For #SelflessBlackGirls, Who Think They Can’t Break

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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.  

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12 thoughts on “For #SelflessBlackGirls, Who Think They Can’t Break

  1. My favorite line is, “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.” I agree with this and am guilty of modeling this same behavior. Recently I heard a woman saying she didn’t want to be a strong black woman, and I was confused at first because that’s all I know and all many of us have been bred to know, but the damage of constantly being everything to everyone and never being able to be weary is exhausting and unfair.

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    1. I like the paragraph just before “even contortionists can break.” It’s very real and true.

      Hi Sam!
      It’s been a while. I’m Princess, the girl from the trip to Chicago some years ago.

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  2. Sam, you have perfectly penned what I dare not say. Reading this was like looking in the mirror. I have more often than not this year asked who will be there for the black woman because I ( a black woman) am tired. Not only tired for being Wonder Woman, but also tired of the fear that comes along when I want to cry out to tell my truth to those that “love me”. That fear keeps me silent because no one truly wants to hear what’s wrong. They don’t truly want to dry your silent tears. They’d rather you keep your mask on and say ” I’m doing well, how can I help you?”. I hate this stigma that we just have to be strong, and I hate feeling like I just have to ALL of the time. Thank you for breaking the silence.

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    1. Thank you for reading! And please cry out, those that love you will surprise you! You deserve to tell your story and feel loved instead of always doing the loving. Thank you for sharing part of it here 🙂 Blessings to you.

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  3. This is beautiful…and so much like my story. “Strength” was forced on me from childhood and became the only way I knew how to live and cope. So now in my pregnancy, I’ve been forced to shed that identity before God and friends who have allowed me to take off the cape. I’m grateful for them because I haven’t even had my biological family to lean on all these years. It feels great to love me wholly and to not feel guilty for eliminating or limiting contact with those that take my selflessness as their own to abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

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