“Love Spirit, drink deeply, eat often with friends-love yourself-Inside & out, no matter what, no matter what….no matter what- love your Self…”
— Excerpt from “Wisdom Rocked Steady” by Nancy Lynne Westfield
I am a woman. I am an African-American woman. I am a Queer African-American woman. In our current social, economic and political climate, we who are women* live with the constant awareness of threat and potential harm to our personhood. The bigotry embedded within America’s psyche has been emboldened. We live in a culture in which the objectification and assault (sexual and physical) of women’s bodies is commonplace. In this current season, what does it mean for women to be healthy?
For far too long our society, including the church, has taught women to deny ourselves, placing our worth in how much we help others. Many of us have been socialized to practice a sacrificial love that limits our personhood to supporting the lives of others. We have been taught to minimize our desires, wants and needs. We may have been taught that we are not intelligent, strong, ambitious or capable enough to make real and lasting impacts on the world around us. This teaching has enacted generational harm and trauma. The South African philosophy of Ubuntu teaches that my humanity is inextricably connected to the humanity of others — “I am because we are”. Our communities and our nation cannot be fully human, cannot thrive, while we continue to restrict the potential and full expression of our girls and women. It is time to reclaim women’s health as a priority.
The World Health Association defines health as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease.” This includes the ability to adapt and recover from illnesses and new threats. Women’s health is made up of our mental, physical, emotional, financial, relational, sexual and spiritual well-being. As I move into my late 30s, I am realizing that being healthy requires that I maintain a life-giving intentional relationship with myself. Learning to live in ways that promote health is a radical act of self-love. It is a powerful act of resistance. Attending to our health is rooted in loving the fullness of ourselves, mind, body and spirit. It is learning to acknowledge and cultivate our own needs, wants, desires, hopes and dream. It is letting go of the guilt that may arise or the concerns of being selfish. It is learning to turn down the volume of that inner critic, while learning to encourage ourselves. It is paying attention to what is happening with our bodies from a place of compassion and appreciation. It is learning to stimulate our minds and our creativity. It is to engage the strength and sensuousness of our bodies as we walk, dance, jog, do yoga, take a hike, etc. It is learning to have good boundaries and say no. It is learning to find joy in simply being who you are.
As a co-pastor I support my congregation in living out the greatest commandment — to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. For many, especially women, the love of self is overlooked and down-played. It is time to reclaim our love of self. To do so is to know that women are wonderfully and powerfully made in the image of God. It is to know that we are inherently worthy and have much to offer the world, one another and ourselves. Today, I invite we who are women, to take at least five minutes to focus on loving and being good to yourself!
* Throughout this reflection when I speak of women I am speaking of those whose gender identity matched their sex assigned at birth and the spectrum of those who have courageously reclaimed their gender identity.
info: Rev. Malu Fairley serves as the co-pastor of Wedgewood Church.