On March 8, millions of women worldwide celebrated International Women’s Day.The holiday, which originated in 1908, was created to celebrate the accomplishments of women around the globe and bring attention to issues of gender inequality. While women have made significant strides since 1908, the fight for equal pay and opportunity continues on, especially for women of color. As we fight for ourselves and each other, it is crucial we take the time for self-love and care.

Psychologist Mea Boykins sat down with Black Girl Nerds to discuss self-love and why we should all be taking the time to ask: Am I okay?

Mea Boykins

Q. How do you define self-care/self-love?

Self-love is physical, metaphysical and spiritual. To me, loving oneself entails consistently striving to be better (for yourself) mentally, spiritually & physically. It means constant and consistent work regardless of what it looks like on the exterior or feels like. Often times, the journey to self-love is painful as you must face your inner demons, but self-love is relentless. It is radical.

AT&T

Q. Why do you think self-care is important for young black women? Do you think there are any concerns unique to our community?

Black women are often lifting up many others and facilitating other people’s legacies and dream without a voice and without being recognized. It’s important to care for ourselves so that we may refuel in order to continue our mission. As a global citizen and Psychologist, I don’t think that there are unique concerns for black women that other women/men don’t face across all cultures. While they are not unique, there are some issues such as self-esteem that affect U.S. black women disproportionally as a result of our history coming to America, colorism, etc.

Q. What are some self-care behaviors and practices?

Practicing meditation, writing, stating positive intentions verbally, praying, fasting, eating healthily, drinking water, exercising, attending counseling and working on yourself daily are some self-care behaviors (that I practice). Avoid being overly critical of yourself during the process of healing and wholeness.

Q. What are some techniques for setting boundaries with others to guard our emotional health?

Don’t allow people to drain you. If you work hard every day, take a Sabbath to restore your spirit, body, and mind. I usually take Sundays to have a long bath, clean, organize my schedule and do things that relax me. Make it clear that you will support [people] in the way that’s best for you. Have principles that you live by and won’t compromise on.

Q. Social media plays a central role in delivering us news 24 hours a day, good or bad, often prompting visceral emotional reactions to current events. Do you recommend setting boundaries on social media as an exercise of self-love?

Yes, I definitely do. Being overstimulated with bad news will definitely have an affect on your psyche. Also, if you are suffering from depression and not a person that can balance happiness for others while you are not happy… being over stimulated by good news will also affect you. I only use social media as a means to an end, as in I speak with specific people, turn on post notifications for business/personal accounts I like to follow so that I may still engage, and leave. I try not spending aimless time scrolling around.

Q. How do you know when your needs go beyond self-care/self-love? How do you know when you need the help of a professional?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, useless, apathetic to things you usually like, worthless, or like you want to engage in self-harm or harm to others, I think seeing a professional is worth it and can be helpful. There should be no stigmas towards seeking help; in fact, this is a sign of self-love and something I believe in strongly.

“the journey to self-love is long and will take patience and a lot of hard work. Be gentle with yourself.”

Q. As sisters, friends, and daughters, how do you recommend we help one another practice self-care/self-love?

Holding each other accountable is key. Creating a space or visiting spaces, which already exist, that promote self-love and care is essential. Treat others how you wish to be treated and be empathetic because you never know what the next person is going through.

Q. Do you have any personal anecdotes about your own struggles? How did you overcome?

My spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, meditation & stating my intentions verbally keep me grounded. Also, when I am stressed or going through a difficult time, I volunteer with homeless individuals. This helps me to gain perspective of what I am going through and alleviates me from playing the victim.

Q. Any last words of advice?

Loving oneself goes beyond just saying “I love myself.” Once we reach adolescence, we still aren’t able to process trauma(s) faced in childhood properly. Understand that the journey to self-love is long and will take patience and a lot of hard work. Be gentle with yourself.

Q. Any upcoming projects?

This month, I am hosting a panel on Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse through my nonprofit Student Emergency Assistance, Inc. in partnership with Black Celebrity Giving to a group of fostered youth. This is a private event, as we want the teenage girls to be in a safe space where they may express themselves and ask questions. On April 4, I have a speaking engagement on Visionary Entrepreneurship + Social Justice during Atlas week at St. Louis University.

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Mea Boykins is a seasoned business development professional and fundraiser. She is a subject matter expert and accomplished public speaker at over 45 events worldwide. Boykins is a graduate of Spelman College (BA in Psychology), Kings College London (M.S. in Child Psychiatry) & the University of San Francisco (M.A. in Global Entrepreneurial Management). You can find Mea at www.meaboykins.com and on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @meaboykins.

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Faye McCray is a writer and horror/sci fi obsessed blerdette skulking around the suburbs of Washington, D.C writing stuff and saying very little. She is the author of Dani’s Belts, a collection of short stories that follow a young college student turned unlikely heroine of the zombie apocalypse. She is also the author of Boyfriend, a novel following a young man as he navigates love and fidelity in college, and I am Loved!, a collection of positive affirmations for kids. You can find Faye at www.fayemccray.com and on www.weemagine.com, a site she cofounded with her husband to celebrate and inspire kids. You can connect with Faye on Facebook and Twitter @fayewrites. When she isn’t writing, Faye is spending time with her hubby and young children and leading a covert double life as an attorney.