The Case for Self-Care: An Introduction to Existence as Resistance

by Jessica Lewis

This piece is an introduction to Voices' weekly Self-care Series focusing on specific healthy habits, examples of self-care, and a dedication to uplifting healthy spirits and souls of marginalized identities. Pieces are published every Friday.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” - Audre Lorde

At Swarthmore, we often are pushed to the very limits of our stress, yet are not sure when, exactly, these limits will be reached. Swarthmore pushes our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeings to incredible magnitudes. Not often discussed is how marginalized Swarthmore students are to keep their head above water.  How do you know what to do when you experience hardships, both academic and nonacademic? How do you formulate a balance of hard work and relaxation so that you are prepared to succeed? Systems of oppression, including but not limited to institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, ableism, religious biases, homophobia and transphobia, have the potential to inflict heavy burdens on the hearts and minds of Swarthmore's black and brown communities. Students of color at Swarthmore carry the pains and struggles of our marginalized communities on our backs. This massive weight, including our academic endeavors, forms an extra layer of stress which threatens to hinder our strivings for academic and nonacademic excellence. Often, people of color are taught to self-sacrifice. In this sense, practicing self-care may be one of the most revolutionary actions we can take to succeed.

Self-care is a way to recenter one’s mind and body, to step away from any conflicts and stressors. Self-care is a way to completely disengage from any unhealthy elements. Most importantly, self-care is about making time to cater to oneself the same way one caters to others. We must always prioritize our health. Self-care, when practiced correctly, is not a sporadic or self-destructive routine. Rather, it is healthily and readily infused into our daily lives.

For students of color who also take on the role of activism in the community, this work is exhausting. However, being weary and attempting to carry out any kind of work, either the work of being an academic or an activist, is not ideal. It is absolutely crucial for students of color to practice self-preservation so that we may continue the line of work to combat injustices, whether be it by being on the front lines, or simply living in our skin every single day. Our existence, in itself, is a resistance to the oppression our society has been built on for hundreds of years. We cannot forget this. We cannot forget that self-preservation, in the words of Audre Lorde, “is an act of political warfare”.