I have noticed a huge problem arise among black women in today’s society. It’s a problem so potent that it’s sure to consume one, and veil one in a façade that one may not even realize they have been masked in. It’s a problem that creeps up on the black woman and takes over a substantial portion of her self-perception. It is a problem so underrated that most black women don’t even give the time to self-asses the signs associated with this ordeal. I’ve found this problem to be a lack of self - love. Now I know a lot of black women are saying, “You’re wrong I love me some me.” But do you? Do you really? What is it about you that you love about you black woman?
I find that a lack of self-love amongst black women derives from a number of factors. One is simply from being at what society deems the bottom of the gene pool. Because you are black society automatically conditions you to hate your self from the outside in. Your skin is too dark, your hair is too kinky, and your nose, hips and lips are too big. And because you are a woman: you are not as smart, you are not as strong, and you are not as brilliant as your male counterparts. These lackluster ideologies are then recycled, reformatted, and reinforced through media, and even within your own household.
Another component that contributes to a lack of self-love is the need for male approval. Coming from a heterosexual standpoint, male approval weighs heavily on the conscious of just women in general. It’s this need to compete for the male gaze, that is so subconsciously instilled in us that we don’t even recognize we might be changing a little here or there just to get the attention of “Jamal” over there. That is until a little turns into a lot. Then a lot becomes “who is this new woman.” I can surely relate to this.
Entering my first year of college I was this girl transitioning to womanhood. I was someone that knew myself enough to know this is who am, these are my interest, and this is what I am here for. However, the image I had of myself started to waiver as I started becoming interested in men I met on campus. Unfortunately, other women would surround these men. These women had straight hair, revealing clothing, bigger assets. To compete I started wearing tighter clothing, long straight weaves, and just overall doing the most. I started to forget what I loved about me, and started to replace these concepts of self-love with what I thought men would love about me. The swing of my hips, the arch of my back, and the promiscuity of my actions spoke louder than my love of art, my interests in poetry, and the passion I had for reading books on stormy nights curled up in sweatpants. Everything that made me me was replaced by everything that made me the right her for him.
This situation leads right into what I now believe is another component of a lack of self love which is the ability to lose love for yourself when you haven’t lived up to the expectations everyone else around you has for you. As someone in her early 20’s and about a year out of college I feel that everyone thinks I’m supposed to have it all together. Watching my friends get doctorates, get married, buying houses, having babies, and getting their twists out just right had me feeling like I’m losing control. They’re doing all that and I’m here like “do I want fries with that, or a salad?”
I use to hold myself accountable to every increment of a mistake. Looking back I would have told me to release me. Back then I never realized that it’s the inner wars we wage amongst ourselves that are the most costly, and often bring about the most grief. Just as much as one can be their own best lover it’s no surprise that we can be our own worst enemy. Thus, we can easily create and harbor the antithesis of self love. Self-hate. Often times I wondered, “is it the comparison of myself to others that makes me harbor feelings of self-hate?” or “is it the expectations that I feel I am not fulfilling of working twice as hard to be considered half as good as the black woman I think I should be?”
It’s at those moments when you are at the deepest depths of your own psyche that you must pull yourself up and out. Congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished thus far. You are smart, you are kind, and most importantly you are you. The you, you are is an everyday work in process. So why waste any time thinking about what you are not and work towards everything you see you can be.
I haven’t found the exact formula for self-love. Believe me if I could bottle it up and hand it out freely to every Black woman who has ever deemed herself less worthy of this ultimate experience, I would. For most it’s a learning process. It begins with the deconstruction of an image that you feel you have to be for everyone else but yourself. Self love does not mean you have to love selfishly, it means you are allowed to love your self selflessly.