On the Essentialness of Self-Care

Sitting down to write this post was difficult.  Lately, I have been preoccupied by a multitude of things—not just random things but tragic things—breaking news things—such as the deadly protests in Myanmar due to a military coup, the sexualization of and violence against Asian women that resulted in a mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, the more recent mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, et cetera, et cetera. 

The turmoil is real and undeniable, and I know that I am not alone in feeling ambivalent.  As a consequence, I seldom subject myself to live news.  I peruse the headlines every now and then when I can summon the energy to process what is happening and then subsequently counter the negative toll that the chaos takes on my mind, body, and spirit.  If I am honest, however, I must confess that despite these precautions, the madness of it all still finds its way into the inner sanctum of my mind at times. 

This is the tip of the iceberg.  There are realities (both individual and shared) that require time and attention in my daily life that feel even more pressing. In order, for instance, to deal with the inevitable challenges of remote teaching and learning and contend in a healthy way with the various things that threaten to deplete not only my time and energy but diminish my optimism, I have found myself embracing self-care. Melinda Oliver explains, “Self-care asks you to truly tap into yourself and listen to your needs” (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/black-women-in-wellness). Oliver’s perception of what self-care requires reflects my own. After all, if we are out of touch with ourselves, how can we accurately identify our needs or diligently work to satisfy them?

I knew from the moment I agreed to contribute this post that my focus would be on self-care. Life is short and unpredictable. Striving to exercise more care in how we interpret and navigate our lives with the hope of experiencing more peace, joy, and pleasure seems like a worthwhile venture.  Finding ways to encourage, nurture, affirm, nourish, forgive, and support ourselves is an intentional practice, and it can be lifelong.  Self-care has been my saving grace—a critical part of renewal and redemption—in good times and bad.

Most of us already have plenty of access to self-care strategies and/or activities that when applied can save time, energy, and even the day.  There are many viable strategies floating around, so there is no list of self-care strategies in this post, only one strategy that I discovered earlier this year and have been contemplating ever since.  The strategy boils down to what Caroline McHugh describes as “individuality” in her TEDxMiltonKeynesWomen talk titled “The Art of Being Yourself” (https://youtu.be/veEQQ-N9xWU).

At the beginning of her talk, McHugh discusses the concept of a “true mirror.” According to McHugh, “When you look in a true mirror, you don’t look at yourself, you look for yourself. You look for revelation and not for reassurance.” I found this observation meaningful because self-revelation or being honest about who we are—not who others perceive us to be or who we wish to be—seems essential to being able to properly care for (read:  nurture, love, comfort, forgive, and affirm) ourselves.  McHugh’s talk is intriguing and likely to generate many questions. For me, one of the most salient questions is:  How do we acknowledge our authentic selves in a way that allows us to adequately care for ourselves and create space for others to do the same?

Courtney Thompson, Associate Professor of American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.