In today’s fast-paced world, radical self-care is key to maintaining your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health. Even small acts of self-care can help you recharge, lower your risk of illness, and be liberated from negative thoughts and behaviors.
Self-care vs. narcissism
In the U.S., we live in a culture that constantly bombards us with conflicting messages about self-care. Many people fear that they will become too selfish and self-centered if they prioritize their own happiness. If we dare go too far with our self-care, we might be perceived as narcissistic which is at the pinnacle of stigma in our society.
These mixed messages about self-care weave their way into our psyche without us even realizing it. We are constantly told how we don’t measure up as we are, and this is a significant contributor to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Radical self-care is the unapologetic act of prioritizing yourself, acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses, and respecting your boundaries in the face of oppression. This is a healthy mentality albeit challenging, and is a healthy form of narcissism. Narcissism can be considered a continuum from healthy to pathological. Finding the right balance is a primary goal of therapy, especially for those who have experienced complex trauma.
At its core, radical self-care is about focusing on what helps us feel whole again.
What is radical self-care?
The Black Panther Party introduced the concept of radical self-care in the 1950s as an essential revolutionary practice. It was considered an act of self-preservation in the face of a society that didn’t want Black people, especially queer Black women and Black transgender women, to have any power.
It is radical because when we nourish ourselves despite the messages that tell us we aren’t worthy, we have the fuel to continue to exist and resist the dominant messages.
This concept of radical self-care is critical to anyone who does not fit into the dominant culture’s ideals. It is an essential component of taking care of our mental health in the face of personal, institutional, and cultural factors identified in the Liberation Health Model.
The importance of mindfulness
Radical self-care has historically centered on a practice of mindfulness such as that practiced by well-known activist Angela Davis. According to Jon Kabbat-Zin, mindfulness is “the awareness that emerges by way of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
Mindfulness doesn’t mean rigorously meditating for an hour each day. It means noticing our responses to experiences in the moment. It involves being aware of the present, the environment, and our emotions.
Through reflection and contemplation, we can learn what those responses tell us about our present needs. Mindfulness advises us on how to proceed to the next moment in a way that is congruent with our current needs and values.
Beginning with a simple (and free) practice of paying attention, we gradually learn to know, accept, trust, love, and be ourselves. This is where you’ll find the center of you.
Begin your journey to liberation
If you’re ready to practice self-discovery and manage daily stressors better, don’t hesitate to reach out to Laura Bruco, MSW. We provide a supportive environment where you can explore your thoughts and transform the way you think about yourself.