How I Take Care: UX Designer and Wellness Writer Jacquelyn Ogorchukwu Iyamah
When UX designer and writer Jacquelyn Ogorchukwu Iyamah, 26, thinks about self-care, it’s inseparable from community care. “Self-care can only do so much when it comes to institutionalized oppression,” she tells Shine. “So that’s where community care comes in.”
It’s a perspective that’s evident when you look at her Instagram account—a community care space she’s created to validate BIPOC, share strategies for coping with racial trauma, and more. “I’m really passionate about the healing of communities where no one asks about our pain,” she says. And it’s resonating, with comments on her posts—which cover topics like racial hair trauma and anti-Blackness—full of gratitude for finally having the words to describe something they’ve always experienced.
In this How I Take Care interview: Jacquelyn talks about where self-care and community care intersect, how her work on Instagram is self-healing, and the rituals that help her recenter daily.
On what self-care means to her:
To me, my definition of self-care has changed over the years. I’m currently in a space where self-care is about not abandoning myself. Black women are often taught to put everyone before ourselves, so for me to understand that thinking about my needs or desires is not selfish but a radical form of self-care has really transformed my life.
But I also feel like self-care isn’t always enough. Self-care can only do so much when it comes to institutionalized oppression, so that’s where community care comes in. When I think of “care”, I view it as a holistic system encompassing both self-care and community care.
On the value of community care:
For me, community care is collectively working with a lens of marginalized folks—Black, indigenous and other people of color—to make sure that our community needs and desires are fulfilled.
That can look like activism, support groups, healing circles, policy work to ensure our social, economic, and political needs are met—there are definitely so many ways of going about it. But it’s having more of a collectivist mindset as opposed to an individualist mindset that comes with self-care. We need both of them to thrive, but I think it’s dangerous when you’re only focused on one side of the spectrum.
On finding where self-care and community care meet:
For me, finding that balance means taking the time to sit with myself and think: If I was to create a venn diagram, what is the intersection between my needs and my community needs? Then: How can I work towards reaching that middle ground?
Something I’ve found is a lot of times when I’m focused on community care, it still somehow bleeds into self-care. I’ve also found that healing myself is also helping to heal other folks, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing. It speaks to how interconnected we are. It speaks to that intersection.
The graphics I create on Instagram, for example—that is an act of community care which has also been extremely healing for me.
On her daily self-care and community care rituals:
For self-care: Some of my daily self-care rituals include deep belly breathing, nourishment, and dancing. I love dancing. I try to ensure that I dance at least once a day. It’s just freestyle dancing, but that’s something that makes me feel so free and so happy, and it reduces any stress or anxieties I may have.
For community care: I’m intentional about making space a safe landing space for folx in my community. The work that I do on Instagram is there to validate the experiences and affirm the presence of those who have long been told that they don’t matter.
On setting boundaries with social media:
I’m really intentional about the time I spend on social media. Sometimes I make a post and then I’m off for the day because it is a lot of stimulation. I’m someone who is very sensitive to energy so I always have to make sure to step back and take time to recenter.
I want to put the work out in a way that’s helping the community without dehumanizing myself in the process.
On what helps her recenter:
The things that help me recenter are nature and writing.
I grew up in a sort of rural area. So from a very young age, I was always outside, climbing trees and exploring parks. That is something that still brings me a lot of peace today. Taking walks, hiking, or biking in places surrounded by greenery has a really therapeutic and restorative effect on my wellbeing. It always makes me feel like myself again.
Journaling is my best friend. I love writing and being able to take the time to reflect. It’s been so powerful for me and so grounding for me.
I have two journals—one of them is more to turn to in a moment of need, and another one I have is a 10 Minutes to Intuition journal that I try to do every night before I go to bed. That journal has definitely shifted my perspective on things, because a lot of us truly know what is right for us and aligned with us but growing up in this society it’s easy to lose touch of that. Having that intuition journal has helped me tune into what my body is saying.
On reframing her self-talk:
For Black women, many of us grew up in spaces where we’re constantly degraded. With that type of conditioning, it can be difficult to figure out if the voice in your head is yours or if it’s coming from oppressive systems.
Something powerful for me is creating anti-oppressive affirmations. I’ve noticed that when I tailor my affirmations to the experiences I have as a Black woman, they sit with me in a different way. I’m not just telling myself all the things that I am, but I’m refuting all the things that I’m not. And that’s been something that’s really grounded me.
Something that I always try to affirm is that my voice matters. It’s such a simple affirmation, but I always have a very emotional reaction to it. I think that just stems from having spent so much of my life being told that my voice doesn’t matter or just being silenced. Just reminding myself of the space I deserve to take up has been really transformative and has really helped me feel just a stronger sense of self.
On setting boundaries:
2019 and 2020 have been centered around boundaries. Before, I didn't know how or when to set boundaries, and I found myself accepting or going along with things that weren’t in alignment with me.
So as I’ve been working towards strengthening my intuition, I’ve been able to recognize the power that comes with listening to when your body is not OK with something. Being able to acknowledge my truths in that way has created so much peace for me.
On not feeling the need to answer every question people ask her:
I’ve definitely had an influx of people engaging with my work and asking me questions. Recently, there was a day where I woke up feeling really exhausted and, that was when I told myself: “You can’t educate people on everything, you need to take care of yourself too.”
That day, I created some boundaries for BIPOC around race-based discussions. I refer to this guideline often as it helps me keep a peace of mind as I am doing this work.
I can’t do this work if my cup is empty, so making sure I’m refilling myself is really important.
On checking in with her mental health:
When I was younger, conversations about mental health were not a thing. It wasn’t until I studied social welfare and worked for a therapist that I realized I needed to prioritize my mental wellbeing.
Now, I check in with myself more. That looks like tuning into my mental responses, asking myself how something is impacting my spirit, doing a body scan, making note of my emotions. Checking in with myself helps me make better decisions about what is in alignment with me and what isn’t.
On the power of healing:
The health and wellness space tends to have this individualistic mindset when it comes to healing. It’s always “you can heal if you do the inner work,” but these types of phrases completely erase the institutional systems that make it hard for BIPOC communities to heal.
This is why it is important to me to create a space that names and validates how oppressive systems such as colonialism and racism can contribute to trauma.
I’ve gotten some really heartwarming messages from folks who say part of what’s so healing about the space I’ve created is that it articulates experiences and traumas that they weren’t sure how to articulate before.
That is a really powerful thing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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