For Us By Us: How I Discovered Self Love

Delving into what self love is all about this month of love

In a patriarchal world, the standards of beauty are endlessly weighted against women who look, dress and talk like me. Growing up in a world where Eurocentric standards of beauty rue the day, it’s hard for Black African women to see themselves represented in mainstream media and in turn, love themselves for how they look and who they are. According to one international study, only 4% of women aged 18-29 would call themselves beautiful and these numbers when narrowed down to my side of the world, are even steeper.

For me, a young woman navigating life in Lagos, Nigeria, I had to remind myself that my beauty existed regardless of my outward physical appearance. As a young woman who once attended a boarding school where all the girls had to shave their hair, I never really grew up believing I was conventionally attractive–with a buzz cut. However, surrounded by young girls and women who also donned the same low cut style as me, I was reminded that beauty was only skin deep from a very early age.

In my experience, I have learnt that it is almost impossible to love others the way they deserve to be loved without loving yourself first and this is something I have struggled with in my platonic and romantic relationships. I was unsure of myself and that in turn, meant that my relationships suffered due to my lack of self-awareness. Once this awareness kicked in, I decided to inculcate the habit of looking into the mirror, on my way out of the house every day, and reminding myself of my beauty and what made me unique. At the time, it was just a thing I did out of habit to but overtime, I realised this was building my self confidence. It became part a big of who I was, and now, a mirror is just a reminder that I’m beautiful.

Once you can be there for you always, you would never need to labour to be loved correctly in any relationship, whether that’s with friends, family or with a romantic partner. Self love is more about honouring yourself and where you currently are as a person, and then choosing oneself time and time again. It can be difficult to make the choice to commit to yourself and your happiness but for me, choosing myself has been an invaluable step towards the powerhouse of a woman I am capable of becoming. 

As a music head, music is another avenue for me to practice loving myself. Over the years, there have been numerable songs that have bolstered my belief in loving oneself, and in turn, filled me with the confidence I needed to take on a world that constantly counted me out. I distinctly remember how much I could relate with Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” due to its honest lyricism. I felt a similar way when I heard India Arie’s 2002 classic, “I Am Not My Hair”, a timely track which was aimed to empower Black women and remind them that Eurocentric standards of beauty are not the measure of their worth or desirability. Although I was barely 4 years at the time, I distinctly remember that song inspiring and filling me with pride, the moment I could understand and interpret its lyrics.

The new generation artists have also been doing a good job at passing these messages with their music recently. The new vanguard of Afropop stars are confident in who they are, and they want the same for their listeners. Ayra Starr arrived with the breakout single “Away”, an affirming track with lyrics such as “understand I won’t be the girl that used to cry, cry about a man that never came through.” More than just an avenue to talk about her own personal experiences, the song was affirming for a new generation of listeners coming into their own as adolescents and interacting with the opposite sex. That song constantly gives women hope and strength as it’s a subtle reminder that nobody deserves to have so much power over you. 

On Joeboy’s debut album ‘Somewhere Between Beauty And Magic,’ he opened the album with the track “Count Me Out,” a self-appreciative number that found the singer talking up himself and his abilities. Here, he reminds listeners not just his strength as an artist but his self confidence and how he worked hard to be in the current Afropop conversation with standout lyrics such as “I drop hit I just smash hit and na so e go dey I’m never stopping”, a rather braggadocios but catchy entrance. These are the type of songs that are constantly on replay whenever I am feeling less than my confident self, because of their ability to see me at the base of my emotions. 

With Valentine’s here once again, I’m reminded of that little girl who made the decision to look into the mirror and choose herself, even when the world stood against her and those who looked just like her. I am a long way from that little girl, but in many ways, still exactly like her, searching for a way to be comfortable in my own skin. I can’t tell you it’s been easy and I certainly can’t tell you that it’ll be a one-week mission or a two-month thing or even a year. It’s an everyday job to love oneself and commit to loving that person in the mirror.

Self love is more than just acceptance. I have come to find that it is about challenging hateful lies that ruin lives, and then creating a space for the truth, which opens one up to love and fulfilling existences. Picture everyone making the decision to do this everyday, imagine how life could change for all of us? lf we all made the decision henceforth that we are perfect exactly the way we are, who gon’ stop us?

Featured image credits/NATIVE

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