On Self-Care, Community, and Moving Beyond Social Media: An Interview with Alex Elle
Alexandra Elle is an author and poet living in the Washington, DC, metro area with her husband and daughter. In her preteen years, Alex started writing as a form of therapy and healing. Many years later, Alex shares her voice and words across the globe to millions who revel in her dynamic and radical self-love and self-care. She will be teaching Writing: A Personal Practice with Racheal Weathers at 1440 Multiversity from October 19 – 21, 2018.
1440: Self-care is a big theme in your work. What does it mean to you?
Alexandra Elle: Self-care is filling yourself up so you can pour into others. In this day and age, where social media plays such a huge role in people’s lives, self-care looks glamorous, which is kind of bizarre to me.
Only we can define what makes us feel good. I had a guest on my podcast who defines self-care as freedom. She said for her it isn’t about manicures over overspending—it’s about freedom. The episode was on minimalism and her self-care wasn’t about spending money and having material things. Her partner said something amazing, too, that I will always carry with me: self-care is about packing light so you can travel far.
1440: You’re a self-professed giver. It sounds like you’ve found a definition of self-care that allows for you to give without being depleted.
Alexandra Elle: I am a giver—as a friend, as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter—many women, like myself, are constantly pouring into other people’s cups because that’s what we do. We love on people. And then we have to take a step back to love on ourselves.
It’s crazy because I’m an introvert by nature. And being in the line of work that I’m in where I have to get up, talk to people, and lead, I also have to recharge. Recharging looks like being by myself and taking a long shower or taking some time not plugged in or tuned in. I love time to myself, but I also love being able to show people that I can love on them, and I can give to them, and I can fill them up. So it’s very interesting navigating that space, and I have to be extremely intentional and mindful about it.
1440: How do you use self-care to build sisterhood among women?
When I think of sisterhood and self-care, I immediately think of support and my tribe, and the women who I can lean on to help me take better care of myself.
Self-care can bring women together in a powerful way. It can teach women how to not only lean into themselves but to lean on the people around them. Self-care isn’t always about retreating. Sometimes self-care is needing an ear and asking for it.
Don’t get me wrong; I still have my moments. For instance, it can be really difficult to need my husband to do something for me because I’m like, “I got it.” But sometimes I don’t have it, and that’s okay. So honoring that, finding community around that, and really being okay with the fact that sometimes self-care looks like someone else helping me can really build community.
1440: As an introvert, what’s it like to live your life publicly on Instagram?
Alexandra Elle: It’s funny, because I don’t feel like it’s public. I only share bits and pieces of my life. A substantial part of keeping sane is balance and boundaries. I use my social media platform to create a safe space online to share some of the captured moments I have around mothering and wife life. Being young, being a person of color, and being married is something that isn’t always showcased. And I like being able to show that we are a young, black couple doing this life and love thing together. It’s not perfect, but we are here and we’re standing together in love.
I also like to connect with people who may not be able to come to a retreat or workshop. But they can always go to my Instagram page and see affirmations or a journal question of the day, and still feel like they’re a part of the community.
1440: How have you moved beyond social media? What are your other strategies for building community and your business?
Alexandra Elle: My main intention is to keep doing the work off the internet. I have workshops, I have retreats, I have meetings with women, I have groups in person—we’re not just online. I like events where people leave with a hug from me and probably with a new friend. That is what the community building is about. I also have books that aren’t online and are going to outlive me. I always look for ways to leave behind something that can be touched—not just double tapped…but touched.
1440: What has it been like for you to share your work and build your community as a young African-American woman in today’s society?
Alexandra Elle: Being Black in the wellness space, when I meet non-Black people, like White women, I shock them. And they want answers. That’s been kind of interesting to navigate. But I’m well-received. I don’t feel like I’m pushed out of places. I feel like, if anything, people are interested in hearing what I have to say, which I appreciate.
I always touch on—especially if I’m talking to a White woman about being more diverse in their business efforts—women of color, moms of colors, and representation. Because it’s a thing. It doesn’t have to be a negative thing, but if we’re not talking about intersectionality, and we’re not having these conversations, nothing is going to change.
So let’s be realistic about it and have these conversations. It may be uncomfortable, but that’s a part of life. It’s not always supposed to be comfortable.
In terms of building community, I’m very proud to be a Black woman in this space because I’m able to connect with so many different women across the board. No matter their nationality, economic status, love choices, or gender, we are able to connect as people. I love that I’ve been able to build a brand that makes everybody feel included. But I also am really proud of being in this space as a Black woman because I can show other Black women that they can occupy these spaces, too, and that they can show up.
Representation is important, and I want people to feel comfortable showing up, sharing their stories, and using their voices. I think a lot of women of color feel silenced, and they tiptoe around certain things, topics, and even career choices. However, I am living proof (along with so many others) that we can do this. We can occupy this space, and we can build community at the same time.
October 19 - 21, 2018
How do you tell your story? Regardless of what you’ve done, where you’ve come from, or who you are, your personal truth is important. For you. For others. For the entire world. If you are having difficulty registering online please...
1440: Do you get the sense that Black women feel there are more and more possibilities for them? Are things actually shifting?
Alexandra Elle: Yes, I do. I think Black women feel like, “I can do this work,” or “I can share my story,” or “I can make that business happen for me.” It may be a little harder for us to climb that ladder, but when you know you can do what it is you want to do without being ashamed, silenced, or pushed to the side, that’s important. Having that validation in yourself by seeing other women around you stepping into whatever their work is is necessary.
I’ve had women in traditional jobs say to me, “Your self-care, your affirmations, they get me through the day. I take to my journal now because of you. I’m able to navigate my career in a more mindful way because of you.”
Being a Black woman and owning my self-care practice has been interesting. I have a lot of Black women say, “I work two jobs,” or, “I am a single mother,” or, “I don’t have a husband to help me.” They ask me, “How do I put self-care into my life in a way that’s realistic, and that doesn’t make me feel like I’m being selfish?” So teaching women, specifically Black women, how to have balance, and how to build boundaries, is something I’m extremely passionate about. And I think the shift is happening, and people are getting it.