"What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful."
First dates tend to be awkward. They require people to step outside their comfort zone to get to know someone who could be completely wrong for them. It demands an increased vulnerability that, quite frankly, many are tired of giving. Dating can be exhausting, and like most people, I've had my share of good ones and those that were not so good. Throughout these experiences, "why are you single?" is one question that remains consistent.
When this question is asked, I immediately think, Did it just happen again? Should I think of something that sounds like I'm "worth" another date? Is it best to play it cool and make a joke out of it? Or none of the above? Instead of answering honestly, I usually redirect the conversation and say, "But doesn't your question assume I want to be in a relationship? Social construction says so, but what if I don't necessarily want to be in one?" Bad move, but how could I be honest enough to say, "Because I fell out of love with myself, and only I can get it back"?
Lately I wake up in the morning and immediately want to fall asleep again, not because I am sleepy but because I am tired.
Tired of putting on clothes when I want to be free, tired of getting a haircut when I want my beautiful kinks to show, tired of putting on my glasses when I may not want to see, and tired of placing a smile on my face when I want to cry.
I am tired.
I want to fall (back) in love with myself. The love that no one can remove. That unbreakable, unstoppable, unrelenting, unyielding self-love. I don't know when I realized I fell out of love with myself, but somewhere between three degrees, employment, friendships, vying for acceptance, and seeking (as opposed to having) faith, I forgot how to love from within.
I want that love back. The love that no one else can give me: not my mother, not my siblings, not my colleagues. The time has come to stop telling myself that "it gets better," and instead, actively work to make it better. The time has come for my heart and brain to finally be aligned. The time to quit second-guessing my value and worth. And the time for me to understand my purpose on Earth and quit pretending that I do not deserve greatness.
In For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Ntozake Shange wrote, "Being alive, being a woman and being colored is a metaphysical dilemma I haven't conquered yet." As a gay black man in constant (and often uninviting) heterosexual spaces, self-love is that metaphysical dilemma that I have yet to conquer. I once thought being strong meant remaining publicly silent about my problems, telling myself that I didn't need any help, and relying on prayer to solve my dilemmas. I was so wrong.
One thing I have learned from falling out of love with myself is the discomfort I had with being vulnerable. To fall (back) in love with myself, I must begin to recognize the power of vulnerability. It's sexy, it's scary, and it's necessary. Vulnerability is the power to simply break down to the core and exclaim, "I need help!"
So here it goes: I need help!
In The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown offers helpful tips for showing the beauty in vulnerability. For me, these are ways to start the reunification of myself, because, contrary to popular belief, self-love can be a matter of life or death. I intend to:
- Be real: Be honest with myself at all times. If I am sad, I shall cry. If I am happy, I shall laugh. If I am angry, I shall place it into purposeful action.
- Ask for help: Realize that I am not in this world alone and that it is acceptable to seek help. In fact, one of the healthiest things I can do to fall (back) in love with myself is to hold myself accountable for my emotions and seek proper help if things begin to feel uncontrollable.
- Get rejected: What would life be if I were never rejected? Rejection hurts, but it is helpful and necessary. One of the best learning experiences is my growth as a result of personal and professional rejections.
- Embrace negative emotions: It seems natural to only hold on to positive emotions, but in fact, I should learn to embrace the negative around me. This is very different from allowing negativity to fester. Embracing negative emotions will allow me to accept the pain and move forward in the process of self-love.
These tips are likely to work for some but not for others. Even vulnerability can come with varying degrees of privilege, and not everyone has the luxury and ability of publicly declaring vulnerability. Furthermore, the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, class, location, and gender may make it nearly impossible for certain marginalized populations to externalize vulnerability. For me, however, this is a way of regaining the love that I originally had for myself and the love that I let slip from within. Certainly more work is to be done after this post, but this is my start.
Many LGBT people, and especially black LGBT individuals, are often thought to believe that we are not beautiful, that we do not really love ourselves, and that we do not deserve greatness. And sadly, I started to believe this based on heteronormative standards that I had no hand in creating. It is time that I assert my vulnerability, and do so unapologetically.
My dark skin is beautiful. My body is not perfect for everyone, but it is perfect for someone. My clothes are not expensive, but I am clothed. Society may make it difficult to fully love myself, but it will not make it impossible. The standards I have set for myself must be based on who I am, and not on who society wants me to be.
Loving myself has been as rocky as any other relationship; it has its ups and downs. But it is a love that I am seeking to maintain, because once I find it again, I will be intentional about ensuring that it lasts forever. Falling (back) in love with myself may be my metaphysical dilemma, but I intend to conquer it.