Growing up I was always taught that tears were a sign of weakness, so as a result, I have spent most of my life out of tune with how I feel. My interpretation of this saying was that it was not ok to be sad, not ok to be hurt, not ok to be frustrated, not ok to be upset, not ok to feel.
In truth, I have never seen any of the women in my life crying outside of a funeral. I now realize that this defense mechanism was developed because there was no safe space where black women could fully express themselves. There was also no time to express themselves as they have had to move through one obstacle and right on to the next.
As an advocate for self-love I am here to let you know dear black girl, that you can cry if you want to…
Be present with your feelings:
Life will continue to happen no matter who you are. There will be ups and downs, good times and bad. How we navigate through the bad while in transition to the good is what matters most. While the bad comes to challenge and to strengthen us, this is often the place where mistakes happen and where you see just how broken you are.
My advice has been to take your hour, day, or week, to completely feel. Take the time to get in tune with your truth, and to honestly assess your feelings. If we do not set aside this time to feel, our collection of baggage grows. Baggage not only affects you in private, it also spills over into everything and onto everyone who is attached to you.
Whatever it is you are feeling – fully embrace it so that you can effectively work to move past it.
Stand your ground:
Standing your ground is very important. I was in the office working to meet a very important deadline and I had worked through lunch (so homegirl was starving). I was grabbing a final report from the printer ready to sprint to the nearest restaurant, when another member of my team approached me. He wanted to meet “for a second” to go over a project that we were working on. I told him to meet me at my desk in 5 minutes. After spending an additional 15 minutes at my desk, locking my computer, and getting ready to walk out to get food, the team member approaches me yet again.
I reminded him that we agreed he would meet me in 5 minutes, I had waited 20 (mind you, I still haven’t eaten at this time). In a polite tone I told him that I would follow up with him right after I grabbed lunch and that I understood his notes and could move forward with my portion of the project. This middle-aged white man stood at my desk and threw a tantrum, because he was running late for another meeting and was upset because I didn’t have “5 minutes to go over the project” – as if the 20 I just waited were insignificant.
I asserted myself and my wishes calmly (still on an empty stomach and shaking at this point), as this man stood in front of me turning red, yelling, and referring to me as “hostile” ha – imagine that. Even in this scenario I was still considered the angry black woman.
I smiled in satisfaction as I managed my anger in this moment not giving him the satisfaction of going off the way I really wanted to and standing my ground to still get MY desired results.
Don’t hide, curate a safe space for your feelings:
I can’t tell you how many times I have had a mental and emotional breakdown in my bathroom. Crying my heart out, sobbing, nose running, sprawled out across the floor…then as if nothing had ever happened, picking myself up off the floor, washing my face, and continuing with my day. I just suffered in silence the entire day as everyone around me would tell you that I was happy and funny. They would tell you that nothing was wrong, that I was good as far as they could tell.
This method is not healthy. It is a survival strategy that will get you through the moment, but it will have long lasting negative effects. Create a safe space for your feelings. I journal and capture my feelings in moments where I cannot be present with them (i.e. at work, with clients, around people you do not trust). Develop a plan for the times you cannot be present with your feelings.
In this plan, include an escape route (believe me it is necessary at times lol), a network of people you trust and can pull from, and a history of successful vs unsuccessful ways of dealing with your feelings.
In short – dear black girl, it is ok to feel, to cry, to be sad, to be hurt, to be frustrated, to be upset…