Decolonizing self-care: actions for radical rest

Decolonizing self-care: actions for radical rest

Decolonizing self-care

Self-care has existed since human beings realized we need to take care of ourselves in order to survive, long before Gwenth Paltrow decided she gave the world yoga. Capitalism shows us that self-care is personal. A bubble bath from this shop, face mask from another and a $15 glass of wine on a Friday night is the ticket to bliss. Capitalism teaches us we must consume things (built on the backs of others) in order to feel good about ourselves. 

I'm not here to hate on baths and wine. I am an avid bath lover and a rosé aficionado myself. But what can we do after that candle goes out and the bathwater gets chilly? How can taking care of ourselves be beneficial to the world? If the personal is political, how can we use our personal self-care practices to benefit the world politically? Or better yet, how can we use self-care, for community care?

My smart friend and Lu (@Lu_Hamont) said “We often recommend self-care to people when they probably need community care”. Right now we are truly understanding how vital community-care is for our survival. We cannot have an uprising without allyship and advocacy. 

I don’t say these things to criticize self-care rituals. But instead, can we all have the curiosity and compassion for ourselves to use our time to zen out, and then send an email to your councillor and ask what their plan of action is to defund the police? Or as writer and activist Rachel Cargle puts it:

“Meditate AND Call your senator

Go to yoga AND go vote

Breathe deeply AND donate to causes that matter

Go on a retreat AND go support small businesses 

Enjoy your essential oil AND check people on their bullshit in the community” 


Can we have self-care without community care? Can we have pleasure without capitalism? Without consumption? Well, I guess it probably depends. And like most things, lives in the murky grey area of the spectrum.

Check your privilege 

What do you have access to? Who doesn’t have access to these things? 

If a self-care routine is fueled by candles and bath bombs from companies that exploit their workers, I am unsure who this bubble bath is really helping and aiding. If pleasure comes at the exploitation of others, it is not self-care. If we are prioritizing our own comfort over marginalized communities, self-care becomes white supremacy. 

It’s not to say we can’t enjoy these things, but know and take stock of our resources. Where is there space to decolonize our self-care routines?  If you have the monetary privilege to buy fancy candles, maybe you buy candles from a Black-owned candle company, maybe your next tarot deck features People of Colour in it? (And keep your eyes peeled for Stylo Stars Tarot deck) Who are the teachers at your local yoga studio? Look around and do the (relatively easy) work of sharing your privilege. Unpack your privilege and use it as a tool, Robin Lacambra’s Sharing privilege course can help with exactly that. 

These examples are by no means an exhaustive list of actions to fix the wellness industry. The road to anti-racism, decolonization, and equity is LONG. But there are small ways of starting to reframe our self-care as compassionate rest that can benefit us all. When we can take better care of ourselves – whether that is with bubble baths, yoga or therapy – we can also take care of others, and we can go out and do the hard work of changing the world!

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Brianna July 15 2020

Great article to get this ball rolling! Thank you, Phoebe! I know this isn’t true for all people but I feel good after listening to the anxious venting of my close friends. Sometimes I can give advice and sometimes I can only listen but the burden is much less on me than it is on them. (I will only do this in person or over the phone, video calls are exhausting)

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