5 Things I've Learned About Self-Love as a Black Woman

I’ve been on a listing kick this week and I wanted to list 5 things I’ve learned about loving yourself as a black woman. A lot of these apply across race and gender but… well you’ll see why I’ve specified black womanhood soon enough.

1. The game’s not built for this

We are bombarded with millions of images daily. Telling us what to wear, what to eat, what to drink, who to like, who to love, how to love, how to feel… I mean, it goes on. And because we’re humans and we are acutely able to draw meaning from almost anything, both the presence of an image and the lack thereof can dictate a message. And loving yourself as a black woman – even seeing yourself celebrated and valued as a black woman — has not often readily presented itself as an option among these images. Which brings us to #2:

2. It’s going to take intentional effort

It takes intentionality for all of us to learn to love ourselves, at least this is usually the case unless you grew up under perfect conditions with perfect parents in which case you can go have a seat somewhere.

But I mean if you are a black woman learning self-love in a culture that doesn’t super encourage that option, you’re gonna need to actively seek it out. Find women you can resonate with/relate to, and follow them — reach out to them if you can. One thing I’ve started doing for example is only watching tutorial videos by black women. I know, it seems like a small thing but it’s really helped with the way I view myself. And of course it’s partially come out of necessity in having to see how things will show up on my skin tone but I mean even for how-to’s (vs. swatching), it is gratifying to see and learn from women around me who also look like me.

3. Your body is involved

Standing at the intersection of having both a dark and female body, the black woman’s self image has been attacked on multiple fronts. Thus, coming back to yourself, finding self-love, will be a very body-centered practice. Reminding yourself that your body is perfect for many reasons, not the least of which being because it’s the only one like it. It will include looking at your body softly and lovingly, being gentle with her, treating her well, feeding her well, moving her around. Learning self-love isn’t all a head game, love sits in the body too, so it must also be cultivated there.

4. It is going to take setting boundaries

Okay so boundary-setting is both the best and the worst thing ever. It’s true that boundaries actually give us more freedom, and it’s still a mystery to me just how that works, but I know it does. Learning self-love may (and by “may” I mean “most definitely will”) mean setting boundaries with the people or things or habits in your life that are not supportive of your goal. #TreatYoself is great if it’s really a treat. If you’ve been “treating yourself” for the last three weeks and now find yourself bereft of groceries or money to buy them, have you really practiced self-love or was it more like self-sabotage? *thinking emoji* *just know if you felt personally attacked just now, so did I* *we’re all doing our best*

Setting boundaries is super hard but also very necessary in directing our energy in the ways that best serve us.

5. It’s not optional

Learning to love yourself is an act of survival, for real. Because how you feel about yourself dictates how you treat yourself and how you will allow yourself to be treated. Years ago, when I was in the deepest throes of self-hatred, I remember thinking daily that I did not care what happened to me. I know, it’s heavy, but I really want to communicate not only the importance of this point but also that I have actually lived the importance of this point. I made rough decisions, I got myself into dangerous situations; I didn’t care about myself at all so I didn’t take care of myself. And sure, part of that is being in your early 20's and operating without a yet fully developed frontal lobe, but a lot of that was also fueled by self-hate.

And it’s not enough to stop at liking yourself *sometimes*. It’s not enough to say “I mean, I guess I’m smart and that’s cool?” meanwhile as soon as you try on a bathing suit or say something dumb you let the insults run amuck in your head. You gotta practice radical, full-force, unhinged, outlandish love for yourself because the way we’re set up, that’s exactly what we NEED to live. Just like we need water, and food, and air, we need to be loved. Do it for yourself girl!


P.S. These are exactly the kinds of topics we work through in Formation, examining what barriers might be present to practicing self-love. If you want to know more, just ask!