As Black Women We’re Conditioned To Save, Uplift and Accomplish – But At What Cost?
Michael Rowe Photography
As Black women, we have the immense ability to fix every single thing in our wake. We’re legendary for cleaning up messes and saving people and circumstances that are going sideways quickly. Take the recent Alabama senate race for example. Black women literally picked up the entire state of Alabama and carried it on their backs to ensure that a notoriously racist candidate who, years ago was accused of sexual harassment and abuse by at least four women, did not win the senate seat.
“F*ck it, I’ll do it” is a resounding battle cry from Black women around the globe. We tie our capes around our necks and get to work fixing problems we often had no hand in creating—at work, in our communities and in our government. While this save-the-world mentality is commendable and Black women deserve much more recognition and respect than we’ll ever receive, it often comes at great personal sacrifice. Regretfully, we are too busy saving everything and everyone else to find the time, energy and wherewithal to save ourselves.
Take me, for example.
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As a child, although I delivered my interpretation of love with lots of affection and a little sass added in for good measure, my family, especially my grandparents, meant the world to me. I took pride in doing what they expected of me, especially as I got older. Earn an undergraduate degree? Check. Get married and raise a family? Check. Get divorced and remarried? Check. (Oops, my grandparents didn’t exactly ask for this one, but hey, life happens.) Build a solid career? Check. I even threw in a few bonus accomplishments to make them exceedingly proud. Earn a masters degree from one of the world’s most respected universities while completing coursework on two continents? Check. Become a vice president at a global communications firm at the age of 30? Check. Lead communications and marketing strategies for some of the most recognizable brands in the world? Check. Write a book about African American fathers? Check. Train for and run more than 10 full marathons? Check. Check.
Along the way, while raising my family and trying to save the world, I lost myself. I accepted offers from companies I knew from the very beginning didn’t feed my spirit. I did extremely well professionally, even in leadership positions in incredibly toxic environments that took me far from walking in my truth. But I paid a high price for living completely out of alignment with my purpose. To quote Lauryn Hill, “How you gon’ win when you ain’t right within?” This rang true for me and I knew I had reached an inflection point in my life.
Yes, we need to make money and support our families. Yes, we’re conditioned to work hard to earn respect and make a name for ourselves. But at what cost? I spent so much time outsourcing my happiness, looking for success and accolades to define and fulfill me, that I missed the opportunity to establish a career path that reflected my values.
This was my reality for years. I didn’t own my power because I was consumed with living a life others expected of me. This left me frustrated and filled with regret. I tried to drink it away, I tried to put one in the air… well, that’s not really true. I only wish I could be a badass like Solange. Admittedly, if I chose either of these options, I would have been slumped over in the corner of my living room, mindlessly eating bag after bag of potato chips with thug tears rolling down my face.
Instead of indulging in temporary fixes to escape the life I created for myself, I dug in and did the hard work—and I’m still doing the hard work every single day. This hard work consists of being 100% honest with myself. It consists of forgiving myself for bad decisions I’ve made, applauding myself for the good ones, surrendering to the blessings and experiences life offers me, and protecting my time and my sanity. I’ve made saving myself my number one priority and it’s having a profound impact on everyone around me.
Today, I rail against other people’s expectations and stand in my own light. I am a writer and entrepreneur providing strategic marketing, communications, and business development services for clients with a unique focus on people and purpose. In addition, I created Get Your Sol, a lifestyle, wellness and mindfulness platform for women chasing the sun (i.e. personal and professional goals and dreams, and health and wellness-focused pursuits). Get Your Sol features people who illumine the lives of others and encourages women to live healthy, mindful lives and love themselves with reckless abandon.
I am a just one voice in a sea of Black women who—with purpose and passion—are changing the narrative of how sisters show up in the world. We are using our voices and our power for the greater good. We’re making a choice not to let society and it’s constructs snatch our souls. Instead, we are prioritizing our happiness, creating new pathways and making career and financial decisions that protect our peace and allow us to support and uplift other women along the way.
Sure, the people in the cheap seats will always have something to say about your choices, but letting others rent space in your head about decisions you make for your own life is wasted energy. Finding your peace is absolutely possible if you learn to listen to yourself and lean into the stillness to find out who you really are and what you want. Recognize that what you focus on expands and above all else, be kind to yourself.