Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of ourShed 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 inspiring Phoenix is Erin:
Erin’s journey to better physical health and wellness is definitely inspirational, and we know her transformation will motivate and empower many women!
Two years ago Erin weighed almost 280 pounds and was a type-2 diabetic taking two types of insulin. After losing her job (and facing the possibility of losing her health insurance), she spiraled into depression. “I didn’t like or even begin to understand what it meant to love myself. I felt like I had no control over my life and at the age of 25 that did not give me much hope for my future.”
With a very strong determination to take control of her life and actively work toward more health conscious decisions, Erin prayed to God for purpose, strength, and guidance. “I decided I was tired of paying $200 a month for medicine I did not need to be dependent on. I decided I was tired of fearing being judged on my appearance before going into job interviews or my own self-consciousness holding me back. I decided that if I was unhappy with something, I DID have the control to change it.”
She stopped breaking promises to herself, started counting calories, and began using her gym membership (that previously collected dust). The pounds gradually dropped! Erin found the clarity she yearned for (and more self-confidence too). She recognized that her commitment to positive change led to more experiences she wanted to have, and with each determined step to get healthy, Erin lost more and more weight. In the process she steered her life in a new direction, found a love that she (for the first time) believed she deserved, and pursued a career that landed her the dream job she wanted. That’s not all. Because of her dedication to health and wellness, she was also taken off her diabetic medicine.
Erin passionately continues her health journey with strengthened faith, and today she is 155 lbs (so you do the math). “I was a woman on my knees praying to God for clarity, for reassurance that I was going to get through the storm though in my heart I was doubtful. I am now a woman who still prays for strength to weather my storms but never doubts that I will get through them because my past has shown me that once I do, the future is so much brighter.”
How inspirational is this Phoenix? Kudos, Erin! We applaud your courage and we’re so happy you shared your self-love story with us.
If you’d like to share your self-love story with The Collective contact us here.
Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Diverse women tell stories of triumph, share personal affirmations, and declare love for their lives! The series is meant to inspire and empower women to fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self-esteem. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.
Besides the joyous feeling we get after completing an assignment or grading forty students’ papers, graduate school leaves very little time for feeling good, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t make the time. We realize that loving ourselves is about creating balance and finding time for touch. Yes, we’re talking about sex. We’re talking about creating time and space to touch others and ourselves. We are talking about finding out what we like and might like when it comes to our bodies. Now, we’re not telling you to skip work or neglect your responsibilities; however, we do want you to make this type of loving a part of your busy schedule. Make it a part of your life.
Before you leave the shower or after you get home from volunteering, reach inside yourself or massage your skin with oil to find out who you are. Get into you; make a relationship out of it. Self-loving is about knowing yourself, then about using that knowledge to build those outside relationships that we all know and love.
So, let’s talk about the sex we’re having, not having, or would like to have! We’ve decided to compile some tips and questions for creating healthy sexual relationships with others and ourselves. Before we get into the tips and questions, we would like to tell you why it is important to be in tune with your body by sharing our own personal stories.
Cut to a cold spring semester. Until recently, the maintenance man has been the only man in my apartment, and he has come only to fix the drought that my kitchen faucet experiences from time to time. What about my kitchen sink, Mr. Maintenance Man? Moving to Kansas in July 2012 meant that I would be leaving behind some special people, and that I would have to find new options for sexual pleasure. Now, I have always been okay with diddling my own skittle. Spending time with myself and discovering new things about my body makes me happy. An entire spring semester with myself has given me the courage to continue to awaken my body through my own physical and spiritual movements and touches. I have spent time in the mirror getting to know more about my body and how it works. “Oh, didn’t know I had a mole there. How pretty! Oooh, that’s the spot!” I’ve learned that my sexless life is not so bad when I’m using what I already have to get what I want. However, I like when someone else touches me, too.
I find sex to be a healthy, liberating experience. Though I am able to recharge my body and spirit through masturbation, I admit that there is an energy that I cannot recreate on my own. For me, touching someone else and being touched by someone else sends a colorful, electric shock through my body that often saves me from running to my local grocery and buying all the chocolate ice cream that I can fit into a little green basket. Though it was a fruitful, peaceful period in my life, four months without sex was a little frustrating at times. So, I was delighted when someone else—a very special someone else—walked through my front door. I had the opportunity to combine my energy with someone else’s, and to use that energy in my personal time. The experience did not replace my self-loving moments, but it did add to them, and recharged me in a way that I wanted to be recharged. Thank you, Mr. Not Maintenance Man.
For me, remaining in touch with myself is about balance. I know that I have the power to be alone without being lonely, as well as the courage to achieve an orgasm without the help or presence of a man. Cue Kirko Bangz: “She want a man, don’t need a man.” And I also know that I enjoy someone else’s company when my silver bullet isn’t enough. Getting to know myself through masturbation and interactions with others gives me the power to love myself. And loving myself means being honest about how I feel and how I want to feel.
I’ve been single since 2009. I know that sounds like a long time, but before we cue Ne-Yo’s So Sick – I have to say that it hasn’t been that bad. In the meantime, I’ve attained a Bachelors, Masters, and started a PhD program, so I guess it’s safe to say that I’ve invested my energy elsewhere. As much as I’d love to be in love and dating someone seriously, I’m not rushing fate. Also, being out of a relationship doesn’t mean I haven’t had sex, or established a relationship with my own body. Of course I have! And honestly, those things have enabled me to stay the course, stay focused, and combat some stress!
Like Simone, I find sex to be a healthy and liberating experience, and I believe that remaining in touch with my sexual self is all about balance. Though striking a balance can be difficult, it is doable. For me, this is really all about forming healthy sexual relationships with whoever is my partner, and with myself. I have had healthy sexual relationships where I’ve felt a sense of reciprocity from my partner, and felt that he respected my overall personhood, my body, and me. It should feel energizing, stress-free, and fun, and that requires an immense amount of honesty and trust, as I don’t trust my body to just anybody (and I’m picky, and I don’t typically like tall guys, and I prefer facial hair, etc.)
I have, however, also tried abstaining from sex completely three times over the last four years, and that just meant not having sex with another person until I felt like I was physically and emotionally ready to form another healthy sexual relationship. I’m currently in one of these phases right now. In these times, as well as when I’ve not been involved with anyone, I still have myself. Learning to find peace in just having myself has been a great life lesson. Finding peace with me is a powerful feeling. Finding peace with going to bed and waking up alone, and finding pleasure in just me requires the utmost amount of honesty, because it’s hard to lie to myself.
1. Get Into Yourself: Self-Loving
Be alone often. People often confuse being alone with being lonely. However, we know that being alone encourages us to be less dependent on someone else for sexual pleasure. And when someone else does not please us, we don’t get angry; we put our pants back on, and do it ourselves.
Experiment with toys, your fingers, or watch something by yourself that you know or think will get your juices flowing. Experimenting on our own empowers us to try new things without judgment. Also, experimenting on your own encourages you to be in tune with your own body. That means looking at and touching your physical self, and also loving how you look and feel. This, indeed, will help you cultivate a positive self-image, and also foster a sense of self that you’ll want to share with others…or even keep to yourself.
Write about what you love. Toni Morrison stated, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Make lists or journal entries about what makes you feel good or how you’d like to feel, and refer back to them often. Your own words may encourage you to spend more private time with yourself and others. We’d like to think that writing about what you want and feel encourages (sexual) freedom.
Talk with your friends. We recently read an article: True Friends Ask How the Sex Is. We talk to each other and our other friends about sex all the time. Sometimes, we talk in detail about our sexual experiences in order to support or advise each other in our sexual ventures. Talking to your friends about sex and self-loving may encourage you to be more open about the private time with yourself as well as the private time you have with others.
2. Create Healthy Sexual Relationships:
If you do want to engage in sexual activities with other people (or if you just want to share your coconut oil experience with another), keep in mind that fostering healthy sexual relationships can increase your satisfaction. A sexual relationship, like any other relationship, is healthiest when all of the people involved are honest and open about their wants and needs.
Maintaining an open line of communication with your sexual partner(s) can help to increase your overall sexual satisfaction. Whether you are communicating with your partner(s) about your fantasies or distinguishing between things you enjoy and things you could live without, healthy communication is key. If you want to bring in the coconut oil, sit your partner down and tell them that you read this post and learned that coconut oil would be a natural alternative to your previous lubrication techniques!
And remember, be with someone who appreciates your body just as much we know you do. Believe us when we say that it makes sex so much better! Being with someone who is in love with your body will help you to maintain a positive self-image and a healthy sex life.
3. Grab Some Coconut Oil
Oh, you thought we forgot about the coconut oil? Of course not! As we continue our journey toward natural living, we’ve discovered that this cooking, skin, and hair-care product is also perfect for the bedroom. You can use coconut oil as a natural lubricant. What? Yes! And get this: it can balance your ph. So, go ahead and introduce some organic coconut oil to your intimate moments.
So, Some Advice and Sample Questions…
Safe sex. Know yourself and your limits. Additionally, invest in some toy cleaner and/or condoms for your sex toys, whips, and chains! You’ll want to keep those instruments clean in order to protect yourself from bacterial infections. And don’t forget to use some form of contraception/condoms when engaging in sex with other people. Your body is your temple. Wrap it up, you sensual lover, you!
Research! The Internet and library aren’t reserved only for class or that all-nighter (well, wait). Explore the “dark” sides of the Internet (there are tons!) and check out a Zane book for your private time.
Become in tune with your body. Really create the time and space for your self. Being in tune with yourself makes moments with others so much more powerful and fulfilling. We are more confident and courageous in the bedroom as well as in other parts of our lives.
Love what you like. Be open to new experiences; however, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re weird for…well, whatever you like.
Know that sex is great. An orgasm a day gets those projects done and out of the way!
Again, communicate with your partner(s). Ask them questions and get to know them, too. Do you like this? Do you like that? Would you like to have sex with me? Do you like coconut oil, too?
Remember that consent is sexy. Always get consent. And don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do.
There is no one right way to have sex or get to know yourself. Explore and do what makes you feel good! Our best advice: Have sex with whomever you want (including yourself), wherever you want, however you want, as long as it’s consensual!
Aisha + Simone are the Life + Style contributors for the Phoenix Rising Collective; continue supporting their posts on the importance of letting who you are shine through when it comes to self-care and defining your personal style.
Aisha Upton is a first year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests: Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance.
Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably.