Weakness. As a black woman that is basically the antithesis for everything that I’m supposed to be. I can’t say that I was directly told this, but it seems I have always known that weakness was something I was not allowed to show. Instead, I was expected to “straighten my face,” “get myself together,” “bend, but don’t break,” and “never let them see you cry.” I have upheld those rules and carried them deep within my being as far back as I can remember. It now is on the list of things that I forgive myself for. You see I had no idea that“the rules” would hurt me.They were part of my rite of passage into womanhood. Black womanhood is rooted in pride, strength, beauty, and persistence. Feelings and emotions had no place in the conversation. Learning to see my womanhood through a different lens began as I embarked in my career as a therapist. The first thing they wanted me to do as part of my internship is to do my own emotional work. I was way more comfortable with helping others “feel” their feelings and providing support and empathy. Empathy and warmth were my specialties, which are for everyone else but me.
My thoughts were “these white folks are crazy,” but the truth was they were right. I appreciate the mirror they gave me to look at myself as human and not the superwoman who has it all together. They gave me permission to break ALL the RULES of BLACKNESS and drop the cape and find my soft space to not only fall apart, but to feel, heal, and rebuild in a way that served the authentic me. Providing that soft space for others has since become my life’s mission. For years I struggled with overwhelming anxiety and paralyzing fear that one day I wasn’t going to be able to hold it together and people would see me as my imperfect self. I’m sooo grateful that day came. It taught me that I was misinformed, that strength is not about how much you endure without breaking. It’s about being authentic in your experience and congruent with words and actions. Now I have come to realize that Vulnerable is the New Strong. I show my scars and not my mask! By allowing those scars to breathe and let others bear witness to them I am able to start the process of healing. This process is available to others as well men, women, and children of all colors deserve the same. I am calling out my sisters, women of color, to remove the mask and drop the cape! Give yourself the permission to rest, to say it’s hard, and most importantly lean in to some support. Let’s teach our girls that we are human and have feelings, and need rest. Let’s show them it’s ok to be vulnerable with safe people and how to receive support without guilt. Let’s extend our lifespan instead of dying early from stress of trying to reach the fallacy of perfection.
Will you join me in the movement of Real women showing that Vulnerable is the New strong. Give yourself the space and permission to not be ok, and find a safe and soft place to sit with your feelings, and allow the healing to begin. If possible offer the same to another black woman and connect over our shared vulnerability. You don’t have to carry it all alone.