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What A 7-Day Self-Love Challenge Taught Me About Myself

The experience provided a small reminder that made a huge impact.

Inspiration

I usually don't partake in these online challenges. I try my best not to fall into the trap of the social-media sunken place. Since I've labeled this the year of "firsts", I decided to participate in a challenge for the very first time. Surprisingly, I was no longer hesitant about it. I've reached a point in my life where I'm more comfortable explaining my story to people and being more vulnerable. Once I feel like I'm on the right path, I'm reminded that I have another opportunity at life and that I am indeed a work in progress. I can say that I'm thankful and proud of not being where I used to be.

What I admired about xoNecole's 7-day Self-Love Challenge was that it forced me to think outside of the box and informed me that my life isn't as bad as I thought.

With Necole and the editors' blessings, I've decided to be the brave soul to share what this challenge meant to me. Thank you, in advance, ladies.

Day 1: Create a list of all the things that bring you happiness, joy, or peace. Do one thing from the list today or this week.

I was so excited about this challenge that I dove in head first. I made it a point to keep a list of all the things I love to do. Many joys in life don't cost a thing, but how they make you feel is priceless.

Since I've trained my mind to always think about what brings me joy and happiness, this list didn't take long to complete. Again, this was a steady reminder that I am on the right path.

After stepping back and re-reading my list, I decided to pull out a few I wrote five months ago to compare and contrast my interests. The first list displayed things I thought I would enjoy but had never tried. I would add ideas and activities that seemed fun to the list in hopes I would be able to accomplish those things at a later date. I wasn't realistic with myself. With another list, I asked myself, "What makes me smile?" and I could equate a smile with peace and enjoyment.

Day 2: Write 10 positive sentences that start with 'I AM.' Record yourself reading them to replay when you're feeling unsure.

It's one thing to create a list in your head and whisper it to yourself. It's another to write it out and post it on social media. I'm not one to display those types of things publicly but after writing out statements, I felt they now became powerful. To read and recite my strengths was a beautiful moment. It reminded me that I'm multifaceted, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I was just one way. My statements made me feel so proud of the progress I'd made over the past two years.

This is something that I'll refer to on the days I don't feel so powerful. I felt like I was double blessed on day two: I helped myself and others.

Day 3: Capture a selfie without retaking it. Post on social media and caption it with one of the sentences from Day 2.

Image via Teisha Leshae

I am a person who knows her angles and what filters to use, but to risk it all and just trust the first picture didn't seem like an option. I have to take at least eight and choose at least two out of the eight.

After I took the picture, my mind drifted into a negative space, ripping myself apart about how I think I should look to the public. After I let one negative comment slip through my lips, I caught myself and just posted the photo. The person I saw in the photo was someone I didn't recognize for a moment. For so long, I'd done certain things just to "look presentable".

Looking at my selfie helped me become more mindful of my physical presence. If I cared a little more each day, I felt more content. The week after the challenge, I started to eliminate certain foods from my diet. Avoiding overindulging and saying "no" made me feel great.

Day 4: Call a friend and tell them how much you appreciate them in your life.

This day was a quick reminder that I don't have any friends. I've attempted to be a good friend to people I've met throughout my life, but unfortunately, none stuck around long enough. As much as I have become aware of my personal growth and development, I've always wanted to be surrounded by a group of women I love and respect. On day four of this challenge, that wasn't the case.

Realizing I had no one to call, I wanted to give up on the problem. If I'm not able to complete the tasks, then I should save myself the heartbreak. I thought about who to call over the next few days and realized there was one person who I hadn't heard from in a while---someone who's much younger but very mature. That person is my younger sister who is in college. The hour-long conversation was much-needed.

After having a tough week, it felt good to laugh and talk to someone who has the same unconditional love I have for her as she has for me. Now, whether it be over the phone or our many Starbucks trips, we always find a way to have a fun time.

Day 5: Treat yourself to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Order delivery, cook for yourself, or dine out.

I'm not a foodie but if I find myself craving something, I make sure I eat it. Mexican food is my favorite. Some people call them Mexican restaurants, but those of us who live in Southern California call them taco shops. I love anything wrapped in a tortilla, so I purchased my go-to meal: a carne asada burrito with rice and beans on the side. I usually order my food to go, but on that particular day I decided to dine in. (When you eat in, you also get to enjoy one of the best chips-and-salsa combinations.) I took my time and enjoyed every bite. It felt like heaven in my mouth.

Day 6: Forgive yourself for a mistake you haven't made peace with. Write down some things you can do better next time.

Surprisingly, this one was tough. With my numerous homework assignments from my therapist, I thought I'd forgiven myself for all of the mistakes I'd made. I currently don't regret anything.

But if I had to choose, it would be giving energy to people who I knew wouldn't be a good fit in my life. I've entertained a handful of people knowing that I shouldn't have in the first place. I knew these individuals didn't align with my morals, values, and energy. This led to being forced to hold on to a memory that shouldn't have been a memory in the first place. I've wasted my time and the time of others. I've allowed my boredom to get the best of me.

The only way to avoid this ever happening again is to regularly check myself. Check-in with my mood and my headspace before inviting people into my space. I never want to choose out of desperation.

Day 7: Disconnect from social media for the day. Be mindful of how much more in the moment you are.

I couldn't honestly disconnect completely. Out of all my social media platforms, I've enjoyed Instagram the most. I'm mindful of who I follow, so I somewhat call Instagram a happy escape. I follow inspirational people and pages that start my day and week on the right foot. I've been so content in who I am as a person that I haven't allowed what others do on social media dictate how I feel.

However, for this day, I scrolled less and redirected my energy into something else. I made it a point to only check my social media three times, which seemed more manageable for me than completely disconnecting.

(How else am I supposed to laugh at my favorite memes?) I think it's best to do what works for me. I've found myself being more intentional about making myself unavailable to certain people.

Overall, I'm pleased to have done this challenge. The take-away was that I'm not as bad as I think. I've been focusing on the paint and not precisely the painting. The challenge gave me a chance to stop and reset. It also allowed me to meditate on new goals and future challenges. Since participating, I've encouraged others to do the same. It was a simple reminder that in order to receive the love we want, we have to make it a point to love ourselves the same way we would want others to love us.

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

7 Unapologetic Women Share Their Self-Love Journey

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Why I No Longer Believe In The Phrase 'Love Yourself Or Nobody Will'

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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.

Reparations

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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