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A Black Woman's Guide to Self-Love

A step by step guide for black women to achieve their inner Black Girl Magic.

Photographed by Ali McPherson.

In a country that rewards European standards of beauty, it can feel like a burden to be a black woman in America. When a woman wakes up and looks in the mirror, she does not always like what she sees, regardless of her race, but when a woman turns on the television or opens a magazine and does not see herself represented it can leave her feeling like maybe she just isn't all that beautiful, or worse, maybe she just isn't worth loving.

If you were once confident about who you were as a young child and have gotten to the point where you do not love who you are, and do not see the value in your features then pay close attention, this is for you. If you never truly loved yourself as a young child and felt underrepresented or misrepresented than this is also for you. 

The first step to achieving self-love is to acknowledge and list all of the things you love about yourself.

This may sound like an obvious first step, but you'd be surprised how many of us spend so much time being critical of ourselves that we forget that there are things that we love about ourselves. Waking up in the morning and taking a good look at yourself in the mirror (not a glance, an actual long hard look) and going over all of the features you have been critical about for so long is important. Everyone has something that they feel makes them unique and beautiful. It could be your freckles that compliments your face, or the fullness of your lips that you've always loved. It could be your eyes that you've always gotten compliments on, or anything that makes you feel the most beautiful.

Although makeup can give a woman a great boost of confidence, it is important to be able to look at yourself in the mirror without makeup first, because well, let's be honest, makeup does not make you who you are, it simply enhances your features and is temporary. If you are going to fully accept yourself and love yourself for the fact that you're a black woman and not despite of it then falling back in love with yourself is the best first step. For some of you it could also be helpful to write a list of things that you love about yourself, and create a list of all of the black women in your life that inspire you.

The second step is to educate yourself on the black women who inspire you and/or have changed the course of history.

Take advantage of resources such as the library, college campus clubs or student of color clubs, and dive deep into discussions with some of your friends about the inspiring black trailblazers. It is important to know your history and know the amazing things that black women have accomplished that changed the course of history.

Activist Angela Davis, who was one of the strongest and bravest black women of all time led with pride, and loved her blackness despite the deep hatred the country had toward her identity. Women like Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Ava DuVernay, Gabby Douglas and many more achieved greatness despite all of the obstacles that could have held them back. Take advantage of every museum and every documentary that focuses on the achievements of women who look like you and stand for the same things you do. 

The third step is to create goals for yourself and work on achieving those goals.

When you dream big, you are able to break through all of the boundaries that are put before you by others or yourself. When you allow yourself to dream big and do whatever you can to make that happen you are already showing that you believe you deserve it. You deserve success just as much as anyone else. If you want to be a doctor, then be a doctor. If you want to be a surgeon, an actress, or a supermodel then go for it. Although spaces in the fashion industry and higher institutions of learning have prided itself on being a space of mostly white faces, break the mold and be the face that no one can deny.

In step 2, I discussed the importance of watching documentaries and researching all of the trailblazers before you. When you are educated and inspired by the black women before you who made history, it pushes you to make history as well. 

Lastly, it is important to find a space, and create platforms dedicated to you.

Sometimes, it is hard to find people who have gone through the same struggles you have in an environment or find media platforms that celebrate black beauty. Magazines such as Essence and Ebony celebrate black beauty and were created to give black women a voice. If you feel like there are not enough award shows, magazines, or spaces that include the black voice then create a platform yourself. There are media platforms and outlets that serve as a safe space for women of color. Writer Issa Rae, who created the hit show Insecure, created a space for herself and the black community in a society that did not want to acknowledge differing black narratives. No narrative of any one race is the same, so understand that the narrative written by society does not signify who you are.

I know, loving yourself is hard work. It is a shame that black beauty and European beauty have been pitted against each other with one standard being encouraged over the other. For the biracial sisters out there who feel like they do not fit in with the white or black race and have to choose a side, understand that you do not have to. It is possible to love the side of you that is black as well as the side of you that is white. Black is beautiful, regardless of the percentage an individual has of African-American descent.

There are so many trailblazers out there who dedicate their lives to making black women like yourselves realize their true beauty and self-worth. For some of you, finding your self-worth could be creating an online group for black women, creating hair products dedicated to natural hair, or running a braiding salon where you are able to make another woman of color feel and look like her truest self.

The important thing is that at the end of the day, despite the false narratives society creates to keep black women from fully loving themselves, when you look in the mirror and evaluate every inch, there is a queen looking back at you. 

Photographed by Ali McPherson

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