Reasons why self-care is a radical act for African girls

Even though self-care is becoming a norm, this concept is still quite foreign to African girls, this is what I am going to de-bunk on this post.

Conversations of self-care are becoming more and more common globally, well, at least on the internet. We live such high stressful lives that we had completely forgotten about the importance of self-preservation, we need to be reminded to be kind to our bodies and our psychological needs, my hope this that this act truly becomes second nature to a point where it doesn’t need hashtags and such.

African girls are groomed to serve

Even in this day and age, where girls are born into new laws that allow girls to be educated and choose their life paths, the role of serving has not quite diminished. Even though while growing up, girls wake in the early mornings to attend school with boys, when they return home they return to endless chores, while boys can run around free with their friends. If you were to ask the elders why this is so, the simple answer would be “that is what girls are meant to do”.

In family gatherings and events you would find the women killing their backs cooking, cleaning, and serving men from mornings till evenings. Women hardly enjoy the events as their constantly cooking and washing dishes. They never get to look pretty and simply just sit there and enjoy music and everyone’s company, they spend the events in their flip flops and aprons, their jobs are to make sure that everyone is well-fed and happy. Nobody checks on them and nobody cares, things have always been that way after all.

Women have evolved and now have careers to tend to. They contribute financially to the household, but this does not necessarily mean that their household responsibilities have been eased to accommodate their jobs. Women would leave their homes early in the mornings with their husbands but they are the only ones who clock into their “second jobs” at home in the evenings and weekends. When one would raise the issue of fatigue, they would be told ” my child, a woman’s job is never done”.

African girls are taught to suffer well

A lot of African women are commended for how much pain and struggle they can take on without showing signs of weakness. African girls are not allowed to soft and delicate, they are not allowed to cry out for help, instead, they must the person people run to for help. While growing up, I was quite a soft and highly emotional child, I could not even handle being shouted at, if you would raise your voice at me I would ball out and cry all day. That type of personality trait was seen as a weakness and my friends and school teachers would tell me I need to fix that, they would tell me I need to be strong and not crumble even if I feel physical pain. My story is not unique, I am certainly sure that many women experienced this while growing up.

This kind of grooming makes women numb, it makes them feels as though they are not doing enough if they do not feel some form of suffering.

African girls are taught to normalize hyperactivity

From early on African girls are taught to be early risers, older women would even tell you that lazy girls will never find husbands and if they do find husbands, their husbands will grow tired of their laziness and will send them back home to their parents. If you had thoroughly cleaned the house the day before, you would be told that there is always something to do in the house.

In most households, girls sleeping in or watching TV all day is unheard of. The only time you can sleep in on a weekend or holiday is when you are too ill to get up. The time to act foolish like normal kids/teenagers is very limited too. I remember many times going to a friend’s houses and they would tell me they cannot get out of the house and play because they have chores to do, this is while their brothers would be running around and playing in the streets.

These women always feel as though something is not quite right when they are relaxing and doing nothing. My mother is that way, she has mentioned that sitting around all day is completely unnatural for her, fortunately for her children, she had no issues us taking day-offs and sleeping all day, or reading books or watching TV all day.

In conclusion

To have a healthy relationship with rest and hard work, black girls need to unlearn and relearn a whole lot. At first, taking time to take care of yourself will come with a heap of guilt, you will feel as though you do not deserve it. You might even feel a little bit of anxiety, thinking that there is something productive you should be doing instead of sitting and basking in the sun. The trick is to continue until it feels normal until it feels like second nature, until it feels WRONG to NOT do it!

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