BY FRANCESCA LEWIS
Now that the holidays are over and we’re all full of egg nogg and self-reflection, we turn our thoughts to the coming year. We want to change – to be happier, more productive – but we’re full of self-doubt and have a hard time believing any of these changes are truly possible.
To help kick start the year with a positive, self-compassionate attitude, mother-daughter team Michelle and Emelina Minero run a yearly writing challenge, called the 31 Day Self-Love Writing Challenge. Michelle, a therapist who specializes in eating disorder recovery, and Emelina, a queer writer/editor, created the Love Warrior Community together, an online community that uses creative expression to help people foster self-acceptance, body acceptance, self-awareness, emotional awareness, and self-love. Inspired by this community, and by Michelle’s book Self-Love Diet: The Only Diet That Works, they created the yearly writing challenge. The 31 Day Self-Love Writing Challenge has grown over the past four years, from a small project between mother, daughter and a friend, to a community of over 100 participants.
I asked Emelina to tell me more about the community, the challenge and how it has helped not only the participants, but Emelina herself.
What is the Love Warrior community all about?
The Love Warrior Community is an aggregate of inspiring, empowering, and body positive media that we curate and create and that anyone can contribute to. More than positive content, we encourage people to reflect on their self-love journey and to create or build upon their self-love practice through Self-Love Diet writing prompts and writing templates, like body love letters, body forgiveness letters, and self-love letters. Our motto is, “Love Yourself. Love Your Body. Love the World.” We believe that when you love yourself, you have the power to impact and change the world.
You created this project with your mom – what’s it like working on this with her?
It’s wonderful working with my mom, and it’s wonderful to work on something with her that positively impacts so many people. It’s surreal to realize the impact that you have on the world. We’ve had people tell us that they’ve stopped cutting, that they’ve let go of the shame around their mental diagnoses, that they’ve lessened or stopped their eating disorder behaviors, that their relationship with their partner has become stronger and that they’ve gotten more in touch with their emotions, that they love and accept themselves more.
Self-love resonates with everyone differently. We each have our own unique self-love journey. As a therapist who specializes in eating disorder recovery, my mom’s self-love journey has been tied to body image and the eating disorder recovery community. Mine has been connected to the LGBT community and the larger mental health community.
Tell me a little about the 31 Day Self-Love Writing Challenge and what’s different this year.
Each year, we share a Self-Love Diet writing prompt every day throughout January. People can publish their writing on the Love Warrior Community or share it on the public Facebook event page, which has become this supportive forum throughout the whole month where people share their self-love journey, witness others’, and support each other.
What’s different this year is that instead of a public Facebook event page, we’re creating two private Facebook groups – one for mental health professionals and one for the general public. Last year some people told us that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing their writing on a public space. The groups will continue year-round after the 31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge with weekly writing prompts.
Also new this year on January 9th, we’ll be hosting a free webinar called “Embodying Gratitude”, where we’ll guide participants through creating a personalized gratitude list, recalling specific memories and experiences that bring them joy and comfort, deepening their awareness of emotions in their body, self-soothing and creating the emotions that they want to feel. The first eight people who join will be able to participate in a live workshop.
On January 23, we’re also hosting an in-person workshop in Oakland, CA at Qulture Collective. It’s tentatively titled, “Go Into the Darkness: An Emotional Exploration” where we’ll explore how to become aware of, feel, express, and learn from the darker emotions, like fear, anger, and depression.
Do you take part in the challenge? What do you get out of it?
I participate in the challenge every year. Over the past 6 years of self-love writing, I’ve let go of my fear around my sexual orientation, and I’ve let go of my shame around my neurodiversities. A really big gift of my Self-Love Diet practice is my relationship with my thoughts and emotions. I have bipolar two disorder and paranoia, and through exploring my relationship with those aspects of myself through a self-love lens, I let go of the fear, the shame, and the struggle. I used to think that those parts of me were a hinderance, but now I view them just like any other part of me, beautiful, and part of my normal. When I do cycle, it can be difficult, but I view each of those experiences as a gift and a learning opportunity to further practice my Self-Love Diet tools, coping skills, and to further explore myself. Every moment in life is an opportunity to offer myself unconditional love.
[This interview has been edited for length]
To find out more about the 31 Day Self-Love Writing challenge, check out the Love Warrior blog: http://www.lovewarriorcommunity.com/31-day-self-love-diet-writing-challenge/