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Self love, a poem by Martha Mutale

Martha Mutale. Photo Halifax Public Libraries
How do you practice self-love?
Maybe you dance in the mirror
With your headphones on
Encourage yourself to eat right
Sleep in until it's time to go back to bed again

Self-love is about listening to your body
It is about the feeling you sense creeping into your gut
Telling you, not right now, and maybe, not even later

Self-love is asking yourself the difficult questions that you hide from
Like how do you break a difficult habit?
Acknowledging the truth and power of your struggles 
Acknowledging your strengths even when you are at your worst

Self-love is eating junk food because it’s good at the moment
Self-love is reading a book that makes you happy
Self-love is doing shit all on the weekend because you don’t have to do anything 
Self-love is warm bubble baths

Let no person to your left or to your right
Ever make you feel as if you have to follow THEIR regime
Self-love is finding support even if you are your only support system
In my darkest moments, I was alone when the tears drenched my bed - questioning my existence 
In my darkest moments, I was surrounded by voices telling me I didn’t deserve to live
Somehow I found a way out
If we don’t have a crutch, how do we hold ourselves up?
Self-love is taking the first step to do anything
Self-love is doubting the process of healing

We forget to be still when the chaos becomes too much
Some days we forget how hard life really is
So we stop, inhale, exhale
Repeating our words of affirmation
Whatever keeps you grounded

Self-love is learning to say no
To those you love
To those who ask you for things but are never there for you
Saying no to feelings that want to hurt you
That is deflected onto you
Remember that hurt people, hurt people
When hurt people show up in your safe spaces
Remember who you are
Take a moment and hold yourself

Self-love is the ability to see a few steps ahead, to stay as many steps ahead

Self-love is looking in the mirror
Staring at your melanated skin
And refusing to accept that you are not wanted in this world
Self-love is getting high 
Playing cheesy songs that make me dance even if I am scared too
Ordering your favourite food
Self-love is getting away from external noise
Asking the world to hold space for you
Self-love is whatever you want it to be
Praying to the universe that you make it through the night

Stop. Breathe

Self-love is touching your body
Figuring out the parts of you that you are afraid of
Understanding the parts of you
That you get the most pleasure from
Caress, massage, and hold yourself
Be still, breathe, and hold yourself

Let yourself go
Be free
Embrace the process
The nerves, the shakes, and the quivers
Embrace the reactions, dismiss the distractions
My body is beautiful
My body is valid
Own your journey
Let it be a story you tell your stretch marks
Let your self-love and self-care
Be a story you keep telling yourself
Even when you find happiness

Don’t stop feeling
Don’t stop living
Don’t stop loving 

Martha Mutale is a Zambian-born poet, organizer, and advocate. She has been performing poetry for several years, she took part in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2016, as well as the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam in Vancouver in 2017.

See also: Tired bodies, a poem by Martha Mutale 

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