Allergic to Self-Love

pink children's book cover of "i like myself" with little brown girl with jumping in air with hand up
Required reading for all young brown girls?

I’ve been wondering: what part of self-love I am allergic to.

Is it the Self?

Or is it Love?

Self: a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

Of course, this is the stuff that has been argued and wrestled over by philosophers and theologians since people could argue and wrestle. Is there an essential self? And if so, who is she? Is my cocktail party self and my teaching essay writing self a part of this definition? As a woman, do I have a self separate from procreation and my relationships to men? (Seems like society is mostly like, nah, to that question…) Is it okay to  talk about this Self with anything other than deprecation post-1999?

Or, perhaps I am sickened by Love.

Love as a verb is popularly defined as: feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).

I’ve always felt more connected to bell hook’s definition of love which she takes from noted self-help author M. Scott Peck,

“…the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth…Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

I have been on the path of intentional self-love for about seven years now. \

As a kid, I saw myself as weak, ugly, stupid, overly sensitive, inferior, and a burden.

These stories started mainly when I was in foster care for about a year between kindergarten and first grade.

I cried a lot as a child and didn’t really make friends very easily for much of my secondary school years.

I was often the only black kid in my class and almost the same height as the teachers who taught me as early as sixth grade. To say I didn’t fit in at my Orange County schools would be grand understatement.

At home, I was the oldest kid in an immigrant family striving to be perfect and never give my parents any trouble.

These stories followed me into military school and once I graduated I knew I had to take concrete action to prevent them from stifling my entire life and making me a bitter asshole.

I started reading self-help books and going to therapy in earnest, but there was something about the words Self-Love that made me cringe.

Why was I so afraid to extend love to myself? What was so embarrassing about that?

dark skin woman with long braids with slight smile on purple lipstick lips taking selfie in park. autumn leaves decorate the ground
Unadorned self-love.

I have come to see that self-love is not the normal way people in our patriarchal society are supposed to relate to themselves. We are supposed to be driven, logical, stoic, and “get on with it”. Self-love is flowery and for the intellectually naive.

This way of thinking seeps into our consciousness in so many ways, at the family level, in our greater societal organizations, and finally in the ways we treat our selves.

Heap on an extra layer for those of us who are of color, who aren’t straight, whose bodies are classified as disabled or “non-normative”. The world tells us everyday in ways implicit and explicit that we are not only not loved, we are actively hated.

All of this explains why self-love still can simultaneously feel like infantile preoccupation and crazy dangerous.

Thankfully, there was always that microscopic unhardened part of my soul which knew that self-love would be the most revolutionary action I ever consistently took. As a daughter of the patriarchy in so many ways, I have somehow chosen over and over to practice self-love.

My self-love looks different everyday. Sometimes it’s boring trips to the optometrist to get a new prescription. Sometimes it’s refusing to teach white people about race. Sometimes it’s posting vainglorious selfies or long-winded quotes on Instagram. Sometimes it’s surrounding myself with friends or donating to Emily’s List.

I don’t want to be allergic to self-love anymore. And I think I have the antidote.

It’s one of my favorite tools for moving past stubborn mental blocks.

I call it the fuck-it button. It’s when I decide that my mental anguish is so not worth the amount of space it is demanding and I take a decisive go-forth action.


I love my Self.

dark skin hand holding yellow watermelon with choose love tattoo on wrist
Choosing love each and every time.

I will fail at this proclamation sometimes. I may even start to anguish over the “correct” definitions of Self and Love.

I will then press the button again. (A great thing about the fuck-it button is that you can press it repeatedly and with great glee.)

Post-election, I wanted to write something more acceptably “political”. Then, I remembered that loving myself fully and without reservation is indeed a political act. Even if it only matters to me.

I choose to believe in the power of self-love.





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