Over the past nine months, our nation and the world have been battered with one crippling blow after the next, from the spread and devastation of coronavirus to the murder of George Floyd to the deaths of beloved leaders and icons including Kobe and Gianna Bryant, John Lewis, Naya Rivera, Chadwick Boseman, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, all in conjunction with a looming presidential election that is sure to shake us to our core regardless of who is sworn in on January 20, 2021.
What do we do when the stakes continue to stack higher and higher to a point when we can’t glimpse whether or not there is even the hope of a win on the other side? How do we begin to process one trauma when another one strikes before we have time to catch our breath? At a time when the need for self-care seems to be at an all-time peak, particularly for those communities most impacted by 2020’s mounting heartaches – Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), in particular – is there room in our process for healing and protection to look outward and perhaps to be even more attentive to the needs and trauma of others?
Prior to 2020, we were already existing in a “me first” culture, perhaps even a “me above all” culture. We see entire industries centered on self-care and “treat yo-self” messaging. We are told and tell ourselves that we alone are in control of our destiny. And yet, all other devastations of 2020 aside, what COVID-19 alone has revealed is that we are a society completely at the mercy of one another, and we have far less control than we may want to believe. While self-love is absolutely critical in the formula for a healthy and joyful life, it’s not the only ingredient, and it’s not always the most important one. The decisions we make or don’t make, the measures we implement or do not, they have the power to impact people we’ve never even met. Rather than meditating on and indulging in the power of oneness, of me-ness, there is an even greater potential power of we.
The Thirty’s Audrey Noble speaks to the blurred line between self-care and taking care of our collective health:
There’s a difference between pampering yourself and taking care of your overall health, and oftentimes they are interconnected (yes, if the occasional retail therapy trip lifts your mood and makes you happy, that’s a good thing). But self-care is more than just a “treat yo’self” mentality. It is rooted in taking care of your mental and physical health to the best of your ability so that you can live a life that benefits yourself and those around you.
What the intensity and sobering nature of this year have revealed is that while self-care is absolutely critical, self-care is only as good as the impact it has on the environment around us. If we invest hours and dollars into our own peace of mind and even the escape from reality without it expanding our humanity and care for others, is our self-care in fact a self-centered practice of avoiding uncomfortable and difficult decisions, conversations, or relationships? Is it robbing us of the opportunity to love and heal alongside others, or to even notice the pain of others?
After the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, award-winning writer and community organizer Nakita Valerio tweeted a statement that went unexpectedly viral: “Shouting ‘self-care’ at people who actually need community care is how we fail people.” After seeing the several thousand shares, likes, and mentions of her words, it was clear to Valerio that “the sentiment seemed to resonate with people.” Later in a phone interview with Mashable, Valerio defined community care as “people committed to leveraging their privilege to be there for one another in various ways.”
This concept of community care strikes an acutely strong chord at this moment in our nation and in our world. As the wellness of communities grows increasingly unstable, there seems to be an audible crying out literally begging the question, “who will stand with us?” While community care is not a sexy, expensive aromatherapy bubble-bath kit, it delivers a product of infinitely more worth – the collective healing and progress of those around us. By all means, let us continue to care for ourselves and honor our needs. Then let us take our self-loved selves out into our communities to distribute that same concern and honor so that we might face 2021 stronger, more unified, and more cared for than any year before.
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Libby is an organizational development consultant focused on organizational culture, group facilitation, executive coaching, and leadership development. With a cross-disciplinary background rooted in psychology, team development, client engagement, organizational behavior, and social justice, Libby continues to pursue opportunities that challenge a status quo worldview in order to implement meaningful change in her life and the lives of others. Her passion for designing equitable, creative, and empowering organizations inspires her in all of the roles in her life, including her role as a wife and mother. Libby resides in Morristown, New Jersey with her husband, Tim, twin daughters, Willow and Everleigh, and their rescue dog, Dobby.