The “strong black woman” is often seen as the woman who endures; the woman who perseveres, the woman who holds the black family together, etc. Our grandmothers made the meals, reared the children, and took care of the home while most times “enduring” and “persevering” through emotional neglect, disrespect, infidelity, and putting everybody else’s needs before her own. She cried in silence and still showed up for her family. She was the pillar in most black families. Grandma was the glue that held us all together. She was our nurse when we hurt ourselves, she was our listening ear when we needed to talk, she was the chef when we needed a good home-cooked meal, and the list goes on. Grandma was so many things to everybody, but what was grandma to herself? And maybe this wasn’t your grandma, but it was certainly most of ours.
The black family is literally built on the backs of black women, but we are the most underappreciated, overlooked, and disregarded. We wear masks of strength while we silently hurt. We show up to work hurting; we take care of our children, hurting; we even stay in dead-end relationships, hurting. Why? Because we are regarded as enduring and persevering. And not just by society, but we tell ourselves this while our “strength” is taken for granted.
In these times, the strong black woman can be seen in the court rooms, in the board rooms, in the doctor’s office, running her own business, etc. She is making boss moves, she is making her own money, she is calling her own shots! She is modern, she is fly, she is you, she is me, she is us. We are more educated than ever, we have access to more information and resources, we are working outside the home, taking care of home, being the mother, the chef, the wife, and so much more. We wear so many hats, we lost count.
So what does the modern woman have in common with her grandmother?
Somehow we are still putting everybody’s needs ahead of our own, we are still enduring and persevering because if we don’t do it, it wont get done (and by ANY means, we will get it done). We are still taking care of our homes, our kids, our husbands, our parents. We are still maintaining this image of what we’ve seen a strong black woman “look” like. She is strong because she doesn’t break down (or she doesn’t show it). She is strong because she can put up with so much, she doesn’t give up, she FIGHTS, and most times she WINS! But at what cost?
It’s time to change the narrative of what a “strong black woman” looks like because honestly, it is exhausting. It takes a toll on our mental health. And that stress manifests in ways that ultimately affect our physical health. What good are you to anybody if you are not good to yourself?
On a personal note:
I am hanging up the hat of looking like I have it all together and redefining what a strength looks like as a “strong black woman”. To me being strong is:
- Going to THERAPY and TALKING
- Breaking the cycle of generational dysfunction and not repeating unhealthy patterns
- Showing up for myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically
- Taking a personal day off work when I feel overwhelmed
- Asking for help
- Accepting support from friends/family
- Being vulnerable
- Not tearing down another black woman
- Upholding my standard of honesty, love and transparency in all I do
- Being faithful in relationships
- Being honest about how I feel – speaking, living and loving my truth
- Being courageous and walking away from relationships, jobs, and things that don’t give me what I know I deserve (“know your worth or you will get finessed”)
You know what being strong is not?
- Being strong is not enduring emotional neglect or disrespect,
- Being strong is not persevering through infidelity, trauma, and toxic behaviors
- Being strong is not accepting less than you deserve
- Being strong is not staying at a job or in a relationship that no longer serves your greater good
- Being strong is not putting everybody’s needs before your own.
- Being strong is not suppressing your emotions because you’re afraid to look weak.
I want to welcome you on this journey with me of redefining what being “strong” looks like. As women we should no longer have to wear the mask of “strength” if we aren’t feeling strong. We have feelings, we hurt, and we bleed like everybody else. And it is okay to admit when you are not okay.
Be courageous and discover the power of who you really are because THAT is what being a strong black woman is!