““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …” Matthew 6:25-34
Every year I talk a self-care trip by myself. It’s the one time of the year that I self-impose solitude. Why? Because stress is real, life can be overwhelming and sometimes a sista just needs to take her cape off and just “be.” In the gospels Jesus shows us a way to prevent stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. He was the sinless Son of God, but He often went away by Himself to get away from large crowds (Mark 1:35). At times He retreated even from His disciples. Other times, He retreated with His disciples: “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31).The truth of the matter is, as an Ambitious girl, I’m always in pursuit of a dream, but as a black woman I often fall victim to the Black Superwoman Syndrome (BSS).
Yes, the Black Superwoman Syndrome is real and I probably have a pinch of the Michelle Complex, but I’m going to focus on BSS. The black superwoman syndrome is best described as the strength and fortitude that black women display when faced with personal and societal challenges (Woods-Griscombe, 2010). Today’s society might refer to it as “the independent woman,” but long before there were independent women there were the Rosa Parks’, Katherine Johnsons’ and Queens of the Black Panther Movement, who attempted to right the ill of societal perspectives and characterizations of black women.
Sometimes it’s just hard being a black woman in a world that constantly disrespects your very being, but there is nothing better than being a black woman; unless you’re Oprah and you’re a wealthy black woman. As black women we are expected to manifest strength, suppress emotions, resist being vulnerable or dependent, succeed despite limited resources and help others (Woods – Griscombe, 2010). But when it is acceptable for a black woman to take off her cape and just be a black woman.
I will be the first to raise my hand and say that BSS has contributed to a lot of my success and to the success of many other black women in a “post racial” America; however, it has also contributed to health issues and caused stress-related behavior. In my early 20’s, I engaged in emotional eating and now in my early 30’s I tend to have dysfunctional sleeping patterns. In 2016, I ran for public office and I developed horrible habits, I was functioning off of four hours of sleep daily, not eating healthy and just mentally drained.
According to Bell Hooks, in Sisters of the Yam, “black women are so well socialized to push ourselves past healthy limits that we often do not know how to set protective boundaries that would eliminate certain forms of stress from our lives.” As black women we have to get to the point where we realize “self-care is self-preservation.” It is not selfish to take care of your sanity. In order to have peace surround you, you must first Trust God so that inner peace can be within you. When you have inner peace and trust in God, even in the mist of a storm you can sleep (Matthew 8:23-24).
When the world feels like its closing in on you and you feel pressured to put on your cape; just remember, “when my (your) heart is overwhelmed: (Let God) lead me (you) to the rock that is higher than I (you). For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy” (Psalm 61:2–3, KJV).
The resiliency of a black woman is stronger than the roots of a cypress tree. However, it is imperative that we learn how to preserve ourselves and practice self-care as if our life depends on it because, it does!
Woods-Giscombé, C. L. (2010). Superwoman Schema: African American Women’s Views on Stress, Strength, and Health. Qualitative Health Research,20(5), 668-683. doi:10.1177/1049732310361892