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Illustration of a woman sitting in a meditative pose among items used for various hobbies by Robin Martea
Illustration by Robin Martéa

‘Self Is Often Forgotten’: Black Women, Find Time to Love on Yourselves

Last year was the most horrific year experienced thus far for many of us. Fear and panic set in just from simply existing in this brand new pandemic reality. We’re just trying to maintain some form of normalcy and live day to day. 

Personally, as a mom, sometimes I forget to take care of myself while I tend to the needs of others. Many times, as mothers and wives, we ask ourselves: “Am I doing this right?” or “What can I do better?” while we are simultaneously plagued by self-doubt and societal expectations that sometimes we just can’t meet. 

Yes, it’s great to be self-aware and to do regular self-inventories for improvement and continued growth. However, it’s even better to be able to respond to those questions with the answer, “I am doing this my way.” And while there’s always room for improvement, it’s okay to say, “I am doing everything I can at this moment.” We rarely stop to give ourselves grace, to say “good job” or ask for help as we continuously take on the world. We think that if we don’t continue on, we’ll either break or appear weak.

“I had dabbled in gardening in the past, ” Elizabeth says. “I remember enjoying it, so I decided to garden again, which brought me immense pleasure.” Photo by Jonathan Hanna on Unsplash

‘We Can Enjoy the Moment.’

During this pandemic, stopping to evaluate all that I am or was doing pre-COVID was important, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had a break that wasn’t filled with more things to do for others or to fill a role. It was not that I was bothered by doing it or that I wasn’t getting it done, but somewhere along the way I had forgotten about me. I found myself scattered in thought at times, or overwhelmed and anxious about all I had to do to stay afloat. 

Stopping for a minute to regroup when COVID hit gave me an opportunity to take that break and allot that small measure of grace—not just to myself, but to my husband and kids. 

We don’t have to do it all. We can enjoy the moment. 

In time, I realized not only is it important that I be an uplifting source of hope for my family and provide them with mental breaks to maintain some form of normalcy, but in order for me to do do that successfully, I needed to take time to improve my own mental health and self-care, whether by biking, hiking, roller-blading or writing. No matter how I do it, that time for me has to be set apart.

Group of people standing outdoors in front of a green bus with life vests and oars smiling
Elizabeth Jordan and her husband Donald Jordan enjoy a sun-filled adventure with their three children at Capitol City Kayak in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Elizabeth Jordan

Our mind often tells us that taking time for self—especially when we have a million other things we could be doing for others or tasks to be completed—is selfish. But imagine a water source continually pouring out its contents to supply the needs and wants of the surrounding plants. Eventually, it becomes empty and has to take time to be refilled. We are the vessels that God has graciously poured into and, sometimes, we get to a point where our reserves are low or completely empty. Giving ourselves that needed time to be refilled and restored is necessary. Being a spiritual woman of faith, I’ve learned that God is definitely a god of restoration, but it takes me going the extra mile to tend to self before I can receive His restoration and allow myself to be revived.

During the self-exploration phase, I thought of what self-care looked like for me. Many people find getting pedicures and manicures to be relaxing; some take trips to the beach or travel; some dine and hang out with friends; For me—especially toward the beginning of the pandemic—there was none of that. I had to learn to think about myself and how to narrow down my own interests. Then, I began to explore self and the various ways I can tend to me. 

The Road to Rediscovering Self

I had dabbled in gardening in the past, and I remember enjoying it, so I decided to garden again, which brought me immense pleasure. I loved seeing the literal fruits of my labor and the flowering bushes as they emerged from the different corners of my lawn. I remembered the fun I had as a child being outdoors—exploring, biking, roller-blading—so I picked those things back up and went hiking at local parks. (Lefleur’s Bluff has the best scenic views of the Pearl River!). 

I even tried kayaking with Capital City Kayaking, which provided a calm, socially distanced family outing. I found enjoyment in these things—I could do them alone or invite my kids to come along. I picked up journaling again after remembering how writing was my escape from the real world and provided a safe space to release and express my thoughts. 

View of the Pearl River
Pictured is a scenic view of the Pearl River from Lefleur’s Bluff State Park. Photo by Elizabeth Jordan

All of this is to say: It’s perfectly OK to rediscover yourself as a woman and engage in some form of self-care, no matter what age or level of life you’re at right now.

So what does self-care look like for a wife, a full-time employee, a mom of two, and graduate student with pets, a household to run, and who often bites off more than I can chew? Self-care looks delightful—five stars across the board, and I definitely recommend it.

Take the time to restore yourself mentally and love yourself in ways that you need to be loved. Feed those parts of your soul that at night cry out and sometimes leave your pillow stained with tears and your heart a little tender. 

Breathe, focus and provide yourself with the same grace and care that you give to others because you deserve it. 

Don’t  be afraid to ask yourself, “What does self-care look like for me?” and then have at it.

This essay is part of the “Equity and Resilience: The Impact of COVID-19 on Mississippi’s Black Women” reporting collaboration between the Mississippi Free Press and the Jackson Advocate, supported by the Solutions Journalism Network. Please write [email protected] to submit MFP Voices essays or to join upcoming virtual solutions circles.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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