Self Care is Collective Care is Community Care

by Nicole Nimri

Infinite proverbs exist that commemorate the strength of communities, yet they are somehow continuously eclipsed by tales of lone heroes, or ambitious girl boss and tech bro tropes within our capitalist, individualistic society. Waves of media encourage heartbroken lovers and burned friends to turn cold and dump the heavy weight that feelings, relationships, and friendships bring in favor for the steadfast reliability of money despite the historic, biological, and ancestral evidence to the contrary.

We do better individually when we’re in community with each other, and the community does better when we’re centered individuals.

Nature is ripe with examples of the interconnectedness of plants, insects, and animals: the bee that pollinates plants so that they can create food for us and other critters also works closely with the other bees in its hive to ensure the health of the entire hive: schools of fish, flocks of birds, a pride of lions — countless other pluralities of animals — operate together to protect themselves from predators just as well to gather food, stay warm, forage, and survive as a whole. A lone wolf is in fact rare in happening, and even rarer in its success.

Even the human body — singular — communicates intricately within its own internal ecosystem to ensure our health and safety, and together our bodies — plural — send signals and cues to each other that remind us of our interconnectedness. As newborns, our cries are the first signals we send, and in fact, is humans’ first instinct in this life. Experiments have also proven that if babies don’t receive certain amounts of touch, they literally die. Our bodies know that we must rely on one another.

Along the way, these communications may become muddied as we grow disappointed with others, but our chosen communities are equally sacred. Organizers like Martin Luther King Jr, Gloria Anzaldúa, Malcolm X, and others all called for the unification of their communities and trans-community solidarity to achieve power and progress. Spiritual practice across nearly every religion also calls for community, divine partnerships, and sacred friendships in tandem with intimate and personal relationships with the Creator.

Indigenous communities have been practicing community care for a millenia. Global South cultures also have these practices engrained: cooking for their neighbors, sharing financial resources, taking turns providing childcare, and fostering intentional networks that allow people to succeed — and fail — knowing that their turn will inevitably come as well.

Self care without the burden of capitalism and under the objective of community care will begin to look more like rest, recentering our bodies, time in Nature, meditation, connecting with a beloved friend or intentional solitary retreat, and less like retail therapy and indulgent decadences. Choosing to take care of ourselves with the intention of community care will shift our focus from prioritizing ourselves so that we can mitigate burn out for the sake of returning to work with renewed energy to taking care of ourselves so that we may be in positions to help our communities achieve liberation and power.

As cliché as it sounds, refilling our cup is exactly how we pour into others — and pour we must— until our cups runneth over into a spring that nourishes us and creates fertile ground to cultivate the fruits of our future.

It’s no coincidence that when we dream of Utopia or a perfect world, most people can’t help but imagine a world with harmony between peoples and the planet, the cessation of wars, of racism, of violence, and the abolition of all the systems that harm us collectively — not just us as individuals. Seldom do people imagine Utopia as a world for one.