I’ve never met a woman who is not strong, but sometimes they don’t let it out. Then there’s a tragedy, and then all of a sudden that strength comes. My message is let the strength come out before the tragedy.-Diane Von Fustenburg
Let’s redefine what it looks like to be strong. And not just because May is mental health awareness month. But because mental health awareness is an everyday necessity.
The current narrative for me and the women who look like me is “Strong Black woman”- and as such, we can handle anything. No matter what comes my way, I got it. While the resilience is overwhelmingly evident and is used somewhat as a term of endearment, It is crippling.
It subconsciously subscribes to the notion that you can just dump your drama, your trauma, your pain, your problems, your negativity, your neglect, your hate, your feelings, your words, your fantasies, your desires on me and my sisters shoulders. And we will carry it. Because that’s what we do. That’s what we’ve done. That is what generations before us have done. With tears in our eyes, blood stained shirts, blistered feet, broken hearts, no support, and limited appreciation.
Like a badge of honor.
We handle it.
Often times silently.
All at the expense of our own mental health and well-being.
And you continue to say “here’s more pain, here’s more trauma, here’s more hurt. You got this!” High five! And walk away light as a feather. Leaving us hunched over with 5 times our weight on our backs. Ignoring the fact that we’re struggling and brushing off our subtle attempts to express the heaviness on our shoulders.
You scoff and say “you’re overreacting and you’re wrong about how you feel or what’s going on with your body. Just keep pushing.”
You’re gaslighting! It’s exhausting! and I’m over it!
We are NOT obligated to be THIS definition of strong!
And the world needs to stop expecting us to be!
My resilience isn’t a green light for others to dump their heavy load. And strength isn’t identified by my ability to “handle it”
The human experience is “eclectic”, at best, and includes EVERY emotion on the spectrum, alongside a sense of support and belonging. And the whole “Strong Black Woman Syndrome” denies me and those who look like me that right to feel all those feelings.
So I am redefining what a “Strong Black Woman” looks like.
It’s being an example by openly and honestly sharing how you feel
It’s seeking help when needed and having the help actually there to listen and guide you
It’s advocating for those around you (older and younger) to have access to adequate health care
It’s educating and being educated on the importance of mental health and well-being because it is not “exclusive” to some but necessary for ALL
It’s supporting others on there journey, but NOT at the expense of personal mental health
It’s having boundaries and saying NO
It’s vulnerability without consequence
It’s being a therapist who sees a therapist
It’s being ok with not being ok
It’s self-ISH (Improving Self Health)
It’s being your authentic self, regardless of others opinions.
In THAT regard, I am a strong! I am mentally fit!
What about you?