Put your own oxygen mask on first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. And so on and so forth. These are familiar refrains for anyone who talks about self-care, who encourages others to take care of themselves (as I do, with one-on-one clients, in workshops, and with the people in my life. Oh, and this here blog too).
I also think they’re pretty toxic and I want to encourage us all to move away from them.
I get the spirit, I do. It’s aimed at people who are taught to put everyone else before themselves–generally women and femmes. But I think it actually reasserts that same lesson.
We’re not granted permission to care for ourselves because it is a fundamental human right–because all humans deserve and need rest and nourishment and care–we’re granted permission so that we can continue to care for others.
We’re allowed just enough care to continue shouldering the lion’s share of the world’s emotional labour. We’re granted permission (and we grant ourselves permission) to prevent ourselves from breaking so that we can continue to do the un/derpaid work that makes the world go round.
Although I often use these refrains when introducing the concept of self-care, or affirming someone’s right to it, I haven’t used it on myself in years. Because I don’t actually self-care so that I can care for others.
I self-care because, as Audre Lorde says, it is an act of political warfare.
I self-care because there are billion dollar industries that only survive if we continue to think we can hate ourselves thin, happy, loveable.
I self-care because I cannot do the radical work I want to do if I am sick, exhausted, burnt out.
I self-care because intersecting systems of oppression demand and rely on us just barely surviving rather than fighting.
And I self-care because I fucking deserve it.
And you do too.
Not because you’re a mother or a partner or a carer. Because you are a human being. And you don’t need an excuse to take care of yourself.