Theory & Practice: Self love in Theory, Self love in Practice

The Theory (Ivory Tower Talk)

“Developing an ethic of self-care rooted in self-love is paramount to improving one’s health.” Tracey Coretta, M.A.

We carry medicine within us in the form of self-love.  Framing holistic wellness within this context has the power to transform our health improvement strategies.  Since self-love requires adopting an ethic of radical self-care, cultivating wellness becomes a daily act rooted in self-respect and a desire to nurture one’s spiritual growth.  Self-care is the attentive gardener’s hand.  Love is the sunlight making possible the blossoming of our full potential.

bell hooks draws from psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s discussion of love in his work The Road Less Travelled to explore a nuanced understanding of love. Peck defines love as, “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth...Love is as love does. Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” By utilizing this definition, hooks shifts the focus from love as a passive emotion to love as a conscious act. Part desire and part deed, love encompasses “both intention and action.” Feelings are important to an understanding of love. However, love is incomplete without action.


The Practice (Everyday Talk)

“You gotta walk your talk. You gotta walk your talk every single day or you won't respect yourself. And if you don't respect yourself you can't fully practice self-love.” Tracey Coretta, Yoga Teacher

This year has been an exercise in developing my integrity. Specifically, I found myself wondering, "Do I have the character to walk my talk every single day even when doing so gets difficult?" Case in point: Last fall I presented a paper at the National Women's Studies Association conference in Puerto Rico titled "The Role of Self-Love and Social Love In Improving Black Women's Health Status" (the Ivory Tower Talk excerpt above). I found myself struggling to practice self-love and kindness even though I did months of research on how important it was for my health! I was burnt out and sleep deprived.

I finally got myself centered on my wellness values but not without some difficulty. That period really made me re-examine and form a deeper understanding of self-love.  If you lie to yourself and don't take the time to admit “Well I’m not being authentic to my self-love practice which includes getting enough sleep, water, whole foods, sunlight, exercise, and time with positive people who lift me up” then you're just gonna be stuck in a limbo where you do and say things that make you feel like a hypocrite because you're not practicing what you preach. You gotta walk your talk. You gotta walk your talk or you won't respect yourself. And if you don't respect yourself you can't fully practice self-love.