Self-care in the Face of Oppression

Samantha Stein
3 min readNov 9, 2023
A plant strains to grow up against and around a metal fence

The philosopher Martin Buber tells the story of a well-known 17th-century Chasidic rabbi named Zusya, who, on his deathbed, became very fearful. When his students asked him why, he said he feared standing before the judgment seat of G-d. His students were puzzled and tried to comfort him: their wonderful leader had nothing to fear. Zusya was a wise, kind leader.

Zusya answered them: “It is true. When I get to heaven, I won’t worry so much if G-d asks me, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Abraham?’ or ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Moses?’ I know I would be able to answer these questions. After all, I was not given the righteousness of Abraham or the faith of Moses but I tried to be both hospitable and thoughtful. But what will I say when G-d asks me, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Zusya?’”

The challenge for all of us in life–indeed, our ultimate task in this world–is to be our unique, true selves. Our best selves. This, however, is often easier said than done. Especially for those whose very existence places them in a group that is hated for who they are.

Self-care is often viewed as a privilege that can seem out of reach for members of minority groups, but it’s necessary for self-preservation. It’s also necessary in order for us to blossom into our best selves. So how do we care for ourselves in the face of this…

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Samantha Stein

I’m a writer, photographer, and psychologist who (monthly) explores self, relationships, and mental health in an ever-changing world.