Self-care. Where haven’t you seen this oft-misused and broadly defined term? A few mainstream media outlets have taken this practice and ran with it. As a result, the imagery around caring for the self has involved facemasks, expensive treatments, and candles that aren’t always accessible or applicable to marginalized or low-income groups. In the last few years, my self-care is giving back where I can, building a solid community and paying it forward. I’m trying to remind myself that caring for both my own well-being while still showing tenderness and kindness to others is a radical act.
Why is giving back important?
Audre Lorde’s quote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” comes to mind when discussing the concept of self-care. But beyond the sheet mask and robe aesthetics, my peers have found that sometimes self-care is hard, it’s doing things you don’t want to do, (like KonMari’ng your cluttered home, going to the bank). It’s pushing boundaries to healthier behaviors and taking steps to create a community.
We live in a world constantly on-the-go and juggling a multitude of responsibilities, something is bound to fall to the wayside. It’s common to move around often, to avoid rising rent costs and trying to find the things that “spark joy” can feel like an unimportant activity.
I’ve moved a total of 9 or 10 times over the last 6 years and it felt really hard to find my feet. Once we found our first long-term place, I wanted to find a way to ground myself and feel like I belonged in my community. So in 2015, I started my own donation drives, working with organizations in my city and doing regular drop-offs with my friends. And in a tumultuous time in my life, giving back to others helped me find perspective, gratitude, and friends who had similar values.
So, how can you create your own version of giving back?
Volunteer and donate your time
Don’t have the cash to spare at this point but want to give back? Spend some time researching local organizations near you that need that extra manpower. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there are soup kitchens that need fresh produce and volunteers to dish up. If you’d prefer to help our furry companions, check out local animal shelters that may need consistent helpers to wash, walk and feed the animals in their care.
Donate your money
Non-profit organizations often rely on public and private support to stay afloat and provide essential services to communities. Setting up a direct debit (debit order) to donate a small amount of money is a way to give back if you’re unable to give up your time at this point. You can choose a cause close to your heart, from reproductive health to domestic violence shelters.
Offer up your time through mentorships
The late Toni Morrison aptly said, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
If you’d like to give back in a way that can truly empower and uplift someone, mentorship might be the route for you. Mentors provide guidance and support to mentees and when done properly, it can be a successful endeavor for both parties. The most important part of this structure is that both parties are willing to put in the time and effort to nurture the relationship. If this feels like an appropriate avenue for you, research your local mentorship programs through universities, schools and corporate institutions.
Host and run an extra-mural hobby class
Are you an avid musician or an expert sewer? Consider paying it forward by hosting a class (for free or a small donation fee) and share some of your expertise with others.
Classes like these bring like-minded people together with the shared experience of doing something new. In bigger cities, where isolation can be prevalent you’re seeing more knitting, sewing and crocheting clubs popping up. Share your skills, have some fun and make some friends who share similar interests to you.
Random acts of kindness
And finally, participate in random acts of kindness. Pay for someone’s coffee or their laundry service. Bake some goods or make a home-cooked meal for a loved one. Share your food with neighbors or the homeless community around you. You’ll soon find that being able to bring joy into someone else’s life makes you feel better and more connected.
Being kind keeps us grounded, helps others and in turn, uplifts our own lives. In a world where we are exposed to intense content, media, and countless other mediums – it’s easy to feel disconnected to humanity. Giving back reminds us that kindness always has a place and that being decent truly costs nothing.
What are you doing to give back to your community? Let us know in the comments below! We love hearing from you.