Radical Self-Love: What Does that Feel Like? by Dr. Venus Evans-Winters

As Black-mother-lesbian-warrior-poet Audre Lorde stated, “Caring for myself isn’t self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Like the very spirited warrior woman, Lorde, ​I wholeheartedly believe that there is a need for women, especially those of us from traumatized communities and families, to engage in self-care practices that preserve our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Today, with a focus on women’s empowerment, many conversations about healing from trauma typically begin with discussions about one’s engagement in self-care practices.

However, conversations of self-care need to be extended to include bold and spirited discussions about self-love. How many of us can say that we really love ourselves exactly the way that we are? What does radical self-love look like and feel like?

I spend much of my time speaking with women who look really good on the outside (thanks to proper self-care); however, they admit to feeling emotionally empty on the inside. They want to know how to love themselves from the inside-out. For many women, our society’s over-indulgence in self-care simply veils what they truly are feeling internally. Many do not know how to love themselves. They do not know what self-love looks like or feels like, because they have been taught to wait on someone to love them, or they have been taught that it is conceited or selfish to love thyself.

Somewhere between Hollywood scripted notions of romantic love and reality tv’s overly intoxicating, and at times violent, depictions of love, many women are left confused about the importance self-love plays in their mental health.

For me, I prefer to think of love as a feeling or psychological drive that comes and go like any other drive, such as hunger, thirst, or fatigue. If we consider love a psychological drive, then it is a subtle, or at times intense, feeling that is going to come and go; therefore, we need to learn how to love ourselves and engage daily in practices that satisfy our need for love.

When you are hungry or famished, you eat food, right? When you are thirsty or dehydrated, you drink water or liquid to quench your thirst, correct? When you are fatigued, you find a way to rest your eyes and body, yes? Now answer this: In moments when you feel like you need to be loved, how do you quench your desire for love? In other words, how do you fulfill the internal (the self) need for love (a psychological desire)?

Self-love involves matters of the heart and mind. We would never go without eating, drinking, and sleeping, but many of us attempt to go without love. We are waiting for someone else to bring us love; instead of us loving ourselves.  For example, when we are hungry, we do not wait on someone to feed us—unless you are a child or someone physically or mentally incapable of caring for herself.

In fact, every healthy person knows that you should eat, drink, and sleep before you even get to a state of hunger, thirst, or fatigue! You are already in the red zone when your brain sends out a reminder to the body that you are in a state of disequilibrium! And, this is when we make bad choices that are not good for our bodies (Hint: those McDonald fries or that large sugary, caffeinated soda be calling your name in the drive-thru window).

In other words, if you are telling your friends or yourself that you are feeling the need for love, then you are already WAY overdue for love. We do not even want to talk about what the red zone looks like when one is in desperate need of love. Hmm…

But, guess what? YOU are able to satisfy your own need for love! You do not have to wait on someone else to sweep you off of your feet, no more than you need someone to bring you water or food (although it would be nice). Meaning, sometimes we all need to be reminded and motivated to love ourselves. A woman engaged in self-love is radical as fuck!

​So, how are you preparing to meet your human desire for love so that you do not end up in the red zone?!

 

 

Dr. Venus E. Evans-Winters is Professor of Education at Illinois State University in the College of Education with faculty affiliation in Women & Gender Studies, African American Studies, and Ethnic Studies. 

​Dr. Evans-Winters researches and teaches in the areas of social and cultural foundations of education, Black feminist thought, critical race theory, educational policy, and qualitative inquiry.

With years of experience as a psychotherapist (View Venus’ profile on Psychology Today!) and a certified clinical trauma professional, Dr. Evans-Winters embraces resilience-building practices throughout her work. She is also a licensed school social worker and youth advocate with experience serving in South Africa and West Africa and participating in critical pedagogue (Paulo Freire) institutes across Europe, including Malta, Greece, and Spain.

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