By Meg Grant, Age 21
When I lived at the University of Connecticut, amid mounting allegations of Title IX violations and heinous acts of institutional racism, self-care was an essential element of survival. Yet despite its necessary role in my life, and the lives of most activists, self-care is rarely executed. We talk about how everyone needs to take time away when they have reached their emotional, psychological, and physical limits. We remind ourselves that we are still good people even if we need to say “no” to advocacy opportunities. We have self-care contracts where we have written down a variety of ways in which to care for ourselves. But even with all of these reassurances that self-care is not only okay to engage in, but a fundamental part of activism, in the end, how many of us actually do it enough? And if we don’t, why not? Why is self-care so difficult?
I may be making a vast generalization by saying this, but I think that most activists are more empathetic than the average person. They have a capacity of identifying with the struggles of multiple communities, and understanding the place of their privilege in social progress. Due to this heightened sense of pathos, many activists have trouble denying people assistance when they are in need. Therefore, the combined qualities of sympathy and empathy make it difficult for advocates to place their own needs before those of others. If you have a personality where you like to please people on top of being an activist (like me) the struggle to find time for self-care increases exponentially.
But, part of being an advocate, activist, and feminist (all of which I believe are inextricably combined) is working through multifaceted ruptures to improve both the intersectionality and efficacy of your work- two outcomes which cannot be achieved by operating in a compromised state. We do our best work when we have chosen to forgive ourselves, and when we are operating with full function of our capabilities. Knowing this, we are doing a disservice to feminism as a whole by not allowing ourselves time for healing and self-care.
We can liken the process of healing and self-care to that of a wound. A cut that never heals gets infected, grows deeper, and more dangerous for the body. Whereas a cut that heals may scar, and may be torn open again at a later date, but overall it makes the skin tougher. Most activists have wounds- traumas that have strengthened their passion for justice. Yet it is up to us how we deal with these wounds. Do we let them fester, allow ourselves to be cut deeper, and feel more pain; or, do we nurture them until they heal and then come back to our work even stronger than before?
Self-care is about so much more than just taking a break from the draining work of activism- it is about reclaiming our purpose and ourselves.
Here are some links with tips on how to engage in self-care that may be right for you:
Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.