Journey of Self Love: Autoethnographic Art


My oil on canvas series, “Journey of Self Love,” reflects obstacles I’ve personally had to endure throughout my life as a woman. They are in response to the ongoing pressures ​I’ve experienced in a male-dominated industry and society and the control they have over ​our bodies. Men are not ​​subjected to or held to the​ same standards​ as women​.​ ​For centuries, men have set the rules and standards for us​ and stripped us of our human rights​. My paintings display the idea of unity, the importance of uplifting ​and fighting for ​each other​, ​​and my journey of self-love. They are also a symbolic representation of my personal ongoing struggles to fight against what society believes I should look like, what my purpose is, what I can or can’t do with my body, and who I should be. ​

For many years, women and even little girls have been conditioned and influenced by the media to learn what it means to be a woman, and society’s idea of what true beauty is. There is so much more to us as women other than our looks, and we bring a lot to the table. This is a world where women [and] girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves – that their bodies are not their own nor their power or right to embrace and empower themselves. It is a woman’s choice in what she wants to do with her body without being ridiculed.


“Measure of Self Love”

My painting “Measure of Self Love” is in response to the ongoing pressures women feel in a male dominated industry and society. I’ve also incorporated purple and green measuring tape, which wraps around the woman’s body. The measuring tape represents the struggles with body image, the color purple is associated with royalty, power, independence, and pride. Green is symbolic of rebirth and balance, while pink symbolizes inner peace, femininity, and unconditional love.

I was conditioned by society at an early age, to accept the “traditional” standards of beauty (ex: weight, skin, hair). This was a constant struggle in my community, while also battling to embrace and love myself unconditionally. I often compared myself to other women who ​were​ believed to be more favorable. I also remember using cosmetic products such as bleaching cream at the age of 13, in an attempt to make myself lighter as a woman of color. I skipped breakfast and lunch on most days in an attempt to be thinner. I was also ​bullied by children in school because of my skin tone and weight.

At some point, this becomes traumatizing, creates division, and is also belittling. Women are strong, smart, resilient, and valuable. This painting is a symbolic representation of a woman’s ongoing struggle to fight against what society believes is “a woman’s duty” and the “traditional” societal standards of beauty (ex: weight, skin, hair), while also learning to embrace and love herself. This is a serious problem, and it is important for every woman or anyone who identifies to feel beautiful and know that she is valuable and worth it.


self love

“Stand Together, Fight Together”

Due to set standards and expectations, I often experienced division, invisibility and what being an outcast felt like.​​ I also ​battled depression and ​had ​doubts about my self-worth. This was an example of the traumatization it caused​, I carried it beyond my childhood​. ​​At the end of it all, this was to please and attract men, working to seek their approval and acceptance. I was striving to earn love from everyone around me, but the one person who truly mattered… myself. It was difficult to accept myself in a society that seemed to be against me.

Throughout my ​elementary, ​middle school, and high school years, this was a familiar feeling, and the media was also a huge influence​ as it still is today​. It took a long time to begin to realize my worth and learn to accept myself. As I grew older, I finally began to realize that there is so much more to me under the surface. My physical appearance doesn’t dictate who I am as a person or a woman, nor does it determine my value. ​I am more than my body, and ​I am just as valuable as any other human being.


“Journey of Self Love”

I am a versatile artist who creates energy through light and vibrant colors. I aim to capture the beauty of nature, blending boundaries between reality and abstraction. This creates a unique dreamscape atmosphere, providing viewers with a multilayered and immersive visual experience. Living near the Chesapeake Bay, my work is inspired by nature; often depicting the absence of human presence, liberation (“set free”) and freedom (“being free”). Although my range of work utilizes a variety of different techniques and mediums, they are all inspired by the same subject: freedom.

While nature does inspire me, I also create work to uplift, bring change, unity, hope and to make a statement. I not only depict freedom in my landscape and abstract paintings, but I also associate freedom and liberation in terms of human rights. The social, political and economic issues that are also present in some of my work, are driven by personal experiences and the need to generally bring forth to the surface the topics and rights worth fighting for.

Visit me online at https://www.bnwart.com/.

Featured image by Britnie Walston I The AutoEthnographer

  1. I love your artwork Britnie. I really connected with the image “Measure of Self Love”. Not only is the tape taking the measure of the subject but the subject’s own hands wrapped around her form is doing the same. The standards have become so entrenched within society and our mind that women do not even need an outside tool in order to feel the pressure. Wonderful duality to a self hug symbolizes love directed inward but also the pressure of personal expectations squeezing and pressing in on the body. Well done.

  2. Thank you so much Shanita. I’m glad that you were able to connect with my work, as this was exactly what I was aiming to portray and I completely agree. Thank you!

  3. As a woman who has also struggled with body image and depression, I deeply relate to the journey described by the author, and how she uses painting to express the trauma of being judged solely by her body is incredibly inspiring. It is often difficult to disassociate yourself with the need for external validation, especially as a young woman in a world that links women’s value to their appeal to men. It can also create a sense of imposter syndrome, where you feel like your true passions and talents are insignificant because they do not correlate to the standards and expectations given to you by society. I like how the author is dedicated to using her art to advocate for the upliftment and empowerment of others so they can have personal and emotional freedom. It can be very liberating to use your past experiences to create art that inspires and encourages others with similar experiences, especially younger women, as they are often underrepresented in the mainstream field of painting. I also enjoy hearing about how the author uses different color schemes to express different tones, such as green being symbolic of rebirth and balance, and pink symbolizing inner peace, femininity, and unconditional love.

  4. Britnite Walston writes to readers about her art and the storytelling aspects of self-love and women empowerment. “There is so much more to us as women other than our looks, and we bring a lot to the table.” She discusses how men tend to be in charge of society and have power over a woman’s looks, purpose, and rights to her body. Walston mentions that equality is a fight worth fighting for, and self-worth should not be on society’s expectations. Which makes it difficult to find love within herself, saying, “I was striving to earn love from everyone around me, but the only person who truly mattered. Myself.” I found this quote to be very truthful because, for me personally, I used to try and change who I was for others so they would like me. Then it was all turned around once I realized my self-worth and who I was. I especially connected with her, saying, “It was difficult to accept myself in a society that seemed to be against me.” In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up in feeling uncared for by society and how they treat women. It’s a reminder of how we, as women, need to understand how to love ourselves before turning to external opinions.

  5. This post moved me by the raw emotions it portrays. Every emotion that each piece displays feels very passionate. In “Measure of Self Love” the person depicted in the painting is grasping on to themselves as if their life depended on it. It encapsulates the actual pain of being a victim to societal beauty standards and the damage it can do not only to the body like in the painting, but also the mind. The head also not being shown displays how the person is not being seen for how they think and their ideas, only their body.

    In “Stand Together, Fight Together” the people depicted in the painting feel like they are near peace. It almost looks like the people are on the clouds which could symbolize how they are above the societal beauty standards and the scrutiny that comes with them. On “Cloud 9” with themselves and their bodies which are beautiful.

    In “Freedom”, the look on the woman’s face is a look that someone makes when they really like something. A genuine smile about her appearance which is extremely empowering. The ability to look in the mirror and purely enjoy the sight in front of you is a blessing which she clearly has.

  6. “Journey of Self Love” takes the puzzle pieces from one’s life and expresses them in ways other than just a straight path. Those puzzle pieces consist of discussing the negative influence social media can have on people and their views of society and themselves. It touches points on how women and young girls tend to feel like their body isn’t their own and that this world that is meant to be equal is truly a more male-dominated world. These puzzle pieces talk about what others say the standard of beauty is. This information and statistics can be very traumatizing for a woman, especially for women of color. By the end of the article which was also the end of the journey, all a person can be is who they truly are. The intended audience for this article was women, especially women of color. The author, Britnie Walson, had the message of not only wanting to bring light to issues women face but more specifically the issues underrepresented women face, in this case, it is African American women. As a woman of color, I found many parts throughout this text that I was able to relate to. The biggest point I was able to connect on was in section two under “Stand Together, Fight Together” where she wrote “At the end of it all, this was to please and attract men, working to seek their approval and acceptance. I was striving to earn love from everyone around me, but the one person who truly mattered… myself. It was difficult to accept myself in a society that seemed to be against me.”. This section of the article stood out to me most due to how much I resonated with this and have experienced the very same thoughts and feelings. In this world, the standards of what’s considered beautiful and what’s not are pushed in your face online and in everyday interactions. I like to think that their thoughts are like a black hole that’s one goal is to pull everyone down into the darkness of feeling “pretty” or “not pretty” according to the “rules and standards” that our society has constructed.

  7. Britnie Walston made a great point for what women have to go through. Body image and self love is not something we just started going through. Social media has been around for quite a while now. Women should not have to change their appearance just because society told us you should look a certain way. ” It took a long time to begin to realize my worth and learn to accept myself” as we grow older those obstacles we had to face become lighter on us. “Measure of Self Love” is a beautiful piece that shows us women’s boundaries and how far society can push us. We try to fit into what everyone else wants from us, not what we want from ourselves. Britnie symbolizes the measuring tape from social standards and how our bodies fit into that scene. “Stand Together , Fight Together ” is another great piece that shows us we as women need to stick together loving ourselves. Not letting men dictate our worth and image.”Journey of Self Love” connects to me in the sense of being a tall, slim black girl lacking the perfect coke bottle image. Everyone is designed to be unique in their own ways. Don’t let society tell you differently!

  8. Self-love as a concept has been something I have struggled with my entire life. In terms of my own self worth: I have associated my own worth with my usefulness toward others and how I can benefit them. In a male dominated industry where any straight, white male can easily outcompete me for more high ranking jobs that have impact, I struggled with the fact that I could be put out any day just because I did not fit some conceived notion of what was “right”. This also relates to even some problems with my own body and how I perceive my love for my form.  After all, to work for companies they would rather pick a skinny, toned woman (just toned enough to look slim, not enough to show muscle) to work than a black woman who is short and a weird mixture between boney and fat. However, as I grow and watch the way people struggle and fight for changes  in industry, academia, and the social constructs of beauty to be changed, I think “well, why shouldn’t I fight for it to”. Maybe what I do is just a silent protest, but there are so many people out there fighting for a positive change to be made, who support me and other women, so I’ll fight for them and for myself.

  9. The article discusses inner struggles of being a woman in society withheld societal beauty ideals that are held above women’s heads. Personally, I agree as a woman, myself, I struggle finding love for myself and body. Growing up bigger boned than most little girls affected the way I would later see myself trying on new clothes that looked good on smaller girls but did not fit the curves that fitted my body. As the article states, women are held to much higher standards than men whether it comes down to beauty, attitude, work, etc. Finding self-love for oneself is not easy and it is a long journey for someone to recognize and see the beauty that is beheld by others. I find the paintings in the article comforting and relatable as they depict the journey of self-love, showing that is it not a lonely road. Which is true, I do not know how many times I have had my friends supporting me and each other on how we look in outfits or how even our hair may look good for a day. With not only support from oneself but with others can many find love for themself since I know that is how I, slowly but surely, am finding love and appreciation for me, myself, and I.

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