Photo by  Chris Francis

Photo by Chris Francis

Much like Erykah Badu admits to being an over lover, I’ve always been an over sharer. I tend to trust easily and assume everyone operates with a comparable level of truth and transparency. Despite this, my upbringing imposed the concept of being a private person. Those in my immediate surroundings believed that “what goes on in this house, stays in this house.” Family business was not to be discussed outside the household, so my sharing came with limitations. These limitations had their own set of pros and cons, and most of the alleged pros related to maintaining a facade of togetherness. These seemed to work in tandem: operating with a code of secrecy and projecting an image of having it all together.

I was raised by my grandmother, alongside a brother battling anger management triggered by the death of our mother. My father was in and out of jail, and I moved in with him and my stepmother upon his release. My best friends in high school were having children, while I was battling suicidal thoughts after an abortion I didn't want. I chose where I went to college simply because it’s where my late mother grew up. After moving there, I had a family member make sexual advances at me. This is not to say that I had a hard life, because I don't feel that way at all. I am, undoubtedly, blessed in abundance. For every bad experience, there were ample amounts of goodness. No less, the ups and downs of life were happening all around me, and society (my family, included) told me that I wasn’t supposed to talk about the lack luster experiences with anyone. The bad times weren't to be discussed beyond the scope of those directly affected.

Not because others wouldn’t understand – on the contrary, numerous people experience comparable things, if not things far worse – but because acknowledging the trials I experienced personally would make my shortcomings public. And to do that would make me vulnerable to being seen as someone that didn’t have it all together. 

Insert Strong Black Woman (SBW) Syndrome – never mind that "strong, black woman" is a redundant term, as is. Strong Black Woman Syndrome dictates that I should be able to handle it all, on my own. SBW don't need help. They don't need counsel or guidance. They don't need nurturing or affection, because we can court, support, and heal ourselves. We've got God to get us through, and we make ways when there aren't any. That is the gift and the curse of being a SBW. That type of ideology is exactly what leads to women feeling isolated and without resources or a community that is so necessary when navigating this journey. We close ourselves in, and we don't share our stories. We deny our truths publicly and shame ourselves privately. 

Instead of asking (read: demanding) assistance from our partners, family, and employers, we suit ourselves up to become a one woman army. We burn ourselves out taking on tasks not fit for one person to handle. We learn to suffer in silence and trick ourselves into thinking it is the better, more admirable decision. There is no mention of self care and what it means to constantly pour into other people without having your own cup refilled. Our happiness takes a backseat to the fulfillment of others. It's a foolish cycle. A generational curse. A trick of the enemy dating back to the days of slaves and mammies. 

Hence, I claim my short comings full force. I share the glory and the grim of my experiences. I am freed by walking boldly in the fullness of my truth, and I find sisterhood in those who do the same. Adrienne Rich expressed it perfectly, "There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors." I am intentional about being in the company of people who understand that I can't do it on my own and help me recognize why there is no need. There's no shame in having a community: one that leaves room for you to be, feel, and express without apology. I am a black woman, and I am not weakened by refusing to endure hardships on my own and without fuss. Affirming my areas of vulnerability, as well as my needs, is actually what strengthens me.