Written by: Tandrea Elmore
The strong black woman, a cultural icon, was born of a black woman’s need to be resilient in the face of systemic oppression that has dismantled families and made economic stability a formidable challenge. She is self-sufficient but also self-sacrificing. A provider, caretaker, and a homemaker, but she is often suffering. Signed, The Strong and Stressed Black Woman. As little girls, we heard it is better to be seen and not heard. In many African American homes, we are told what happens in my house stays in my house. Many young girls have watched their mothers display signs of strength through adversity, providing for the family, caring for their spouse (if there is one present), and maintaining professional careers. Quite often, women have had to command respect within their professional workspaces and in the community. Sometimes being strong has appeared to be our only option. This behavior has fostered the belief that women must be strong in even the most challenging times. It cultivates a culture that women must be strong when everyone else has fallen weak. The saying that many of us have echoed, black don’t crack, references the ability of a black woman to age gracefully. While many take pride in this apparent elite fountain of youth by showcasing the physical beauty, how are we internally? Some are broken, worn, and mentally and emotionally exhausted. Black may not crack, sis, but it will break.
Mental health has been taboo in the African American community and usually not at the forefront of discussions. It is often ridiculed and frowned upon when one mentions seeking mental health services. There is a stigma that seeking mental health services is a sign of weakness. When in fact, it demonstrates the exact opposite. It is a sign of strength, courage, and wisdom. Quite often, women instinctively respond that I’m good, I’m okay, or I'm doing fine when someone questions us about our wellbeing. All while feeling broken, exhausted, and drained at times. We put on masks each day before leaving home. No, not the N-95 that some grab to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Instead, that mask some wear to cover up how they genuinely feel each day. We put on the mask for people that are often hiding behind their struggles too. It has become a challenge to let our guard down and experience comfort with revealing vulnerability with friends, family members, or a romantic interest, but with most of all, with ourselves. These behaviors are a direct result of wearing the figurative mask.
Ladies, it is essential to find the balance between strength and vulnerability. We have to find comfort in being vulnerable. Too often, we give this cherished gift to undeserving individuals. In turn, we are outraged or disappointed when this individual acts in a way that is in line with their character. We run into other individuals with similar character flaws but expecting different results, but why sis? We think it is not me. It has to be everyone else. No, sis, it is you. We can’t continue doing the same thing and expecting different results. We can't keep gravitating to the same type of people and hoping for qualities they are incapable of giving. We must make conscious decisions to reassess ourselves and determine why we continue to migrate towards people with those qualities. For instance, maybe "our type" is not the type intended for us. Now, let that sink in.
Now on the flip side, “Mr. Wright,” do you possess the strength, courage, and maturity to love me naked. Let me stop here. I am not referencing your ability to love me naked in the literal sense. Do you have the ability to love me when I am feeling my worse? Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you when I feel like I do not have the strength to go on? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me enough for my weakness. We must know the difference between Mr. Right and Mr. Right now.
Ella Mai writes, my resting b*tch face is mistaken for the mean girl, but what if I told you there is nothing in this world that I want more than somebody who loves me naked. Are you that somebody who sees a wall and breaks it? Are you ready to fight to see what's lost behind my flaws? I might be a b*tch in the morning, so catch me at nighttime. Some of my friends think I am moody, but I think I am just fine. I could be pissed, but act like I am not. I remember when I say I forgot. Someone who never asks for love But knows how to take it. Are you ready to fight to see what is lost behind my flaws? I need someone who loves me when I wake up thinking I am beautiful when I look f*cked up. Can you love me naked?