As a black woman, you may find the “strong black woman” stereotype consistently thrust upon you. While this isn’t always a bad thing, stereotypes can be damaging to your personal growth.
When people see you as strong, this isn’t inherently negative. However, it may cause you to feel like you need to mask your emotions to maintain this persona.
If you find yourself holding back emotions, not crying when you want to, or like you’re struggling to do it all-you may be a victim of the stereotype.
Holding Back Emotions
Being able to express emotions is crucial to maintain your mental well-being. If you’re angry, you have the right to be angry. Or if you’re sad, you have the right to be sad. Furthermore, you have the right to express frustrations or have moments of weakness. It’s only human, after all.
The issue with the strong black woman stereotype is that it robs black women of being able to express these emotions. Are you feeling overwhelmed in the workplace? Doesn’t matter, don’t let it show. Do you wish you could have a quiet moment alone at home? Nope, your family needs you, and you need to be strong for them.
In reality, you have every right to feel overwhelmed. You have the right to step back and take a moment for yourself. Most importantly, you have a right to express your emotions when you feel them. Having to hold back your feelings constantly can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. Am I saying just unleash your emotions onto others without abandon? No. But it’s okay to give yourself permission to experience
other emotions not just “strength.” What about vulnerability, disappointment, or frustration? These emotions have value as well and care help you gain insight into things you need to pay attention to.
Feeling Like You Have to Do it All
Do you consistently feel like you have to do it all? Are you the go-to person for your friends, family, or boss or church? Does everyone always anticipate that you can compartmentalize your issues to help them with theirs?
If this sounds like your life, it could be yet another example of how the strong black woman stereotype negatively affects you. There is nothing wrong with being supportive of your friends and letting them know that.
However, it can quickly become exhausting to feel like you always need to be 100% together.
No one can always have it together-it’s just not possible. Everyone is going to have bad days. You’re allowed to have bad days. You’re allowed to have days where you just can’t handle more work. Also, as much
as you may want to be there for your friends, you are allowed to vent about your problems, too or take a break.
The expectation that you have to hide your issues to cater to others can be extremely damaging to your mental health and can cause you to feel drained and overwhelmed every single day. Which can lead to
When Chronic Stress Leads to Depression
When the strong black woman stereotype starts to affect your health chronically, you undoubtedly have a real problem on your hands.
A new study shows that this stereotype is leading to higher rates of depression for black women. When you always feel like you have to hold in your emotions, it can easily lead to depression over time.
If you feel like your self-inhibiting of emotions has led to depression, it is crucial to seek out help from a therapist who understands the issues you are experiencing.
Overcoming the Stereotype
The best way to overcome the stereotype is to start expressing your emotions. This approach is often challenging, especially if you enjoy being perceived as strong in the workplace or by your friends.
The critical thing to realize is that you can be strong and express your emotions; you can help others but also expect help in return.
Seeing a therapist who specializes in such issues can help you see your situation more clearly. A therapist can help you understand where the roots of your depression lie and the best way to combat it.
In time, you will learn that being a strong black woman and expressing emotions aren’t mutually exclusive-in fact, there’s nothing stronger than recognizing your right to happiness and self-expression.