Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of The PRC’s 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 Phoenix is Roxie:
How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?
Above all, loving myself has always and will always be a journey and not a destination. It takes many shapes and forms and shifts with the fluidity of my identity and my daily life. Loving myself means actively working to create peace in the battlefield that is my body vs. the societal expectations of that body as a fat person, as a woman, as a person with a disability etc. Loving myself can mean being unapologetically vain, loud, strong, defiant or any other number of things that I am told that I cannot be. It means empowering myself and empowering others through whatever means necessary. It means engaging in activities that bring me peace and joy. It means decorating my body with whatever clothing, make-up, accessories, body hair, color, pattern, tattoos, piercings or lack thereof, that I choose for no other reason than it appeals to my aesthetic. Loving myself, truly loving myself, has been consistently making space for my truth to not only exist but to thrive and in those moments of truly loving myself, inspire others to do the same.
What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)
I would have to say that this journey began when I read a book called Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann. It was the first time in my life that I had ever considered that my body wasn’t disgusting, but that I could actually come to accept it, maybe even love it. It all seemed far too radical for a girl who had been in and out of recovery for a pretty severe eating disorder, but I was always radical in my defiance and decided to give it a shot. Self-love for me started with affirmations that grew more and more difficult. I began with things I already liked, “Roxie, you have beautiful eyes,” and moved up to the much more complex, “Roxie, you have beautiful thighs!” In a time when I hated myself, this was radical self-love. As I’ve grown, I understand self-love to mean caring for myself in ways that make me feel extraordinary, and I think these vary from person to person. I have always been really into fashion, and I mean hair, makeup, accessories, the total look. So I started dolling myself up for selfies and posting them online, which nourishes and embraces my femininity. In the last few years, I have worked on doing what is healthy for my body including weight lifting, endurance training, and eating a very healthy nutritionist-approved diet. Most importantly, I embraced my body and the word fat and incorporated it into my activism work. It’s really powerful for me as a fat woman to show up in spaces I’ve been told aren’t for me. I go to the gym and dance on the treadmill, I hang by the pool in my bikini, and I go to the mall in a crop top. I do all of these things knowing my own worth, beauty, and ownership of identity and hoping that we can change the societal expectations placed on women to look or exist in one certain way.
“I embraced my body and the word fat and incorporated it into my activism work.”
Now, being radical and out there as an activist can be as draining as it is invigorating. So, for me, self-care also has a calm and peaceful side. This connects me to the purest part of myself. Primarily, this is manifested through my spirituality which takes on two key roles: introspection and compassion. In order for me to experience continued growth, I engage in meditation/prayer, drumming, and dance. These activities turn my focus inward and upward. They provide spiritual nutrition and help to guide my compass. In order for me to feel accomplished in my sense of spiritual purpose, I live in active compassion. My mother used to say, “Blessing people makes me feel blessed.” I have found that this is so very true. I find joy in sending cards and gifts to friends, in greeting strangers, in comforting those around me, and in anonymous acts of love and sharing. I also care for others and myself by being a big old clown! I love to laugh, and not a little chuckle. I love to laugh until there are tears rolling down my face and I start laughing at how funny it is to laugh so hard. So, I commonly make jokes and perform with improv troupes. Caring for others, for me, is a form of self-care, and what better care exists in the world than laughter, love, and smiles.
Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?
Throughout my life, I have faced a lot of obstacles that affected my view of myself. From growing up in extreme poverty to struggling with a debilitating medical condition. However, when it comes to barriers to my own self-love, the strongest opponent I ever faced was the echoes of psychological and emotional abuse that I endured from family, peers, and partners. I was bullied for being different at a very early age. I was too large, too ginger, too loud, too eccentric, too much everything. I remember a distinct conversation that I had with my mother after a particularly bad day of bullying around grade 5. I was crying until I began to hyperventilate, and I asked her why this kept happening to me. She told me that she didn’t know, but it had to be something that I did otherwise the kids wouldn’t tease me everywhere we went. This one thought–that it was something I must be doing–haunted me for most of my life. In all honesty, on my lowest days it’s still the thought that creeps in. “Roxie, there is something wrong with you.”
Going into high school, this underlying fear kept me from engaging with most people. In college, it attracted me to the wrong person and I spent years in love with someone who regularly reminded me that I was “too much.” That relationship ultimately ended with the harshest words anyone ever said to me, “It shouldn’t be this hard to love someone.” At that moment, something changed in me. He was right, it shouldn’t be this hard to love someone, however, he was wrong about what needed changing. I needed to stop making it so hard to love myself. I needed to get out of my head and into my life.
With fear and trepidation, I stepped and misstepped into a new adventurous journey and into who I was and what I wanted out of life. I learned to stop apologizing for laughing “too loud.” I gave myself permission to not do my hair and makeup in order to earn the right to run to the grocery store. I told myself it’s okay to cry. I stopped being too much for myself, and eased into my enoughness. At the end of the day, I wasn’t the problem. I was never “too much.” I was just the right amount of sassy, bubbly, funky, groovy, silly, loveable, compassionate, and kind. I was the perfect blend of me to fill the one-of-a-kind lifetime role of Roxie. With that knowledge, existing wasn’t something hard at all, in fact sometimes it’s downright effortless.
What have you learned from self-love?
The most important thing that I have learned through self-care is that I don’t owe anybody anything. It’s so simple and yet so complex, but that’s the bottom line: As a human being I do not owe anybody anything. This empowers me for two reasons: 1) I no longer feel the obligation to be attractive, or the smartest person in the room, or to have the best house on the block. I’m not bound by those perceived societal expectations. 2) (The second reason is my favorite!) It makes everything I choose to do that much more special and loving. I choose to apply my make up because it feels smooth on my skin and I love to watch how all the colors dance and blend in the light. I choose my clothing based on what feels good and will bring me joy. I choose to be nurturing to my partner, not because I am feminine, but because I love him so much. When we take away all of the social clutter, and allow ourselves to exist, we have the choices to achieve true greatness. We become the people we are meant to be.
Share your thoughts about Roxie’s courageous self-love story in the comments. And, to get more inspiration from Roxie, connect with her on Instagram @lilfoxieroxie.
Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE. Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.
Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.