Black women have carried the “strong Black woman” narrative way too far; we’ve allowed that silly notion to make many of us feel as though we can do and be it all without a pause, without problem and without much support. Ridiculous. Many of our brothers feel that it isn’t manly to cry, to ask for help or to stop to process some tremendous pain or frustration. So here we are, everybody trying to ‘suck it up’ even with the ‘it’ is too much to swallow.
I got past my “I can do it all” phase a few years ago, after piling all my earthly possessions into a car and moving across the East Coast alone to start a new job a mere three or four days after being sexually assaulted. Looking at how I handled that situation — not skipping a beat, not wanting to talk to anyone about it (because it may make them sad) and being afraid to take time to really regroup — I realize that I made my healing process all the more difficult by acting as though I didn’t need one. Am I proud of myself for keeping my composure and handling my biz? Sure, but if I had it to do all over again, I would also tend to my spirit and my feelings with the same urgency I’d given to my career and my commitments to others.
My “this is how I feel” speeches sometimes catch folks off guard, because they are so used to people keeping that stuff to themselves. Not I. Not anymore. If I need help, I ask for it. If I need to be heard, I make sure someone hears me. And if someone has hurt my feelings or upset me, I’m more likely to take that issue straight to the source than I am to tuck it away out of fear or consideration for someone else… especially if the original transgression resulted from their failure to be mindful of me!
Michele Wallace and Joan Morgan have both brilliantly taken down the myth that Black women have some sort of inherent capacity to be stronger than others; if born into the unique circumstances we have met in this country, other groups of women would likely have the same mettle and the same foolhardy proclivity to cry out, “I can do it all,” despite the fact that no one can truly do it all.
Too many of our Big Mamas and Nanas took themselves to an early grave attempting to be ‘Superwoman’ when they should have been tending to broken hearts, bad health, personal disappointments and needs. I won’t go out that way and I suggest you refuse to do the same. The people in your life who truly love you should be there for you and not simply to lay their burdens across your shoulders. Learn when to lean on other people before it’s too late.