Blackness & Self-Love

In this blog entry, Annaise Mushinzimana explores her journey towards self-love as a Black woman and shares tips for overcoming obstacles.


How did you feel when you looked in the mirror today?

Reflecting on my teen years—jeez, I’m still in teen mode because I just entered my twenties—really, I can’t say that I knew much about self-love or what it entailed. Having more prominent facial features and a darker complexion that did not align with the Eurocentric norm was a challenge I faced growing up. It used to bug me.

Saying it out loud stinks. There is no 101, know-how script on self-love or self-worth, especially for Black girls. If there was, my perspective of myself would have been less harsh back then. Teaching yourself something that is not actively taught requires self-investment and discipline, qualities that were not on my agenda as a teenager.

You find yourself conscripted into a three-way battle between adolescent flourishing, self-discovery and the desire to fit in. How can you “be yourself” when you also want to fit in.

The internalized grenades that came with this fight could have been avoided. Despite already having a bit of confidence, I lacked self-love. Let’s acknowledge that it is more difficult to accept yourself when you realize you don’t fit society’s beauty standards, especially when derogatory prejudices are attached to your body.

Acceptance and Admiration

The word “acceptance” is often used when people talk about self-love. Even though I’ve tried to put it into practice, the whole approach just rubs me the wrong way. Acceptance, to me, goes beyond the mere thought of, “Oh, well that’s who I am, and I guess that’s what I have to deal with”.

Let me explain: In my view, acceptance means coming to terms with things and just seeing them for what they are—as simply as 1+1=2. We accept the answer as 2 because it just is and it is logical. However, when it comes down to yourself, accepting logical facts isn’t enough to help you love yourself. Call it an unpopular opinion.

So what’s my suggestion, then? Convert acceptance into admiration! Once more: Convert acceptance to admiration… OF YOURSELF!

Admiration comes from within! What you feel inside shines out to the world; therefore, your mental health is also as important as caring about your appearance. So, I just started to become my own admirer, doing things for myself. Trust me, it’s the little things that boost self esteem like trying new hair products for my curls, unfollowing IG influencers that do not resonate with me or represent any of my physical features, tapping more into my heritage and culture, or simply treating myself with snacks.

Admiring yourself doesn’t make you self-obsessed or self-centred. You will start to comprehend that you come uniquely in your one body with its unique skin complexion, heritage and hair texture, with all its features. This gives way to an appreciation of its singular divinity. Certainly, some days it will be harder than others to admire “yourself”.

That’s another point. It’s not as if embarking on the path of self-confidence and self-love will keep you on a 24/7 high. There will be tougher days, perhaps tougher weeks (or even longer), but making it through them only adds to that journey. If I sound like a motivational coach, it’s because I’ve become my own coach.

I don’t get preachy about affirmations but I will say that telling yourself that you look good while getting ready for the day is an incredible help! Don’t deny that you have had moments where you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and thought, “Um, yes, hello, we are looking good today!“ And, yes, if I want to change something, I can, but I want to admire what I have and not talk it down the whole time. “This growth is for me and not you”—that needs to be internalized.

Humans subconsciously seek validation to confirm that we are accepted, and many POC, including myself, have wondered, “Does this person even like/date people who are (add your race)?” Today this thought just makes me shake my head; my Blackness shouldn’t be questioned. Like, huh? Why should my skin colour be my first concern and most prominent concern when that’s not even the most important part of who I am?

I want to hug my younger self and let her know there’s no need to seek validation from anyone, especially not crushes, especially not men. We don’t need the male gaze, honey.

The way people perceived me was something I reflected on myself. When you see who gets adored and asked out here, you start comparing yourself to see if you fit the criteria. When “you” see that you don’t, it’s easy to form a hatred towards your beauty, shaped by colourism, featurism and misogyny. And it’s solidified when he doesn’t like you, she gaslit you, or they didn’t let you sit with them. It happens unintentionally but spreads quickly within.

No one wants to be too dark, but being too fair also undesirable. Well, not everyone has the privilege to choose the level of pigmentation of their skin! I used to think that being Black made me less desirable, and, at the same time, I noticed lighter-skinned Black people had some social advantages that I didn’t. I came to the natural conclusion that being lighter has more advantages overall. I later realized that, to love myself, I would have to embrace what I see in the mirror as well as how I feel inside and completely detach myself from the desire to fit into Eurocentric norms. I chose to believe that, in my reflection, I see a beautiful, young Black woman!

I don’t claim I don’t care at all about what people think. I do—but much less than I used to. FYI, I still get anxious before every Instagram post because social media has scary shadows of comparison and self-doubt. It’s all a work in progress, like a construction site. It takes time and investment, which now I have and value. Nevertheless, I confidently say that I have gained self-love. It’s a lifelong journey. As I learn, I grow, and I find new ways to love myself. The results aren’t always so visible, but every step counts.


You are valid and deserving of love and respect, no matter your appearance, sexual orientation, religion, skin complexion and heritage. Loving yourself does not make you arrogant but more unapologetically you. To radiate a confidence glow, start admiring yourself from within and it will shine through. Self-love is a garden that needs to be tilled, water yourself with care and harvest healthy self-admiration. With time, you will bloom.


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