What I Learned About Self Love from My Favorite Black Creatives
By Sumayya Tobah @thisissumayya
I always circle back to the topic of self-love around the month of February. Maybe it’s a backlash to all the romantic talk around Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because the New Year was a while back, all resolutions now basically forgotten. But every time February rolls around, I ask myself, “What can I do to progress my personal journey of self-love and self-acceptance?”
This year, I decided to ask others the same question: What does self-love mean to you?
“My definition of self-love is pretty simple,” Fatuma Yusuf tells me. “Doing things that are good for me and/or doing things that make me feel good.” The 24-year-old wrote to me from Seattle about her journey to self-love and what that phrase means to her. “Another example is taking care of my mental health - checking in with myself. Listening to my mind and body to see how I’m feeling that day.” Fatuma, who works as a professional hijab-wearing model, and her glowing smile can be seen in Telfar Global’s recent campaign. She tells me her journey to self-love was not always linear. “That’s what makes it a journey, right? It’s a long road with bumps and obstacles.
Aysha Harun tells me the way she sees self-love is a balance of accepting yourself in the moment but also keeping your eye on who you are working towards. “[It means] loving where you are right now - as is- yet striving to always grow into your best self.” As a Beauty & Lifestyle content creator, I always go to her Instagram for my skincare tips, natural makeup tutorials and that completely effortless vibe. But, as she puts it, social media can really slow down one’s journey to self acceptance. “I think comparison is the biggest obstacle young women face today. Especially social media, it's easy to compare yourself to what other people are doing, how they look and what they may have accomplished and think of yourself as not good enough because of it. Comparison truly is the thief of joy and I wish more young women understood that.”
“There is nothing wrong with telling someone no or putting what makes you happy first,” says Jasmine Egal when asked how she would define “self-love.” “I would define self-love as making sure to take the time to care for yourself and to set healthy boundaries with others... When you think about it, others do the same, so why not care for yourself? Or put your mental health first? That way you can give the world the best version of you!” The 26-year-old works as an influencer out of Toronto, Ontario. She tells me she found a very close relationship between self-love and self-care through personal experiences. “For a while, I was someone who cared more about how I can help my loved ones or friends, because seeing them happy honestly brought me so much joy. But then I had to step back and think, Hey, I can still care for the people around me and do what makes me happy as well. It doesn’t have to be one over the other. So, I had to go on this journey of becoming just a little more selfish in a way, and that truly became an act of self-care or self-love for me. I learned how to create a healthier balance in my life, which was something I wish I did sooner!”
As all three of these women shared with me their feelings on self-love, self-acceptance and self-care, one phrase hovered close to my mind - God is love. “Allah created each of us to look how we look and Allah makes no mistakes. We’re all beautiful in our own ways, because we are all our creator’s design,” Jasmine says. “Don’t get me wrong, we all have our own insecurities as women, naturally. But I think if we were all to take a moment sometimes and think, Wow, Allah really took the time to create every feature I have! Like SubhanAllah, really take that in! If we looked at it this way more often, I feel like we would all feel a little more confident and content with ourselves.” Across the continent in Seattle, Fatuma agrees. “The one thing that has always kept me grounded is my faith,” she said, “It makes me emotional thinking about it sometimes. Trusting & believing in Allah has made me love & trust my instincts so much more as I get older… When I take time to reflect, pray, and ask Allah for guidance, it always ends up working out. Trusting that He knows what’s best for me even when I don’t see it right away. Because essentially that's what faith is.”
With Black History month coming to a close next week, I wanted to take an opportunity to bridge these three incredible Black Muslimahs with any young Black sisters who may be reading this today. Influencing, content creating, and modelling are notoriously white spaces, but these three inspiring women continue to thrive MashaAllah. So, I had to ask: what advice would you give any Black woman trying to progress on their journey of self-love and self-acceptance?
“It sounds cheesy, but positive affirmations,” Aysha says. “Nothing is worse than self-doubt and constantly thinking negatively about yourself. There's already so much that Black women have to deal with and put up with, being your own enemy is not it, sis! Speak to yourself kindly, even when you may not believe it in the moment. Positive self-talk is so important.”
Fatuma wants young Black women to love themselves “loudly and unapologetically - because no one else will.” “Get to know yourself!” she says. When you have values in your life that keep you on the straight path, no one can change who you are at the core! You’ll always stand up & show up for yourself. Take control of your life. Find things that spark joy inside you and stay gracious always.”
“I feel like a lot of the time black women always have to be strong for others, to the point we start to neglect ourselves,” Jasmine said. “So just always remember to take care of you, before you go and take care of your loved ones.” She also told me investing in one’s self is key. “It can be anything! When I say invest in yourself, it doesn’t have to be monetary. It can be as simple as taking some time daily to do something that makes you happy! That lifts your spirits! Even if it’s just for ten minutes a day, do it! I promise it will make a world of a difference in your life!”
Be sure to follow:
Fatuma Yusuf @thisgirlfatuma
Aysha Harun @ayshaharun
Jasmine Egal @jasmineegal
Sumayya Tobah is a journalist living in Washington DC. She loves fashion, politics, Beyonce and SoulCycle. You can find her @thisissumayya on Instagram and Twitter.