Self Care in the Black Community: A Tradition and Rite of Passage

Self-care is a generationally practiced tradition that Black people have absorbed and observed in some capacity in all of their lives. Though it began as a process—both tangible and conceptual— to preserve our collectivism, it has cultivated into a rite of passage that takes various forms. Whether it was an experiential process like the first visit to the beauty shop to soak up the essence of our community or receiving a physical heirloom that’s been passed down from one generation to the next — we all have something to cherish. Regardless of the form, tradition is an irreplaceable experience that we have practiced to honor the past and unite it with the present.

In recent times, the concept of self-care has seemingly been diluted into a primarily physical practice. But truth be told, the Black community has passed down values and personal practices toward preserving ourselves long before it was a trend. Here are practices to get you started with implementing self-care as a tradition.

Importance of Identity

As James Baldwin once eloquently said, “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” To possess knowledge of who and where we come from is a privilege not to be overlooked. While access to our familial history isn’t accessible for everyone, making the most of what you have can be monumental in the process of understanding ourselves. Take advantage of any connections to your past by engaging in dialogue with your elders or seeking assistance from resources to be informed about your ancestral heritage.

Self Prioritization

An unspoken habit of many inside the Black community is to put family and other loved ones ahead of ourselves, even if it means hindering ourselves. However, just as it takes practice to create a habit, it will take intentional deprogramming to release us of this tradition. Prioritizing yourself will look different for everyone, but the aim is to ensure that you are identifying what honoring yourself looks and feels like — even if it doesn’t align with others’ expectations of you. Do whatever empowers you to embody and feel like the best version of yourself.

Mental Wellness

Who and how we are all begins with the state of our mind. As a people, we have always practiced some internal practices for peace and sanity. For some generations, that looked primarily like religion or spirituality, and as we’ve evolved, so have our options. So many options are available, including seeking outside support from a licensed professional. No matter the route you choose, the only thing that matters is that you’re expressing your right to partake in what makes you well.

Updated: May 31, 2024 — 6:02 pm