Featured on For Harriet
Every day Black women face countless acts of violence against our personhood. Many of you may read the first statement as a gross exaggeration, but consider this: We are told by popular media and culture that our skin color, body shape, hair texture and a plethora of other physical and behavioral attributes associated with our race and culture are undesirable, unworthy, and inferior. This is the reason for our call to action to simply matter.
As individuals hold multiple markers of identity besides their race and gender, these experiences become compounded as we encounter others attitudes regarding gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class and so forth. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we internalize these viewpoints. How do we guard ourselves from these constant assaults against our womanhood?
Over the past few years, I have personally and professionally coached Black women through the process of staying true and authentic while dealing with the real weight of life experiences rooted in oppression and privilege. As a woman who has battled with mental illness since my teens, in the past five years, I have become overly protective of my emotional wellness. I’ve taken my fight for self-healing and mental health to new levels through academic and professional trainings. What I learned, and know for sure, is that life circumstances do not have to dictate how I feel, believe, or think about myself. Also, circumstances do not have to determine how I will act nor how I will lead my life.
Once I learned to break these harmful chains of internal oppression, rooted in a self-perception that “things keep happening to me” and shifted my paradigm to know “I create my reality,” the ability to handle micro-aggressions, stereotypes, and societal malfunctions/disappointments became much easier. I began to work towards my self-actualization.
Notable feminist, bell hooks in her self-recovery book, Sisters of the Yam, urges Black women to see self-actualization as part of our political efforts to resist White supremacy and sexist oppression. Audre Lorde calls for Black women to place our struggles to self-actualization at the center of our daily life. She exclaims, “And it is empowerment- our strengthening in the service of ourselves and each other and future- that will be the result of the pursuit.” The pursuit is the quest for Black women to reclaim each other and ourselves. hooks expands on Lorde’s assertion as she explains the power of choice in the larger sociopolitical system:
“Choosing ‘wellness’ is an act of political resistance. Before Black women can effectively sustain engagement in organized resistance struggle, in black liberation movement, we need to undergo a process of self-recovery that can heal individual wounds that may prevent us from functioning fully.”
Black female self-recovery is an expression of liberatory political practice because, in this country, we were never meant to be well and to reach our own self-actualization.
Through the strategies I share below, you can release internalized views of inferiority and break patterns of negative thinking, which often lead to depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Let’s create a new reality rooted in happiness, strength and self-love.
Life Design Process
- Remember Who You Be
You are Fierce! You make a way out of no way-and you win! You may have been the first in your family to graduate from college. You are a leader in your community. You are a take-charge woman who is brilliant and bold. When circumstances or people cause you to doubt yourself, recall who you are and draw on that fortitude to keep going.
Take Action: It’s easy to get lost in self-criticism. Let’s focus on how great you are. List 3-5 moments in your life where you felt good about yourself. This could be a major accomplishment (i.e. winning a grant) or a positive experience that simply made you feel good (i.e visiting the beach, etc.)
- Declare Your Needs
Make a list of what you need out of life. It’s okay to need certain things out of life. These are your desires. Think about your values, how do you need them to show up in your life? (ex. I need to surround myself with people who want to uplift their communities; I need a partner who values my work and passions, etc.)
Take Action: Learn how to discover your values: Follow the three-step process outlined here: Who You Be? How Black Women Can Live Authentically
- Identify Limiting Beliefs
As a woman thinketh, so she is. We can create our desired life through setting clear intentions and taking conscious actions toward them. After you get clear your desires, you have to make sure your beliefs align with them. Beliefs are simply a framework of thoughts that form our worldview. It’s important that we tend to our thoughts because we attract what we think about most. Essentially, we create our reality through our thinking. Also, our thinking impacts our emotional expressions.
Take Action: Identify Your Doubts– as you completed the above activities, what thoughts came to mind? Did you have any doubts or beliefs that arose as to why you couldn’t have those desires? Write them down. Challenge yourself to reframe these worldviews. Ask yourself: Is this always true? Is there another way to look at this situation? What if this thought is wrong, what then?
Once you have gotten in the place to a place of clarity through the above steps, then you must learn to let go. If we continue to focus on what’s lacking in our lives, then we will continue to focus on scarcity and fear. Constantly living in a state of low vibrations will only bring in more of the same unwanted circumstances.
Take Action: Hold a new reality and live. Do things that make you happy. Reach you highest self. Contribute to your wellbeing and that of your community.
Ultimately, trust that all will work out for your highest good and the highest good of all concerned.
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