From a young age, my mother taught me that my experience in society would be marked by struggle. Because my skin was not a shade of alabaster or ivory, my hair could not be tamed by bristles or elastic or taught to stop reaching skyward and my hips would be carved by nature to carry life, I would be treated differently.
I would be objectified and unvalued. My Black, female life would be regarded as though it mattered less than those of my non-Black and male peers. I, in all spaces that I entered, would be considered and cared for last. So, I had to consistently ensure that despite the actions or opinions of other people, I was putting myself first.
Despite having my mother’s words as a reminder, self-love did not come easy. I spent years basing my worth on the opinions of my white peers, and gradually unlearned all of the self-love my mother had so desperately tried to teach me. I straightened my hair, changed my behavior and ignored my roots for so long, believing that if I did, I would finally be valuable.
It took me ages to learn that finding my own community was the key to healing from trauma inflicted on me by the white community in the unsafe spaces I entered. I found that the source of that healing could only be found among those who had also endured my struggles and shared my experiences: Black women.
Upon coming to Temple University, I began to seek solace in the spaces created by people like me. I attended yoga classes and guided meditations taught and led by Black women. I cleansed my social media feeds of the white influencers that I had for so long compared myself to and began freeing myself of the pressure to achieve what was unrealistic and unnecessary.
I filled those gaps with the voices and works of Black women: artists, teachers, mothers, lovers. I began to realize that just as they had the capacity to be infinite, so did I. Their identities, like mine, were not defined by a single thing, but instead by what they loved.
I began to understand Black womanhood through poetry, photography or podcasts. In women like Lauren Ash and Alex Elle, the respective founders of the podcasts “Black Girl in Om” and “hey, girl,” I found voices that echoed and sang my own stories.
I began doing work to help build a community of my own and joined The Side by Side Collective, a self-care oriented organization for women of color at Temple created by two Afro-Latina women. The co-founders, Doriana Diaz, a junior women studies major, and Mayannah Beauvoir, a junior English and Africology and African American Studies major, have inspired me through their devotion to community and sisterhood every day since I have known them. Gradually, I began to acknowledge that I had begun a life-long journey toward attaining true acceptance and love of self.
Self-love is a daily struggle. Because true healing is rooted in the acknowledgement and honoring of emotions and pain, it is not an experience that will be completely defined by joyful moments. There are moments when it will be easy to feel lost in the deepest of abysses, but it is important to remember that we are not crying out alone. There are voices echoing alongside our own and many people waiting to help lift us to our highest of apexes.
Taylar Enlow, ‘21