I love me some love.
I remember being three or four years old as my grandmother plaited love into my hair and told me that she could already see how my heart worked.
As her fingers gently sectioned my thick natural hair, gathering strands and interlacing them into intricate ropes that hung to my shoulders, she told me that I was tenderhearted. That I already had the power to care deeply and love hard. My grandmother told me to claim that power, to own it and to grow it.
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And she was right. Every experience in my life, good, bad or benign has shown me what love can do.
Because I’m a mother, a partner in marriage, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Black woman strongly connected to my community and a human being who cares for other human beings, I know how love looks, how it acts, how it shows up. (And, yes, how it can show out, too!)
I’ve seen how it takes your back, how it holds you to the earth, how it lifts you up. I’ve experienced how it brings you through some things. How it saves.
To love is to fall, to dream, to dare, to hope, to have patience, to extend forgiveness, to endure, to try again and again. To love is to connect to someone else in profound ways, to give one of the most divine pieces of ourselves to each other and to create something bigger than any one of us can ever be alone.
I love me some love. My whole life I’ve been blessed that there’s always been somebody loving up on me.
Love is my grandma planting resilience and growing strength in me.
It’s my mother songs of encouragement always and forever playing in my spirit.
It’s my spouse whispering to me that I am his sun, moon and, ooooh chile, the air he breathes.
Love is my daughter lighting up corners of my life that I didn’t even know were dark with the electricity of her brilliance, beauty and laughter.
And it’s my sister-friends holding my hand and taking my back through every high and any low and telling me off when I need to get right.
That’s not even counting the love of teachers, mentors and other crown-straighteners.
And don’t let me start up on random acts of kindness. (Yes, I am 100% that sister who will watch a video of a stranger giving his shoes to a shoeless person on the bus and bust out crying real crystal tears.)
Look at love, y’all!
That’s why I’m such a big expresser of love. And I’d like to share a few ideas about how to express love to the people we care about.
I’m just going to say it: We’re so hard on ourselves as Black women sometimes. We’re out here trying to do for every.some.body.all.the.time.—our elders, our children, our spouses and mates, our churches, our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters in the community.
Notice who’s missing from that list? Ourselves.
As I said in my book, Ready to Give No Damns: Loving, Living and Laughing Like You Mean It, “Self-love is not selfish.” So how can we express self-love? By treating ourselves to the same kind of love, thoughtfulness, gentleness, kindness, humor and protection that we would anyone else.
Now. I’m not talking about being self-centered or egotistical. I’m not trying to turn you into one of those folks who throw shade and snatch weaves. I’m talking about turning the full shine of your love onto yourself.
Try writing a few affirmations that uphold you from soul to skin:
- “I am enough like I am.”
- “I mess up. Own it. Move on. Grow.”
- “What I’m NOT gon’ do is carry negative vibes.”
- “The Divine within me makes me fully divine.”
- “One thing about me: I am fire.”
- “This skin, this beauty, this me. Loved 100%.”
- “I’m fidna give me all the flowers.”
When you take time for physical health and fitness goals, think about starting from a place of expressing love for who you already are in the moment. When you make time and space for mental health and spiritual wellness, you could thank your higher power for making you who you already are and guiding you to a stronger you.
And when you take the guilt-free time you deserve to spend on you, flaunt you! Girl, be unapologetic! Wrap yourself in your favorite colors, the ones that make you feel bad and bold. Get your head did or wrap it like you got statements to make. Adorn yourself with all the things you love and then step out on your stage.
The important thing is to figure out what makes you feel really and truly loved by you. Then do the damn thing.
We know the power of Black love. And as women we have so many ways to express that to our families.
We “do” for them, whatever the thing is that needs to be done. We cook for them, clothe them and sometimes even clean up after them. We hustle them around from point A to point Z. And we got everybody’s back.
We pray over them for wholeness, healing, strength and that they keep faith that they are forever on the rise. We make safe spaces for them, so they feel secure, recognized, held in our arms, protected and wrapped up in our kindness and care. And we hold them up with faith and joy when things are pressing down.
But one of the most important ways to express our love is to let the people we love know on the regular and right out loud, no matter what, how precious they are to us.
There’s nothing like letting somebody know without a doubt that you are grateful for them. Because that kind of gratitude is saying more than “Thank you.” It’s saying, “You are the good difference in my life.”
Maybe it’s a text or a quick phone call. Maybe it’s a note or card tucked into a lunchbox, briefcase or snail mailbox. Maybe it’s a TikTok video. I don’t know these things! But it’s the words that matter.
- “Bro, you so silly! You keep me weak!”
- “Daddy, love seeing your strength in play.”
- “Mama, I know how to be more joyful because of you.”
- “Sis, love how you live so true to you!”
- “Son, you are the epitome of dope.”
- “Auntie, thank you for being a joy-bringer in my life.”
- “Fam, you got ALL the goods. So thankful for you.”
- “Cuz, your dopeness is on full display.”
- “Daughter, you are the fulfillment of powerful dreams.”
You could even write a family mantra to let all your people know how much having each other and being a family matters:
In this house
we lift each other up,
hold each other down,
pull each other close,
and speak the words
of love, resilience and power
that will always bring us through
Our children are our everything.
They are both our promise to the ancestors and to our future. They are our hope, our dreams and our people’s possibilities. And they are, each and every one, their own beautifully unique and individual selves.
They give us a fresh way to look at the world, remind us to find joy in little things, and motivate us to be optimistic in life. They keep us playful and jubilant. They are our catalysts to joy.
How do I know? Just try to think of your little one’s smile and not smile your own self! Sisters, you know you can feel your hearts warming up and your grins breaking out just reading this.
We naturally want to wrap them up and protect them and their innocence from the things that hurt. We know that’s not always possible because there are big things out there. But we can have faith that our love will always be bigger.
One way we can show our children love is to encourage them to love themselves as they are, no matter what they hear or see otherwise. We can let them know how melanin blesses them. We can keep singing praise for the beauty in their skin, the curl in their hair and the shine in their spirits.
And we can model pride in who we are as a people by keeping examples of Black excellence in front of their eyes, whether that comes directly from us or from others in our community. We can teach about our accomplishments and help our kids find safety in the power of our culture.
Now more than ever our children need to feel our love shining into every window of their little souls.
We show them all the time. But let’s never miss an opportunity to tell them. Because we can always, always fill them up with loving words:
- “Can’t nobody do it like my baby!”
- “You’re so beautiful.”
- “You’re so smart.”
- “You MY rock star!”
- “I’ma need to tell the WORLD that you’re my child!”
- “One thing about me, I’ma always be proud of you.”
- “You are my Black boy joy!”
- “You are pure Black girl magic.”
- “You fill me up with feel-good!”
- “You are my heart.”
- “My littles are my light.”
And we can offer words of love for the real things they go through:
- “It’s gonna be all right. Because you got me, and you got you, too.”
- “I see you being brave.”
- “I’m so proud of how you handle stuff you shouldn’t have to.”
- “Keep being you, baby.”
- “Little can be mighty, too. Just like you.”
Real love is real work, isn’t it? Whether you just met your new love or you’ve been in it for a minute like I have, it’s important to express yourself to the person who is holding you down, holding you close and holding you tight.
You’ve worked hard to build a good love with your somebody, to make that soul-deep connection that can hold you right up to the forever you promised each other. How do you express that kind of love?
I see you. And I know you got your ways: It’s all about making quality time together, doing those sweet and thoughtful things that make baes feel like nobody knows them better, helping one another up through the downs and keeping each other good.
But can we talk about some words?
You could affirm your love and share faith in what you have together:
- “Our love will outlast time.”
- “No matter what goes down, we gonna live in love.”
- “My hand found yours and we’re not letting go.”
- “Baby, we work hard for this love. And I’m all in.”
- “‘I DO’ are the truest words I’ve ever said.”
- “We making these moves together. We making our dreams come true.”
Or maybe you want to go a little sensual to put some extra fire in the desire:
- “Baby, my everything needs your everything.”
- “You got me feeling savored and satisfied.”
- “More please. More you. More me. More us.”
- “Your lips. Your skin. Your touch. #LawdHaveMercy”
- “Vibin’ on the sweetness of you…”
- “One thing about me: I’m gonna always want you.”
But it’s seriously cool to tell your person they’re appreciated and lift them up with some special compliments:
- “Bae, I couldn’t even be me without you being you.”
- “Nothing makes me happier to be a woman and prouder to be a wife than having you.”
- “God put his BEST work in on you, Baby. Love you for everything you are.”
- “You bring the realness and the rightness to this love.”
- “Thank you for being here for us from the first to the last.”
- “You make our life sweeter with your playful ways.”
- “Thank you for keeping our love positive and on the real.”
- “Whether you’re standing up for us or down on your knees in prayer, your love is showing.”
Sisters, do I hear “Amen”??? Good love is such a good thing. And, lucky for us, we’ve got the power of our words to share it.