by Keiyana McIntosh on February 08, 2023
Good ‘ole February! Not only is it a celebration of Black Excellence, but it’s the month of love. And when you mix a black woman and love, you usually get the result of selflessness.
As black women, we love hard and unconditionally. Usually, to the point where we give all we have without enough fuel to love ourselves.
And if we don’t take the time to show ourselves the same love we give others, we can’t continue to possibly be the strength and light our community perceives us to be.
Take it from someone who has struggled with both self-love and self-esteem. If you don’t take the time for yourself, you’ll begin to feel like you’re merely existing instead of living.
Today, we’re going to get into a few ways that helped increase my awareness of self-love.
There's Power In Healing
For starters, you can’t accomplish true self-love without healing. You have to be willing to be transparent and vulnerable. The process of healing requires facing the trauma and feeling the emotions you hide behind a fake smile.
With healing, it brings forth self-reflection and revelation, helping you to unlearn toxic habits. You owe it to yourself to be loved the way you desire, and you won’t be able to receive it from yourself or others if you’re still viewing yourself through a broken lens.
Taking the step to heal can be scary because it causes you to relive the moments you tried so hard to forget, but without that step, that thing or person remains in power. Free yourself and pray, go to therapy, find a trusted community, and forgive. God reminds us, “Yes, if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, then your Father in heaven will also forgive your wrongs.” (Matthew 6:14 ERV)
Forgiveness is not for the other person, but for your peace of mind. Most importantly, forgiving yourself for how you’ve treated yourself and what you’ve allowed others to get away with is a weight lifted in itself. So, do yourself a favor and approach your healing one day at a time. The little girl within will thank you later, and you will go forth excited about the future.
Your Perception of Yourself Matters
Another factor that affects self-love is self-image. It’s crazy how the opinion of others holds so much power over something that has the word “self” involved. How we view and talk to and about ourselves stems from our experiences, the media, and engagement with others.
When our self-image is blurred, it makes it hard to love ourselves. This one, for me, was one of my biggest insecurities. I didn’t like who or what I saw staring back at me, and a negative self-image brings about negative self-talk and comparison.
I remember the moment that shifted my mindset of how I viewed myself. I was sitting in my car on Prairie View A&M campus, watching the other students go about their day. I was feeling empty and lost about my future. I didn’t feel that I could live up to the dream life I imagined, and I began to pity and belittle myself. It was at that moment that God intervened. All I heard was, “ You’re insulting me,” followed by, “you’ve created in my image, so anything you believe about yourself, you believe about me also.” And to hear it put to me that way left me in awe.
I then had to be aware and honest with myself about my insecurities and what triggered them. Then, I challenged myself to combat those insecurities by doing the positive opposite. For example, I only wore makeup every day because I wasn’t comfortable in my skin, so to change that, I went months without wearing makeup to embrace my natural beauty. As a result, I unlearned what the media depicted as beautiful and realized that makeup was never necessary but an accessory.
Now, you don’t have to go about it exactly how I did, but just tackle one insecurity at a time and conquer it. Being able to love yourself is being honest with yourself first.
Evaluate Your Circle
Lastly, get around people already where you want to be on your self-love journey and in life. The phrase, “birds of a feather flock together,” is a true statement. You become the top five people you’re around because being around someone’s personality, actions, and communication consistently gives them access to you to plant those same traits within you.
Therefore, you must be careful because “guilty by association” holds some truth. You want to be proud of those you choose as your community. When people know who you hang with, they associate their reputation with yours.
So, that means it’s time for some reevaluation. If you’re belittling yourself, give up easily and are uninspired by life; the wrong people have access to you. When it’s up to us, we choose the wrong circle, but when we partner with God, he’s intentional with connecting us with others who bring out the best in us and push us towards our purpose.
Now that you have the tools to push you in the right direction of self-love, it’s time to apply them! I know all this sounds easier said than done, but it’s achievable. You have to decide to switch your mindset of choosing yourself for once. No one will know how to love you properly if you don’t realize how to give yourself the love you deserve first. We’re not just setting boundaries for how others should treat us, but how we should treat ourselves. Once you do the work that needs to be done, you’ll be more receptive to love from others, and the love you give to others will now come from a place of healing instead of a void you’ve been trying to heal from neglect.