We hear the cliche sayings all the time: Happy wife, happy life, put your own oxygen mask on first, take care of yourself so you can take care of others, and the list goes on. But somehow, fancy phrases aside, when it comes to real life, as women, we constantly put ourselves last on the list–if we make it on there at all. It doesn’t matter if you’re a corporate diva, mompreneur, single working mother, or a combination of all three, on a daily basis, our to-do lists are a mile long and we seem to put everyone’s needs on the calendar EXCEPT for our own.
It’s time to change that narrative. The one where we feel uncomfortable or hesitant as black women to take care of ourselves. The one where where we feel like it’s indulgent to spend time or money on things that bring us joy. And the one that has us questioning “who am I to give myself time?”. We want to challenge that narrative and ask you to ask yourself, who are you not to?
It’s Time to Say YES to You
So what does saying yes to yourself look like? Well, depending on what you have going on in your life, it may take on different forms. For many women who are wearing multiple hats (mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends) saying yes might simply look like “me time”. It may be heading to the salon solo, not just to get your hair done, but to relax, have girl talk, and maybe a glass of wine. Saying yes, might be real literal like when your stylist asks you if you want the facial too or the gel polish that costs a bit more. And many times saying yes doesn’t involve material things at all. It might be saying yes to taking a day off of work, for no reason except you needed time to be. Or going to that play that you’ve been waiting for someone to go with, by yourself. You could say yes to pursuing that creative project that’s been on your mind or taking that brunch tour because it’s something you enjoy.
Think about all the times you say yes to other people, to the needs of your family, to work, or whatever else comes your way. Yes, comes so easily then. And think about how often, you see others say to themselves. Men don’t turn away from the things they need to feel healthy and whole. It’s time you do the same. To say yes to you. Understand that this is bigger than words. Saying yes is a commitment to yourself and your well-being.
Why Saying Yes Matters
Because self-care is essential care. We view taking care of ourselves as something that we’ll get around to “when we have a chance”. Whether we’re talking about things as simple as getting a mani/pedi to bigger things like taking a mental health day. We tend look at self-care as optional instead of a priority and this is one of our biggest mistakes. Pay attention to how you feel when you’ve gone days without taking a moment for yourself. You’ll notice you’re short tempered, irritated, or even weary. When you’re not spending real time to take care of you, you’re not operating at your full potential. And burnout is real–and inevitable–if you’re constantly running on fumes.
Too many black women are waiting until everyone and everything else is out of the way for us to start living our best lives. And for many us, that means we’ll be waiting forever. We need to start setting boundaries for our families and putting a system in place that prioritizes our needs.
Excuses You Need to Let Go
I’m too busy. People are depending on me. Self-care is indulgent. I shouldn’t spend money on that. I could be doing something more productive. It’s amazing the excuses we come up with when it comes to something that should be so simple. This notion of the strong woman–especially the strong black woman–is embedded so deeply, it seems unimaginable for us to indulge ourselves. But if you think about it, all of these excuses are exactly WHY we should be prioritizing ourselves.
“We’re busy.” Yup, we are. Running businesses, households, finances. We deserve a break. Just like men treat themselves to a beer or a few hours at the gym after a long day, we should be treating ourselves as well. “People are depending on us.” Which is why we need to be at our best. How can we possibly take care of others when we’re falling so short when it comes to taking care of ourselves. “Self-care is indulgent.” Maybe, but it’s okay to indulge yourself. Let go of the mindset that we aren’t allowed to indulge from time to time. “I shouldn’t spend money on that.” On what? That cleaning service, that nanny, that dress you’ve been eyeing? Give yourself the permission to spend on things you enjoy or allow you time to do the things that really matter.
And It’s Okay to Say No
Want to know a secret truth that will change your life? No, is a complete sentence. In the midst of your journey to saying yes to yourself, remember, it’s okay to say no too. No to the events that intrude on your personal time. No to your loved ones that are stretching you beyond capacity. No to the invitations and the requests when they interfere with your plans. Say no, and keep it moving.
So let’s recap. Saying yes is not selfish, it’s self-care. Say yes to things that matter to you and say no when something comprises your peace. Let go of the old excuses, narratives, and mindsets that told us women don’t need time, space, and breaks. Take care of you, make yourself a priority, and always remember:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~ Audre Lorde