Self care is a radical act, never forget that. When you practice self care you are doing so in order to exist in a world that tells you you shouldn’t have any power.
This is why self care was created by radical black femmes in the 60s and 70s. It was an act of rebellion to do what it took to exist in an world trying to extinguish or diminish a person’s existence, and it still is.
This is why we need to make it clear that self care is about self preservation, not indulgence.
Several rich, mostly white people, use the term “self care” as an excuse for spending thousands of dollars on spa treatments or for drink service during nights at the club. I have no problem with indulgence but self care is not just about self indulgence. Calling self indulgence self care is once again a co-opting of the work and culture of non white radicals.
Self care is taking a mental health day. Self care is opening your mail that has been piling up on your desk. It is doing your laundry and organizing your space. That is self care.
It is true that for some, especially those with PTSD or anxiety, a yoga class or a massage is in fact self care, because what might be an indulgent treat for some of us is to them a need for preservation of their sanity.
It is easy to fall into what I call, “The Self Care Trap,” because the truth is humans are always looking for an excuse to indulge. Humans are effort minimizers and euphoria maximizers, especially the privileged and the rich. Any excuse they can use to indulge in yacht trips and day drinking, they will, but rich people aren’t the only ones who have co-opted the term self care.
I have seen several self proclaimed “leftists” use the term self care as excuse for a night of binge drinking or as an excuse to avoid an organizing meeting and get stoned for the billionth time. There is nothing wrong with a drink or a toke, in fact I’d say I’m very self indulgent with those two things myself, but I am not about to pretend my drinking is an act of self preservation.
I am a white, straight, cis male, so my need for self care is far less than that of someone who was queer, non white, and non cis gendered. This is why it is important for us to avoid the “Self Care Trap.” We cannot use a term that is about the self preservation of the oppressed as an excuse for our own self indulgence.
So the next time you go out for drinks or go on vacation, ask yourself, is it self care or self indulgence? If you live in a world that allows you to exist, then you probably aren’t the one who needs self care.