Written by Dorothy Sierra-Gutierrez

When embarking on the journey of self-love and wellness, it’s essential to embrace intersectionality as a catalyst to understand further social factors that influence our experiences as racialized women. Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to acknowledge the nature of social categories like gender, class, race, sexuality, etc. intersecting to create a unique lived experience. For marginalized communities, understanding how this concept can advocate for wellness and also can be a foundation for a relationship with self-love. Well-being for Black women involves an inclusive, affirming space that acknowledges their diverse identities. Well-being includes a balance of mental, physical and social factors, which is for Black communities can thrive on supportive communities where cultural heritage is celebrated and empowered. Well-being can be achieved through accessible healthcare, educational opportunities, and representation in mental health sectors. As a second-generation Hispanic woman, prioritizing my well-being means breaking systemic barriers, promoting self-love, and navigating spaces where I can feel seen, heard, and valued.

My self-love journey as a child began with me exploring for a sense of connection to my culture despite being away from Colombia. In my experience, embracing language, cultural experiences, and traditions is a foundation where I understand that cultural heritage is a form of self-love. Self-love has been a dynamic and empowering process that involves embracing cultural roots, defying stereotypes, and prioritizing personal well-being. By celebrating the unique intersections of their identity, young Latina women can pave the way for a future filled with self-empowerment, resilience, and a deep appreciation for the rich tapestry of their heritage. In embracing self-love, they nourish their own souls and contribute to the collective strength of the Latina community.

Part of what made my self-love journey so difficult was the idea that I was living in a Western society and was, therefore, battling a dual identity. Among immigrants, I feel there is a common struggle with one’s identity due to being away from our country of origin and separated from culture. Balancing between attempting to get used to life in Western society and still feeling close to cultural traditions can be difficult for many individuals. I hit moments of confusion while navigating this balance through my adolescent years. I found it difficult to finding myself having to fit in with extended family and not feeling like I was fully accepted. Being raised in Canada made me feel like I was inherently lacking in my connection to my Latin heritage. However, ultimately, I found strength in accepting the blend of cultures I’m exposed to and that they naturally shape who I am. I also found comfort in finding a sense of the Latin community because they understood similar experiences and made me feel closer to cultural traditions.

Self-care and prioritizing your well-being can look like setting personal boundaries, seeking mental health services when needed, and taking time for activities that bring joy. Self-love to me has involved rejecting gendered stereotypes, embracing diverse representations of beauty and prioritizing mental health. I cultivated a positive relationship with my body by celebrating my natural appearance. Breaking free from traditional gender norms that are placed upon Latin women, such as playing a subordinate role in the household and enduring extreme hardships to keep my family together, has allowed me to realize my version of well-being and happiness fully. Taking control of my education and academic goals has given me a sense of power and self-worth. Black women having power in their academic careers contributes to breaking down systemic barriers, and through education, they can carve paths that honor their passions and aspirations.

In essence, well-being for Black women is a combination of physical, mental, and emotional health within a society that respects and uplifts their multifaceted identities—building a supportive community to reinforce the importance of your well-being and sharing experiences. Exploring healthy well-being and self-love looks different to every individual, and it is a constant roller coaster of discovery. I encourage Black women to continue to make time to evaluate where they are on their self-love journey and continue practices to prioritize their emotional, physical and mental well-being.

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