The Remedy For The ‘Strong Black Woman’ Syndrome
While some believe that Black women are inherently stronger than others – including their male counterparts, as they have survived so much historically, socially and personally – dubbing it the “Strong Black Woman Syndrome,” it is this very stereotype that could be harming us in more ways than one.
Take me for example. I’m a divorced, single supermom of two young girls, working full time as well as completing my degree part time. With no days off (literally, as neither of my children’s fathers are in the picture) and my inability to ask for help when needed, my health, career, and personal relationships began to take a hit. Not only was I drained and stressed out, but relationships with close friends quickly began to deteriorate.
While I’m a huge advocate for independent women — having your own and being able to stand on your own two feet without relying on a special someone – if you haven’t mastered the art of being self-reliant and self-aware, that very independence can become a shield to hide behind. Here’s how:
You begin to silence yourself. Yes, you may be keen on picking up on how others feel – rushing to their side to mend their wounds. But when it comes to communicating how you truly feel and what you really want, you keep it all bottled up.
Maybe you’ve been punished in the past for periodically speaking up – called an “angry Black woman” or accused of having an “attitude.” Or perhaps, you’ve given up after endless attempts to express your feelings only to be pushed to the wayside.
Either way, silence can put a damper on your relationships whether they be with colleagues, family, friends, lovers or most importantly, yourself.
You sacrifice your needs for others. When it comes to raising children, saying “nah” to that Birkin bag in order to furnish your children’s new bedroom is one thing. It’s another to sacrifice your future (and health) in order to run to someone else’s aide.
I’ve spoken to many Black women (myself included), who always seem to be in a financial rut, as they always seem to be taking care of someone else – from rent, gas money, loans, groceries.
My piece of advice? If you can’t afford to never get it back, don’t extend a helping hand. While this may sound harsh, if helping a friend, lover, family member or even a child (who has left the house) out financially is taking food off of your table, clothes off your back, preventing you from returning to school, following that dream and/or creating unnecessary stress, you need to say “No.”
This kind of sacrifice will affect you spiritually, emotionally and physically, and we all know the downside of unwarranted stressors.