Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action. The questions are meant to “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.
This week’s courageous Phoenix is Tonya:
How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?
I love myself first by learning to take care of me and recognize that I need to practice giving love to myself as much as I do others. It means I have to be more in tune with myself.
I pay closer attention to signs when it comes to my body, my mind, and my soul. For instance, when I can barely drive home from work in Washington, DC to my home in Maryland, due to exhaustion, that is my cue to get home, eat lightly, take a quiet, relaxing bath, and immediately go to bed and sleep as long as I can. I also release stress by taking long walks and/or going to the gym for an hour. When I am done, the stress dissipates. While walking, I thank God for all that He created and has given to me.
Our brain handles a lot of information. There’s a dark side and a light side. When the dark side creeps to the front, I shut it down quickly by focusing on things that are going well. The negativity that creeps up is when that voice tells you cannot do something: “You’re not smart. You’re not qualified. You’ve messed up.” I shut it down quickly! Negativity has a tendency to consume us if we allow it. I try to keep my mind away from negativity. Even when I hear gossip, I attempt to steer the conversation to something positive.
My soul is my heart. I’ve allowed it to be hurt many times because I trust until someone gives me a reason not to trust them. I’m not that way anymore. I now put my total trust in God, and I’m more protective of my heart. By being this way, I do not get hurt as easily as I used to.
What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?
I have a closer relationship with God now. I give Him all my cares. I exercise to alleviate stress and keep myself fit. I read motivational books that empower me to keep moving forward to fulfill my dreams. I spend quality time with family and we have movie nights and catch up with one another. Sometimes, we take walks and just talk. I also have date-nights with my partner. Although we have busy careers, we make time to be together and enjoy each other’s company.
Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led you to a deeper love for who you are?
Trusting people was my biggest flaw. As I trusted, I was disappointed over and over again. I believe I trusted others more than I did myself. It’s a big difference when you begin to trust and rely on God. My second biggest flaw was that, as my mother puts it, “People know where your buttons are.” As a result, people that I trusted knew how to hurt me because I showed my vulnerabilities. When I began to love me, I no longer allowed people to know where my buttons were to be pushed. I became stronger.
What have you learned from self-love?
Self-love is the most critical element of love. You cannot give love successfully until you learn to love yourself first. Now that I love myself, I’m more protective over me. I’m not as vulnerable or as accessible to being hurt. Self-love simply means loving who you are – and that’s what I do.
Tonya Barbee is author of The Little Girl Inside: Owning My Role in My Own Pain. She’s excited about encouraging others, particularly women, to find their way during transgressions and to never, ever, give up. She lives with her two youngest of four children in Bowie, MD. Check out her website: I am Still a Rose.
Join the Collective. Share your self-love story with us. Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and we’ll send you follow-up info. Sweet. Short. Simple!
Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.