When I talk about self-care, I talk about meeting our needs. Not as an afterthought, not if there’s time left, but tending to our needs first. Fuelling up first. Before we’ve earned it, before we’ve proven ourselves or crossed the goal line. For most women, in the reality of our day-to-day lives, this is seriously radical. To approach self-care not as a reward or a remedy, but as a prerequisite.
Prerequisite for what? Your health and wellbeing. Your sense of worth. Your ability to know and enjoy pleasure. And your creative work.
We have a million strategies for increasing productivity and getting more done, even in the face of exhaustion; but they rarely involve kindness, pleasure or even basic self-care. Instead we grab for discipline, time-management, boot camps and seven steps to get to where you want to go.
Self-care is not about quick fixes. In fact, this is not about productivity at all. My goodness, let’s not settle for productivity when there’s so much more to be had. What I’m suggesting is that we devote ourselves to something entirely different – the art of overflowing.
If we do; if we tend diligently to our needs and fill ourselves up so that the flow through our bodies, minds and souls remains strong; then our creative outpouring increases too. We won’t have to strive to make it happen. It will flow strong because that’s what happens when you create a flood. Things pour from you.
Maybe this filling up could even be considered our most important job as creatives. I think so.
The most important kind of self-care is the kind that doesn’t take you out of your life, and that doesn’t require a lot of money, time or resources. It’s the most important kind simply because it’s the kind that will get done. Just as we don’t want to compartmentalise creativity – to keep it outside and separate from the rest of our lives – we don’t want to compartmentalise self-care either. It’s not something aside from our everyday lives – it’s the bedrock of our everyday lives. It’s what makes it sustainable.
We trivialise the importance of this sustainability when we make self-care a matter of massages and “me-time”. Looking at it as a luxury makes it easier to dismiss or postpone. It also makes it a matter of privilege. What if you can’t afford to get a facial? What if you don’t have access to a quiet space where you can meditate, or to healthy food, or even clean water? What does self-care look like then? When the earth beneath our feet is being ravaged, what kind of self-care truly sustains us?
Self-care is not about pampering. It is about tending to actual needs. Collective needs, individual needs. Human needs.
You have needs, woman. We all do. They’re real and they’re valid and our lives – including our creative work – depend on us to learn how to tend to them.
Things change when we learn to take care of ourselves properly. We change. The things we ask for change, how we ask for it changes, the boundaries we uphold change, how we do our work and our lives changes.
That’s what’s truly radical about self-care – the way it challenges and changes us. How it challenges the status quo.
When women decide to tend unapologetically to their actual needs, it challenges gender roles, relationships, workplace dynamics, it challenges the way humans interact with the natural world.
Assumptions and expectations are turned on their heads. Maps are re-written. Change ripples through bodies, families and societies and every time it happens, we create a little more space for us to move. A little more breathing room for us all.