The strong Black superwoman myth makes people believe you can abuse, oppress, and make Black women suffer as much as you want because we’ll get over it. Black women suffer in silence presenting to the world we’re strong and can handle any trauma or adversity but still rise to the top. We can do all things for all people except ourselves.
The myth of the Black superwoman can kill you by holding on to the stereotype instead of loving yourself unconditionally, getting therapy, advocating for yourself, and listening to your body. The judgement of society can become a movie we play on a continuous loop in our daily lives. Holding on to this myth of being a superpower who is beyond being affected by anything is detrimental to the overall health of Black women.
What is the Black superwoman myth?
The Black superwoman myth is about a strong woman that sacrifices herself for others. Many consider the black superwoman to be a woman that is free of emotion and able to handle anything and keep going no matter what. Nothing affects this woman and she’s able to persevere in spite of, no matter how much trauma or setbacks occur in her life. She becomes a source of hope and motivation for everyone around her. Everyone celebrates the strength and power of Black women as long as when it’s in support of others.
Sometimes that myth of the black woman can include the thought of not needing anyone else. She is capable of handling everything on her own without the assistance of any other individual or thing. After all she is Black girl magic right? She’s ambitious and determined to get what she wants. She’s a sassy chick with a lot of attitude who’s considered difficult to talk to. But is that really who we are?
How we live our lives trying to mimic the stereotype
Repeated trauma becomes normal. Trauma is a recurring component in many lives of Black women seen through media, music, and when navigating the world daily. Accepting trauma as normal is almost a normal part of life for many Black women. We assume bad things happen to us because we either deserved it or we were not protected. The pain of recurring trauma becomes so normalized that we begin to participate in the trauma and start to self inflict what others have done to us so many times in the past.
‘I can do it by myself’ mantra. Many Black women think we can do it all by ourselves and don’t need help from anyone. This is a learned behavior that starts early as Black girls. Black girls learn that when they speak up or advocate for themselves they may be labeled as angry or aggressive. This makes us vulnerable to abuse and repeated trauma because over time we stop advocating for ourselves out of fear of judgement or ridicule.
Putting yourself last all the time. Many Black women think by putting everyone ahead of their own needs that somehow they’ll be better for it overall in the end. Time and attention must be set aside consistently to nurture your soul and your growth. Taking time for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care for others, it means you understand the importance of self care and know that it can help promote good mental and physical health.
Pain becomes comfort. Pain is a very familiar state for many Black women and many believe Black women are incapable of feeling pain. This includes emotional and physical pain within our personal and professional lives. The inability of others to see the pain and trauma of Black women makes Black women more likely to die at a younger age than any other woman of color.
The failure to identify or validate the pain of Black women is also extremely detrimental when it comes to receiving medical care. Past studies have shown that some medical professionals believed that Black women had a higher threshold for pain which resulted in doctors failing to provide or administer appropriate pain management options. This approach impacts the ability for Black women to be treated according to their symptoms and can sometimes lead to death.
Suppressing emotion as a protective measure. Repeated traumas, ignored requests to be heard, and the desire to avoid being classified as the angry Black woman, result in many Black women suppressing their emotions as a method of protection. Lack of emotion or showing emotion after a traumatic event becomes normal as a means of survival. Suppressing emotions over time manifests itself in issues with physical and mental health. Emotions must be felt and worked through in order to resolve them. Ignoring how you feel does not change how you feel.
Why Black women need to stop trying to be superhuman
Black women have long been considered pillars of strength and perseverance and take the knocks of life but continue to push on no matter the circumstances. Always thinking this way doesn’t allow many of us to be comfortable being vulnerable enough to admit when we need help and to advocate for ourselves without guilt or apology.
Playing to the stereotype of the Black superwoman has a variety of short-term and long-term impacts on the quality of life for Black women. Our mental health is at risk trying to maintain the expectation that we aren’t impacted by the things that happen to us daily and not seeking the assistance when needed to work through important issues.
Letting go of the stereotype allows us to focus on our physical health as well. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. We’re also 60% more prone to developing uterine fibroids by the age of 35 and more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Focusing on our bodies has got to be a priority because it impacts all facets of our lives.
Trying to maintain this appearance of a strong woman that has it all together and needs no assistance from the world doesn’t allow you to be vulnerable when it’s necessary. It also impacts personal and professional relationships because you never allow yourself to be a multi-dimensional individual that has good and bad moments in life. You need to be willing to embrace what you feel while also receiving protection by those who love you.
How to be the best you
Use all of the resources available to nurture the mind and body you ultimately desire. Get therapy to speak through what you’re feeling without any judgment from the other individual. Therapy helps to identify triggers and strategies to cope with life during its best and worst moments. Therapy changes things for the better!
Advocate for yourself in your personal and professional life. You have a right to be ambitious and speak with authority without the worry of the angry Black woman label. Someone will always try to apply a label. Be persistent in your support for yourself! Don’t give up because you’re the only person that could ever advocate for you.
Listen to your body and do what’s necessary to live the longest and healthiest life possible. Pay attention to changes with your body and make sure you stick to a routine wellness plan with your doctor. Find the doctor that listens to you and includes you in the plan for your treatment. It’s your body. You have the ultimate authority so use your leverage to advocate for the care you deserve.
Black women don’t have to try to be superwoman. We’re full of magic and strength but we’re also human. Sometimes we need the love, support, and help of those around us. We just can’t forget to ask for it sometimes. Everyone needs someone.