Dear brilliant and beautiful girls of Noble,
As I pen this letter, memories of my younger, high school self float through my mind. The friendships, laughter, and extracurricular activities were all core to my high school experience, which created so many fond memories that I keep near to my heart even now. And while I have those fond memories, I also remember all too often being told how loud I was or how I questioned too much. That criticism created a set of insecurities in me that I didn’t even realize would impact how I am as an adult.
As a teenager, the one thing I wished someone told me or, even more so, taught me, was how to love myself. More specifically, how to love myself in spite of messages and a society that communicated quite the opposite. I know it sounds cliche but, growing up, “love” was a word used to describe crushes or feelings toward family and close friends. “Love” brought images of flowers, hearts, and popular romantic films to mind but never did someone discuss with me what love of self looked or felt like. It wasn’t until well after college that I really started to delve into what self-love even meant and all of the ways I was not loving myself well.
In the spirit of being that person I wish I had in high school, I want to share with you what I’ve learned about the power of self-love that I hope you can learn from and practice for yourself.
“Who you are and how you show up in the world as the authentic young woman you are is enough. Periodt!”
You are enough! This took me a long time to learn and, to be honest, I am still learning it. Self-love is a process! But my melanated skin, kinky curly hair, bold fashion, and loud voice (and you will hear me because what I have to say matters, too!) is not only enough but exactly what this world needs. And that goes for you, too. Who you are and how you show up in the world as the authentic young woman you are is enough. Periodt! You don’t need to change your hairstyle to be more acceptable, you don’t need to quiet your inquisitive nature because it makes others uncomfortable, and you surely don’t need to tone down your voice because what you have to say matters, too. Walk in spaces like you have 3000 ancestors walking behind you – because you do – and that’s power in itself. Anyone’s discomfort with who you are as a person is not your issue, it’s theirs.
“Self-love grows and thrives when you’re surrounded by a community of people who will not only affirm that you’re worthy of love, even from yourself, but also check you when you’re not acting like the Queen that you are.”
SisterFriends are necessary! Another lesson I’ve learned on the self-love journey is that love thrives in community. What that means to me is that self-love grows and thrives when you’re surrounded by a community of people who will not only affirm that you’re worthy of love, even from yourself, but also check you when you’re not acting like the Queen that you are. My SisterFriends are everything! When I doubt myself, they remind me who I am. When I question my ability, they remind me of what I’ve already conquered. They are essential to why I am where I am today. I encourage you to find your SisterFriends, too. Other young women are not your enemy. Once I learned this lesson, it was through relationships and friendships with other women, especially Black women, that I began to thrive. I quickly realized I can do hard things when I have a circle of women rooting me on, and I can go even further when I do it in community with other women as well.
“Love is taking care of your body, eating well, working out, setting boundaries, and not allowing others to take advantage of you.”
Love is an action word! It’s so easy to say you love yourself but then live as if you don’t. But love is an action word. Love is visible. Love is taking care of your body, eating well, working out, setting boundaries, and not allowing others to take advantage of you. Love is saying no when your spirit is telling you something isn’t right. Love is patience with yourself when you’re learning something new and it’s proving difficult. Love is being kind to others because you never know what someone else is going through. Love is acknowledging your needs and asking for help. Love is about thriving. Loving yourself fully means honoring that you are valuable, worthy, and deserving of joy, love, success, growth, and so much more.
Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors and in her book, Beloved, one of her main characters states, “You your own best thing, Sethe. You are.” So, I say that to you today as well: You are your own best thing! And never forget it.
– Dr. J
(Dr. Janine Franklin)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Janine Franklin, affectionately called Dr. J, is a passionate education leader committed to equity in education for Black and Brown youth in the city of Chicago. Currently, Dr. J is the Senior Director of Student Culture and Support for Noble Schools and has served in various professional and civic capacities within education for almost a decade.