The fundamental wisdom that I would share with my younger self is radically accept yourself and the world will be alright.
I have unlearned self judgement because I was taught to be self judgmental from a young age, since my upbringing was quite nomadic; from the age of five to my late teens, I often projected onto myself thoughts of whether I was acceptable or good enough in whatever new environment I entered into, as I got older and became more self-aware and with doing inner work I'm at a point where I know who I am and I am able to express the deepest, truest expression of myself.
The feeling of wholeness is a multidimensional journey that comes with awareness, healing, wisdom and inspiration, it has to be intentional and consistent. And with letting go of ways of being that don't empower you, you start to embrace people and ways of being that do. So as I have come to radically accept myself, I celebrate women that embody radical self-acceptance. Siphokazi Veti is a writer and speaker who advocates body positivity and self love. Her social media a trove of inspiration for any young women seeking a model of self-acceptance, Siphokazi shares her journey of loving and accepting her body as is. She writes: "It is up to us to dismantle that society requires we be a certain size and at a certain level of healthy to even be considered worthy. We come in a full range of expressions, and manifestations, desires and powers. Your vessel tells the story of your lineage. Reclaim body Autonomy, reclaim visibility and find embodiment. May your body remain free and always bring love into its existence."
Deun Ivory is a multidisciplinary artist who celebrates black womanhood through photography, illustration and writing and is the founder of a platform called The Body: A Home for Love, a non-profit organization centred around healing and self love for black sexual assault survivors. One of my favourite quotes from the platform is “don't let the energy around you change your inner soft. You are meant to be full of love, no matter your circumstances."
This quote really resonated since women exemplify the inner softness that is love, we nurture, raise communities and yet still we have to ensure we get respect, equal opportunities as men and rights in some areas of our lives. Furthermore, we have to overcome the fact that we have been taught to measure our worth by our physical appearance. We have been conditioned to believe that our beauty is our worth, our bodies are our worth and somehow in a twisted way, the same standards of beauty are set by a patriarchal society. In re-defining our ideas of beauty, each woman needs to radically accept and embrace her own design, we need to come to see that there is no cookie-cutter idea of what beauty is.
I would also tell my younger self to drown out all the external noise and listen to her inner voice. We've been given powerful yet subtle things called intuition and instincts. I cannot recall how many times I have forgone my own intuition and my own instincts to listen to the opinions of others or to please others, thankfully now the tides have turned and I am more attuned to my inner voice and I let it speak the loudest. This for me is so particularly important in the age of social media where external validation seems to have become a part of our culture.
The women mentioned here are using the digital space and social media to present more positive and inclusive ideas of who we are. So as I celebrate these women, and will continue to celebrate more, I hope that you also honour and celebrate the women in your life.
Photography: Bradley Kgotlelelo Sekiti
Words: Phendu Kuta