On November 4th we set out to Nordstrom in the Montgomery Mall outside of Washington, D.C. An intimate forum on self-care was the goal, a movement that felt more like a wave was the result. We had no idea how many of you needed support, community and dialogue on the subject of self-care—though we should’ve. It’s something we all collectively were in need of as well. Author and wellness coach Alex Elle joined us and Elisa Kreisinger from Refinery29 moderated the conversation. Nordstrom set us up with the perfect venue to host the event and we left inspired, awakened and ready to plan the next one.
Our co-founder Nicki, a self-professed workaholic, provided one perspective, Alex, a self-care expert another, and then Elisa, host of Refinery29’s incredible podcast “Strong Opinions Loosely Held,” spoke to the cultural and political significance of the subject. A trifecta of support on all counts, in other words.
Elisa set the tone for the importance of self-care with her opening statement.
“Today, self-care is often associated with sheet masks, serums and expensive products that are supposed to make us feel like we have control over our lives in some way. It’s probably not a coincidence that Google searches for the term ‘self care’ reached a five-year high after the election,” Elisa went on to explain.
“But the history of self-care is interesting. The term ‘self care’ dates back to Audre Lorde, the black lesbian feminist poet who, as she’s suffering from cancer, wrote: “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
A strong statement that many of us—even today when “self-care” is a ubiquitous term in the modern lexicon—can’t quite justify. Or at the very least prioritize.
Elisa went on, “It was interesting to learn that the concept of self-care has political undertones because women are supposed to put other people first. Self-care is often seen as selfish. But how can we care for others if we haven’t cared for ourselves? Who will heal the healer? There’s a lot of confusion around what self-care means and how it manifests in our culture so I’m curious, how do you define self-care?”
Alex stated, “My mantra these days has been, in order to be my best, I have to create time, energy and space to recharge."
Nicki followed up, “Self-care is learning to forgive yourself and embracing your imperfections, being thoughtful about little moments throughout the day.”
Alex replied, “you have to do the work. Self-care is messy and it will look different for everyone.”
We opened the conversation up to our attendees and they asked incredibly tough but important questions. “I’ve been a caretaker my whole life, what does self-care even mean?”
Nicki, coming from a business background referenced the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. "In the book, the lesson is that if you pay yourself first, you will then build your wealth. For example, instead of paying your mortgage first, then all your bills and putting the crumbs in your savings, deposit your savings amount first then pay your mortgage, etc.
I feel this way about self-care, I need to take care of myself first, so I can better care for others... otherwise, I will be working at a loss. Make a deposit into yourself.”
“I was recently sexually assaulted, how do I recover and begin a self-care process?” a woman asked.
“I’m not going to tell you that time will make you feel better. But what I can say is that you are completely shattered right now and I know that. I see that. Grief is edgy and pointy. The edges of your pain are sharp and what time will do, is dull down those edges into softer curves. You will not feel better but it will be easier to live, in time,” said Nicki.
The entire room by the end was in tears—but it was incredibly cathartic.
SIX TAKEAWAYS FROM THE DAY
- Google searches for “self-care” have reached a 5-time high since the 2016 election.
- Self-care is not indulgent, it is self-preservation!
- Everyone’s definition of self-care is different.
- Self-care doesn’t mean a negation of pain. "Pay yourself first. Be your own mother,” Nicki explained.
- Dedicate 5 minutes a day to self-care and hold yourself to it. “Set an alarm and stop, drop and self-care,” laughed Alex Elle.
Self-care might be: face serums, manicures or anything else that makes you feel good. If that’s your definition, practice these things with intention.
The feedback was so overwhelming we’re going to be planning more events just like this. Watch our Instagram this Winter to hear as soon as we announce our next self-care forum, and join the conversation in our Instagram stories. We’ll be asking our followers a series of fill-in-the-blank-style questions in January to glean more tips—plus, we’re sharing some of our own learnings. Plus, our self-care tips for new moms are linked here.
If you liked what Alex Elle had to say you’ll love her new self-care journal, Today I Affirm. Order yours here.
THANK YOU again for joining us...and continuing to do the work. xo
Pictured left to right: Ila (Alex’s little), Nicki Radzley, Alex Elle, Ariel Stanton-Penkert from Nordstrom, Casey Jones from Doddle & Co, Elisa Kreisinger from Refinery29.
Photo credits: Erika Layne Photography