Bridging Divides: Unveiling the Complex Layers of Self-Care Amidst Socio-Emotional Dynamics, Gender Perspectives, and the Healing of Communities of Color

Bridging Divides: Unveiling the Complex Layers of Self-Care Amidst Socio-Emotional Dynamics, Gender Perspectives, and the Healing of Communities of Color

Bridging the gap between intimate connections among people involves expressing various ways to connect with one another. However, what occurs when you lose yourself in the process of maintaining others? How does this affect the relationship individuals have with their overall wellness? There exist barriers to self-care that affect the intersectionality of socio-emotional intelligence development, gender biases, and racial, ethnic, and cultural norms in the relationship with oneself and others. Within this article, I will attempt to express the need to understand and address the various dimensions that influence self-care practices in diverse communities.

Healthy Relationships

A healthy relationship is fluid in reciprocal stages of support that promote growth. Other parts of a healthy relationship may uncover challenges that shows areas we may lack development. Another part of a healthy relationship may discover areas in our lives that yet has to heal, and or recover from. In these stages of relationships, it is normal to come into disagreements that cause individuals to separate, reflect, create a plan to improve, and come to terms of what to do when faced with triggers. It is also healthy to pause in order to gain a deeper insight and it is also healthy to end relationships because it is best. It is also imperative to be mindful of how someone else's transformation or moment of healing can trigger your own. Needless to say, this is such a beautiful idea that we may want for everyone. The best should be hoped for and sought out at all times, but there comes a time to be honest about who, what, how, when, and why one should be there for others. 

Setting Healthy Priorities

There will be times where individuals feel the need to sacrifice themselves in ways that divert from their own goals, needs, and self-care. For example, you may have a routine of attending the gym 4 times a week, but a loved one has been hospitalized. In order to see them you may have to prioritize between going to the gym or seeing them during those set times. How do you make time for yourself and your loved one? It is best to know that showing up for yourself and them is beneficial. In order to find balance, it would be wise for you to come up with another plan on how to accommodate both with either planning to go to the gym at other times, being present either digitally (i.e. Zoom, Facetime, or via phone), and in-person maybe two to three times a week instead of five to seven times per week. It is also best to have a shared support system, which will help you manage the weight of responsibilities. In conclusion, having a clear plan with a reliable support system will help you meet the needs of yourself and others. Not only will this help you grow and develop, but to heal and expand your relationships.


There are barriers that people face, which may get in the way of how someone takes care of themselves, which in return is reflected in how we show up for others. For example, trauma, mental health challenges, not having enough time; the lack of access to effective support systems, incarceration, growing up deprived of attention and affection; domestic violence, stress, the need to conform to the downside of gender roles, homelessness; sexual abuse, emotional abuse, parenting and caretaking for others; diseases, and or illness, lack of access to medical care, feeling guilty about caring for self and etc. 

According to an article called "What are the three barriers to self-care?" by Dr. Monica Bucci states that "The reason we don’t stop is that we have learned to adopt a “push through” mentality, along with certain patterns of being and psychological behaviors that actually work as barriers to our intention of practicing self-care". Dr. Bucci goes over three phases that impacts our ability to show concern, responsibility and express healthy emotions such as anger. The three phases are the following:

  • "The first pattern is a compulsive and automatic concern for the needs of others while ignoring our own. This behavior happens because we are wired to be other-directed and we think that every answer to our questions is outside of ourselves.
  • The second pattern is a compulsive and rigid identification with a “duty role” and responsibility, rather than what our own mind and body need. What does that look like in real life? We are so consumed with our roles, trying to be impeccable at home, at work, with our family and even with friends, that we ignore what our body is telling us.
  • The third pattern is the suppression or overexpression of anger. We either hold anger in too much, or let it out too much, and there are serious consequences for both. Suppression of anger is a major risk factor for chronic stress because it suppresses the immune system and in the long run, this could lead to autoimmune disease and even cancer. On the other hand, when we are raging all the time, it increases our risk of heart disease and stroke. Most of us don’t know that there’s a healthy expression of anger, which is the defense of our boundaries".

In conclusion, Dr. Bucci didn't blame anyone about not being able to care for themselves, nor did she state that people shouldn't care. She makes great emphasis on what will happen when there is a lack of having and respecting healthy boundaries. These areas we ignore when it comes to caring for ourselves just as much as we show up for others, may lead to health issues with our mind, body, and spirit. In order to create healthy boundaries, one must be able to acknowledge, identify, accept and habitually develop space for your emotions, thoughts and feelings. There are gender biases, which normalize females to develop their emotions and feelings but looks down on males who do so. This causes both sexes to not be able to form a healthy relationship with themselves and disengages their ability to access the components and functions of their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Dr. Bucci's insight about how these three patterns causes individuals to conform to the expectations of how we may think we should take care of self and others but end up hurting self and others in return.

Unhealthy Relationships

Just as there are healthy, progressive happy parts of relationships, there are also the deep, insidious, and challenging areas that must be addressed. These areas have to do with how we lose ourselves intentionally by attempting to support someone who isn't ready to do their part of the work. In these attempts to support others who remain stubborn in areas they don't seek help in and ends up weighing you down, one ends up learning how to 'keep' someone by performing in ways that doesn't challenge, enforce, or support a pattern for change; accepting the bare minimum whereas they digress, they stay the same and you in return end up changing as they stay the same. In all that one does, every attempt will consist of mannerisms, gestures, or phrases that pertain to walking on eggshells in hopes that you don't upset them. In conclusion, these types of relationships, it is expected that you play a role of feeding and housing this insatiable monster of void, which in return makes you unwell and unable to care for yourself.  If you were to ever stop performing in these unhealthy ways, you would be labeled as the problem despite it being the inherit issue of the individual or people you only wanted to care for. This is what I call 'keeping' someone. 

At times, people spend a moment or a lifetime of being in such a dreadful cycle of despair. These can impact your health in different ways such as burn out, compassion fatigue, depression, and stress. According to an article in Forbes magazine called "The Danger in Caring Too Much: 6 Steps to Avoid Compassion Burnout" by Bryon Robinson, Ph.D. states that "Caring is counterproductive when helping others becomes a means to avoid or self-medicate your own pain. If you’re focused on taking care of someone else, you don’t have to think about your own burdens. And if you have unfinished business of your own, you’re not likely to let someone else struggle with theirs". I too am at fault of jumping in the business of others I see or assume is going through a hard time, because I know what it feels like to not have support or to go so long with struggling with issues that I wished someone could have supported me through. At times our ability to sense someone else's trauma comes from the trauma we had to bare. Our attempts at healing the past version of us may be in the way we show up in the lives of those we can or would like to relate to. It isn't beneficial to always get in the way of someone's trauma because shielding can lead to sheltering, and sheltering can lead to avoidance, and avoidance can lead to missing the point of understanding. 

We have to talk about what it means be there for someone. We all have times where we go through problems, but it isn't fair to those people who want to care for others who don't want to care for themselves. 

"...There comes a time to be honest about who, what, how, when, and why one should be there for others". 

Dr. Robinson shares 6 tips on how to vet your ability to be present for others. These examples may or may not be the best for everyone but if you can get something out of it, please do. They are the following:

  1. "Be realistic about what is humanly possible for you to do. Remind yourself you cannot save the world and make sure you save yourself first before trying to help [others]. When you're already overloaded and need time for yourself, let that be a sign that you're not in a position to take on more emotional commitments. Every time you say "yes" when you want to say "no," you do [others] and yourself an injustice".
  2. "Examine your motivation for helping. Do you believe fixing others will fulfill a greater need in you than in them? If the answer is yes, you could be taking more than you’re giving. Sometimes the best way to care is not to get involved with someone’s problems and not to help them if it robs them of learning and standing on their own two feet".
  3. Respect another [person’s] refusal for your help. It‘s important to let a [person] know you would like to help. If they say no, it’s important to honor their request instead of pressuring them because you see something that needs fixing".
  4. "If you end up helping someone, make sure you’re in the habit of showing them how to fish instead of feeding them fish. In other words, if the help you give makes a [person] dependent on you, you could be holding them back when they might be ready to fly".
  5. "Set emotional boundaries. Encourage [others] to become emotionally independent. Avoid over-identifying with their feelings and don’t take other people’s problems home with you. By leaving problems with their rightful owners, you allow them to grow by finding their own solutions. Some of our best lessons come from learning from our mistakes".
  6. "Practice what you preach. Before you embark on a helping campaign, help yourself first. Let others benefit from cleaning up their side of the street while you tend to the potholes in your own neglected side. Examine unmet needs in your life that you might’ve avoided. Take time out for yourself in the same ways you tell others to care for themselves: positive self-talk, meditate, bathe in nature, and learn to enjoy your own company".

Effects on Gender

Self-care is important for everyone, but poor self-care habits have negative effects on both men and women. According to an article by International Self-Care Foundation called "Gender Self-Care Practices" talks about how improvements within the healthcare system has increased male lifespans but still create healthcare services that don't have men in mind. It stated that "globally, men’s health has improved significantly over the past 40 years in terms of life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. Average male life expectancy stood at 70 years in 2016... Men’s health remains far poorer than it needs to be, however. Global male life expectancy is four years lower than females, and the ‘sex gap’ is widening....The barriers to improving men’s self-care include male gender norms, a lack of policy focus on men, and health services that have been designed without men in mind. Moreover, neither men’s health nor self-care are strategic health priorities globally or nationally". In conclusion, in what ways are we improving healthcare for men if it doesn't impact them as a whole? And in what ways are we able to monitor cultural and personal biases, which impact our ability to care for those who we expect to protect and provide for us?

The article further incites as to how the health care system has women in mind but from an extended perspective. Meaning healthcare plans may suggest prioritizing how women are cared for when it comes to accessing their body in benefit of extending their selves to others. For example, "self-care has enormous potential when focusing on female, maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) targets. When promoted throughout the lifecycle and as an essential part of MNCH, self-care empowers women with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to proactively maintain their health. Self-care also helps with healthy pregnancies, preventing complications, protecting children’s health, defending their rights, and identifying emergencies, particularly at the community and individual levels. Despite its proven potential, donors, advocates, policymakers, and practitioners often overlook self-care in favor of clinical interventions and disease-specific, top-down approaches to MNCH. MNCH self-care includes such life-saving activities as taking iron supplements during pregnancy, reacting appropriately to warning signs of obstetric emergencies, breastfeeding, and treating diarrhea correctly at home".

In conclusion, healthcare plans may suggest prioritizing how women are cared for when it comes to accessing their body in benefit of extending their selves to others. As you can see pregnancy and children are important and may infer that a woman is only important according to how she contributes to these areas. Also, it may also be singling out women who don't desire to birth children. In what ways does prioritizing the health of women according to them having children effect the overall perspective of healthcare for women? In what ways are we improving healthcare for men if it doesn't impact them as a whole? And in what ways are we able to monitor cultural and personal biases, which impact our ability to care for those who we expect to protect and provide for us? A fact is that the health of men isn't an overall priority "globally and nationally". This article doesn't include the upkeep of the mental health for men or women and may most likely suggest what is the focus of healthcare instead of what should be the focus for the required care for the health of people.

The Effects of Racial/ Ethnic & Cultural Biases on Self-Care

The enduring legacy of racism is evident both nationally and globally. It forces the world to recognize the impact of racism across generations and the perceived benefits and detriments it engenders. 

 According to an article from the National Library of Medicine called "Reclaiming Self-care: Self-care as a Social Justice Tool for Black Wellness" by Janan P. Wyatt and Gifty G. Ampadu states that "Self-care skills require a level of self-awareness, specifically regarding attention to our "emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual state" (Miller et al., , p. 11)". It is crucial for communities of color to recognize the distinction between self-care and self-pampering. While some may equate maintaining one's physical appearance with health, it is possible that tending to one's outward appearance is a means for an individual to avoid detection. The ability to "recognize when one does not have the capacity to meet a self-care need" is required when measuring how healthcare is being provided for communities of color.

Lack of Access to Resources Creating Barriers:

Communities of color frequently encounter distinct and systemic obstacles that hinder self-care. These challenges stem not only from a lack of resources but also from issues with the accessibility and cultural relevance of available services. "Self-care behaviors are initiated, practiced, and sustained when attention is given to internal and external processes such as support, culture, orientation, motivation, and skills (Miller et al., 2019). It is also important to note that the engagement in and sustainability of self-care behaviors may require resources that are often inequitably distributed to communities of color". The barriers, as discussed in this article, which include institutional issues, interpersonal racism, and stigma, profoundly affect the mental health and well-being of individuals within these communities. Further complicating access to self-care and healthcare are historical instances of abuse, discrimination, and neglect; the affordability of healthcare; language barriers; and the need for deliberate change across all systems impacting the health and self-care of communities of color. Efforts to address the system that fail to establish a pathway for integrated cultural recovery are likely to be unsuccessful within these communities.

Selfcare Practices that Cater to the Identity of a Person:

Self-care involves recognizing the multiple, intersecting identities that contribute to an individual's wellness. In this framework, Black individuals are encouraged to nurture their entire being, encompassing all facets of wellness and identity. This includes attending to every aspect of well-being, such as physical, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, financial, and environmental health. It also involves acknowledging that our complete selves are made up of various intersecting identities, each possibly requiring tailored self-care practices that address the well-being of those specific identities. This challenges the notion that communities of color can effortlessly engage in self-care without considering the pervasive impact of racism, as if its influence has waned since the early 1900s. While self-care is promoted, it is crucial not to overlook the psychological impacts of racism, which are ingrained in the lineage of generations, a concept that can be examined through epigenetics. Epigenetics may affect health outcomes, including disease susceptibility, and factors like lifestyle choices and aging can lead to epigenetic alterations. In essence, epigenetics studies show how our actions and environment can affect gene expression.

Selfcare Beyond Coping:

"...Black people and communities can choose to engage in, however, self-care is beyond behaviors or strategies of coping (Miller, ). Self-care is a process and practice that moves us closer to health, wellness, and liberation." Coping may not solve problems but rather serves as a temporary shield. Self-care is deliberate and should be undertaken with techniques that empower individuals holistically. Such an integrated approach is sustainable as it includes the individual's personal context, cultural background, and unique circumstances, offering varied and relatable strategies for change. For example, "Miller and colleagues also assert that individuals are best able to engage in a consistent self-care practice when the motivation to do so can be sustained. Self-care is a repeated practice that requires intention, rather than a one-time activity, thus, motivation is best understood as an internal factor that can facilitate this process". Coping does not facilitate healing but rather serves as a temporary measure, while empowering communities of color requires a shift in perspective that motivates a radical approach to self-care. Within the arms of motivation and empowerment, it is imperative that communities of color take a stand on how they address trauma. Violence is used in replace of what words aren't able to express and begets more violence.

Selfcare and Technology:

Technology has emerged as a pivotal means of supporting communities of color in taking proactive steps to manage and access essential healthcare. Studies have underscored the potential health benefits of mindfulness practices for Black individuals (Biggers et al., 2020; Cotter & Jones, 2020; Palta et al., 2012). Moreover, there has been a surge in technological products tailored to the wellness needs of Black people. For instance, Liberate, a meditation app "designed for the Black experience," provides guided meditations and fosters a sense of community among Black individuals seeking "to heal and be free" ( Such products offer culturally relevant alternatives. Communities of color now have access to technology that aids in monitoring blood pressure, glucose levels, exercise duration, stress, and emotions. However, to truly be effective and valuable, these technological tools must be utilized consistently. Without regular engagement from users, the technology's potential and its intended purpose would remain unrealized.

Culturally Sensitive Care

Understanding the significance of culturally sensitive care and its impact on engaging and retaining communities of color is crucial. An article from Psychiatric Times titled "Mental Health Care for Women of Color: Risk Factors, Barriers, and Clinical Recommendations" explains that "Culturally sensitive care can be described as the ability of health care providers to effectively deliver care that respects and meets the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients.13 This may include the use and application of cultural knowledge, and understanding how culture interacts with mental health experiences. Unfortunately, there is a lack of culturally competent care for [Women of Color] WoC". From this concise explanation, it can be deduced that there are underlying reasons for the overall disconnect in healthcare. Should the system facilitate recovery for communities of color, it could reveal the factors contributing to their health disparities. Consequently, any mechanisms that perpetuate illness would be identified and deemed harmful, potentially leading to a confrontation with systemic issues such as racism and oppression. This could also lead to accountability for those responsible for the challenges faced by communities of color, ultimately resulting in significant systemic changes. The question remains: which nation will acknowledge its role in the struggles faced by communities of color?

"Within the arms of motivation and empowerment, it is imperative that communities of color take a stand on how they address trauma. Violence is used in replace of what words aren't able to express and begets more violence".


Addressing trauma in communities of color is a critical step towards instigating healing and fostering resilience. According to an essay called "The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement" by Shawn Ginwright Ph.D. states that trauma informed care captures the lens of trauma but has limitations. "While the term trauma informed care is important, it is incomplete" because "... current formulations of trauma informed care presumes that the trauma is an individual experience, rather than a collective one". Dr. Ginwright proposes the following:

  • "First, populations that disproportionately suffer from disasters like Hurrican Katrina share a common experience that if viewed individually simply fails to capture how collective harm requires a different approach than an individual one.
  • Second, trauma informed care requires that we treat trauma in people but provides very little insight into how we might address the root causes of trauma in neighborhoods, families, and schools. If trauma is collectively experienced, this means that we also have to consider the environmental context that caused the harm in the first place.
  • Thirdly, the term trauma informed care runs the risk of focusing on the treatment of pathology (trauma), rather than fostering the possibility (well-being) ... "However, just like the absence of disease doesn’t constitute health, nor the absence of violence constitute peace, the reduction pathology (anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, distrust, triggers) doesn’t constitute well-being (hope, happiness, imagination, aspirations, trust)." 

There is more promise when there is a Healing Centered Engagement (HCE). "A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action and collective healing. A healing centered approach views trauma not simply as an individual isolated experience, but rather highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively. The term healing centered engagement expands how we think about responses to trauma and offers [a] more holistic approach to fostering [the] well-being of individuals and communities of color". This method allows cultures of color to "reframe trauma with language that humanized them". For example, instead of asking someone "what has happened to you", you may opt to ask "what is right with you". This will begin to allow the individual or community to take on the perspective of being empowered to move forward in healing rather than take on the mindset of a victim. It also in return encompasses almost a duty or a rite within communities of color to be "interdependent, collectively engage and be of service to the community". This approach also "advances the move to “strengths-based’ care and away from the deficit based mental health models that drive therapeutic interventions".


To grasp the concept of racism, one must understand how it has created three enduring legacies: the master, the slave, and the offspring who are left to choose between the two, if at all, leading to another legacy: the birth of a revolution. However, it is a mistake to overlook that they are interdependent. In the grand scheme, they are each other's adversaries. Should they realize that their insecurities are merely lethal weapons, the journey towards repair could begin hand-in-hand with reconciliation, igniting the process of recovery. Barriers to self-care can affect the development of socio-emotional intelligence, gender biases, and racial/ethnic and cultural norms in relation to oneself and others.

This article is concluded as follows: 1.) Healthy relationships are dynamic, with stages of mutual support that foster growth. 2.) A clear plan and a reliable support system are crucial for meeting personal needs and those of others. 3.) There are three phases that influence our capacity to demonstrate concern, take responsibility, and express healthy emotions, such as anger. 4.) Self-care is vital for all, but poor habits in self-care can detrimentally impact both men and women, potentially prioritizing physical over mental and spiritual well-being. 5.) The persistent legacy of racism continues to affect societies nationally and globally. 6.) Communities of color often encounter unique systemic obstacles that hinder self-care, which are not solely due to a lack of resources but also to the accessibility and cultural suitability of available services. 7.) Self-care involves the multiple intersecting identities that comprise an individual's wellness and sense of self. 8.) Coping serves as a temporary measure, not allowing healing, but it is a step towards empowering communities of color to adopt a new perspective that encourages proactive self-care. 9.) Technological advancements have significantly aided communities of color in taking control of their healthcare management and access. 10.) Recognizing the importance of culturally sensitive care is essential for engaging with and maintaining the health of communities of color. 11.) Addressing trauma in communities of color is a critical step towards instigating healing and fostering resilience. There is more promise when there is a Healing Centered Engagement (HCE).

Until then,

Keep healthy wealthy thoughts


  1. Robinson, B., PhD. (2024, February 20). The Danger in Caring Too much: 6 Steps to Avoid Compassion Burnout. Forbes
  2. Bucci, M. (2019, February 25). What are the three barriers to self-care? drmonicabucci.com
  3. International Self-Care Foundation. (2023, December 23). Gender Self-care - International Self-Care Foundation
  4. Wyatt, J. P., & Ampadu, G. G. (2022). Reclaiming Self-care: Self-care as a Social Justice Tool for Black Wellness. Community Mental Health Journal, 58(2), 213-221.
  5. MSc, T. K., Sorkhou, M., PhD, MSc, G. a. D. C., Katz, J. L., PhD, Sharif-Razi, M., PhD, & Frcpc, T. P. G. M. (2023, July 5). Mental health care for women of color: risk factors, barriers, and clinical recommendations. Psychiatric Times
  6. Ginwright, S., Ph. D. (2018). The Future of Healing: Shifting from trauma informed care to healing centered engagement [Article].

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