You are on everyone’s list as one of the “most loving people I know”. You are undoubtedly everyone’s favorite contortionist. People praise you for the way you bend to serve others. You are always the first to volunteer to do so. Your selflessness is an identity marker for you. You pride yourself on “loving hard” even at the expense of your own time , sanity and money. So much so, that you shelve disappointment when others don’t do the same for you. Nevertheless, you keep loving and you keep bending.
You may have been prepositioned to love this way, you were born with a big heart, one bent towards empathy. But my guess is that this is also a learned behavior. You have watched the mothers in your life work two jobs , come home late,*offer their hearts as revolving doors (and punching bags) to drug addicted sons and still have room enough to relentlessly love you. You have watched the grandmothers in your life, face limitless adversity … grit their teeth and tell everyone as the queenly matriarchs that they are that, “everything will be alright”. You have learned, through vivid images that the strength and selflessness of a woman is defined by shielding others from her weariness. So you instinctively do the same.
You get things done, when no one else will. You cry when no one else can hear you. And you collect burdens like stamps, even when they are not your own.
Though others are shielded from your pain in the name of “love and strength”, your body is not. It absorbs everything. Stress collects like sediment and only corrodes your insides. It will make itself known through panic attacks, dehydration or even severe illness.
Even contortionists can break.
You deserve better. We deserve better.
To be continued…
*These are the images of strength that I have witnessed from my own mother and grandmother, they may not relate to every #SelflessBlackGirl. But this is my story.
**There is another stressor that was not mentioned, that is the stressor of systematic racism and daily prejudice that Black Girls face. I do not experience it as much due to my positionality as a light skinned biracial black woman, but I know it exists and can “collect like sediment”. I want to honor the #SelflessBlackGirls who hold it inside and again encourage you to tell your story. No one can tell it better than you.
Lastly, I know that women of other races carry immeasurable strength. But I believe that there is a specific strength that Black women carry and are even expected to carry. One that can be traced back through history and is exemplified by the women of my own family, including me.