When we started Jijaze we didn’t use the word self-care to describe what we were about. Instead, we talked about Replenishment.
Although now we use the terms interchangeably, I initially made the decision not to talk about ‘self-care’ because I had a sense that people associate it with things that cost money like going for massages.
There is nothing wrong with massages, but I was clear that we were about much more than that AND, importantly that we were talking about something that could be accessible to anyone.
I remain committed to the core of our message being something that women can engage with whatever their means. And to it being something that doesn’t drive you to buy products and services you don’t need.
I see some of what is happening, in particular online, around ‘self-care’ as a commodification and the development of a kind of ‘self-care’ industry that sells us stuff so that we can meet a need that the ‘do-it-all’ culture around us is creating.
And I want to resist us feeling like looking after ourselves is yet another thing we can only do if we have money. It want us to resist trying to solve ‘do-it-all’ with ‘buy-it-all’.
It’s a great privilege in this world as it is, to have the resources and time, to care for ourselves. And that is one of the things that I would like, long-term, to see change. I want to see a world in which everyone has the space and resources they need to care for themselves.
But it’s more than that too. Because self-care can become another ‘to-do’. Or worse, another ‘diet’ type ‘stick to beat ourselves with’.
As in, ‘I know I should be caring for myself better but I’m just so useless at it/I’m hopeless/I’m useless etc (add your version!)‘
There is a much-quoted message from Audre Lorde a black lesbian woman writing in the 1980s that speaks to her sense that caring for herself was crucial in the face of the injustice she and her communities faced.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” (from her essay ‘A Burst of Light‘)
When I see it in the front of another book about adding ‘wellbeing’ practices to our agendas I feel sad about what is missing. Often the politics is completely missing and the sense of her radical call to action for ourselves is lost.
In other words I see blogs and books full of all the things we should do for ourselves. But often they ignore the fact that the reasons we are so bereft of care are structural.
Yes the things we can do individually for ourselves matter and can make a difference but the truth is that, most women, in most cultures across the world, bear the burden of care for others as well as trying to juggle work and home life and all the things. There isn’t much time left to care for ourselves.
What is more, I believe that the structure of patriarchy and capitalism actively invite us to squash our own needs. We are invited to work as hard as we can, juggle all the things and accept a scant reward for them. We are invited to feel like we ‘should’ do more for ourselves, but there is never time. It’s not just women that experience this but the extra burden women often bear in caring for others + their routinely lower pay compounds these things.
And we internalise these messages too and so we may find there is a part of us that won’t look after ourselves. That is sneaky and sabotages our efforts. We are all, I believe, to varying degrees examples of internalising all the oppressions we want to resist.
It is also true that there may well be markedly more time if we are able to afford things like childcare and other forms of help and support and so it’s also true that much of what is out there being described as self-care is also a privilege reserved for the middle classes.
That doesn’t make it wrong.
But I do want to call our attention to these structures.
Both to the reasons for our burnout and lack of care and to our differing abilities to address the problem, dependent on our circumstances.
At Jijaze we invite you into your own practice of caring for yourself and also to modeling that to others in your office, community, home & ‘out in the world’ in general.
But in doing so we recognise that you will be pushing against a culture that tends very much to keep women busy. Yes it may be hard and difficult and you might want support.
We want to offer support with that and we need to resource the project – that’s where our offerings do come in*. But the important actions, are actions you can take for yourself that don’t need you to buy products.
The core of the personal matter is in your willingness to chose to take moments for yourself. To stop and connect to your heartbeat. To be open to considering your own needs. To pause in the middle of a busy day. To allow yourself 15 minutes away from your desk.
But there is a collective matter too. In doing personal work around this and in modeling it to others you are resisting the ‘do-it-all’ culture we are conditioned in to. By building things together like community care structures, that give you a break and cultures in organisations that take wellbeing seriously you are not just choosing change in your own life, you are helping contribute to a shift that is needed in our culture and to the building of a new world.
At Jijaze we are here for all of this. Check out the different ways in which we work.
* This piece around resources has been complex for us in this project because we do offer paid services at Jijaze and we need to sustain this work in the world in our current culture. We are looking at ways to generate resources + accessibility. So continue to watch this space if that interests you.