Most people have a hard time imagining me as anything other than an opinionated, strong-minded, strong-willed, feisty ass Womanista. It’s funny to me because me, 10 years ago, would’ve never imagined that I would be such the firecracker I am today. Growing up I was shy, quiet, and wildly insecure. So… how did I get here?
I wish I could give you a precise instructional on how I obtained the immense self-love I have today but alas, I don’t. What I can tell you is that this journey to self-love has never ended. I’m going down this path day by day. It’s a process.
When I was a child, I was bullied for my weight mercilessly. Everyday, walking into school, I felt like I was walking into a battle field where my classmates were armed with hurtful words and sometimes, their hands. Getting on the bus was no better. I was bullied by the “cool girls” on there too.
As a result, my self-esteem tanked. If you thumb through my old journal from middle school to early high school, the depression I suffered from would be very evident. I hated myself. I hated my life. I was jealous of my friends who got attention from guys. I wanted to be wanted and desired. I wanted to feel beautiful. I wanted to take drastic measures to lose weight. I wanted to hide my face. I just wanted to roll up in a ball and stay in a corner somewhere. It was getting so bad that I was contemplating what the world would be like without me. Would people care? Would people even notice?
The only places where I felt free was in front of my piano, on stage portraying a character, listening to music and singing in my room, or writing away in my rhyme book. Where there was art, there was my peace. That was where I felt beautiful. Art saved me.
Via art, my confidence began to grow. I began to become more sure of myself and I began to understand how worthy of respect I was. It carried into other areas into my life. I began to try and see my positives more than the negatives. I would smile at my reflection–even if it was a sheepish smile. I would compliment my friends because I noticed, making others feel better made me feel better.
Day by day, year by year, love for myself began to grow. It became even more intense when I found black feminism and womanism. These ideologies made me realize my worth as a woman and how I did not have to apologize for who I am. So many aspects of feminism and womanism that made me more confident as a woman: I stopped saying “sorry” when I was uncomfortable. I started saying “no” more often. I stopped prioritizing how men felt about me over how I felt about myself. I stopped seeing other women as my competition and as comrades.
As my self-love began to grow, so did my want (and need) to take care of myself. I began to eat healthier and work out–not because I wanted my body to fit societal standards but because I wanted to feel good internally.
As a black woman, I’m expected to be indestructible and invulnerable. I have to be “strong” all the time. It’s unfair and I refuse to subscribe to that idea. I am human and I work through my struggles–that in itself makes me resilient.
It’s important that black women take care of ourselves. Black women loving and caring for ourselves is a revolutionary act in a world that tries to convince us that we are not worthy of that.
On this Valentine’s Day, it’s important that I remind myself and other black women, that while we spend time with our friends, family, and significant others on this day, we should also spend time and value time with ourselves.
Take yourself out. Get your nails done and your hair did sis. Tell yourself you’re beautiful and be gentle with yourself.
How I feel about myself is the only opinion that matters at the end of the day.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
— Audre Lorde