True Leadership: My Journey To Self-Care

“True leadership starts with self-care.” ~CW Younger

As women of color, we are the caretakers, the superheroes, and the nurturers. We hold everything up while the world is crumbling around us. My friends say, “Wow! I don’t know how you do everything and still have time for yourself. I had time to do everything because I did not take time to myself.”

I don’t remember my mother ever really taking the time out to care for herself. She was a single mother who worked multiple jobs to provide an amazing childhood for her two daughters. Although it is commendable the way she devoted herself to providing for us, and I love my mother for her sacrifices, I knew that I never wanted to be the kind of parent or spouse who forgot themselves while building everyone else.

Fast forward to my recent past, where I accepted a fellowship at a prestigious Black organization. I saw it as an opportunity to build a career, serve my people, and establish myself in the environmental field. Unfortunately, the demands of battling harassment in the workplace, raising two rambunctious boys with extracurricular activities, spending time with my wife, chauffeuring everyone around, getting evicted from an apartment, and searching for another place to live started to wear and tear on my body. Also affected by the racial climate in the United States while raising Black boys in America, I found myself in a deep depression. Some days I would come home and sit in the dark on the bathroom floor and just cry. All of the stress culminated in being diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot, in my right leg. I was on blood thinners and I could not keep up my normal pace. I feel like that blood clot was my body’s way of saying “Girl, hold up! Sit down. Please, take care of me.” In 2016, I started therapy. When my therapist asked me what do I do for myself, I really did not have an answer. Soon after, I quit my job and started building my empire: For Colored Girls Who Lead. I am not telling everyone to quit their job, but sometimes we need take big risks to move onward and upward. For the sake of my life and sanity, I really needed to take care of myself.

In my experience, people get really offended by the concept of caring for oneself. Self-care is seen as selfish and lazy. How are we expected to go full throttle on an empty tank of gas? Self-care is like putting $25 on pump 8 to fill the gas tank, getting the oil changed, tires rotated, and a full-service car wash. Taking time, resources, and energy for oneself is healthy and necessary to continue to move forward.

For me, self-care manifested itself in therapy sessions and taking a good old nap. When we were younger, we fought the notion of taking a nap, but naps are magic! Plus, I love when I do Self-Care Friday on Facebook, because it gives a reminder to myself to care for CW. Now that I am an at-home entrepreneur, I still battle with the fact that I cannot be everything to everyone. But with a little bit of self-care, I can be the superhero I need to be for my family.

Here are a few things self-care tips to try:

  • Take yourself on a date. Being able to treat yourself (even if you can only afford an ice cream cone) is a wonderful way to rest and decompress.
  • Meditate. Just one minute of focused deep breathing can make a huge difference.
  • Exchange that juice or soda for a cup of water. Drinking water can help with digestion, weight loss, clears your skin and decreases your chances of a heart attack.
  • Dance. Turn on Pandora or your favorite song and just dance. It’s cliché but dance like no one else is watching.
  • Take a nap. As adults, there is no explanation necessary. NAPS=Life.
  • Write It Out. Sometimes we just need to get it out and then we feel better. Buy a small notebook and take 10 minutes each day to write about whatever you’re feeling. Good or bad.
  • Affirmations. Writing or repeating positive daily affirmations is a great way to learn to be kind to yourself.
  • Get your nails/hair done. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes I want to look cute too.

As Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I have experienced working for someone, who did not take care of herself, and that lack of care manifested in her interactions with everyone around her. Just as she rushed herself from hotel to hotel and train station to airport, she rushed every interaction with others. Women of color are the pillars of their communities, and we are often charged with taking care of the village. For once stand up and say, “I matter, I come first.” The only way for us to deal with our problems is to deal with ourselves first.

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