We carry the weight of the world whether in ministry or activism and for some of us, both. We sacrifice because many times it’s who we are.
Recently online in a group I began for women activists, I shared a transparent message about compassion, including compassion for ourselves on this journey. The conversation evolved into stories about our experiences. There were stories about stress that oftentimes manifests physically (poor health, weight gain and weight loss), and self-neglect that manifests itself emotionally (resentment, bitterness and discontentment.)
With so much happening in the world, self care is really important because our bodies’ matter. If our health is not in tact, how will we change a world we are purposed to impact?
Frequently and in many faiths, harmful messages are taught that women who practice their faith through self-sacrifice symbolizes strength. I disagree because at what cost are we sacrificing and to the standards of whom?
Sometimes placing ourselves first is a faithful act and isn’t selfish at all, but necessary. In fact, it was Audre Lorde who exclaimed “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self care, a phrase that has become cliche since it is commonly used without intent or practice, is a struggle at times. Especially since in addition to our service, many of us have families who depend on us. It is important to designate at least one day a week with the intentions of achieving it.
I was reminded by a friend, “We are in a unique time in the fight for justice. In my lifetime I have never seen so many groups standing up and demanding to be heard simultaneously.” I agree. From protests and unrest in the streets of Chicago and Ferguson to the campuses of the University of Missouri and Yale, we feel it necessary to get angry and act. And, through social media, we are inundated with information about issues we are passionate about instantaneously. We see opposing opinions and feel it necessary to debate. It can become too much to handle, especially when we feel purposed to make a difference. With this feeling of obligation, it is so very easy to get caught up and abandon the most important person: ourselves.
In this season, let’s start change within us as we change our worlds to ultimately change the world. As we look into history, we see sisters who were dedicated to causes that were neglected and left to fend for themselves prior to their untimely deaths. Some died prematurely of preventable illnesses–alone and even broke.
Because our bodies matter, prioritizing our health and choosing a few things to commit to daily that will lead to better outcomes in our lives is critical. We are in the midst of the holidays and caring for ourselves is important. It’s the little things we can do–the small steps we can take that will make a difference in our own lives. Spending time wisely and in our faith is necessary. Unplugging (even if it means deactivating accounts) from social media periodically and everything that ‘beeps’ in our lives can be challenging, however it is significant to the well being of our mental health.
Walking away from toxic relationships and making time for those meaningful relationships in our lives are important. As well as making boundaries and holding fast to them is self care too. In essence, when we place ourselves as a priority in our own lives we are committing a revolutionary act because in this fight, our bodies matter.
Kimm D. Lett, juris doctor, currently resides on the gulf coast in her home state of Alabama. She is an advocate and consultant; founder of sheSpeaksUP! She blogs at kimmdlett.com where she focuses on the intersectionality of race, gender and class.