My Mother Taught Me to Love Myself – Upspoken

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My Mother Taught Me to Love Myself


Dear Mom,

Thank you for telling me every word nobody is allowed to ever call me. I was five and I was going to start attending public school. You taught me that because I am Black, some folks would try to take my power away with words of humiliation and disrespect. On that day I learned, despite their thinking, that would never be possible.

Thank you for only buying me Black Barbies when I was six. At the time, I wondered why my blonde-haired, blue-eyed best friend Nicole always scrunched up her face when it was time to play with Barbies. I thought it was strange that she would ask, “What’s wrong with your Barbies?” She didn’t know any better and I was too young to fully unpack that question. I was roughly 12 years shy of my first gender studies course, but that was the first lesson in teaching myself that my dark skin is to be honored and treasured.

Thank you for singing every lyric to the song “Brown Skin” by India Arie to me in the car. I was eight at the time and we were living in Orange County. It was a melodic way to shout out why Black women are beautiful, powerful, and feminine. I still turn it up when I hear it on The Wave.

Thank you for teaching me that Black women are queens when I was 13. I had a giant zit on my chin and we were entering a 7-11 for a Slurpee. You stopped me and asked me why I was looking down at the floor. When I replied that I didn’t want anyone to see the giant zit that I was sure was occupying the entirety of my face – you reminded me that beauty is internal. And that as Black women we will never look down. Our crowns could slip off. We walk in our power.

I will not thank you for trying to have a talk about masturbation with me when I was 16. Though well-intentioned, I still cringe when I think back to that conversation. Did you really have to do it on Thanksgiving? “You can show yourself love more than a partner can,” you said, as my aunt chimed in at the dinner table. You were right and you still are. However, I think we can both agree, delivery and timing could be improved upon.

Thank you for reminding me that my worth is more than what that guy Justin saw in me. I was 24 at the time and I just needed to be reminded that a woman’s worth is so much more than what a 20-something-year-old boy thinks.

Thank you for texting me that Aretha Franklin song today. I am 26 going on 60. The one entitled “To Be Young, Beautiful, and Black.” The lesson being that I have to repeat those words to myself because society isn’t quick to remind the Young, Beautiful, and Black that they are those things.

Every lesson you taught me is my framework for practicing self-love. In a world that tries to cut down Black women, thank you for teaching me that we are important. We are brilliant beings, with beautiful skin, and resilient souls. Some days it’s harder to practice than others. But thank you for reminding me that Black women truly have it all.