Over the last few years, the term “self-care” has become a buzzword in the wellness and mental health space. “Self-care” has started to mean everything and anything individuals are seeking that nurtures their mental well-being. And with so many stressors falling outside our window of control, practicing self-care has become highly recognized as a necessity for our physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual well-being.

Self-care can look like going on a walk or moving your body through exercise, yoga, or dance. It can be eating a balanced meal, resting, getting enough sleep, enforcing boundaries, and challenging your negative thoughts.

It became clear that the message of ‘self-care being too pricey’ was making its rounds.

But self-care is not just a personal act, it’s a political one that expands to our communities. And we can recognize this thanks to activist Audre Lorde, whose words played a huge role in bringing awareness to how self-care is a revolutionary act: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Finding self-care was an awakening to understanding our true humanistic needs. It let us harness the power and ability to nurture ourselves through rituals and practices like being connected to the earth or being mindful of our breath. Over time, however, the term “self-care” became trendy, and whenever there’s a trend, capitalism will attach a price tag to it.

When capitalism got its claws into self-care, the definition fell under the guise of “treat yourself.” Soon the term was attached to booking a getaway and buying new electronics, skin care products, or anything that suggested it would bring you happiness. Although there’s nothing wrong with these acts, “treat yourself” in some ways nullifies the message that self-care is also inside work. It’s free, easily accessible, and equitable when we all learn to investigate what we need.

While working with my clients, I would get pushback on the idea of self-care as a mental health practice when assigning them homework. It became clear that the message of “self-care being too pricey” was making its rounds. They assumed self-care meant treating themselves to a good time out or the next new product they felt they couldn’t afford. They didn’t even realize being in therapy was an act of self-care.

When Black people ask white allies to change their wellness feeds, it’s for a reason.

It made me think about the conversations with friends, family, and colleagues who thought the same thing. Many believed they couldn’t “afford” to be healthy because self-care seemed too expensive to try. For others, it felt unattainable due to white wealth, its power, and its impact on Black and brown communities.

Self-care became a prominent tool for the Black community due to us being disproportionately affected by issues, from low quality medical care to the constant exposure to trauma on all systemic levels. Self-care became a necessity for survival. But when we examine the wellness field and see that wellness coaches are predominantly white, or even that the psychology workforce is 84 percent white, it can feel as if health, wellness, and self-care are for the sustaining of white bodies.

This is why it’s critical for the wellness field to be diverse and for wellness brands to expand that diversity to social media marketing. Black influencers are vital to the self-care movement just as much as white women are. Too often white bodies are the picture of mental health and campaigns, which can lead to the harmful exclusion of those who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color).

When Black people ask white allies to change their wellness feeds, it’s for a reason.

Because topics related to self-care and mental health are not only about booking your next vacation or taking a warm bath, they’re also about diversifying the picture of health. Showing the disparities in healthcare is necessary for fighting oppression, dismantling racist systems, and navigating through a world that washes and repeats its ugly and racist behaviors.

When viral videos of Black people dying at the hands of police circulate, we need self-care taught by Black experts.

If you’re a white or non-Black ally who is committed to practicing anti-racism, you must also commit to diverse and inclusive mental health practices and reflect on who you learn from.

  1. Do you follow Black and brown therapists, coaches, and wellness advocates?
  2. Do you invest your funds in Black-owned mental health businesses or organizations?
  3. Does your favorite white mental health therapist or wellness coach discuss systemic issues the same way they discuss inner healing?
  4. Do you follow brands that book Black wellness speakers?
  5. Do you support Black wellness brands?
  6. Do the white wellness podcasters you listen to feature only white guests?
  7. Do the wellness accounts you follow only talk about self-care through paid brand promotions?

I encourage you to recognize that your commitment to practicing anti-racism is also a commitment to dismantling white supremacy and capitalism and redistributing white wealth. Self-care is necessary because community care is a part of the goal of living happier, healthier lives.

Minaa B. is a speaker, writer, author of the book Rivers Are Coming, and a licensed psychotherapist based in NYC. She talks about issues ranging from self-care to social justice. Learn more about her work at minaab.com and follow her on Instagram.