Today’s reflection on body image, media influence, and self-love comes to us from Dr. Van Bailey, an educator and mentor in Higher Education and Student Affairs. He has created spaces and leadership opportunities for queer and people of color students at colleges and universities. He is a member of the Brown Boi Project, a board member of Boston’s Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, and supporter of organizations that promote the visibility of masculine of center people of color communities such as Me & My Bois and Bklyn Boihood.
Body image and mental health. I kept repeating these words as I sat trying to think about my personal journey in understanding and learning the connections between mind, body, and soul. As an empath, feelings are often facts, and whatever I feel manifests itself physically. So, growing up, I’ve always had mixed feelings about my body. As a Black person of trans* experience, I didn’t see images of myself on T.V. or in the media, overall. I didn’t know how to love and appreciate my body. I didn’t see my body anywhere. Not in a magazine or newspaper. I just remember constantly feeling rejected. Rejected because of the anatomy I was born with, and rejected because of mythical standards of beauty. It wasn’t until I met other bois of color from the Brown Boi Project that I was able to explore masculinity and self-love. Community and connection are healing strategies. When we start with love, we invite limitless amounts of potential to our lives.
I would encourage anyone to write themselves a love letter. Seriously. Address it to yourself and give yourself the love you deserve. We must start with self-love. It is unfair to invite people into our lives and demand love when we haven’t explored what love means to ourselves. There were many days that I didn’t even look at my body. I woke up, bound up my chest, and never once made eye-contact with myself in the mirror. Wearing oppression on a day-to-day basis is a heavy feeling. It manifests itself in profound ways and often led to isolation and hopelessness. So, I say, write yourself a love letter, take a bunch of selfies, create a jar of body-affirming notes, and know you are not alone.