As humans, we have an innate desire to connect and to belong. We aren’t designed to carry everything we experience alone. We’re built to be in community, to support and uplift one another. Somewhere along the lines, it became glorified to do everything alone. We’ve been taught that asking for support is a sign of weakness and that when we operate with the least amount of support possible we are stronger or more capable. This trickles into every facet of our world and starts to affect the ways we care for ourselves and our communities.
With shame surrounding asking for help and seeking support, we begin to isolate ourselves and deprioritize self-nurturing practices. We’ve all been there, when we disconnect from ourselves and our communities because of busy schedules full of tasks and to-dos. Whether it be shame or fear of being viewed as selfish, our connection to self-care starts to make its way to the back of the to-do list, and is often erased completely. But we need these practices, for ourselves and our communities, to remain aligned as we move through this life.
Finding Connection to Self-Care
What does it look like to truly tap into self-care? Self-care is a multifaceted exploration that creates space for overall well-being. To care for yourself is not a one-time act but a continuous exploration of holding space for yourself with intention and purpose. These are practices rooted in nurturing yourself, without the need to justify or explain anything. All too often self-care is viewed as a luxury or something that needs to be earned when, in reality, self-care is an essential part of our existence as human beings. You deserve to care for yourself deeply simply because you exist in this world.
For many years of my life, particularly the beginning phases of exploring my gender, I was rooted in the belief that caring for myself was something I needed to prove I was worthy of. There is still so much invalidation of trans and queer communities, identities, and lived experiences in Western society, particularly the experiences of Black trans women and BIPOC trans and gender expansive folks. The various intersections of identities create layers of barriers to self-care. As trans people, we are often fighting for the ability to simply exist, let alone feel worthy of self-nurturing practices. And still, no matter who we are or how we each show up in this world, we are deserving of being nurtured and cared for.
When I began my gender journey I was focused on attaining an end goal – something that would finally validate my existence enough so I could prove my worth. I can’t even tell you what that end goal was because this journey has no end goal. Much like self-care practices as a whole, there is no destination, rather an evolution and continuous exploration. I most certainly did not believe I was worthy of giving myself care, let alone asking for support from others. It stemmed from fear that if I asked for help my identity would be questioned or I would be shamed for not being able to “handle it” on my own.
Since I wasn’t empowered to ask for support from those around me I was operating mostly on my own and I realized that I needed to be on my own side. I started to create practices with the simple intention to nurture myself, no explanation needed. Meditation and yoga practices continued to support me and I was really intentional about carving out space in my schedule to just be. Even with these practices, something was missing. It left me living in separate worlds; one where I was on a journey towards becoming my most authentic self and another where I was not acknowledging any of the new explorations being discovered at all.
Going through any journey in this life alone is difficult. It’s especially hard going through raw and vulnerable journeys with a lack of community. Not being surrounded by community impacted the way I showed up for myself far more than I knew it was at the time. We learn how to love and be loved in community and with that element missing I was at a loss.
Discovering Community Care
In community, there is a certain depth of care that can be reached in a way it simply could not be if we were to operate alone. Community care amplifies and uplifts self-care exponentially. So, what is community care?
Community care is a recognition that we all rely on each other to survive and, more so, to thrive. It is a commitment to using our own power and privilege to uplift those within and outside of our reach. In community, we can support those around us, and beyond, with the tools and resources that we have, knowing that support will be shared with us in the moments we need it most.
At a certain point, I let go of the shame and fear I was carrying when I realized it was creating more barriers than connections. I started to reach out for support and connect with folks around me that I shared experiences with. In community, I felt a sense of wholeness and belonging that I hadn’t known before. I still remember what it felt like the first time I was able to openly talk about the nuances of my experience; I finally felt like I wasn’t alone. Connecting with communities that could see me fully was vastly empowering. The depth of care and understanding we are able to extend ourselves is multiplied when there is a community to share with and in.
Asking for support, seeking help, these are not signs of weakness, these are signs of the strength and courage to not only access all the things that support you, but to support all those around you in the process.
Try shifting towards community care in these ways:
- Host or attend a community gathering and support groups
- Go to meetings and rallies led by local organizers
- Show up virtually for folks – ‘like’ posts on social media, comment with love and share insights, send thoughtful text messages
- Show up in person, if you have capacity – offer to cook a meal for someone going through a tough time, go to a friend's new show or class, show up for a workshop or event.
- Support locally owned businesses–connect with the owners to deepen community.
- Volunteer–seek local in-person opportunities or volunteer for a community support hotline.
- Make a playlist for someone
- Hold space for co-working sessions
- Offer what resources you have when you can and be open to receiving support when you need it or it is offered
The people we are connected to, in whatever capacity it might be, are reminders that we are worthy of being nurtured and being seen. As you navigate what community care means to you, even and especially in the moments where you might feel alone, know that there are connections out there waiting to be discovered by you.
Community care and self-care are inherently connected because none of us exist in a vacuum, we are always in relationship with the people around us. As we navigate this life and face various challenges and successes, remember your inherent connection to community. Share the moments of struggle and allow yourself to be supported, knowing that you don’t have to hold any of it alone. And share in celebration, allow the joy and sweetness to expand to all those around you.