by: Akili King
As Black History Month comes to a close, I keep reflecting on the concept of radical self-love. It’s a sort of resilience that has carried our people through many-a-challenge: from yoga–comforting Angela Davis and Ericka Huggins during their time in solitary confinement– to Simone Biles choosing to care for her mental health over competing for medals in the Olympics.
When we choose our mental peace, we not only prioritize our joy, but we also indirectly prioritize our community, and, at times, even become history makers. This is, of course, an easy theory to forget in a society that forces us to “work twice as hard as everyone else to receive half the credit.” In the midst of this systemic reality, I still can’t help but ask myself, ‘what if we reminded one another that self-care is an important part of the journey to being great, too?’ That it doesn’t have to be a destination. That you deserve it simply because you’re alive. That it’s ‘productive,’ too. That it can take many different forms that work for our lifestyles: perhaps as simple as laughing once a day, giving back to your community, or saying positive affirmations to yourself.
I’m honoring the month, and myself, by learning from our past and present change-makers and expanding my concept of self-care. It’s nothing money could ever buy. It isn’t an object or thing that will heal any wound or worry. Right now, especially after lockdown, it looks like spending quality time with loved ones. To celebrate that community, I talked with a few friends in Brooklyn–who inspire me to keep going in life—about how they’ve been prioritizing self-love and finding inspiration lately. I hope it serves as a reminder that you deserve to define rest and self-care for yourself; something I often forget. As The Nap Ministry put it, “You are not a machine. You are a divine human being. We will rest!”
"Enjoying what you do is a form of rest in itself. You don’t need to do anything to deserve rest. My mother and my grandmother are huge sources of inspiration for me. I have them to thank for everything that I have. I also draw inspiration from the instant connection we can have with anyone. Black women inspire me. We raised the world. We’re natural caregivers.”
"I’m prioritizing moments of our joy, how specifically they are coded, and how effervescent we are in spite of our circumstances. I am always reminded that in all of our generational fights for equality, there has always been space for joy in our communion."
"There’s an intense push to go back to ‘normal,’ but in all honesty our old normal wasn’t always a vibe. So I’ve just been trying to honor myself by going slowly when I need to."
"I'm really inspired by women who never allow anything to stop them from moving forward. My mother and my grandmother are also the strongest people I’ve ever met. They went through so much to even be in America. They’re the reason I even had the chance to go to college. I’m just inspired by anyone who pushes forward regardless of adversity. I’m inspired by our essence as Black people and our beauty is incredible."
"I really don't want to get lost in the cog of work life. For real. I work in a very high pressure, fast paced startup environment where things are constantly changing. That can be taxing, especially when we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Therefore, I’m really trying to prioritize my peace. I do that through taking my time with things. I’m learning that if you don’t have boundaries, it’s very easy to forget yourself, especially in our society where we're supposed to constantly produce."
“I’m trying to practice patience and understanding, especially when it comes to my creative endeavors. I’m reminding myself that sometimes things just take a little bit longer. It’s all about being present and doing the best you can."
"Lately, loving myself looks like talking to God, taking (and making) time to nourish my body, dancing in the basement of my apartment building, asking for help when needed, and completing to-do lists so that I can rest– fully and freely. I’m forever inspired by my family. My mother’s fierce compassion, my father’s vulnerability, and my sister’s courage. They are my calm in the storm, always!"
"I’m inspired by our humor as Black people. We are so funny. We are so cool and we make everything cool. I love that I can wake up in my skin.”
"In the past, I was very quick to sacrifice my time for others. It’s super important to give yourself time to do nothing. I stay inspired by looking to the Black activists of the sixties and seventies who fought for the betterment of all Black people. I’m also inspired by how natural we are at everything. For example, when I’m cooking with my mom she never looks at the instructions… It's so intuitive for her. We go off of feeling and soul; you can see it in the way we dance and move and in our laughter.”
“I try to honor myself and my ancestors and the people in my community by showing up as the best version of myself. That’s self-love to me. It’s so hard to encompass our beauty (Blackness) in just 28 days. We’re so unique. I love our features and how we grow and evolve with time."
"I’m currently really inspired by Quinta Brunson because of her show, Abbot Elementary. It’s such a great show for so many reasons, but what I love most about it is that it humanizes Black children while also showing the incredible effort of educators in our community. It also helps that it’s hilarious and the best feel good show I’ve seen in awhile. I’m so proud that a talented young Black woman is growing a platform to share her art.”
“I’ve been practicing self-love by listening to myself and understanding that everything I need is already around me: from my beauty rituals that I’ve been trying to do more religiously, to realizing that love has been in front of me all this time. I realized that, someone who has been my friend for a while now, actually makes a great romantic partner, too, and that’s been a really beautiful realization."
“Sometimes I feel like I can’t afford self-love. I don’t have the time or money for that honestly. But I’ve been trying to find it through my work. Even just inviting my friends to the studio and playing around with music even if nothing necessarily comes of it. But I’m also realizing self-love to me just feels like clean sheets and clean pajamas and watching a good movie."
"I'm digging into my ancestry and lineage has been a form of self-love and inspiration for me. My grandmothers are a big inspiration to me too. They’ve given me a lot of stability. I also draw inspiration from Diahann Carroll. She embodies glamor. I think the cosmic nature of Black women inspires me most too. It’s cosmic. It has its twists and turns to it. There's a lot for us to reclaim and rediscover and I love that."
"Self-love is being able to step back and look at your life and say, ‘I’m achieving things that I never thought I would be able to."
"This month specifically, I bought some books by Black women authors: Angela Davis’ Women, Race & Class, killing rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks and Nikki Giovanni’s Make Me Rain. I’m really inspired by people who are practicing community and showing others that there’s space for all of us to sit at the new table that we are creating."
“I think self-love is a very complicated thing. I think it's something that has been commodified as well. So you kind of have to bring it back to yourself. I try to reflect on how I can open a dialogue with my inner voice. Especially in 2022, I'm trying to reduce the guilt I have when I do nothing. It feels like I could be occupying this time; learning a language, working on something productive. But I’m working on just allowing myself to rest."
"I’m working on relinquishing what isn’t working for me. Right now, my brothers are really inspiring me to continue to be better. The two oldest ones both recently had children and are homeowners. It’s beautiful to see people you've known your entire life manifest so many things and do it with grace."
"I always think about how I can start my day before I get into work. I ask myself how I can have small luxuries. Maybe it’s simply lighting a candle or putting on a playlist while writing. I like meditating in the morning and doing 10 minutes of exercise, too."