By Jessenia Barros
To attain the level of total self-acceptance, we have to pass through stages. The odd parts of ourselves that we cannot hide are what makes us unique. Being at peace with what makes you different instead of being repulsed by the person that stares back at you when you look in the mirror. When we achieve this, then we truly come to a state of self-love. Every woman needs to go through this journey in life. Know that you are never alone in the struggle.
These seven brave women have let us into their struggle, what they overcame to get to a state of mental health and peace and how they maintain this state.
“Self-love is unquestionably incredibly necessary to a human’s well-being”
Self-love is more than just casual daily activities we do to look better or pamper ourselves like a massage, or manicure. Although these are great, it supersedes just that. It is finding the strength to face your demons and discover those parts you have suppressed in your own time and place. This is the way to attain true self-love.
For years, I had been fighting anxiety, depression, and panic attacks that greatly affected the way I related with those around me. It reached the boiling point eventually when I was debilitated for a week due to anxiety and suicidal thoughts, this was what alerted my family to the fact that I needed external help.
It has been 10 years and I have adopted and persisted in practices such as therapy, eating healthy, vegan diets, and self-reflection. Painful relationships of the past like the one with my spouse were one of the hurdles I had to heal from. I finally acknowledge that there was nothing wrong with me and gradually went on the path of healing. Aside from being a career woman, as a mother, I know how important it is to teach my daughter the importance of self-love which is why I have to believe it myself.
"Self-love is having self-respect, confidence, and truly being happy with who you are as a person."
The death of my dog triggered a decline in my mental and physical health. I began to eat to cope with the grief, it was not long before I became disgusted with how much weight I had put on. Taking pictures and going out to public gatherings became something I avoided.
It eventually occurred to me that the only person that can make a change is ME. I set out on a healthy journey, taking juices and exercising regularly. Accepting and loving the woman I was no matter my weight was also one important decision I made. Yes, I am still on the journey, and haven't reached my destination yet but the task is greatly rewarding. I have shed a couple of pounds and mentally, I do not beat myself anymore instead I celebrate even the smallest achievement. Patiently growing to become the woman I want to be.
"To me, self-love means loving yourself thoroughly. It means embracing your uniqueness and trusting yourself to forge your own path with determination."
I have struggled with my weight from my teenage years, this reached a climax in my first year at college when I visited a doctor who prescribed a bunch of drugs that were not FDA approved to suppress my appetite. At this stage, I was going to the gym for 45 minutes daily and taking just coffee for breakfast along with 8 oz of meat and spinach for dinner incontinently for 2 years. Friends and family were concerned about my unhealthy lifestyle advising me to quit.
Gradually, I began to realize that I was not imperfect. I worked towards changing my negative mentality and surrounding myself with the right kind of positive crowd, controlling what I saw on the media, places I visited, and engaging in the right physical activities. Now, I can proudly say that I have found self-love. I am healthier, and constantly spreading the love to other women by sharing my experience.
"Self-love is a constant journey."
Accepting who I was as a person, and the level I was in life was a constant struggle. Self-love to me is more than just embracing my physical appearance, it means loving me for ME. How I appear and where I am in life. Knowing when I deserve more at any given instance.
Therapy is important to achieving this! It gave me the perfect platform to think and digest my lifestyle, things I do subconsciously, bringing my emotions to the surface. It allowed me to reflect and be at peace with myself. I tend to compare my achievements to others and this was not healthy, I am constantly working on accepting and being at peace with who and where I find myself.
"As a whole and healed person, I know self-love to be caring enough about myself to unapologetically discard anything that doesn't hold me in the highest regard."
I was under the false belief 4 years ago that self-love was a theory used by others to write me off, especially since I was going through a breakup. Now, I have come to realize self-love represents the act of understanding what is right for me and swiftly getting rid of anything that makes me feel less of a person! Be it friends, jobs, sex partners, or undesirable outfits. Contentment is key, being happy with what I have and how I am built, small boobs and all.
I have always had the idea that I needed confirmation from a man, in any relationship I found myself. Wanting validation from my partner and if he compared me to other women I sort to be like them. Never again! It was a wasted attempt. Suppressing all anxiety and self-doubt I told myself I am beautiful just the way I am.
"I make time for the things I love and bring me joy. On the flip side, I take myself out of situations that do not serve me well. I think a big part of self-love is setting boundaries and doing what is best for you."
We need to learn to accept our imperfections the same way we are proud of things we are good at. Self-love is all about embracing every aspect of ourselves. Doing what makes you delighted, maybe dancing, spending time with friends, or working out.
This journey of loving myself began in high school. I always craved to have a lighter tone, lose more weight, have smaller lips, never really fitting in with the crowd.
Therapy helped me a lot, it has helped me discover myself. Surrounding myself with women of color also helped boost my confidence. Knowing what I want and keeping this limit has helped me define my true self. The joy I feel can be seen by others and this is the best thing ever!
"Self-love for me today is being sensitive to what I need, when I need it and just giving in to ME."
It is a deliberate process, a disciplined way of life. Turning your imperfections into perfections. This is what self-love is to me.
My cousins have a lighter skin tone because they are of a mixed-race, I have always yearned to have that, feeling like the odd one out as a young girl. I remember the words spoken by a little girl at school “Don’t play with Keisha, she is a black girl!”
This coupled with my struggle with my weight made me lose confidence in myself. The words of comedian Katt Williams when he said "It's called SELF-ESTEEM... esteem of yourself!" struck me.
I realized it was all in my way of thinking, with that, I began to reshape my thoughts. The first step I took after achieving some success and relocating to Louisville, Kentucky, was to start an anti-bullying campaign for children. This experience which was meant for the kids affected me positively.
This led to my second step, focusing on what truly mattered, ME. I began to see the worth in the smallest of things, taking breaks and time for myself even if it was just to ride a bike. Self-love for me is listening to myself. What do I need?