Self-Love is Political

Taking taking of yourself, using your energy on things that matter to you and spending resources on yourself can sometimes feel incredibly selfish and in recent years self-love has become the buzzword that we can’t escape. If it isn’t slogans on t-shirts, it’s face masks and candles on Instagram, and honestly I can’t shake the feeling that it sometimes feels incredibly ingenious. Maybe that’s because the western ideals and values that hold the pillars to everyday life aren’t really ones that I deeply resonate with (or because it is always protrayed as editorial when it’s a valley girl and ‘too extra when it’s a woman of colour).

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare. — Audre Lorde

Part of the African identity is ubuntu which is the essentially the ‘quality of someone’s humanity’ and in a philosophical sense is explained through the following proverb:

“Ubuntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu” // “A person is a person through other people”.

There is an inherent responsibility that we carry within us and that is to take care of others and for African women who are the backbone of our societies and families this rings even more true. We cannot be there for everyone if we are not physically and mentally strong enough for ourselves. Burn out is real, mental health is real and yet none of those are addressed because we all live with the mantra of “Keep Moving”, because too much is at stake for you not to, right? Being African also means that we’re a people that have continuously been exploited and robbed, we’re spiritually depleted and are you surprised that we are? We’re distrustful of each other, we’re hungry, and that leads to primal instincts rather than human ones. We move from thinking about ‘us’ to an ‘I’ state of mind.

But what are the consequences of communities depleted of love? I know I will very much sound like a hippie when I say this but when there is no love, then there is nothing feeding our souls and without that we stay locked up in cycles of detriment. I stopped watching the news a while ago. I’ll occasionally read articles here and there, research, watch some documentaries etc but I don’t tune into the news cycles anymore. Firstly, news is a business and as much as I grew up wanting to be a journalist at some point, I realised that truth and well-balanced narratives are not in the interest of getting views. Secondly, I’m an empath and the continuous triggering images of the suffering, the death, the bigotry not only makes my blood boil but does nothing for my anxiety. The state that we are in today is because there is a lack of love (and of course a whole other bunch of variables…but love people is key).

I get it, self-love and preaching ‘love all’ is not cool. Philosopher Harry Frankfurt has written that “in order to care about the things and people we love, we have to care and love ourselves, because we have to endorse the cared and loves we have”. You see love is very much commercialised, to the point that many of us don’t even know what love truly is. Why is it that the cosmetics industry can irresponsibly profit trillions from exploiting our insecurities, without any repercussion? At no point in our lives are we given/taught healthy coping mechanisms and why would we, when that would mean a lot of other people would be losing a lot of money. That’s why seeing kids being taught meditation instead of being given detention in school is so encouraging to see because if we can be mindful and look inward, we can identify our faults and work to better ourselves, which in turn means we can walk in this world in a productive, positive manner.

Personally this has been a journey, I always feel like it’s part of my job to make sure that other people’s lives are easier, that it’s my responsibility to protect them, that along with trying to grow up myself I somehow owe the people I care about all of me. I recognise it’s unhealthy, and to be honest it’s taking time to learn that putting yourself first doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. I think reclaiming my time is a huge priority in 2018 because in order to achieve what I want, I need to be more tunnel-visioned and use my time and energy on what and who truly matters. We need to create our own safe worlds and not open ourselves up to just anyone or anything, and this also includes thoughts and ideas. Our minds are incredible and more impressionable than we realise.

Love is an intention, an action…it’s a choice – M. Scott Peck.

If we are filled with resentment and hate, I highly doubt we’re gonna be vessels for goodness. I’m not that good at math but I’m pretty sure of that one. “A woman of colour’s self-love is political and radical, and it is unsettling for the status quo” (Mehreen Kasana) and as long as this is the case here’s to living louder and bolder.

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