If we don't prioritize our care, we cannot expect anyone else to. Just because we are strong enough to carry the burden(s) doesn't mean it is not heavy. There is a cost to Black women's strength that's hidden in the fine print.
Last week, Dr. Akilah of the SBW Wellness Collaborative (@sbw.selfcare) dropped so many bars about Black women and strength. There is a shared experience and sisterhood that ties Black women together. Strength. Black women in California, New York, Texas, the Caribbean, London, etc. embody strength. It is indeed one of the common ties that bind our very unique and diverse journeys. What has lingered with me is the three very familiar stories we tell ourselves repetitively:
1. The emotional self -silencing story: “I have to push through and endure, and do it without expressing any emotion. Emotions are signs of weakness. I am not going to allow anything that comes my way to phase me. "
Emotional self-silencing is a silent killer! This ain't what I heard!
2. The independence story: “I need to get it done on my own. I can do it better myself. ”
3. The sacrificial care-taking story: “I have to take care of everyone else. My needs and my emotional health aren’t as important.”
Y’all! These stories ain’t it! We have to begin to think about strength differently.
Being raised by a village of strong black women who are phenomenal provides a core of who we are. We've seen strength modeled. We've reaped its rewards first hand! But much of what we have been taught about strength is about survival; it isn't about thriving.
In order to thrive, we have to move beyond this very limited way of being strong and redefine strength in a way that empowers us and moves us towards health and well-being.
"The tools you created to survive won't serve you when it's time to thrive. "- Ebonee Davis
The models before us provide one model of what it means to be strong: emotional fortitude, independence, and care-taking at the expense of our own well-being.
A recap of the conversation with Dr. Akilah and I on Black Women Unlearning Strength can be found here: (https://www.instagram.com/tv/CDz-kNDlu_1/?igshid=14lrskqdq0bxg)
However, we are worthy of a life of thriving, not just survival.
Today's pause..... reflect on the shared stories about strength that we as a collective tell ourselves. Redefine those survival stories with new stories that will lead to thriving. Here is a starter kit:
It is okay to acknowledge and express all the emotions that come up for you today and the rest of the week. It is okay to be impacted by the actions of others. You can't face what you don't acknowledge, and you can't heal what you don't reveal. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that you are hurt and express to someone you have an intimate connection with, "I feel hurt and let down."
It is also okay to need and accept help. We cannot continue to carry burdens without help. So ask yourself, "who can offer me the help I need today? " The reality is relationships are built on reciprocity.
As Dr. Akilah shared, "At this point in life, I cannot be involved in any relationship that is not based on reciprocity. That's romantic, friendship, family, ...work. Any relationship I am in has to be interdependent. I cannot just give..."
Finally, it is okay to give to yourself with the same level of care you give to others. It is okay to choose to opt-out of relationships that aren't reciprocal. So take a moment to identify three ways you will give to yourself today. Whether it be a moment to pause and check-in with yourself, or to re-evaluate who you choose to make yourself available to, or even if it is setting a boundary around how much time you'll give to other people today. Do it! It's okay sis.
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." -Audre Lorde