What Loving Yourself Actually Looks Like

People who love themselves move...differently.


Whitney said it, right? She told us that if we simply learned to love ourselves, what would ultimately happen is, we would achieve the "Greatest Love of All". But y'all, the more time I spend on this planet, the more I come to see that, one of the reasons why it's so hard to hit the mark, when it comes to all things love-related, is because you first have to define love in order to know how to do it…right and well.

Personally, I am a Bible follower, so The Love Chapter is certainly a great reference point. Let's go with the Message Version of it today:

"Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always 'me first,' doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies."—I Corinthians 13:4-8 (Message)

Yeeeah buddy. If some of us were really real with ourselves, based on this definition of love, we'd admit that we've got a ton of work to do when it comes to how we love other people. But what about when it comes to self-love? Since the Word also tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), what does it look like to bestow such a powerful emotion on our own being? How can we all make self-love a way of life?

This is something else that I'm kind of figuring out as life goes along. But as I'm becoming more and more intentional about loving me, I do know that the following 10 things have started to resonate in stronger, realer and more profound ways than ever. How do you check out on the following self-love checklist?

1. Self-Care Is an Absolute Must


If you've been hanging with us long enough, you know that we are BIG on self-care over here (see "5 Self-Care Gems To Keep In Mind On Your Professional Journey", "The Fundamentals Of Self-Care When You're Young, Black & Woke" and "Self-Care Isn't Supposed To Be Pretty"). The reason why we feel that self-care should be a top priority is basically found in the word itself. Care is all about consideration, affection and regard. Since you're the one who you are around the most, why wouldn't you want to honor yourself in these kinds of ways?

I've got friends who will be the first to help someone else out, but then will turn around and feel guilty about getting a mani/pedi or a massage. While that might seem like humility on the surface, what it actually means is they think others should get more from them than they should give to themselves. That's not a sign of self-love; that's actually an indication that some internal love is lacking.

There is nothing irresponsible, selfish or unnecessary about self-care. If it's not already a part of your life routine, take this as a sign that it should be. Take it as a step towards loving yourself, that much more.

2. Your Intimate Circle Is Safe, Loving and Loyal


If you watched Sex & the City as much as I did back in the day, you might recall a scene where Carrie declared that she was a masochist. As she was talking about the constant roller coaster that was her and Mr. Big, she said, "He might be the one beating me, but I'm the one who keeps tying myself up." (Metaphorically-speaking, of course.) Oh, how I can relate! I tell my "love nieces" (young women who are family through love, not blood) and my goddaughters that the only thing worse than a bad boyfriend are bad platonic female friends. The. Worst. They will have you out here doing all of the work, questioning your value and never knowing exactly where you stand. In short, they will have you being your own masochist.

When you grow up around a certain amount of toxicity, you tend to believe that dysfunction is normal, no matter how much you loathe it. That's how a lot of us end up in friendships and relationships that also mean us no good; they feel familiar even though we know we deserve better. But the more you focus on you and less on "them", the more you are willing to release what doesn't model the kind of love that you desire in your life. That leaves room for people who are committed, trustworthy and safe. Yes, when you love yourself, your relationships reflect that love. There's no doubt about that.

3. You’re Not Addicted to Attention (Online or Off)


Although I'm not the biggest fan of the phrase "attention whore" ("whore" is a bit harsh, if you ask me), there is an article on Thought Catalog entitled "10 Signs You're A Social Media Attention Whore" that brings up some good food for thought. Some of its signs included buying followers, baiting shout-outs, pressuring your friends to like or comment on your posts, triggering folks and feeling like no picture is worthy of getting posted unless you don't have any clothes on in them.

Social media can be an awesome tool. Some of us wouldn't have been able to grow our brand or network at the level that we do without it. But it's one thing to use social media; it's another to be totally consumed by it (research reveals that 210 million people are social media addicts, by the way).

People who love themselves don't feel like the world is coming to an end if Instagram and Black Twitter were to shut down tomorrow. They can go a few days without putting up a selfie. They are able to go on social media fasts without having a nervous breakdown. And, when it comes to life, in general, they are not constantly conjuring up ways to get attention. They love themselves enough that all of the "extra" simply isn't necessary.

4. You Enjoy Spending Time Alone


On the heels of what I just said, another sign that you love yourself is you know how to be alone with you. Totally alone. That said, there's a married couple I know who hasn't been alone with one another, in their own house, for at least four years now. Whenever someone needs a place to stay, they let them stay at their home. While on the outside, that might appear to be altruistic, the couple also fights a lot, has a pretty sucky sex life, and the husband is ever rarely home. Now does it seem like a good thing? Sounds to me like the traffic in their house is a distraction from the cracks in their relationship. Single folks who don't know how to be alone may have cracks in their relationship with themselves.

People who always have to be at someone else's house or even at a club or in the mall, they could seem like an extrovert on the surface. But even healthy outgoing people will tell you that sometimes they prefer to recharge in the quiet and comfort of their own home.

The only people who don't really get how someone can spend a weekend at home without other folks being around are either the ones who've never tried it before or they are the ones who don't like, let alone love, themselves enough to sit in silence with their own thoughts. And you know what they say—"If you don't love you, why should you expect anyone else to?" I'll add to that and say, "If you don't want to spend intimate time with yourself, why should others seek it out?"

5. You Embrace Your Strengthens. You Know Your Weaknesses.


Where some people mess up in the self-love department is they lack self-awareness and/or self-compassion. This can manifest in all sorts of ways. One way is they may not know what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a direct result, other people are able to take advantage of the due to their lack of self-knowledge. For instance, I know that a strength of mine is how I give to others. A weakness of mine is not always being able to see a person's motives out of the gate. When I wasn't aware of this, I constantly found myself in codependent situations or giving more than I was getting in return. Now that I'm aware of my strength and weakness in this area, my discernment is much keener. Plus, I'm able to give more freely because I know the difference between giving to help a person out and giving to a friend who will hold me down in return.

Another benefit of knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are is you can manage your time more wisely. What I mean by that is this—a wise man once said that if you devote all of your time to trying to make your weaknesses better, you may end up only being "average" in those areas. But, if you spent that same amount of time developing your strengths instead, in those areas, you could end up being supernatural.

None of us are perfect. All of us have areas where we are phenomenal and areas where we are lacking. Self-love teaches us to embrace the strengths while still offering self-compassion (which means not beating ourselves up) as it relates to our weaknesses.

6. A Relationship Is Surplus. Not a “Void Filler”.


Some of y'all are not going to agree with what I am about to say and that's totally OK. Hmph. Come to think of it, that actually is another sign that you love yourself—you don't need other folks to co-sign on your views and perspectives in order for you to feel good about them. That said, I'm not someone who sees anything wrong with a woman feeling like she needs a man in her life (or a man feeling like he needs a woman). In this context, a need is simply something that she wants or finds essential in order for her to be content in certain facets of her life. What will garner major side-eye is if she is needy for a man. When you're needy, you feel destitute and that tends to be one step away from desperation.

When you really and truly love yourself, you tend to look at a relationship from the standpoint of someone coming into your life to share all of the love that you already have. And, if that love comes tomorrow or five years from now, you're good because all a significant other will do is add to the already abundant life that you are already living. When a woman loves herself, a man doesn't fill any voids. He is coming into a space that is already overflowing. (Try not to drown in it, bruh.)

7. You’ve Got a Signature Style


Earlier this year, we did a feature on someone whose wedding I attended back when she and her husband lived in Nashville (they were both virgins, by the way. How cool is that?). Her name is Brandi Sellerz-Jackson. What we covered was Brandi's life as a doula. But what else she could've easily been interviewed on is her one-of-a-kind style.

Personally, I am a bigger fan of style than fashion. What I mean by that is I dig the kind of people who rock what they want to, regardless of what the industry says is in or out. I am drawn to the folks who are able to put things together in a way that is super-unique and then can walk with the kind of confidence that says, "I know I am an original. Deal with it."

When I say that loving yourself is about having a signature kind of style, I don't just mean when it comes to the clothes that you wear or make-up that you apply. One of my favorite definitions of style is "the way in which something is done". You've got a way that you go about doing you that is like no other. You are comfortable and confident in your individuality. And it resonates in just about everything that you do. If this ain't a form of self-love, what is?

8. You Are Envious of—and Threatened by—No One


Envy is evil. Full stop. I feel so strongly about it that I penned "5 Signs Your Closest Friends Are The Most Envious Of You" and "How To Stop Envying Your Favorite Celeb's Life". The main thing that I hate about envy is it's all about wanting what (or who) someone else has. It's all about being discontent with your own life; so much that you waste time, you become resentful and you very well could end up not living out your own purpose because you're so caught up in what other people have going on.

Envy is also awful because, basically it encourages you to act like God was looking out for others more than he was looking out for you. As if that's not bad enough, if you feed into it too much, it will have you feeling insecure; like everything is a competition and/or everyone is out here to get you. Envy is stifling. People who love themselves are intentional about avoiding it at all costs.

9. Aspiration—Not Desperation—Motivates You


I'm pretty sure we're all heard that desperate times call for desperate measures. But more times than not, I totally disagree. I'm more in a lane of another quote that says, "Don't let desperate situations make you do desperate things." To be desperate is to be "reckless or dangerous because of despair, hopelessness, or urgency". I have done all kinds of stupid things because I was desperate when it came to "love" (that's in quotes on purpose; true love won't require you to be reckless or dangerous), finances and sometimes, even when it came to so-called friendships.

But what's amazing about the word "desperate" is it actually reveals how to avoid it via the act of self-love. When you love yourself, you do not feel like you are in a state of despair or hopelessness; there is a positiveness and optimistic state that love brings out of you that keeps you from totally going there. Something else that I've learned self-love does is it slows you down. You don't want just anything, just to say that you have something. Because you know what you are truly deserving of—both professionally and personally—you can wait for "it". Because you are worth the wait. And that is what causes you to move based on what inspires you. Because of that, desperation isn't even on your radar.

10. You Celebrate Yourself. OFTEN.


Let's end this article with, "If you don't celebrate yourself, you don't love yourself enough." Think about it. Just by the mere fact that you are the only person who ever has been or ever will be just like you—is that not enough of a reason to honor, commend and revel in yourself? I certainly think so. But if you need more inspiration than that—When you reach a goal, celebrate it. When you make a decision in the present that you know will be right for your future, celebrate it. When you remove toxicity from your life, celebrate it. When you take a risk, celebrate it. When you see growth in a particular area, celebrate it. Celebrate by toasting yourself with your favorite bottle of wine. Or making plans to go on a trip. Or taking a private day to do nothing but whatever it is you want to do.

You will know that you've graduated to another level of loving yourself when celebrations become the norm. When you are so proud of the woman you are, that you can help but to relish in it. This is the kind of self-love that is precious. Make sure you get to a place where it's very familiar to you. You, my friend, are worthy.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Here's How To Know You're At Total Peace With Yourself

I've Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul

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Feature image by Shutterstock

Originally published on November 3, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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