Looking back, I vividly remember my mother telling me not to be a follower and to always be a leader. I grew up being the confident girl, labelled as 'popular' and although there wasn't much diversity in my primary school, I was accepted by all.
I was lead to live a very independent life. From a young age I would make my own packed lunch, whilst the other kids complained that their Mum made yet another cheese and pickle sandwich for the 3rd day in a row. I made my own way to secondary school, and would wave at my friends as they sat in the back of their parent’s car from the bus window.
This independent lifestyle transferred into my adolescent years, and the relationship differences became apparent between my family and others. I didn't get the frequent 'how are you' text messages, no calls ended with 'I love you' and despite all my achievements growing up I seemed to be missing the 'well done' or ' I’m proud of you' embrace.
Now as an adult, I often feel like I am everything to everyone, especially with my male friends. I’m often juggling back and forth between everyone’s emotions, and I’m actually becoming pretty good at it, but boy is it exhausting.
I feel like a nurturer, especially to my male friends, constantly feeding positivity, caring for them, protecting them and regularly checking in to see if they are okay, because that’s what a good person does, right?
Recently, I’ve developed a guarded ‘no nonsense’ attitude and will often feel like ‘I’m not your mother’. It’s as though I need a third breast to cope with feeding, as of late I’ve just been sucked dry.
I once had pride for having the strong black woman cape on my back, I saw myself in many other Black women who have the strong work ethic, and also the same kind of resilience that allowed them to face racism and sexism on a daily basis. I read once that Black women look to strong female figures for motivation and that they evoke the historical strength. ‘The Strong Black Woman’ became a survival mechanism, but I couldn’t help but think, whilst I’m constantly pouring into other peoples’ cups, who was pouring into mine?
I acknowledge and realise that I am independent, powerful and strong in my own right, but I’m also a human being and therefore should be allowed to be soft, vulnerable and weak. It’s the hardest things to get people around me to understand that, but no surprise as I’ve only recently understood that myself. I was recently referred to as ‘Superwoman’ by one of my male friends and I had to in fact correct them, whilst admitting to myself that I’m not.
Blogger Erika Nicole Kendall has found that many black women are unwilling to let go of the idea of strength as part of their identity.
With this ‘Super Woman’ idea in mind I’ve found that people often forget to support me, help me, love me, encourage me, care for me, check in on me. Provide encouragement, provide a help in hand, provide a shoulder to cry on, provide relief and provide their time.
I am not a solider that can always just carry on, I hurt too. It seems as a black woman, society expect that from you and in my case my family and friends do too.
Looking back at history, Black women have been perceived to be supernaturally indestructible. There’s the idea that we can survive it all, despite all the torture and sexual violence that black women have had to endure. We often see the dainty white women on television as the victims, no matter the crime committed and very rarely see black women portrayed in this light.