It never seems to matter where the conversation starts with many of the successful women I know. Or even with my closest friends, the “black tax” is always in the room.
The conversation’s natural evolution seems to be one in which Black professional women always found themselves having to justify their success. I decided to take a closer look at all these false imageries, the root causes and why even with Black women who were and are very successful continue to have the feelings of inadequacy. Thoughts swirl around in their heads and seem to occupy so much of their subconscious space.
I remember one very successful Black female executive telling me, “I love stress. I can function well under stress.” My next question to her was, “Do you think you use the challenges of stress to hideout from the reality and pain of constantly having to prove yourself?” Her answer was, “I hadn’t really thought about it – that way; yes, I think I do!”
I reminded her that stress, gender bias and systemic racism, are the three demons that are killing successful Black women. We together need to find some new ways to cope with the realities of life in America, the challenges posed by ongoing and pervasive racism and its imposed inequalities.
Like most Black women who are highly successful, her lifestyle demanded a constant psychological, physiological and organic revision of her space in order to deal with the stresses of an ever changing learned/ stimulus response environment.
This in conjunction with our own hidden feelings of inadequacy adds to chronic stress that can wear away at our own abilities to cope mentally; causing heighten anxiety, loss of sleep and all kinds of depressive disorders. Since all Black women live their lives pushing through whatever needs to be done, they assume their bodies seemly still function normally. The truth is that this degree of stress of the body can prove to be deadly to Black professionals and their lifestyle, without mindfulness these patterns create massive cycles of unexpected health problems.
Black women have always been faced with the negative imageries imposed upon our bodies and our psyches. We still find our own bodies objectified as a true standard of beauty. The dolls study even after almost fifty years still produces and alarming result with little Black girls. Who more times than not overwhelmingly select the white doll as more beautiful and more acceptable.
The Black women’s ability to be more resilient [the super woman syndrome] and that Black women can handle every and anything thrown their way is incredibly dangerous because that myth comes at an enormous cost. This can be traced back to such harmful imageries along with those from within the community, which far too often focus more on our bodies, often hyper-sexualizing who we are as women and very little effort is given or encouraged towards excelling in math and science.
Music and many films continue to reduce us again to nothing more than sexual objects. The question becomes, why? After all our successes are we still allowing the mythology to fore shadow and mare our psyches.
Black women have had to be resilient, determined and unshakable. Life in America hasn’t left much space for anything else, so Black women must learn acceptance for who they are. First, embrace and celebrate your space and accomplishments.
You’re bright, intelligent, innovative, compassionate and overcomers having accomplished much as CEOs, CFOs, Attorneys, Physicians, Attorney Generals, Sr. Vice Presidents, Captains of Industry, Publishers, Media Moguls, mothers and more.
Stop the nagging voice!
You are worthy, not unworthy. Here is how you overcome such systemic programming.
(1.) Examine the origins of your feeling and realize that the words and views of others do not and cannot dictate your active or passive success (that time when it is just you).
(2.) Learn mindfulness, the art of being in touch with your true self, the authentic you, which can be a struggle for many successful women, because many of have not stopped long enough to know who that person is, or who they are capable of becoming.
(3.) Find your spirituality. It is your core that speaks to the universe, whether through God and/ or some other positive form of spirituality.
Remember, you can never reshape others thoughts, but you have the power to influence and reshape your own. Racism is real, socio-cultural oppression is real, which is also systemic bias. You are who you are… bright, intelligent, gifted, creative, beautiful and the mother of humanity.
Finally, evoke the spirit of the mother eagle – who when faced with other birds challenging her space, flies as high as 15,000 feet and soars at a speed of 65 miles per hour. She as an eagles can swoop down at amazing speeds of 200 mph, lift up and pull any object into her space. Therefore, fly high, believe and embrace your authentic self. Claim your authentic right to soar. No justification is needed – God and the universe made it so!