Self-love isn’t easy. Similarly to loving someone else, it takes time to truly understand the ins and outs of someone–even if that someone is you. So often, in our fast-paced society of over-involvement, we neglect to spend time with the one person who is guaranteed to be with you every day of your life–you. We pour energy into our jobs, our friends, our significant others, our parents, our siblings, our pets, but we forget about ourselves. We become consumed by what others think of us and how we are being perceived. As Black people, this is compounded by society’s mis-characterization of us–we are often portrayed as unruly, abrasive, and unlovable. Self-love takes time, dedication, and a willingness to experience discomfort. Here are a few critical mindsets to adopt to enhance your journey:
1| Designate time that is exclusively for you.
The reality is that people make time for the things they want to do. You want to get in shape, you spend time at the gym. You want to become a better writer, you spend time writing. You want to spend time with friends, you fill your calendar with brunches and hang out sessions. Somewhere in your list of priorities, you have to intentionally carve out time that is reserved for you. Ask yourself questions like: Do I enjoy spending time with myself? What are some activities that I typically do with other people that I could do by myself? Is my own company fulfilling enough for me? Learn to not just be alone but to appreciate being alone. Similarly to the way you learn more about people the more time you spend time with them, you will find that the more time you deliberately spend with yourself, the more you will know yourself. The more you know yourself, the more time you spend working on yourself. The more time you spend working on yourself, the more you grow. The more you grow… I could go on and on. Y’all get my point.
2| Realize that you are capable of anything you put your mind to.
Your mind is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. It can either work for you or against you. Find opportunities to teach yourself how powerful and capable you are. Write yourself notes and emails, post your favorite quotes on sticky notes in your mirror, challenge yourself by taking on a new project, take on something that would ordinarily you uncomfortable. Release negative thoughts like self-doubt and regret and believe that your life has purpose and you absolutely have the ability to fulfill it.
3| Let go of the things you can’t change, and focus on the things that you can.
The only thing in this world that you can always have control over is you. How you respond, think and act is up to you. Take the energy that you typically spend critically assessing other people and external situations and focus it on assessing yourself. Someone has a bad attitude and is taking it out on you? You can’t change their attitude, but you can focus on how you will respond to them, and how much you will allow or not allow it to affect you. When you realize how much control you can have over yourself, you realize how powerful you are, and that you never have to relinquish that power. Now, being Black in America specifically presents many challenges that are outside of our control — being pulled over for a minor traffic violation, being followed around in a high-end boutique, being accused of being too aggressive and opinionated at work. These are all scenarios that involve the actions of others–so what are we in control of? How do we respond? How do we learn to take what is inherently ugly and painful and turn it into something great? Our ancestors and predecessors are perfect examples of this. We weren’t allowed to go to school? We taught ourselves. We weren’t allowed to bank with white companies? We created our own. We weren’t allowed to move into white neighborhoods? We built our own. No matter how much society tries to take our power, we prove time and time again that it is ours. Focus on your power. Realize it. Cultivate it. Develop it. Utilize it. It is a source of love.
4| Accept that failure is inevitable part of growth.
We live in a society that unfortunately places a strong emphasis on perfection. Social media makes us create the perfect picture of our lives to share with our networks. First dates allow us to share every perfect detail of our lives, painting ourselves as flawless so we can appear more likeable. Our teachers and parents push us to get A’s in school. Our coaches push us to get first place. What if we lived in a society that placed a strong emphasis on failure? What if we lived in a society that valued it, and saw the beauty in it? So much of loving yourself and others is realizing how inherently fallible we all are. More times than we can count, we will all fall short. What do we do when this happens? Do we feel embarrassed and hide it? Do we lie about it or conceal the truth? Do we feel shame or pain? The best lessons I’ve learned in life have been a direct result of my failures. My failures have helped me to understand my shortcomings which has led me to focus more intently on improving in those areas. It boggles me that we deal with failure so privately, because it’s such a common occurrence. Learn to appreciate failure and to utilize it as a launch pad for growth. Learn to assess your failures to understand how you got there. Think critically about what you’ll do differently next time without being so hard on yourself. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, embrace yourself and know that failure is an important part of life, and is a critical variable in the equation of self-love and growth.
5| Understand that no one can love you like you love you.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to be loved by someone. Who doesn’t want to fall in love? Who doesn’t love feeling special and cherished? But here’s the thing–you can feel that same feeling every day, from yourself. You spend more time with you than anyone else will ever spend with you. As a result, you have the opportunity to know yourself better than anyone else can know you. Don’t take that for granted–pour into yourself the way you want to be poured into. Affirm yourself the way you want to be affirmed. Even if you are in a relationship with someone, don’t place this expectation on them. The love you have for yourself is the basis and foundation for any successful relationship you will have with others. When you realize that you have the ability to love yourself in a unique way, you don’t feel voids. You may feel the desire for someone else’s love, but you don’t feel the need for it.
Like I mentioned earlier, self-love is an ongoing relationship. It’s not something that appears out of thin air and it’s not something that can sustain itself without consistent energy, time, and dedication. Like anything else in your life that you want to be great, you can only achieve it if you are committed to it. Love on yourself today and everyday! You’re the only you you’ve got.