How to begin your journey to self-love as a “black” girl in America #ILIKEME

A campaign for self-love & self-awareness

I realize I’m flawed and still have a lot of “growing up” to do. Yeah, I said it. But why do I find it so easy to list the things I don’t like about myself than the things I really love about myself? I had to think, do I even like myself?

“I need to do better” was an everyday mantra. I would laugh the negative statements off and follow up with a casual “I’m not shit” when I’m talking with my friends or thinking of a risky thought.

Something had to give.

I’m realizing my mind believes what my mouth tells it, so I needed to speak more kindly. The brain is powerful, and I’m learning that the things I say, come to be.

My lack of self awareness & love prompted my current project: #ILIKEME a campaign for self-love & self-awareness.

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The purpose of this project is to document the personal growth of as many people as I can (starting with myself); sparking a conversation around “knowing your worth” while shining a light on how vital self- awareness, and love is.

This project is not an attempt to define a person but to celebrate diversity. People are all different and on different paths to knowing “self.”

The journey to self-love is tough, yet necessary and I’m here not to show people “living their best lives” but to shout out those “learning to love their true selves.”

“I Like Me” learning who you are, how to love yourself so you can too love others (properly). After all, if we don’t know ourselves or love ourselves how we can give love to others?

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Know yourself, know your worth

When people talk about “knowing your worth” what does that really mean and is “knowing” enough? I think I know my worth but to believe it and put it into action is a process. The road the self-love begins with self-awareness but is often blocked by the notion that “knowing your worth” is enough.

I started keeping a journal where I would write something I liked about my self every day. I’m ashamed to say that my book isn’t filled up as it should be. I’m a procrastinator; I even procrastinated hyping myself up.

Maya Angelou most inspires me, and one of my favorite quotes from her is ” Love is many things, it’s varied, one thing it is not and can never be is unsure.”

I put my spin on it: A woman can be many things, we’re varied, one thing we’re not, and can never be, is easily defined.

Who am I?

I was so accepting of the labels I was associated with and in a way accepted it to be true. To many people I might just be a “black” girl, an “African, American” girl, a “crazy” girl a “good girl” but I’m none of that.

I’m just Maya, and I’m a woman who actually likes herself; enough to put who I am into better perspective.

I realized the more I thought I knew about myself and the good qualities I possessed, I realized I didn’t know anything at all.

If you Google search my name you’ll end up thinking I’m an illusion:

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If you like to refer to Urban Dictionary, you’ll believe I’m “one hell of a person”:

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(I actually like this definition, it’s kind of spot on…)

 

“Maya” in three words or less

Although not easy, if I had to describe myself using only a few words or expressions I’d say:

“No”

I built walls up all around to protect myself. I’m no stranger to heartbreak or disappointment; “No” is a popular word among my vocabulary as a result.

I’ve been accused of being selfish and mean because of how harsh I can be because my whole life I’ve been so sweet I could rot your teeth.

Honestly, I’d rather be ‘selfish and mean’ than a doormat. No more negativity. No more accepting the bare minimum. No more lowing standards. No no no. It takes skill to say It and mean it though.

Friend

Once you start to understand what it really means to be a friend to yourself you’ll learn how to be then supportive and love others.

In the past two years, I’ve learned what being a friend really means. I am continuously learning ways to put myself first, and in that, I am my greatest friend.

I recognize that I love hard, without condition, and support the people in my life without any strings attached. I don’t expect anything in return. I can recognize who is deserving and who isn’t. Friendship skills on fleek.

Spiritual

I am a spiritual person made up of hope and greatness. Deep down I have this feeling of greatness and great things to come although I’m not sure exactly what it is.

I’m waking in faith and following my dreams no matter how long it takes. I believe in myself, my hopes and dreams, and I’m passionate about helping others.

My relationship with God was on the rocks but inside of me that I know I haven’t created all of these blessings by myself; it’s a spiritual thing. God shows me favor every day. My spirit is unique; it’s different, and you know that when you meet me and really get to know me.

The children’s book that started it all

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In 1997, I was gifted “I Like Me” a children’s book published by Essence.

As a six-year-old girl, I read this book and saw myself. This is a perfect example of how much representation matters.

All throughout “I Like Me” the main character, “Nia Natasha” displays all of the positive things that make her “Nia Natasha.” She ”likes” herself and along with the encouragement of her family she’s destined to do great things when she grows up.

This was one of my first introductions to self-awareness with lessons on self-love. I received so many books, but this one managed to stay in my possession for almost 20 years.

That six-year-old girl is long gone, but this book is still here.

With all of the changes in my life, getting older and maturing (most importantly) I forgot one of the first lessons I’ve learned but then I found this book again, and it sparked something in me.

Instead of tossing the book away I decided to update it, and I made it better. I took five magazines and clipped them to pieces, vision board style, and made a current “I Like Me” book to reflect Maya instead of Nia.

What I Like Most About Me

I like the way I create.
I made the “I Like Me” book over to express myself. One of my best qualities is my creativity.

I love that I am creative and my ideas come to life through my art, creative writing, and ultimately this blog Young Loud Proud; trying to uplift my people and dismember negative stereotypes.

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I made a vision board; I’m writing a book, I used my vision board as the cover art for my forthcoming book “An Ode to the “Good Girl”:

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Instead of sitting around, I want to do. I like my motivation, and although it seems like its taking forever, I am branding myself and becoming a writer; the genuinely creative person I am.

I like that I’m a dreamer and I always have hope/faith. I like my personality, I’m very kind and smart, but I am not a doormat, I can be “mean” whatever that means.

I like that I can mingle with different crowds but not lose myself in trying to be someone else or trying too hard to fit in.

I like that I am creating my own lane.

(Warning: below is an entire MOOD)

I never settle for social norms “we’ve always done it this way, so this is how it’s going to be” I don’t settle.

I know my worth. I don’t waste my time on people who don’t deserve it (anymore). I see growth and positive progression every year of my life.

I like the relationship I have with my mom, my best friend. I like that I can grasp the concept of love although I haven’t felt it too often.

I like that I believe that “not every man is the same” and I believe in black boy joy and black girl magic. I like the fact that I recognize “we ain’t black tho” and I’m open-minded and open to learning from others.

I like my determination, I am a go-getter, and have always been. I like the mystic nature of myself.

The most important thing I’ve learned about myself

I’m a risk taker.

Five years ago I became an adult (in the eyes of the law). I was able to buy liquor (legally), and if I wanted to, I could’ve applied to adopt a child in the U.K.

2012-2013 was a significant year for me; I turned 21 and acquired a lot of bravery. I took so many risks not knowing how anything would turn out.

Looking back, I’m proud because through those risks I was introduced to my true self.

 

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I was someone who was extremely shy and not too outgoing, but in spite of that, I accepted every challenge that came along with transitioning from a child/teen (dependent) to a responsible young adult (independent).

I’ve been on a roll ever since and instead of being scared of change, I accept it with open arms.

I find comfort in forming new ideas and taking the risks of creating opportunities for myself. I’ve grown to be open-minded, brave, and a young professional.

Like Beyonce said: “I dream it, I work hard, I grind till I own it.”

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I moved out of my momma’s house in Philly and got my very first apartment about 45 mins away in Upper Darby (an unfamiliar place but a closer distance to work). I was alone, and although the feeling wasn’t always good, I learned the importance of solitude.

I started inviting toxic company in my life, and I suffered my first real heartbreak. I thought with a new place by myself I would finally get privacy to be the wild girl I always wanted to be, but that place didn’t make me free as I thought.

I leaped, in faith, and quit my job at UPenn (my very first full-time position) and started a brand new career at CHOP. I even took on a second job working as a sales associate at Express (never working in retail before). Being independent, I had to learn how to manage my money and time properly; I learned lessons in sacrifice.

That’s when I found comfort in writing, considered pursuing journalism, and I began writing poetry. I started brainstorming ideas for writing a book. In my toughest moments, I would grab a pen and paper; I used writing as a crutch, and I am grateful because putting my ideas and feelings down on paper helped me develop a plan. Over the past five years, I’ve identified my passion.

“An Ode to the Good Girl” is in the works.

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My forthcoming book has changed so many times over the past five years and is entirely different from the first draft.

I took a risk in creating Young Loud Proud. I’m passionate about my people and have identified a need for spreading love and positivity in the community.

Social media brainwashing is in full effect. I want in on media and news production; I want to change the narrative. I’ve learned to be the change I want to see. Although I don’t know the direction Young Loud Proud will take me, I’m excited about the future.

I learned that I am my best self when I see others happy and thriving.

I like that I’m a risk taker.

The many faced woman

I’ve been pushing the idea that when you’re just being yourself, and you find a way to be successful and happy without compromising yourself, you’re really winning.

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I live by those words. You can’t go wrong when you’re living in your truth and when you’re honest with yourself (and other people). With that said, I am comfortable being myself (maybe too comfortable).

I think I’m growing a new face tho, one who takes no shit and that will spend time alone before in the company of toxicity.

I think it’s fair to say that a professional face is necessary for work/business, and I have a real chill, pleasant face for every other occasion.

How many times can a person reinvent themselves and stay themselves? I’m in the process of finding that out.

I often wonder what it would be like to leave a mark in this world and not just go viral for a second. I want someone to quote me or refer to me one day because something I said had that much of a positive impact and was so inspirational.

I came across a draft of a blog post I wished I posted (but procrastination won again, unfortunately):

“If you’re into symbolizing than 2018 is a brand new year for you to sort of wipe the slate clean and start over. If you’re an overachiever you may have set a ton of goals or “resolutions” for yourself, me; I want to be happy this year. I want to be successful and continue to be myself.”

I think being yourself is becoming a trend (just look at Cardi B’s successes).

Women all through history from the past to the present have found success in being themselves so I know I can too.

“I want history to remember me… not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself. I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.” #ShirleyChisholm

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Everything is just…BETTER when you dare to be yourself❣️

A world full of “Maya” (a poem in response to a question “could you live in a world where every woman were just like you and would you survive?”)

(Every Woman, I Am)

If every woman were just like me

They’d be no more talks of birds and bees.

Just full blown honesty

They’ll be cures for disease.

Everyone would be at ease.

Seeing as Maya would come in threes, and fours and fives

Every woman would have my eyes and my thighs.

Every morning would be a surprise.

No one would have to cut ties when they realize; their woman isn’t right for them

Because as soon as they lose one, another Maya would be right around the corner for them

No more “plenty of fish in the sea.”

Nope, just me

A gentle, loving soul, smart as can be

If I ruled the world like Nas thought he’d

I’d definitely survive, well, we’d

If only Maya’s were around to see…

The Maya of Ambition

 

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One of my favorite movies is the “Wizard of Oz” which could easily be renamed “the Maya of Ambition.”

It’ll be about a girl who is trying to find her purpose in the land of Ambition while following a yellow brick road that appears pink through rose-colored glasses.

She’ll come across men without brains, courage, or heart and she’ll take them onto her soul-searching journey for self.

She’ll encounter witches both good and evil, but they’ll be called friends.

The land of Ambition, filled with quests for self-love and awareness.

Toto will be my peace and my conscience, and someone will always try to harm it or steal it away.

There will always be fighting against negative stereotypes, and negative thoughts called munchkins.

I like the Wizard of Oz because every time I watch it, I get something new from it (I can watch it five times in a row and find five things I overlooked or make sense of more).

I like how this movie is, within itself, hyperbolic and metaphoric; it’s also silly and full of singing and songs (just like me).

Understanding Four Letter Words

As a young girl, I thought love was only in fairy tales. I thought about love and would think “when I become a woman, I’ll know more about it” or “when I get married and have kids, that’s when I’ll have love.”

I always thought love came about when you got a significant other or when adults decided it was time. I equated sex, dating, children, marriage, and everything else physical to be love. I was wrong (of course).

God is love.

That’s one thing I was confident in. Love is everything you can’t see but know is there and it’s what keeps you alive. When genuine, you could feel love’s presence, just like the air we breathe you can’t see it but if it wasn’t present you couldn’t survive; that was my definition of love. A key to survival.

I grew up very religious, knowing God loved me, my parents loved me, and that’s it. My perception was that love came naturally from them because it was supposed to.

As I started dating (halfway serious dating (like high school dating)), I mixed lust and love up all the time. I had my teachers tell me “you don’t really love that boy.” They’d say “in a couple of years, you won’t even remember his face,” reminding me “it’s a whole world out there, you’re about to go to college, and you won’t even remember what you’re crying about right.”

They were absolutely right.

Almost ten years later, I’m older than I’ve ever been and I realize (and sort of accepted) the definition of love will be continuously changing for me.

Each year, love means something different.

Now, I feel like I generalize love. I currently am taking everything that makes it special and making it common. I would never tell anyone I love them because it was so sacred now I’m saying those words out my mouth for next to nothing.

It’s nothing for me to say “I love chocolate” or “I love your hair” and “I love that movie” “Oh my God I love Trey Songz.” Honestly, I’ve connected love to materialistic things, and I recognize that’s a problem. I’ve become a reckless lover. It’s nothing for me to hang the phone up with my friends and go “ok bye, love you.” It’s become a common thing, a greeting of sorts.

In the future, I want love to go back to being a sacred feeling, a cherished feeling between lovers and family. I need the close knit-ness of it. Something I don’t have to guess about because when it’s present, I’ll know.

How to love (others)

I know how to love, but properly? I don’t think so.

It’s either too much or not at all; I’m never good swimming in lukewarm water.

I think I’ve spent a long time being confused with what love is, naturally as a young girl; I’ve spent time fantasizing about the “one day” that hasn’t come yet.

I often confuse the two “L” words (Love vs. Lust), and as a result, I’m not sure if I know how to love or love properly.

Depending on who you ask the question “does Maya know how to love?” you may get a variation of answers.

If you ask the closest person to me (my mom) she might say yes, but ask my dad he’ll most likely say hell no.

If you ask my friends, they might say yes, you ask my last boyfriend he might say hell no.

The different views are because of the walls I’ve built over time while trying to protect my heart and also the result of my experiences with men.

I guess I know how to love, but I don’t know how to be in love, you can count me out from being romantic.

The problem with confusing lust and love is the length of the heartbreak. It’s like lust has your world comes crashing down, you’re upset, everything reminds you of that person (now pay attention because this is when it gets better) then you forget.

The idea of the person you created in your head fades away, and you like “oh, well damn.”

I believe when you really LOVE someone you either find a way back to that person or you find a way to remain friends. The whole idea of letting someone go because you love them is bullshit to me.

If you really love someone how can you let them go completely? If they really love you back why not do everything in their power to help make things right??

When a relationship is based on LUST, I think you go through the emotional part, but then it’s like “why the hell was I acting like that” then you realize how much time you spent, wasted instead, on that person.

Then you move on to the next (hopefully not repeating an unhealthy cycle like me, but yeah.)

I love my family; I love my Friends, I love God, I love myself (more and more every day).

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“In a society that benefits from your self-doubt, LIKING yourself is a rebellious act.”

Being “rebellious” is how I learned to love myself as a “Black, African, American, crazy, mean, good” girl in America.

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I’m a rebel with a cause and #ILIKEME

Join me in this campaign!

Email your thoughts/answers: proudloudyoung@gmail.com

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