Don’t get me wrong: being strong is not a bad thing. Strength is a trait that has been attributed to Black women since the beginning of time. But I see a distinction between being a strong Black woman because you have to and being strong because you want to.
One is burdensome; the other is admirable.
For too long, we have to appear superhuman or have it all figured out to bear society’s abuse. We’re expected to put others’ wants and needs before our own while asking for nothing in return. That’s not what I want.
Strength isn’t the only quality we possess, but in response to the pressure and discrimination we face because of race and gender, we often present ourselves as strong and stoic, and it’s exhausting.
Here are a few tips on how not to be a strong Black woman, from a young Black woman who is still learning.
Build a good support system
It’s especially important to have a support system, a good group of people who can provide us with practical or emotional support. We can make it a practice to voice our concerns and let others who care about us support us.
Yes, you read that correctly. And scream, yell and laugh, too! Many Black women feel pressured not to cry or express emotion. We’ve trained ourselves to suppress our emotions and ignore our needs. Recently, I had a bit of a breakdown because of an ongoing problem I had with a teacher. Rather than me crying because of the frustration I felt, I cried because I had a lot bundled up.
My friends, and even my mother, were surprised to see me cry because I am a “tough” girl. I don’t want people to be shocked that I cry. Crying is a normal and necessary physical relief from stress and disruption.
Be realistic about commitments
I’ve noticed that the Black women in my life have a tendency to overwork themselves. Let’s be honest with ourselves and prioritize what’s best.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. Many of us were raised to be independent and resilient; receiving help makes us uncomfortable because it means admitting “failure” or appearing weak (vulnerable) in front of others. Even if we could, we shouldn’t always do everything on our own. We should accept and understand that when there is a problem we don’t have to handle it alone.
Let’s not go out of our way to help others at the expense of our own well-being. It may not come naturally, but we can learn to set boundaries for ourselves. Whether it’s concentrating on one project at a time or simply saying no, boundaries let us reflect on the various parts of our lives that require limits.
Take a break
Taking breaks is an essential part of improving your mental and physical health. Whether it’s going out to eat or spending time with friends, we can step back from work and do things we enjoy. Taking time to reset will help us recover from the energy we put into working.