Embracing Self-Care As a Black Woman

Mama Pope (Khandi Alexander) just handed us a mic drop. She let us know! If you watch Scandal at all you know exactly what I am talking about. The internet was all abuzz last week about that 1 minute 49 second clip of Scandal’s season finale episode where she speaks some truth about a reality we can identify with as black women. “I tell you…Being a black woman, “ ‘Be strong,’ they say. Support your men. Raise a man. Think like a man. Well, damn. I gotta do all that?” Who’s out here working for me? Carrying my burden? Building me up when I get down? Nobody! Black women out here trying to save everybody…” Boom!

She’s not lying though, is she?! Mama Pope raises a very compelling argument for us. We should be sitting in our sister circles from right now laying out new plans for ourselves. As black women, we are raised with a martyrdom and savior mentality where we do everything to make sure everyone else is ok, except ourselves. We learn very early to put our wants, needs, desires and happiness last. By the time we focus on us, it is sometimes too late. We are viewed as strong, and we wear it proudly, this badge of honor, as though we do not falter under the pressures of life, as though we do not hurt, feel pain, die inside a thousand times, and sometimes choose death as the ultimate expression of this thing we inherited. It is what we saw and what we emulate. I say we STOP! No more!

In my recent interview for Femmepowered’s Coffee and Conversations series, Tending The Temple – Black Women & Self-Care, I speak about how my family history of strong black women tainted the way I saw and tended to my own needs before 2010 when I lost my Mom. Post-2010, I’m happy to report that I’ve embraced a proper self-care routine for myself. I say ‘No’ more often. I’m doing me FIRST. I’ve embraced setting aside time for myself, by myself, without thinking that I must be selfish for doing it and making apologies for being in states of weakness at times. And you know what? It feels damn good!!!

A self-care plan is necessary to enhance your health and wellbeing and manage your stress in this fast-paced world we live in. With all of the emotions and thoughts that affect us black women both consciously and subconciously, self-care allows some time to reflect, process and heal. It is critical as black women that we learn to identify activities and practices that support our wellbeing and help us to sustain our balance through positive self-care in the long-term. Maya Angelou, in her poem, Phenomenal Woman, talks about The need for my care, Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

If you believe this, then say it out loud with me! That’s you, that’s me, that’s all of us, Phenomenal Woman!

I focus a lot on the psychological and emotional aspects of self-care because these to me are the most important. I gotta get my head and heart right before anything else falls into place. Last Thursday on my latest episode of Real Talk with Mell, I talk with Carlana Charles of Femmepowered.org about discovering self-care in the aftermath of years of domestic violence. Check it out here.

If you can identify with us black women who have been victims of the martyrdom mentality, then you may be struggling with understanding how to develop your self-care plan and put it into action. History has not been kind to us, we can all agree on this, but we now know better so we should do better. 

Making Self-Care Personal

Self-care is a very personal matter, and everyone does it differently. Some may find going to the nail salon every week to be sufficient for a physical self-care routine; some may use yoga and daily exercise to fuel their body balance. However, for a real holistic approach to your self-care plan, there must be a way to balance both the intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of your life. While it is okay to look good on the outside, we must also feel great on the inside. My personal preference is riding, journaling and mindfulness meditation. I find the combination of all of these beneficial to me as I navigate the highs and lows of my life. 

You can start here by completing this self-care questionnaire to see where you fall or see this free guide to get some ideas on where you can start in developing your own routine.

I look forward to hearing your stories on starting or restarting your self-care journey. Drop me an email at hello@mellanymotivates.com to let me know how you are doing.

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