Some of you may or may not know this, so I'll briefly get into it. "It: being my professional experience(s) with self-care. For many years of my life I co-founded and co-ran a Natural Handmade Beauty Brand called Mi-Me. Yes, we were successful, but not nearly as successful as I thought we should be, hoped we would be and honestly from a financial perspective needed to be. Yes, we got some decent press (HuffPo, Teen Vogue, Refinery 29, Ask Men, NY Observer,...). Yes, we made dope ass products. No, I am not a chemist. Yes, at times I still desperately miss it and as painful as it felt, I still had to say NO to it.
For the last four to five years of my tenure with Mi-Me and still to this day it seems like the concept of self-care began exploding in Print and Social Media alike. Every person and publication was waxing poetic on self-care, its countless benefits and the 10 reasons why if you weren't indulging in it you were basically a piece of shit or doing your mind, body, and soul irreparable harm. One of the things about this self-care movement that I found most interesting is that it often made long baths, sleep, skin care regimens, exercise, and meditation the focus. Don't get me wrong, all of those things and more are certainly fundamental in ensuring that we are caring for ourselves properly and effectively, and I think the two letters not getting nearly enough pub among gurus and regular citizens are N & O.
My self-care routine begins and ends with NO. As I see it: Saying No Is One of The Purest Forms of self-care! Saying NO to a request, an outing, a proposal, a partnership, or a task are just a few of the ways we assert and embrace who we really are or who we truly desire to be in that moment. The operative words were in that moment, remember, a no now isn't a no forever, and even after being armed with that knowledge, for many people, saying no feels uncomfortable, challenging, difficult and even problematic in some cases. Personally it's never been a problem and if I am being really honest I don't know whether it's more closely related to me being an only child (loved not spoiled) or me being a man (patriarchy is a motherfucker and as evolved as I think I am and as much as a feminist I believe myself to be, I am still very much a product of this fucked up ass system). I say no to all kinds of shit, big and small - and I am fairly sure it pisses some people off, but I grew up learning that doing things with, in French or Creole what we'd say mauvaise foi (bad faith aka shitty attitude) is not the way to do things at all. It's not that I say no just to be rude or an ass hole (which I certainly can be), but I really am saying NO because in that moment I am caring for myself, assessing my quality of life, and making a determination as to whether what I would be saying yes to will add value to my existence.
Some may read the last sentence and think that is one selfish ass mofo and you'd get no argument from me there, but is looking out for and caring for yourself in that way not one of the true pillars of self-care? Would we be calling people selfish if the word was "care self" instead of "self-care"? Who's gonna judge someone partaking in a little "care self"? The word care preceding the word self automatically makes the concept more palatable, at least to me, but since I can be pretty selfish I might not be the best judge. How can we expect to take all of those long baths, write in our journals for hours, moisturize in the morning, oil cleanse at night, get weekly massages, go to pilates, see your therapist, practice yoga, reconnect with our friends, weight train, grow and cook our own food, jet away to a far away lands monthly, actively masturbate and have sex if we're saying yes to every Tom/Tina, Dick/Dana, Harry/Harriett getting forceful about that weekly expensive ass brunch, that worthless networking thing and being their wing person at that seedy bar?
Shit, I'm getting tired just typing all the aforementioned self-care stuff, let alone doing them; which takes me back to my original point - SAYING NO. Your body, your mind, your soul - your rules. Simply put, self-care is putting yourself first and for me at times that starts with saying NO to those I love and care about the most as well as those who I don't know at all, but make a living selling headlines claiming to know what I need anyway. Saying no to something you love and have given your heart and soul to is gut wrenching, and in my case with Mi-Me, I had to ask myself whether I could keep saying YES to something that started making a habit of saying NO to me.
Please don't use this as an excuse to ditch all of the occasionally exhausting yet phenomenal acts of love and kindness you're doing to and for yourself, just make sure that you're checking in with yourself and making certain that your version of self-care is still serving its primary purpose, you; and if that is no longer the case - give yourself permission to say no!