BY KIARA LEE-HEART
Earlier this month, many celebrated Valentine’s Day. We all know all sorts of emotions can be a buzz during this time. Every year, I think about my grandma because February 14th is her heavenly birthday. Every year, I see opinions plastered all over social media about who should or shouldn’t celebrate this day, how it should be celebrated, who should pay for dinner, who shouldn’t pay for dinner, and so on and so forth. Yeah, people tend to be all over the place.
Every year, I have my own personal reflections about love and my life around this time, as well. One of the things I try to really hone in on is this idea of self-love. Self-love has become a buzz word of sorts in recent years, but beyond the fluff and the minimization of it (i.e. get your nails done and boom, check off that self-love box), what is it really and are we really truly loving ourselves? I’m approaching the dirty t-word (thirty!), and I’m finding more and more that self-love is indeed a radical act in the words of Audre Lord, but it also takes getting our hands a little dirty in order to truly achieve. Here are just a few things I think of when I think of the “work” of self-love.
Self-love means recognizing our own toxic behaviors. Do we ever get on our own nerves? Block our own blessings? When we answer “no” to both of these questions, we’re probably lying to ourselves. In this season (and all the time, really), we should take some time to think about the things that we do to hinder ourselves. Do you struggle with doubting yourself? Perhaps you find yourself feeling jealous of those around you? Whatever you may do (knowingly or unknowingly) to make life harder on yourself can be worked on. My main toxic behavior is worrying. I worry so much, it often cripples me, robbing me of my joy and sometimes, my sanity. To put it simply: I often miss “the moment” because I’m too busy worrying about the what ifs of “what’s next.” Lately, I have been paying close attention to my bouts of worry in an attempt to identify when I’m doing too much, bringing myself back to the moment when I do. I’m also actively re-centering myself spiritually with scripture and quiet time to fend off the worrying. We need to think about what we need to do to help ourselves.
Self-love means being with ourselves sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with eating lunch alone or staying at home alone all day. The times we’re with ourselves should not make us feel sad or empty, for the most part. Alone time should feel like enough. I’ve just gotten to the point where I love being with myself. Before? I was always concerned about doing everything with friends and I looked at life as a group walk instead of an individual walk. I just could not stand the thought of being home alone for the day or even simply eating by myself. Now? I look forward to being with myself. I get excited about journaling in the quiet or simply laying on the bed with a good book. I even cherish the time I take getting dressed to go somewhere and my commute to work, where it’s just me, my thoughts and my music. If you don’t really know how to be with yourself, just throw yourself out there and do it. Spend some time at home alone doing something that relaxes you — and enjoy it. Go to your favorite store and shop (or window shop and plan for payday 😉 — and enjoy it.
Self-love means getting uncomfortable. There’s nothing wrong with stretching ourselves and getting a little uncomfortable. When we see new opportunities that require a departure from our comfort zones, maybe we should stick our neck out and at the very least, see what happens. Maybe there are things we want to try to better ourselves (healthier lifestyles, challenging intellectual work, etc.), but we don’t necessarily like big changes. I think this is the time when healthy changes should be considered, at the very least. What I’m trying to say is, we don’t know what we don’t know, and not knowing is uncomfortable. But, on the other side of discomfort could be an upgraded, leveled-up version of us, bigger, better and badder than ever. You don’t know until you try.
The one and only Toni Morrison said it best — “You are your best thing.”
We’re all busy with all kinds of work right about now, be it school, careers, starting families, healing from trauma, exploring our identities, trying to get healthy, fighting for social change — you name it. Amidst this work, let’s try to make more time for ourselves and more importantly, for the work we owe to ourselves. Our best thing.