“I am a strong, independent black woman”.
That was hard to type.
Imagine thinking you are weak if you decided to lean on others for help. Imagine going through life thinking that taking on every burden alone is a badge of honor.
If I offended you with my statements, I do apologize, but I am speaking from a place of awareness. I, too, used to think others would be proud of my hardness.
What is Hyper-Independence?
Are you independent or do you have a fear of being let down by others? Hyper-independence is a trauma response. Trauma is an emotional reaction from a terrible event.
Example sources of trauma include:
- physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
- life threatening illnesses
- sudden loss of a loved one
- being attacked
- sexual assault and more
There are built-in defense mechanisms, such as fight or flight, freeze or fawn response, to cause physiological changes to enable the body to defend itself from perceived danger. When your nervous system has engaged these survival responses, you may experience symptoms like:
- social withdrawal
- physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches
- anxiety or panic
Encountering and interacting with something that reminds you of a trauma can bring about emotional and physical reactions even after the event has passed, which is termed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Hyper-independence is the outcome of emotional damage from broken trust in a person’s childhood. Hyper-independence stems from past neglect, feeling underserving of social support, mistrust of others and is sometimes used as a coping mechanism.
Hyper-Independence and Black Women
The Strong Black Woman (SBW) stereotype feeds into the historical resilience of Black Women.
Black women were believed to be so resilient that they were surgically operated on during slavery without any anesthesia.
Full stop. Pause. Digest that for me.
The normalization of systematic abuse has made daily stress, marginalization, and constant residency in the masculine seem ordinary to black women. The pressure to suppress and be heavily self-reliant is taught to black women at a young age, whether directly or indirectly by others.
Let’s talk about why it came into existence though.
The Stong Black Woman was initially created by black woman to combat other harmful tropes. The main three are: the Jezebel, the sexually insatiable and destructive woman; the Mammy, a nurturing, maternal-like figure whose main function was to serve; and the Sapphire, or the “angry black woman”, who is impossible to work with due to her irrational and stubborn nature.
As you can see, the term was created by black women to challenge the above-mentioned unfavorable preconceptions about them. It provided Black women liberation and empowerment. However, they did not comprehend how destructive this overcorrection was and how it was limiting in so many ways.
The SBW understands that she is to support herself, but be available for others when they need it. The SBW is expected to give and give without ever expecting anything in return.
The SBW understands that she is expected to sacrifice and never become drained from the challenges of life.
The SBW is to never cry; she is to never complain about her daily struggles. If the SBW does experience wariness, then she is to do it behind closed doors because expressing her emotions and showing signs of stress is seen as a sign of weakness.
The SBW loses her humanity.
She becomes a shell of herself because of the aforementioned and becomes highly guarded to those around her.
She is hardened because of her constant suppression of her true inner battle. This trope removes all of her humanity and suggests that she should be able to handle it all without complication.
Make no mistakes, I hold myself accountable for the ways in which I abandoned myself by taking on too much and inviting in exhaustion from doing so.
I do not desire to take on everything alone nor will I pretend that I am okay when I do. However, I do have the discernment to know which invitation of help to accept.
I am here having a human experience. I allow myself to feel my emotions. I allow myself to face when I feel defeated, so that when I pick myself back up, I am not suppressing past experiences.
The dangers of always having a brave face impacts me not the very people who expect superhero qualities from me.
I put on a brave face for so long that when I allowed myself to be vulnerable about my journey thus far with my son, it was mocked.
It is not my job to control how others view me.
Healing my trauma is my job. Holding myself accountable is my job. And I embrace every spiritual awakening that I have had.
I am thankful for all forms of criticism, whether out of care or malice, because we are all reflecting off of one another. It was me forgetting who I am that I finally remembered my power.
For years, I showed women how to look beautiful, but now I want to show you how to feel beautiful. Join me!
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