Liberation as a Process of Self-Love

Earlier this fall, on October 7, I went to the “Moving from Pain to Power: Confronting Loss” discussion featuring bell hooks, Marci Blackman, and Darnell Moore at the New School. I found myself engaged and connected to much of what these three important writers and thinkers of color said throughout the evening.

Self-liberation is what I was most intrigued by and something I found myself already doing, without realizing it. Getting to self-liberation is a process hooks, Blackman, and Moore discussed based on their own experiences. “How do we decolonize?” was the first question hooks asked that framed the discussion. 

bell hooks at The New School in November 2013 Photo Credit: Spencer Kohn

All of these opinions that dominate our society lead to self-judgement which slows down our path. But from the judgement we can learn how to come to an actualization of our race, gender, sexuality, etc. For example: coming to a realization that not many Latinx, specifically Puerto Ricans, are underrepresented in the media.

Growing up it wasn’t common at all to see Latinx characters in television or movies, which led to my feeling somewhat embarrassed about my Puerto Rican background. I didn’t see myself in the media. The media I grew up with was mostly white. It wasn’t until my mom started showing me specific films or I found Latinx blogs, that I felt like I was represented. It’s because of these few movies and blogs that I was able to have self-validation. I couldn’t obtain self-validation about my own racial and ethnic identity without some form of outside validation. Self-validation brings us to self-actualization.

Someone can easily be aware of one’s race and still experience a lot of internalized racism, and the same goes for gender and sexuality. Something that may help in the process of self-actualization is what hooks calls “developing your inner cheerleader.” We are constantly telling ourselves “no” and that we can’t do what we desire, however we easily give others the “yes.”

She wants us to learn how to say “yes” to ourselves as people of color. We need to develop our inner cheerleader or white supremacy will crush us. Because even if others do approve of us and our actions, that doesn’t mean we approve of ourselves. We become vulnerable in the process of finding ourselves and from there we can form the cheerleader and begin to heal. hooks spoke powerfully to this point as I feel that I’m constantly making myself feel vulnerable just so I can heal and understand myself even more.

I also connected with hooks when she brought up therapy and how those of us who are in therapy have learned how to identify triggers when our mood changes. We understand how to find the root of why we are feeling what we are feeling as we evaluate ourselves.

Hearing from hooks herself that she goes to therapy put me in a place of comfort. It isn’t often that people open up about going to therapy, especially POC.  I felt connected to hooks as a WOC (woman of color) who’s attended therapy for over a decade. I’ve never been able to relate to a WOC, outside of my family, who goes to therapy but once hearing from hooks about her therapy experience I was surprised and comforted.

Many people tend to shy away or look down upon therapy, yet it is an experience that forces us to look deep within ourselves as we pull off all the layers of our identities to our raw emotions. By discovering the trigger of our mood we go back to the events that had taken place seconds, minutes, or hours ago. Based on the people we were around, things we did, saw, or heard, we can manage to find the exact thing that might’ve changed our mood. For example: POC (people of color), can often trace a feeling back to a micro-aggression. After, when looking for the trigger of anger, sadness, etc, we come realization of how society and our race effect our emotions. By being in that vulnerable place of realization we may be able to reflect on childhood memories, or any other memories of micro-aggressions.

By so thoughtfully evaluating ourselves, we become vulnerable allowing ourselves to heal and form a deeper understanding of who we are. After developing this skill, I have found myself being more honest with myself about my feelings. It’s a skill that’s useful for everyone, especially for those who are trying to liberate themselves. We move from a trigger to vulnerability to evaluation to healing to understanding ourselves. Growing into comfort with one’s identity is a long, vulnerable, and intense process. 

9 thoughts on “Liberation as a Process of Self-Love

  1. I realized that as a WOC, I also shy away from anything that has to do with therapy. However, this blog post forced me to realize the importance of therapy in the process of decolonization. One of my favorite parts of this post was when you wrote, “We need to develop our inner cheerleader or white supremacy will crush us,” because it made me think of therapy as a possible way to finding that “inner cheerleader” that helps decolonize our minds.

  2. Your connection between the ability to acknowledge one’s gender, race, sexuality and the ability to say “yes” is probably one of the most important statements I have ever read. I was really moved by your mentioning that one heals through making oneself vulnerable and therapy to help build that inner cheerleader. Your post really articulates what it means to liberate oneself. Often times self-love is not considered. I have never looked at self-love this way before. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.

  3. I think it is powerful how you relate racism, an institution for dominance, to something as personal as going to therapy. I think therapy in itself is empowering because in it we get self-validation and perhaps later that can help us achieve self-actualization.

  4. As someone who has gone to therapy before I think it is so important to lose the stigma against it! It is such an important tool to discovering self-actualization which is the first and only step to self-love. It has been so necessary in mine and so many other people’s lives. Self-love is a truly liberating privilege to have and it is so important to not be afraid of the steps needed to take to get there! Beautiful piece.

  5. the line that stuck out the most for me in your post was when you talked about how people can still be aware of people’s races and still be oppressors. I think this is something very important and something that not many people think about. It has come up a lot in GSA how people think they are allies just because they go to this school and though they don’t bully or put down or have an issue with the LGBT+ community, they still use words like “fag” and “gay” as insults. even though they aren’t insulting LGBT+ people directly, they are discriminating and oppressing the community.

  6. Your illumination of the stigmatization of therapy for people of color was very accurate. It made me think of how the figureheads for any sort of mental illness (like depression) are always white, thin girls who meet eurocentric beauty standards.
    I have been on my own mission of self love and care. I used to body shame myself frequently, and have tried to stop vocalizing those thoughts. It took me a long time to realize that when I damage myself, I am damaging those around me as well. Your openness in this post was very inspiring to me.

  7. This is an incredible analysis of the hooks talk and I really enjoyed reading it! I remember hooks speaking about not feeling like a writer despite her many published works because she did not think she was good enough, that line came back to me when you said: “Because even if others do approve of us and our actions, that doesn’t mean we approve of ourselves.” Self-love and liberation are often incredibly difficult and I really loved the way you described that process.

  8. You highlight such an important part about the work of a feminist. The need to look into oneself and find validation for ourselves by ourselves. I fully agree with your point about there being a stigma surrounding the POC community and therapy. In my childhood it has always been considered a “white thing” to do. It is liberating to hear a fellow WOC who utilizes therapy as a way of self-validation! Truly a wonderful piece.

  9. Much like Julia and Caroline, I love how you bring the idea of therapy into the equation. I think that therapy is extremely powerful, and can bring a lot more good to society than a lot of people think. The power of being self-aware and being able to self-evaluate situations that have upset you or made you feel angry or hurt, is such an important power that people underestimate a lot of the time, especially in communities of POC’s.

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