{After Party Questions} Self Care is Selfish?

Hey there Naturalistas,

I had a Spring Brunch for some of my women-folk. So many of us dedicate countless hours to cleaning our homes daily but in the spring, we take cleaning to a whole new level! We ate and drank and I guided the women on a journey of clearing out the clutter in their lives for Spring by discussing what we usually do during the Lenten season, setting some fresh intentions and coming up with a plan. Yes, the plan had due dates and everyone left with an accountability partner as well. (I dos this man! lol)

The thing we focused on was that we enter our brand new smelling, spanking clean home with the same, tired old us. We don't spruce up much aside from our wardrobe and although that counts, it does little to add a little sunshine to our day to day internal lives.

In the midst of the conversing about our day to day lives, one of the women said that she felt it was selfish to take care of herself first and foremost. Almost all of the women were flabbergasted! We made an analogy to try to explain what we meant, "You know how when you are on the plane, and the flight attendant says to give yourself oxygen first before you take care of anyone else…" She thought that even that act of self preservation was selfish! She was adamant that she would take care of as many people she could before she took care of herself.

This hit home for me. My mother was that woman. She gave and gave of herself to her family, her children, her friends until she literally wore her heart out. She died at 55 of a massive heart attack. Not because she didn't have insurance, because she worked 40 years at a NYC job and had that insurance card that gave you first class treatment wherever you went. But it because she was too busy to take care of herself and too scared and probably just too damned busy taking care of everybody else.

So many Black women have this disease. It reared its ugly head in slavery when we were forced to nurse the master's children along with our own or not nurse our own… When we were forced to leave our own homes behind with our children and families needy, to tend to the needs of those who owned us, it was expected that we were selfless as we didn't even own our very selves. I think this mentality is passed down and that it is something we relive daily. Although we no longer have the master's children to tend to, we tend to put everybody else in front of ourselves when it comes to care and concern for our mental, emotional and even physical well being.

My mother put her brothers' needs in front of hers and all of her sisters' needs too. She was the go to auntie - if you needed, Yaz had it. What? A place to stay, some money, a plate of food - whatever you needed. There was something to be said about that though. She was well loved wherever she went, she had a reputation of being serious but loving to all who knew her. We have to think of each other better than as we think of ourselves it says in Philippians 2:3 and I interpret this to mean that we need to think about how we treat one another and hold each other in higher esteem than we do ourselves but it says nowhere that we shouldn't care for ourselves or treat ourselves nicely! She put her children's needs in front of hers rightly so up until they were grown, but after that threshold was passed she became an enabler not only for her children, but for many who depended on her and refused to take care of themselves because they knew she would save them.

Of course, there was a time when she took much better care of herself. When she went to the nail salon on 125th and St Nicholas Ave (long before they started using those drill bits on people's nail beds 0_o) and the beauty parlor on 123rd and Seventh Ave with the Black gay guy whose name I still don't know, but who set her hair so perfectly. There was a disconnect somewhere between that time when she was balancing her personal care and her care for others and I believe it lay in her heart being broken and her spirit becoming embittered.

Sometimes we think that if we care for others they will care for us and that their caring for us validates our worthiness and empowers us to take care of ourselves. That is not the way it works! We have to remember to care for ourselves despite being forsaken by men. We have to remember to stay balanced even when we are serving and dedicating our lives to The Lord! He can't get glory from our lives if we are used up and not able to serve or do His will! Our bodies are His temple!

We have to remember that in caring for ourselves, we empower our children to love themselves so that they will be able to love each other fully. One cannot share what they haven't experienced personally. Loving oneself enables one to love.

My mother died early. Way too early and we all know women who led these same kind of self-less lives and did the same. I am not saying that we shouldn't serve The Lord, or that we shouldn't run soup kitchens or that we shouldn't try to save our fellow passengers in a plane headed for disaster, but I am saying that we need to save ourselves first.


"Self-love, self-preservation" - Jaguar Wright


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