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 problem in 1978. She shared that Black women are thought to have “inordinate strength,” so much so that we are treated as 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 been admired for our strength. 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.” To demonstrate your strength you have to put up with a lot of crap! Being the Strong Black Woman will affect your relationships in 3 major ways:
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 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?”
My client Theresa learned this lesson the hard way. At 45, she’d never really had a healthy relationship, so when she met grown man who was serious about pursuing her, she didn’t know how to communicate in a vulnerable way. As a result, she told him she wasn’t looking to settle down so quickly and wanted to date other people. After about a month of hearing this, he started to pull back and mentioned another woman he was reconnecting with.
Theresa freaked out! “Why would he do this if he’s interested in me? What if he falls in love with her? She’ll probably do all the things I’m unwilling to do.” Of course she didn’t say any of this to her man. Instead, she pretended like everything was fine, when it wasn’t.
After calming her down, I told her that her superpower wasn’t in being strong and acting like she didn’t care. Her superpower was in her ability to become vulnerable with her man.
I gave her a script to use to communicate her feelings with the man she was dating. Once her heard that she was afraid and really did like him, he rose to the occasion and demonstrated with his actions that he wanted to be with her, and not another woman. They began dating exclusively soon after that.
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 raise somebody else’s 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. (Mama ‘nem, cousins, baby’s daddy, sisters, you name it). They don’t see themselves as an asset, so they don’t put themselves first. Sometimes saying, “No’ feels like a cuss word. If they do, they experience tremendous guilt!
This kind of sacrifice affects your health spiritually, emotionally & physically.
My client Marisa was a single mom in her 30s and in her own words, felt like she was “a hot mess” who existed to work and make other people happy. Her blood pressure was dangerously high, she was 20 pounds overweight, and even though she made 6 figures, she hated her job. She kept attracting emotionally unavailable men and had no boundaries with anyone in her life (her kids, her family, her business clients, or her men). She was afraid to say what she wanted for herself because saying no to others made her feel like a “bad girl.” Through private coaching with me, Marisa totally changed her life in 12 weeks!
“I tell all my friends to work with because if they’re stuck in repeat patterns or they’re not dating because they are afraid, they never know how big an amazing life can be.” Marisa not only changed the kinds of men she dated, but she got off her bp meds, lost 20 pounds and became a full time entrepreneur.
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 “serve” others at church, in your sorority, your charity, or your community and you never have time for yourself. You often end up pouring into the wrong people who take advantage of you, but you don’t speak up about it (though you’ll feel a lot of resentment). You think being needed is being loved, so you never really know what it’s like to receive from other people. In other words, vulnerability scares you, so when the right person does come along, you don’t know how to open up.
This was Karen’s story. She mentored teens, worked two jobs, took care of her elderly parents, served on committees at church, and mothered 2 teenagers without support from their father. She was the Good Girl who hoped serving God and others would result in a husband. She’d been on 3 dates in 10 years until she enrolled in Black Love University, my elite coaching program from professional Black women.
As a result of coaching, Karen gained the tools to heal the Strong Black Woman Syndrome so that she could date and choose someone who recognized that her value went beyond what she could do for him. She met a man who cherished and adored her. Six months later, he proposed, and she said yes!
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, scared, soft, sensual, spiritual and so much more!
Celebrate every part of who you are.
Your future happiness in life and relationships depends on it.
Let’s talk: What would life look like for you, if you could heal the Strong Black Woman Syndrome?