A new day is dawning; one where black women unite to fight for our right to love ourselves loud, proud, and out in the open.
Walking down city streets, you’ll probably catch a glimpse of what it’d be like to live in a Wakandan utopia. As naturalistas unapologetically bounce their coiled coifs about the globe, more people are having discussions surrounding Black women and self-love.
Once upon a time, the two were total antonyms.
Using the National Survey of Black Americans: A Panel Study of Black American Life 1979-1992, a study was conducted to examine the self-esteem of African American women. Years later, Kelly L. Patterson of State University of New York at Buffalo used this piece to develop a detailed research paper that was later published to the Journal of Black Psychology.
Patterson reveal that, during this time, researchers surmised that Black women should have lower self-esteem because of our position in society. They believed that the Black woman’s role as the bottom of a marginalized group would beget negative psychological outcomes. We’re glad to say – they were wrong.
“They tried to bury us, but they did not know we were seeds.”
Generations of racial oppression and social segregation have not devastated the Black psyche. Although trace amounts of self-hatred do exist, collectively, Black women are now accepting an anecdote that will forever change the narrative.
Bred to be the tough-skinned personification of femininity, Black women must admit that we can’t be all things to all people. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Before you help anyone else, make sure your glass is filled.
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In this piece, BLK + GRN will outline 10 reasons why ‘no’ should fluidly flow from a Black woman’s lips. Remember, everyone won’t be happy about your new language choices, but this change is for you – not them.
1. Get Proper Rest
You need your rest. Although you may be urged to try to single-handedly take over the world, an article from Entrepreneur.com presented studies that proved that overtime is counterproductive.
As soon as you hit the average of 40 work hours in a week, your productivity immediately starts to decline. People who log 50-60+ hours are almost wasting their time.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or just highly ambitious, it’s time to practice saying ‘no’ – as impossible as that may seem.
This could mean turning down offers from your clients, refusing to assume some of your associates’ workload, or telling yourself ‘no’ when it’s time to wind down at the end of the evening.
Say ‘no’ to checking your emails as soon as you open your eyes.
Say ‘no’ to skipping lunch/dinner just to get the next job done.
Say ‘no’ to staying up all hours of the night.
Just say no and get some sleep.
2. Combat Anxiety
Reading through “To Be Female, Anxious, and Black”, you’ll get an eye-opening glimpse into the various ways anxiety plagues Black women. As the most common mental health disorder in the United States, Black women experience anxiety-related symptoms far more often than any other demographic.
Even with the research to substantiate some of the behaviors that villainize Black women as a group, society still manages to label us in three classifications: strong, angry, or jezebels.
These tales have been told for so long, they don’t need further definition. For all intents and purposes, we’d rather concentrate on the way these labels affect the way society sees Black women or, more importantly – the way they cause us to view ourselves.
We aren’t inherently destined to carry the revolution on our backs. We don’t need to disguise normal human emotions like hurt, anger, sadness, or disappointment, in an attempt to model ourselves after Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.
Without disrespecting their historical contributions, it’s safe to say that we don’t have to idly allow the world to be dismissive of the real issues we face. Some studies believe that the “angry Black woman” is simply lashing out as an example of her inability to cope with the negative effects of anxiety (though, we do think some people just need to
be cussed out hear a piece of your mind).
Our bodies are villainized and oversexualized at the same time, but we weren’t born to be “eye candy”. Let’s begin to disassociate with the labels and boxes the world tries to shove us into and say ‘no’ to the next person’s definition of what it means to be a Black woman.
3. Set Your Own Value
Even in 2018, Black women are still scratching for titles like “first” or “only” at school, in the office, and in the community. Just days ago, Ethiopia elected its first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, and disrupted the status quo.
With an impressive political background and a daunting international reputation, people are still in shock over the decision. Why?
Because she’s a woman.
You don’t have to aspire to become the president or sit as an advisor for the African Union to experience the benefits of self-love. You can learn to say ‘no’ in relationships – platonic or intimate – to prove that you make the final decision on what you deserve.
4. Become More Creative
As magical as you are, you must reserve at least a portion of yourself from the world. In doing so, there’ll be more of that magic available for you to use when investing in your own goals.
Every now and then, tell your friends you can’t go out to party and work on your business plan instead.
Forgo happy hour to pick up your pen and start writing poetry again.
Start clearing your schedule of everyday demands and fall in love with the things that used to bring you happiness. You know, before you convinced yourself that you didn’t have time for those things anymore.
Try exploring something new like meditation or yoga. Enhance the experience with the calming energy shared from a hand-poured crystal infused Blue Sage chakra candle.
Visit a local ‘sip and paint’ or simply stay at home with a good book. There are hundreds of ways for you to find your muse and become more creative.
With so much clouding our thoughts 24 hours a day, it can be difficult to concentrate on what we really should be doing.
Start scheduling regular sabbaticals and making time to rediscover you.
5. Learn to Enjoy Time with Yourself
According to Psychology Today, spending time alone can be life-changing. How many studies have you seen discussing the love life of Black women as if being single was the onset of some life-threatening disease?
There’s a difference between being lonely and alone. Lonely is an emotionally vulnerable state; one that may indicate the need to ramp up the ‘self-love’. Being alone is physical. It’s a form of therapeutic healing that’s usually overlooked by the people who need it most.
About 68% of people say they feel like they need more rest. What’s ironic is that, when asked how they rest, most people listed stimulating activities like exercising, watching TV, or talking on the phone. Spending time alone gives you the freedom to just ‘be’ without any expectations. Try it and see how your life changes.
Rekindle the relationship you have with yourself, without the static of other people’s energy.
Let’s listen to a few sound words from Jamila Woods – Holy for inspiration:
6. Address and Recover from Depression
Behind anxiety, depression is a tremendous health concern among Black women. We’re the last to be diagnosed and/or treated because it’s such a taboo in our community.
A study on depression in Black women by Psych Central ties the stereotypes and labels we endure today back to behaviors first gathered during slavery. The need to be strong and appear unbreakable is something we probably inherited from ancestors; now it’s time to start working on healing those wounds.
Some believe social and economic dividers are to blame for the dwindling rate of depression diagnoses in Black women but, in reality, many of us don’t even recognize the symptoms or triggers. It can be uncomfortable to admit that something feels “off”, but don’t fear the process of treating yourself – and making your well being a priority.
Check out the Therapy for Black Girls Directory to find someone to talk to in your area.
7. Inviting Happiness into Your Life
‘Happiness’ is a subjective term, but it’s something we should all be focusing on. As a people, we must learn to reject disparaging feelings and understand that they are an exception, not the rule.
No matter how long you’ve been experiencing an unfavorable event, you can turn things around…you just have to want to.
Black women have learned to put on our armor and become comfortable being uncomfortable – but it’s time for that to stop, once and for all. Let’s start reminding ourselves that Black Girl Happiness is Revolutionary.
You deserve to be happy.
You deserve to live a life that’s satisfying.
Whatever you’re involved in, it should leave you fulfilled. If not, start saying ‘no’. There’s no need to compromise.
The first thing you need to do to bring this to life is to change your expectations. We found this list of self-love affirmations from the Dear Black Women Project and fell in love!
It’s time to start digging up those self-defeating seeds that have been planted in your subconscious. One day at a time, you’ll witness the therapeutic effects of practicing self-love.
8. Finding the Right Love
Emphasis on ‘right’. A few years ago, there was a segment on ABC News called “Why Can’t Successful Black Women Find a Man?” – and the star-studded panel had all the opinions in the world.
Focusing on statistics, black college-educated women outnumber black men with degrees, and that may impact the decision to get married. Speakers suggested everything from lowering one’s standards to interracial dating, but we think the solution is simple.
When you’re comfortable with yourself, you’ll start viewing relationships differently. Loving yourself at a certain degree means that you won’t tolerate anyone who doesn’t meet, or exceed, that standard – all you’ll be ok with waiting.
A study from NCBI surveyed married Black men to see what they thought about the reason why black women were disproportionately single and the results took the same tone as ABC. The only difference was, some of these men believed that Black women struggled to feel fulfilled in relationships because they weren’t happy internally.
There’s no one else on this planet who can bring you the fulfillment that you can offer yourself. Cultivate the relationship you have with the woman in the mirror and, eventually, everything else will fall into place.
9. Set an Example for the Future
Fortunately, recent studies tell a different story from the research shared in the past. A survey from Glamour Magazine showed that, with the rise in representation and the resurrection of the “Black and beautiful” movement, Black women are now more confident than any other group of women.
Consistently, we praise ourselves for being successful, worthy, and beautiful, and the world is taking notice.
Now, you finally see beauty brands spending more of their marketing budget to cater to black women.
We’ve said no to blanketed beauty campaigns.
‘No’ to toxic chemicals and products that have caused us harm for decades.
‘No’ to artificial foods and drinks that don’t nourish our bodies.
Black women have turned ‘no’ into a revolution all its own– and the next generation is taking notice.
10. Turn Love into An Action Word
The internet is flooded with memes and recycled quotes, but it’s important for us to remember that love, namely self-love, is a verb; it’s an action word. A Huffington Post article addresses the many ways that Black women have had to Confront Obstacles to Self-Love.
From feeling isolated in circles of “higher achievement” to combating the publicized image of beauty, Black women are not afforded the luxury of simply existing in an environment that’s conducive to our well-being. This means we have to put forth the effort to create it.
We do not have to allow ourselves to be ostracized while we take residence in successful sects.
We do not have to excuse the ignorance of others at the expense of our own happiness.
While you’re on this self-love journey, you’ll soon see that you are not alone. Though your favorite IG account may make this look easy, she shares many of the same silent struggles as you. There are tons of books, articles, and interviews that’ll give you some insight and, hopefully, some inspiration to make a few personal changes.
Remember, you deserve it.