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what is self-care vs radical self-care?

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

Self-care has taken over in exponential ways specifically by white people in the wellness, influencer, and blogger space. Much of the self-care movement began to trend quickly in 2016 and since, the self-care boom has evolved into a 10 billion dollar industry, continuing to grow rapidly. A combined theme of fueling our patriarchal, capitalistic lead society; with purchasing to feel good, and promoting self-help books to be and get better. The term itself being sold and marketed in what we see advertised today through monthly subscription boxes. Containing tea, candles, oils, incense, and bath bombs, further marketed by Instagram photos of macro-influencers with their perfect manicures or sharing glimpses of their luxurious spa days. We also see many people who are incorporating their self-care rituals with culturally appropriating the use of natural products from the BBIPOC’s heritage, rituals, and practices such-as palo santo and bundles of sage. With the #selfcare flooding all social media platforms promoting imagery of journals, wine, and many other “feel good” material items that seem to be perfectly packaged with a strategic, well-executed design. This carries an underlying message to promote self-indulgence and suppressive behavior, with possibly and harmfully blanketing one’s insecurities either financially, emotionally, or otherwise, rather than self-care. We have to question how have we been influenced and taught to give care to oneself? Recognizing and challenging the systems that are upheld within this trend specifically within white supremacy, capitalism, and white culture. Calling it for it is in all of these systems in which the use of social media and ad spread are tools to monetize and reach their target consumers making them question their self-care practice at any given time, whether or not one is thinking about it or not, the media continues to control our questions and thoughts surrounding the idealistic, societal expectation of self-care. So what is the difference between self-care and radical self-care?

Self-care, /ˌselfˈker/ is described as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health.” ensuring your basic health needs are sufficiently being met and nothing to do with anything beyond physical well being. Audre Lorde and bell hooks, both wrote about caring for one’s self in oppressive conditions. In “A Burst of Light,” Lorde writes, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In my perception of Audre Lorde’s quote, I believe she is talking about radical self-care the deep care for oneself, the un-layering and self intrinsic, before entering the position of taking care of others, and your community in a way that is of intention; ample value. In a 2017 article written by Carrie Doubts of the HuffPost blog, Carrie refers to radical self-care as, “Radical Self-care is the assertion that you have the responsibility to take care of yourself first before attempting to take care of others. It’s necessary to fill your cup first, then to give to others from the overflow. This is what gives you the capacity to heal and to move forward into your next chapter of life.” On the outer perception, we may want to challenge this idea of filling your cup. What are we filling our cups with? Is it in the form of purchasing something to further disconnect and or disassociate unintentionally? Is it a level of connecting to ourselves, coming home to the welcome mat of our hearts, believing it is the choice to writing a powerful narrative we have ownership to? It may be going beyond the surface layers of who you are, finding who you truly are within the complexity of your inner-most depths of being. Connecting to the vibrational state you are in so that you may awaken in your growth, creating room in your cup to fill with advocacy, care, and connection to others. We are not taking away from self-care but rather we are going further in what means to care for oneself, challenging societal trends. We should want to mitigate and question how self-care is being currently monetized through capitalism, to redefine it transformitively and radically.

Here are a few gentle ways you can practice radical self-care:

  1. Take moments throughout the day to breathe in-between the next task on your to-do list.

  2. Spend time alone with yourself and your energy.

  3. Clean & organize your space.

  4. Listen deeply to your body, what is it asking you for?

  5. Take a walk and find three new things you never noticed before.

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