As I think about the history of Black women and the expectations that society places upon us, I get exhausted. Most of the Black women I know and even myself at some point have felt overworked, unappreciated, and devalued. Yet, we are still expected to perform as if we have all of the privileges that our counterparts benefit from. Black women are expected to be caretakers for their families and have spent centuries nurturing everyone but themselves. They are expected to show up to work in a manner that makes everyone comfortable or risk not being considered a “team player” or dare I say be perceived as– angry or aggressive. Black women who are unmarried or do not have children, are constantly being pressured by society to “start a family and be a wife,” when that may not be what they desire. It almost feels impossible to manage all of the external and internal pressures while trying to heal from our pasts and take care of ourselves. Who has the time? Well, that’s just the thing, as Congresswoman Maxine Waters would say you have to start reclaiming your time so that you are able to begin prioritizing yourself. Here are a few tips on how to start healing and prioritizing yourself in 2021.
Make time for joy at least once a day
I understand this may seem like an impossible task for someone who is juggling multiple responsibilities and possibly taking care of others. Also, I know it may feel selfish and uncomfortable if this is something you don’t usually do for yourself. However, making time for yourself is necessary and helps you show up fully. Sparking joy in your day can be practicing some form of self-care you enjoy, spending time in nature, or listening to a snippet of your favorite podcast. Big or small, be intentional about sparking joy in your day whenever you can.
Unlearning the notion of being superwoman
Most Black women are groomed early on to be caretakers. They are taught when faced with challenges, they have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Essentially, they have to be strong, resilient, and selfless, but at what cost? These notions negatively impact your mental and physical health in a significant way. If you aren’t able to do it all, you find yourself feeling shame or low self-worth. If you can do it all that may lead to ignoring health problems and pushing through. No one can do it “all”–and that is okay. Unlearning those behaviors can look like saying no and not over-extending when you don’t have the bandwidth to take on a task.
Taking care of your physical and mental health
Mental health and physical health align. Black women are disproportionately prone to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. It is so important to take the time to nourish your body by trying to eat the proper number of meals a day and getting adequate sleep. Prioritizing your mental health may look like checking-in with yourself throughout the day and assessing how you’re feeling. It allows you to be more aware of changes in your mental health such as appetite/sleep changes, low motivation, or feelings of hopelessness.
Setting boundaries with others and yourself
Many people hear the word “boundaries” and associate it with something negative. When actually setting boundaries at work, with loved ones, and with yourself can improve the relationships in your life. They can also increase your self-esteem and help you better communicate with others. A great way technique to communicating boundaries is using “I” statements and being firm with your delivery. Setting boundaries with others may look like not taking on extra responsibilities because you want to begin leaving work on time. Boundaries with yourself may look like not going over your monthly budget or not working through your lunch break.
Give yourself grace and practice self-compassion
Lastly, start providing yourself with the same compassion and grace you give others. Accepting that you may not always get it right or you may make mistakes allows room for healing. It allows you to make space for vulnerability and embracing your full humanity. You may need to ask for help, fail more than once, or need a day for rest and acknowledging that is healing. Rest is not a bad word. Grace is not a bad word. Compassion is also not a bad word. As actor, Jesse Williams, stated “just because we’re magic, does not mean we’re not real”. You are a real person who needs support, rest, and nourishment.