Love. It’s a complex feeling and seemingly indescribable force of nature. We hear and see variations of what everyone thinks the embodiment of love is, what it isn’t, and how it should be navigated and distributed to others. But, as much as people would like to, we can’t put conditions on love or dictate how any one-person should experience or receive it.
Often, when the topic of love comes up in conversation we hear it within the context of romantic relationships and parental love however, the act of self-love seems elusive and, at times, controversial because we’re conditioned to think that unless we have a romantic partner or children, look a certain way, and live under the prohibitory restrictions of respectability politics, we’re destined for a life of unhappiness, cobwebby vaginas, copious cats, and misery; especially if you’re a woman who is child-free and/or single; and especially if you’re a happy Black woman who is single and childfree and comfortable in her skin. And we all know that being a woman that is childfree or single is cause for alarm and ridicule, and simply won’t suffice.
To be a woman that’s happy, secure and confident in her decisions and who loves herself tremendously and unconditionally, flaws and all, is to be met with a lot of pushback from those who adhere to social mores and social conditioning, and who try to dictate the circumstances and terms of what love should look like. People can’t fathom a woman who has cultivated self-acceptance because self-love seems like such an elusive concept for so many people.
In a culture that places heavy emphasis and value on looking a certain way, banks on people dramatically altering themselves when they don’t, and on accumulating material luxuries, self-loathing is a lucrative business. Mass media, pseudoscience, and advertising companies force-feed us a steady diet of unrealistic, unhealthy and patriarchal paradigms that pedestal Eurocentric beauty and respectability that often erase and disparage Black women and other women of color, and that tells us unless we contort ourselves to fit in or assimilate, we simply don’t measure up, can’t be successful, won’t be granted access and don’t matter.
Feminist writer and activist Audre Lorde said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” To go against the grain and eschew cultural conditioning; to exercise agency, center ourselves and be self-affirming in the face of messaging that tell us we have no value, and are undeserving of love unless we inhabit a specific body type, social class, or skin complexion; are married or have children, is revolutionary. Yes, self-love is, indeed, a radical act and it is why messages, like those advocated by movements such as #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackGirlsRock, that celebrate achievements and promote the self-affirmation—especially for a demographic of monoracial Black women and teenage girls who are often disregarded, maligned, and erased—are so important.
To live a life of self-actualization, without apology, is cathartic and inspiring. Self-love without the extra bells and whistles is equally as valid as romantic love, and it’s what makes us able to love on others freely and wholly. Self-love and self-acceptance are concepts that enable healthy and fulfilling relationships with others and is what helps us navigate, discern and make crucial decisions about the more complicated interactions we have with others.
Radical self-love is what prompts us to step outside of our comfort zones and prioritize our goals. It’s what helps us find our respective voices without wavering or yielding to those trying to muffle us from sharing our stories, and is what propels us to take on endeavors or experiences we would never consider because we think we aren’t worthy enough.
Self-love, self-care, and the right to experience happiness and the range of our emotions are profound acts that we’re all entitled to and have the right to indulge in, even if we aren’t white, thin, light-skinned with 3C hair texture, prim and proper, or wealthy.
Love of self doesn’t require perfection, permission, or acceptance from others.
Radical self-love is what sets the foundation for how we expect others to treat and love on us. Anything less is a dangerous trap that robs us of our autonomy, humanity, and right to be happy, healthy, wonderfully imperfect and fulfilled.
Tiffani Jones is the creator and writer of Coffee Rhetoric, a blog about women, pop-culture, film and race. A frequent contributor to both print and digital media platforms, she is also the Digital Content Editor for Northend Agent’s. Tiffani has offered commentary on HuffPost Live, in the NY Times, and on WNPR in another life. More info about her work can be found on www.coffeerhetoric.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Coffey0072