The Love Yourself First series features phenomenal and resilient women who share their vulnerable, honest and heartfelt life experiences – shedding light on how these experiences bring a new level of self-realization and how making daily practical self-care practices a priority deepens self-love.
About our featured Phoenix: Tia is full of life and unapologetic in her commitment to being herself; it’s something you recognize right away. She’s real, and her authenticity allows women around her breathing room to do the same. Tia is also a university professor, filmmaker and storyteller; she understands the importance of positive, balanced representation and “uses media to share stories about the lived experience of Africana people.” Here’s her LYFF story:
How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?
I do not love myself first; however, I am doing the work to get there. For many years, I believed that loving myself FIRST was self-indulgent and filled with shame. As a child growing up in a Baptist Church, I was trained to be of service and that meant I needed to be self-sacrificing and other-centered. To be a good Christian, it was my duty to not complain or inconvenience anyone. I am in the process of unlearning this toxic notion, and I am in the early stages of redefining self-love and self-care.
What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)
I am a filmmaker and storyteller, so to me there is nothing better than sharing a meaningful story.
I love to ride my bike in the park or take long walks while listening to podcasts.
I also embrace pleasures like impromptu sex, and having a glass of wine or a cupcake without beating myself up.
To sustain this life, however, I call up my girlfriends to laugh, cry, sulk, or cheer about my day.
Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?
I can recall several challenging life moments that resulted in my appreciation for self-love: fighting for tenure, miscarriage, losing a friend, death of family, divorce, hysterectomy and more. Yet I don’t think it was the challenges that guided my personal practices toward loving myself first. When life is challenging, I am trained to go to work and help others – to serve. During my divorce, I suppressed my own frustration and anger to meet the needs of my children. When my Aunt died, my anguish was suppressed by the planning of the funeral and ensuring everyone else was okay. As a university professor, the journey to tenure is all about self-sacrifice and over-commitment. I learned to shift my behavior, to see myself, and to love me when I started dating after my divorce. The process of dating was fulfilling. Since I was newly divorced, I wasn’t looking for long term – just having fun and enjoying life. I began to let go of control and open up to invite goodness and joy into my life. I stopped overthinking and rationalizing. I cared about my pleasure without discounting others. It was nice. And because I invited goodness in, I made room for love. I am now happily remarried and practice loving me first (at least making a large effort).
What have you learned from self-love?
I am learning to be okay with embracing pleasure for the mind, body, and soul. I understand that to have pleasure and to be joy filled I must attend to my whole self.
Self-love is a process, and it ebbs and flows, but it is essential to make the attempt to love yourself abundantly because it feels so damn good when you do.
Join the LYFF community! Over 50 women have shared their self-love stories. Be the next one. Send an email. Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.