People of color are bombarded with negative feedback about themselves from society as a whole. This feedback does not give us room to learn self-love and compassion. Showing self-compassion is the key to peace of mind, self-love, and forming healthy connections with others.
When I hear the word self-compassion, I bristle. How am I to show my self-compassion when I do not love myself? How do I love myself when the world is racist and hates that I exist? No matter what my race does, we are singled out as failures and pigeonholed as not good enough.
I grew up with Black parents that feared my brother and me being discriminated against. They worked very hard to safeguard us the best they knew how, but in a country like ours, no matter how much they tried, it was still not good enough. No one at home set a priority for me to show compassion for myself or love myself just as I was. Then, of course, society in no way mirrored this back to me.
I have carried on these 50 years working to find validation that I am OK. That in this Black skin I am loveable and deserve safety and compassion. I am learning that I need to stop looking outward and work to do this from within. I must ask myself what is loveable about me and relish in that. I must take stock of my values and morals and celebrate who I am. I must turn the tables and reject stigma and shaming in order to express my gifts. I must reject racism in its many facets and come to terms with the fact that I am loveable.
No one should be determining my worth but me. I do not need or require outside validation to dictate how I treat myself and how I show compassion to myself. I deserve the best and I deserve self-love.
Here are some ways lack of self-compassion shows up in our lives and strategies for practicing self-compassion.
How we do not show self-compassion as people of color
- Blaming ourselves for situations beyond our control
- Caretaking of others with no regard for what you need
- Taking on racist stereotypes and living up to them
- Having imposter syndrome
- Not associating with others like us
- Turning against other people of color
- Comparing self to others who are not experiencing racism
- Staying in toxic relationships
- Having a negative body image
- Thinking you are only a good person of color if you achieve excellence
- Trying to fix others in a relationship
Strategies for expressing self-compassion when you are experiencing racism
- Take time daily to remind yourself how loveable you are regardless of your situation or station in life
- Surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally
- Rid yourself of toxic relationships (at least reduce contact and set good boundaries)
- Set goals big and small so you can celebrate your wins
- Partner with someone who gives you honest and fair feedback
- Work where you are valued professionally and financially
- Honor your inner child and pay attention to them and their needs
- Be your own maternal/paternal figure
- Pamper yourself
- Stare in a mirror and do affirmations about self-compassion
- Learn your history and honor your ancestors and she what qualities you share
- Bond with others that share your values
- Copy those that show themselves compassion
- Stop comparing yourself to others (you do not know their full story)
Self-compassion looks differently for people of color, and it is remarkably harder. Showing self-compassion is the key to peace of mind and self-love. When you are compassionate to yourself, you can exude that and develop more meaningful relationships.
I encourage you to find ways to practice compassion. Racism is complicated and hard to navigate. It zaps our energy and keeps us disoriented. You must revolt against this and place yourself in a cocoon of love and compassion. Do not let external forces dictate how you feel about yourself and care for yourself. I do not say this without knowing the risk to self and how challenging this undertaking is. Justice and inner peace will not come to us until we are willing to change. We must call on all our willpower to overcome and practice self-compassion.
You shall overcome!
How do you practice self-compassion in the face of systemic racism?
Share your experience in the comments.
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I am Black, lesbian, disabled, mentally ill, fat, a birth mom, mom and grandmom (grand ma Coco to be exact) and Funny. I am a woman who is constantly fighting for my and your liberation.
I have a history of working for those living at the margins mostly in activist and nonprofit spaces. I currently work in the mental health field serving those who have been convicted of felonies and are in mental heath court. I am also a writer. I write about disabilities, chronic illness, mental health, racial trauma, sexual violence and disordered eating. I am also a public community speaker on the same topics. Hit me up if you need my writing or speaking skills.
Please use she or her pronouns when referring to or about me.