I was going to make a meme and a quick Instagram post about self care and community care, but it turned into a blog post!
I have been thinking about #SelfCareSunday posts on Facebook and Instagram. I love them. It is absolutely important and necessary that we, especially as women, take the time for ourselves, to put on our own oxygen masks, as it were, before we can be there to help others, that we do things that feed our souls and keep us sane. This is not selfish in the least. These are great posts. Often, they are empowering, inspiring, and funny.Unfortunately, in too may cases, self care gets relegated as “just one more thing to do, one more item on an ever-lengthening to-do list,” and becomes one more onerous responsibility in a world that values independence so highly — it becomes stressful and counter-productive.
However, for all too many women, there comes a time when she can’t put on her own oxygen mask anymore and she needs someone to do it for her. She asks for help and gets told to do it herself, to take care of herself, that’s it’s no big thing to put on an oxygen mask, that she can save herself, she just needs to believe more thoroughly in herself. This can add to her guilt about struggling, especially when she can’t seem to wrap her head around the instructions or doesn’t even see the point.
For all too many people, self care is no longer an option. They need community care. They need someone to come to them with a kind word to put on their mask for them without shaming them for not doing it themselves. They need help and community care must be there as a real, viable, accessible option. Needing community care is not a failure, it is not a lack of self care. It is the ultimate, scariest form of self care because it makes you vulnerable and at the mercy of others. However, there are times in this world where doing everything for yourself, being relentlessly independent, is not an option.
So, while I love the spirit of #selfcaresunday and enjoy all of the inspirational posts of women taking care of themselves and doing things they love, I would also like to acknowledge the women who are struggling to even figure out what it is they would enjoy, and let them know I see them and how proud I am of them for being there. Please be gentle with yourself. My wish is that as a society we will all see these beautiful, sensitive, lovely people and offer them support where they are and in meaningful, thoughtful ways, not expecting them to jump through arbitrary hoops to qualify for help.
As a person who has done my best to do self care and have “failed”, I have found myself at a loss and am sorely disappointed by the absolute lack of community care available. I’ve seen too many doctors and other professionals simply shrug their shoulders, blaming budget cuts, claiming it’s not their responsibility, tell me to load up on vitamins, or suggest I should explore yet another self care option if the ones I’m doing don’t work. This attitude and lack of community are has made me extremely angry and sad. So, while I am happy that there is more and more conversation about the importance of self care and how it is not a selfish act to take care of yourself, I would like to see that extended to people who, for whatever reason, cannot do it on their own and need some help from the community.
And, it’s worth repeating: You are seen and loved. You are worth it. Please be gentle with yourself. Keep asking for help, even though it is unbearably hard.