There is something especially disturbing about the call for women to engage in self-care as a means of preparation for service towards others. We don’t feel especially comfortable giving women permission to put themselves first, so instead we often see the call to self care punctuated with statements such as, “Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others!”
Allow me to offer a different perspective.
There is great honor and joy in being a nurturing soul, no doubt. Among us are natural healers and caregivers, those to whom service towards others is both inherent and fulfilling. Acts of service are part of what make the tribe able to function, and these acts will forever be an integral part of our cultural composition.
And, of course, engaging in self-care will often deem you more suitable for human consumption, thereby increasing your ability to serve more effectively while avoiding feelings of resentment and burnout. When we take care of ourselves—whatever that looks like for us—we typically are better for others.
But is service to others the foundation of our existence? Is that all we’re meant for? Should being more useful to others be the driving force behind why we practice self-care?
(Hint: My answer is a hard NO.)
As women in today’s Patriarchal World Culture we have been practically bred to believe that our worth is dependent upon two things:
1. Our appearance: be pretty, be thin, always look put together, wear makeup but not too much makeup, and conform to the current, arbitrary, unattainable standard as it pertains to women’s bodies.
2. Our domestic capabilities: cook, clean, make babies, have sex as an act of service and not an act of pleasure, and take care of everyone else first leaving yourself for last.
Women exist to serve and please, both visually and physically. That’s the general narrative, even when it’s internalized and less conspicuous. These demands and expectations are both limiting and oppressive, yet they’re prevailing and pervasive in our culture. If a woman chooses to take care of herself for any other reason than to be better for her family, it’s considered an act of selfishness.
I call it an act of rebellion.
The truth is that you exist as a separate, autonomous individual, independently of your family, friends, coworkers, and clients. You don’t exist simply to please and serve others. Your appearance, your actions, your endeavors in self-care —they actually can be just for you.
Take care of yourself so that you can take care of YOURSELF. It’s a foreign concept for many of us, but we can choose to adopt this new, improved way of being.
If you want to nurture others because that’s your role in your tribe, more power to you, Mama. Like I said, many of us are born healers and nurturers, and the very act of doing so is fulfilling our soul’s purpose. But even then, it’s crucial that we affirm that self-care is our highest responsibility to OURSELF, and no one else.
Take care of yourself so that you can take care of yourself. Everything else is a byproduct of that.