Black people have been treated as unworthy since America’s inception.
This is an unfortunate and heartbreaking history and the legacy of this history continues today. African people were stolen from their homelands and chattel slavery was instituted in the United States. Chattel slavery meant that children born to slaves were considered slaves and it guaranteed that slavery would continue from generation to generation. Enslaved people had no rights, and they were treated and considered to be less than human.
I do not need to recount all of the traumas of slavery, but one marker of slavery is Black people were told over and over again in small and large ways l we were not worthy of love, life, health, care, and respect. Despite this messaging and conditioning, Black people built loving relationships, Black people cared for and loved their children, and Black people cultivated joy and community in the midst of these historical experiences and subsequent trauma.
I wish I could say that racism ended with slavery.
Unfortunately it’s not so. The racism used to justify slavery changed forms after slavery was abolished. Racism manifests in numerous ways like police murdering Black people who are walking, running, and sleeping. Every time one of these murders happens, I feel it viscerally in my body. As a Black person, I wonder how you feel both psychologically and psysiological when you hear of another murder or see it happening on video? Then in the summer of 2020, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered and something shifted.
People began to wake up this truth that we, as Black people, have always known: Black Lives Matter.
I’m hopeful and there is still work to do.
Today, aside from the overt racism we experience in cases of police violence, there are many subtle forms of racism. They can look like being passed over for a promotion or not getting an interview for a job that you’re overqualified for. Black women also have to navigate stereotypes like we are hyper sexual, we are manipulative, we’re gaming the system, or we are always angry. Sometimes it’s just assuming we are always strong, that we don’t feel pain, or that we don’t get sick which results in us not receiving the medical care we need.
Dear Black people, we are worthy because we are human.
Our worthiness is not based on anything else but that irrevocable truth.
We are human.
When we assert our unconditional self worth as Black people, we are taking a radical stand against all the prevailing messages like Black people are only worthy if we talk right, act right, play right, or look right.
The idea that we need to be perfect and magical to be loved and respected is a lie.
We are worthy when we win and fail. We are worthy when we experience depression and anxiety. We are worthy when we are coping with trauma. We are worthy in the fullness of our humanity.
How do we put our self worth into practice?
We stop buying into the idea that our worth is based on our productivity.
I believe a powerful way to connect and honor our unconditional self worth as Black people is to take good care of ourselves. So often, we push ourselves to the limit because we feel we have no other choice. We buy into the idea that we always have to be hustling to be successful and worthy, that we must work 3 times as hard to be as successful as White people. Overworking ourselves can increase stress, exhaustion and physical health issues. I want us to shift away from the idea that to be worthy as Black people, we have to work ourselves into the ground.
We practice listening to our bodies and taking care of ourselves.
With my Black female clients, we often talk about the need for rest. Taking care of ourselves is a radical act because it directly challenges the messages that we are not worthy of love. When I talk about self-care I’m not referring to the commercialized instagrammable self care I’m talking about deep practices of listening to your body and taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself can look like making sure you get enough sleep. Too often, as Black women, we have trouble taking the time to sleep and rest because we feel we need to be tending to someone else. I encourage you to set a bedtime. If you have trouble allowing yourself to relax and rest, consider why it’s difficult for you.
We honor our bodies through movement and being mindful of what we eat.
Movement doesn’t have to look like intense exercise. It can look like going for a walk on a beautiful day, or engaging in cardio, or running but doing something that feels good for your body. I encourage you to figure out what that looks like for you. Being thoughtful about what you eat does not need to be a restrictive diet, it means prioritizing eating foods that you find nourishing. Honoring your body can also look like being still in prayer and meditation, taking time to journal, and generally giving yourself space to be present with your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Being mindful is attending to yourself with love and care, and giving yourself the attention you deserve.
Self care can also look like making time to have fun.
Lean into what you love to do for fun. It is important that we lean away from always working to finding time to have fun. Fun looks different for us these days but finding creative ways to laugh and connect with friends and loved ones can be an important way to take care of ourselves.
If you don’t have a consistent practice of taking care of yourself, I encourage you to make that a priority during this Black history month. You can receive a personalizable self-care plan to get yourself started here: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5ffba53e3faa812dffe10d1c
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