, with Black trans women continuing to make up the majority of trans deaths, self-preservation reminds the world of all of our rights to exist and to do so in our own way.
My hope is that every person can find their way in advocating for change, whatever that looks like for you. But, let us never forget that love is always the answer and that starts with the love and care you give to yourself. There is no greater weapon for good.