Self-care requires knowing how and when to say “no” to certain expectations and obligations. It requires healthily backing away when we need space and “me time”.
Maybe some of you thought and even said “duh” when you read those sentences. If the ability and necessity to say “no” is a common thought or common sense, why is saying “no” so difficult when it comes to family responsibilities and work responsibilities? We can often feel required to exhaust ourselves and make our own mental-emotional-physical health the last thing on our list of priorities—even absent on the list. Most girls and women are culturally taught, and culturally reminded throughout their lives, that their primary purpose and ultimate existence is to nurture, care for, and rescue other people. This includes saving family, sometimes saving friends, and sometimes saving the workplace. Women of the African diaspora are often expected to be ready to catch someone who “falls” or “drops the ball” and clean up someone’s negative feelings, mistakes, and lackluster abilities.
Is that what we want on our backs? Love and respect should not be contingent upon mentally-emotionally-physically hurting ourselves. This is comparable to how womanhood, black womanhood, and overall blackness should not be contingent upon suffering, unhappiness, and exhaustion. I am a staunch black feminist who believes in gender equality, liberation, and freedom to define our own life purpose, happiness, and fulfilment.
Regardless of how outwardly strong and confident women of the African diaspora depict ourselves and are often culturally depicted, we need to remember we are not immune to social and cultural influences. We are not immune to influences of family, friends, and sociocultural messages. We are not immune to relationships and experiences that have a positive and negative impact on our mental-emotional-physical health. If it was not for these relationships and experiences, most of us would not be so conscious of self-love and self-care nor would we be part of the NoireCare.com community. Instead, we would pretend we have infinite wisdom, perfection, and are ever-so-powerful. We would pretend our mental-emotional-physical health is effortless, thoughtless, and simply “who we are”.
But it is not that simple. We can appreciate people in our lives and expect people to be aware and respectful of their words and actions. We can require people give us our individual mental-emotional-physical space. And if we cannot require this of people, we need to use our “on/off” switch to create space and maintain mental-emotional-physical health. This gives new meaning to “just say ‘no’”.
How do you “just say ‘no’” to certain expectations and obligations?