I am a big proponent of self-care. For me,self-care is an affirmation that my needs are valid. However, self-care is now big business in the consumerist culture that as American as apple pie. The big business of self-care is one that I find both intriguing and appalling. The problem with self-care business is that everyone is not allowed to care for themselves.
This whole thought about self-care as a business came about because the New York Times Magazine published a profile called ” The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow.” As the title implies, the article explores the ascendant of Ms. Paltrow as a purveyor of self-care via her Goop brand. Reading this article made me think about my college days when she first started pushing her newsletter out to the masses. There is a recipe I got from her that is still one of my favorite recipes. It is a plain apple and broccoli soup that is finished with lots of lemon juice. It is very similar to this recipe I found on the Goop blog for broccoli and arugula soup.
Anyway, let get back to the point of I was trying to make. Following the writer’s story about the trajectory of Ms. Paltrow’s brand as well as the rise of the self-care industry was interesting to me. One of the things that I love about the growth of self-care as an acceptable form of self-love is that it has empowered women to demand time for themselves. Time to read. Time to sleep. Time to do yoga. However, the rise of self-care as an industry as also meant that many underprivileged people are left feeling like they are failing at life.
One of the things that Ms. Paltrow talks about in the profile is how crucial it is for her to create an aspirational brand. A brand that is based on utilizing her privileged access to wealth that allows her to be able to create the kind of self-care she wants. While I do not begrudge her her privilege, I find it a bit naive not to have a conversation about how many women are not allowed to care for themselves properly. Forget about money because money is a huge barrier that I can’t possibly talk about all the ways it harms the underprivileged. Even when we do have the funds to create opportunities for ourselves, many women, especially black women are not allowed to care for themselves.
As a black plus size woman, one of my problems with self-care is the feeling of being unheard and unwelcome when I want to care for myself. One of the radical acts of self-care that I have done in the past few months is seeking help with my body. I went to the doctor, and I felt unheard and misunderstood. It was like everything I said boiled down to one thing; weight loss. I feel tired begat a lose the weight response. I am gaining weight at an unprecedented rate begat a eat less comment. Knowing I have a past eating disorder begat a sign up for weight loss clinic from my doctor. Through all of the emotional trauma of feeling as if my doctor intentionally did not want to acknowledge my mental health as a legitimate part of my well-being, I kept caring for myself by demanding a proper diagnosis and appropriate help.
Then I sign up for the gym, and I feel like my plus size body is being judged. One of the most uncomfortable parts of going to the gym for is the judgment. I can’t complain about the quality of service. Since I am fat, I can’t possibly understand how gyms work. I remember one time I went to use a treadmill at the gym and realized that the speed off. I couldn’t complain because it would have turned into “you are out of shape” instead of looking at the machine. This was despite the fact that, at that point, I had consistently been running for years so I knew what my body could or could not do. So fatphobia is another way that I am being denied full access to self-care.
As a black woman, I am treated with suspicion when I go into self-care service providers like nail salon. One manicurist refused to paint my nails until I had paid her. No one else had to pre-pay before getting nail color applied. One of my favorite things to do is to grocery shop. I love looking at new foods on the shelves and thinking about ways to use them. Even that has gotten ruined because I noticed that I was being followed at grocery stores. Apparently, I am not the right demographics for this particular store chain. Interestingly, I walk into stores, and I am not acknowledged because again not the right demographic. So even when I choose to self-care, the trauma that is inflicted on me in the process compounds the burden I am trying to offload.
I have tried to negate some of the problems with self-care. I now choose to self-care in ways that are centered around my safe space. I still like to explore new foods by reading food blogs and shopping online. My choice to learn how to sew and make my clothes has turned making into a form of meditation for me. I have also started exploring ways that I can bring yoga into my house. I am a big fan of Yoga With Adriene. This means I am constantly looking for ways to create a yoga space in my apartment for private practice.
While I sometimes wish that I could go into cool spaces and be at ease enough to enjoy the experience, I can’t take chances. Instead of giving up on caring for myself, I am centering my self-care practice in my safe space. I am also excited that more women of colors and plus-size women are creating experiences for my demographic because of the trauma that comes from the general population.