This summer seems to be revolving, once again, around the theme of self-care. We want self-care, and that doesn’t just mean bubble baths! Before self-care can be efficient, i.e fulfilling it’s aim of being nourishing for mind, body & soul. There has to be in place a grounded concept of who you are and what you need. Some of this sounds pretty flaky when I write it out like that, but I’m sticking with it because I believe this is a political act, read on and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.
The self in self-care has to come first. And for that to make sense you have to ‘know thyself’, just as inscribed at Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
It’s such an easy idea to throw around, but if you’ve spent your whole life (as many of us have) being surrounded by a very clever set of media campaigns that persuade us that, actually we’re not quite right and we really need this product, or that accessory, to be more right; it creates a sense of doubt in knowing who it is we really are. In looking for your tribe you might have labelled yourself this or that, when really the whole magnificence of your entirety is beyond labels.
The overused use of the term ‘self-care,’ has become an agent of capitalisation to prey on our insecurities to sell, yes…bubble bath, and make-up and push-up bras and tons of other stuff we don’t need. And this is all because the self in self-care has not been put first. Consumerism has been put first and that gives a bad name to the whole concept of looking after ourselves, not to mention wrecking our planet of much limited resources and creating more rubbish to end up in landfill or ocean. What needs to happen is a radical act of internalising feminism, meaning that all people are worthy and the work we do matters. The internalisation of feminism is a political act because it is about returning power to ourselves This is wonderfully captured by the words of the African-American writer Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”(1)
What would happen if one morning you woke up and realised that you were enough, just as you were and didn’t need to buy anything to feel better about yourself today? Would you go about your day any differently; balancing work, home and self in ways that suited your temperament? What if the knowledge of how to do all that was an innate faculty, and one that got better with time and practice? What would that look like?
Last month I hosted a women’s retreat, co-facilitated by Lucy Bell. The theme for the day was ‘How do I nourish myself?‘ With the aim that each women had a wonderful nourishing day, and that they had the space to dig deeper and find out what they really needed in their daily lives to continue this nourishment after our day together was over. I guess you could call it sustainable self-care. Below is a list of some of the things they came up. I think it’s really interesting and hopefully might inspire some of you reading this blog to experiment with. You can click on it to access a printable copy if you want one:
Self-nourishment is a bit like healthy eating, getting the balance right between things we need to get done but perhaps aren’t high up on our desirability list (finishing that difficult assignment, tackling your manager at work, or scrubbing the kitchen after dinner exploded) and balancing them with the more ‘desirable’ self-care items. How your balance works, and how your life is divided is for you to decide, isn’t it?
Let me know how it goes.
(1) The New Yorker ‘ The politics of selfcare: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-politics-of-selfcare