Self-care isn’t enough!

Take a nap, do a face mask, order a lot of food on UberEats – all elements of the self-care prescription you can find anywhere on the Internet. The meaning of self-care is evident in its name, but the repercussions of its incorrect use are deeper seated than many of us realize. 

Twitter (and other social media platforms) have normalized discussions of mental health and self-care. Twitter is a breeding ground for information and online community, which I have felt and been moved by many times. I am inspired by the way online communities can make a home for those who may have none. The baby-boomer era despises technology and social media as a destructive force – it kills our everyday social interaction, makes us “obsessed” with our phones. Social media’s impact on the younger generations of those who use it is quite the contrary – it has taught us how to build community, how to organize, and how to support one another. It creates a shared feeling of connection between distant strangers and can even save lives. Twitter is a fun way to pass the time when procrastinating, but its ramifications on concepts of community are powerful. 

The community Twitter has created is not exempt from the deeply embedded neoliberal individualism that the world suffers from today. Even within online communities, “self-care” has transformed into many things and almost none of them are what it should be. You’re a narcissist, you’re problematic, or you’re asking others to perform too much “emotional labor” for you. Self-care is purported to look easy when in reality it should be hard, as it requires the inner dismantling of the oppressive structure of individualism that permeates all aspects of life. Self-care should create community, not isolate those who may be struggling. Self-care can be interpreted in so many different ways that we have lost touch with what it should really look like, and thereby have negatively impacted the community we have worked so hard to create.

What does it mean to perform emotional labor? Twitter may tell you that a friend asking to talk about their hardships requires monetary compensation. Or, Twitter may tell you that setting appropriate boundaries between yourself and others is okay, even encouraged, within the self-care movement. The (mis)use of self-care has led us to unknowingly devalue our own community that Twitter has created. It is exactly through the Internet community that neoliberalism has penetrated, harming the way we view ourselves and others. Self-care and community are intertwined, but the transformation of both their meanings results in a cognitive dissonance that many, including myself, struggle to reconcile. 

Self-care is not enough. Even in its purest form, it is accompanied by radical, shared care and trust in one another. We are only as strong together as we are apart. True self care is not selfish, nor is it simple, nor is it individualized. It is a radical feminist practice, allowing us to strengthen ourselves and thereby the movement. As Audre Lorde so eloquently stated, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

(Image Credit: The Mindfulness Journal)

Woke in progress

Hello, I’m a feminist—actually, scratch that, I’m an intersectional feminist. Wait, no, hold on. Hello, my name is Lilly, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I’m an intersectional feminist with Socialist leanings. Okay, that was almost perfect, but I forgot to add in that I’m white, bisexual, cisgendered, and able-bodied. Should I mention my relative income privilege? What about my personal connection to gun violence? Does it matter whether or not I justify my use of the word “bitch”? Let’s try this one more time.

Hello, my name is Lilly and I’m a human, woman, and feminist in progress. Using the word progress, of course, implies that I’m working towards a foreseeable end, perfection, an epitome. I should clarify that I’m not. Feminism is a process, and there are certainly ways for the movement and the people who are involved in it to improve their actions, but there is not one right way to be a feminist. Furthermore, there isn’t an absolute value, a pure and distilled version of feminism that is the absolute ideal version of the movement.

Everyone involved in the feminist movement, whether they choose to label themselves or not, will expand and improve the ways in which they practice their activism. As we grow older and wiser, so too do we grow more inclusive. For some of us, it will take years to incorporate intersectional identity politics into our doctrines. For others, we may be marrying diverse ideas when we are still young and fresh and inexperienced. Everyone grows at a different rate and in a different way.

When we reach a new intangible step up the feminist ladder, we are usually tempted to criticize those who are below us on the invisible path to enlightened activism. Maybe we want to do this to mark our own progress. After all, if we’re able to point out the problematic elements of other people, doesn’t that prove our own social consciousness? Constructive criticism is certainly important. Pointing out the harmful or problematic ideas of another person may very well be a valuable learning experience. At the same time, however, we should also remember that we were once in their spot. They’re still growing, and so are you. As feminists, our potential to hone our activism is limitless. We’ll never be the best versions of ourselves, but we can certainly take some steps in the right direction.

(Image Credit: Everyday Feminism / VAL3NTEA)