My Strength Is Not Solely Measured by My Struggle or Ability to Save Everyone
As much as I love being called a “strong Black woman,” it also makes me cringe because so much of our strength is defined by the struggles and hardships we face rather than how we find healing and enjoying our daily state of being.
The compliment can also cause severe anxiety and trigger the Superwoman Syndrome. According to Cheryl L. Woods-Giscombé, PhD, and her research, Superwoman Syndrome was born when Black women started denouncing society’s negative characterizations of Black women, such as “Jezebel” and “Welfare Queen,” in efforts to highlight the traits that go unnoticed. She cites gender oppression, racism, and disenfranchisement as the reason why Black women had to take on all the roles such as being providers, nurturers, and breadwinners for their families.
Having always heard of Superwoman Syndrome but never knowing the true meaning, I was not surprised once I finally understood the roots. This syndrome came from Black women doing everything in their power to prove themselves to society, shed light on their magic, and do everything for everybody. We work so hard to maintain this strong image that we can end up losing ourselves and becoming disconnected.
Also, do not forget about the people, institutions, and groups that constantly look to Black women to fix their messes and be the voice of reason. It gets tiring having to put the whole team on our back time and time again, especially when we are not shown verbal or monetary appreciations that others receive for doing only half the work that we do.
The constant pressure of trying to hold it all together, do it all at once, and keep it going nonstop can make even the sweetest strength compliment feel like a looming reminder that there is no time to rest or catch your breath.
And after the year 2020, you can imagine how many Black women were praised for their strength after enduring unthinkable amounts of loss — from losing family members to the virus and as mothers mourning the loss of their children to police brutality.
That’s why I chose to redefine my strength. The source of my strength no longer comes from the pain and trauma that I’ve carried and sometimes still grapple with. My strength comes from…