Self-Care vs Community Spaces for Black Women

Communal spaces exhaust me. 

“Community care” as a Black woman (eldest daughter) and a therapist doesn’t quite hit for me. There are moments where it’s deeply unsatisfying as people pretend I require a level of care beyond their comprehension and skill level. Part of this is most definitely attributed to being in community with people I shouldn’t have been—an important variable to call out. 

Another part of it, though, is knowing when I’m being typecast into the role of caregiver. Even the most well-meaning people can get comfortable with you showing up in a way that benefits them. Calling it out still leaves you depleted because you had to lean into conflict rather than receive the care you needed in the first place—added exhaustion. 

So for me to be able to enter group spaces and be well, I need to take care of myself independently of the group. I can’t rely on the group to help me regulate because I never know in what capacity I’ll be called on. It’s that ever-looming threat of “Is there a doctor on the plane?” and you were trying to catch some sleep on the first vacation you could take in 6 months on your way to the white sandy beach.

In collectivist cultures, it’s taboo to say the things I’m saying. I remember telling my mother sometime recently that I absolutely hide out at my apartment just minutes down the road because my family makes me tired. The look of horror on her face truly sent me because she knew exactly what I meant but found reason to have hurt feelings. There is never a time I visit where I’m not immediately asked to do a list of things she couldn’t figure out how to do on her own and “since I’m there” I can get them done. So I just stared back at her and blinked hard and said, IDK WHY YOU’RE LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT *INSERT FIRST NAME* LOL

There’s nuance to collectivism. Individualist cultures are built on shoddy values and weak ties that are useless when real support is needed. But self-preservation should never be entirely out of mind. Black women prioritizing the self undermines the essence of how this country has been able to advance on our backs. I think it’s time that priority was reclaimed.


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