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3 Ways The Strong Black Woman Syndrome Can Kill Your Relationship

By: Dr. Aesha

Can we talk? Sister to sister?

No, I’m not about to tell you that the reason why you’re still single (or unhappy in your relationship) is because you’re too independent and no man wants you. (That kind of advice is played out in my opinion, and doesn’t serve you well.)

I am, however, going to tell you that the Strong Black Woman Syndrome is killing you and your relationships. And I am going to tell you that it’s time to make a change.

What is the Strong Black Woman Syndrome?

Michelle Wallace, in her groundbreaking book, Black Macho And The Myth of The Superwoman  first brought awareness to this stereotype in 1978. She shared that Black women are thought to have “Inordinate strength,” so much so that we are superwomen.The Strong Black Woman doesn’t have “the same fears, weaknesses, and insecurities as other women, and she believes herself to be and is, in fact, stronger emotionally than most men.”

In other words, because we have survived so much historically, socially and personally, we’ve developed a strength that goes beyond all understanding. In many ways, this legacy of strength has helped us deal with the stresses of living and loving in this world.

But there’s a huge price to “being strong,” and it’s affecting your relationships in 3 big ways:

1) Silence

The SBW Syndrome can cause silence. Yes, you may know how to be sassy and read people when they need it, but when it comes to communicating how you really feel and what you really need, you haven’t been rewarded for doing that. In fact, you’ve probably been punished when you do speak up with labels like “angry black woman” or at the very least, you’ve been accused of having a bad attitude.

In your relationships you probably say things like, “I didn’t want to create any drama, so I just didn’t say anything.” But silence can suffocate you and kill your relationship. As Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you. What are the words you do not yet have. What do you need to say?”  

2) Sacrifice

Not only do you sacrifice your voice and your needs for the sake of others, but you also sacrifice your health, your future and your dreams.

I’ve talked with many sisters who tell me they put their dreams of getting married and starting a family on hold so they could take care of their parents or their sisters’ kids. They’re now in their 40s and 50s and are faced with the reality that having kids of their own probably won’t happen.

Other women never have the money to invest into themselves because they’re always giving it away to everyone else! They don’t see themselves as an asset so they don’t put themselves first, and saying “no” feels like a cuss word!  If they do, they experience tremendous guilt!

Sacrifices are necessary in relationships, but too much self-sacrifice affects your health–spiritually, emotionally & physically–and it’s time to put an end to it.

3) Supportive

Whether you call it being a helpmeet or a “ride or die chick,” you’re loyal to a fault.

You have no boundaries on what you give. You end up pouring into the wrong people who take advantage of you. Maybe you’ve vowed to NEVER give to anyone again.

You also don’t know how to receive from others. In other words, vulnerability scares you and so when the right person does come along, you don’t know how to open up.

So what’s the alternative to the Strong Black Woman Syndrome? Honestly, this conversation we’re having is just scratching the surface when it comes to dealing with this historical baggage.

You must deal with this syndrome so you can heal and experience real love where you feel respected, heard and understood.

The first step is to give yourself permission to be fully human. You’re more than your strength. You are also silly…and scared…and soft…and sensual…and spiritual…and so much more!

Celebrate every part of who you are!

Your future happiness depends on it.

I’m curious: Are you suffering from Strong Black Woman Syndrome? Tell me your story below!