Unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ Mentality: Honoring Our Full Range of Emotions

It’s time for us to have an honest conversation about the ‘Strong Black Woman’ stereotype that plagues our community. This stereotype has been internalized so deeply that many of us don’t even realize it’s there.

The reality is this: Black women in the United States have higher mortality rates than our white counterparts for nearly all major health conditions. Black women who report frequent experiences of perceived racism or discrimination are at a significantly increased risk of preterm birth, clinical insomnia, and poor cognitive function as they age. Black women are more likely to be the primary household breadwinner and hold frontline jobs, yet often reside in lower socioeconomic areas and face ongoing discrimination and racial bias. 

Despite all this, we continue to be strong. We show up every day for our families, friends, coworkers, and communities. Let’s be clear – there is nothing inherently wrong with being a strong woman. In fact, our resilience is something to be celebrated But it becomes harmful when strong is the only thing we can be. The ‘Strong Black Woman’ must always be the pillar of strength for everyone else, even when she’s struggling herself. This creates a culture of silence, where we feel like we can’t ask for help or express our emotions without being seen as weak. This can be incredibly isolating and damaging to our physical and mental health.

Society has a lot of work to do to humanize us as Black women, but for now, let’s try to break the cycle internally. Here are a few ways we can unlearn the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality:

Identify our emotions

Learning to identify our emotions is a crucial step in unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality. When we suppress our emotions, we not only damage our mental health but also rob ourselves of the opportunity to fully experience life. By identifying and acknowledging our emotions, we can better understand ourselves and our experiences, and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives.

But identifying our emotions is not always easy. For many Black women, we have been conditioned to prioritize the needs of others over our own. This can make it challenging to even recognize our own emotions, let alone express them to others. We may have become so adept at suppressing our emotions that we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

However, taking the time to identify our emotions can be incredibly rewarding. Therapy can really help with this, as it allows us to connect with ourselves on a deeper level and develop a greater sense of self-awareness. By understanding our emotions, we can better navigate challenging situations, set healthy boundaries, and communicate our needs to others.

Identifying our emotions also requires us to confront uncomfortable truths. We may discover that we’re holding onto anger, sadness, or resentment that we’ve been carrying for years. If you’re struggling to face your emotions, we invite you to try out our Emotional Self Care Journal, created just for this! It’s a beginner friendly tool to get you started on a path to healing and growth.

Practice self-care

Practicing self-care is an essential component of unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality. Self-care means taking intentional actions to care for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This can include things like getting enough sleep, exercising, eating a healthy diet, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in activities that bring us joy.

Self-care is not selfish. It’s essential for our mental health and well-being. When we take care of ourselves, we are better equipped to show up for others and engage fully with the world. However, practicing self-care can be challenging for Black women, who often feel like they must prioritize the needs of others over their own. We may feel guilty for taking time for ourselves or worry that we’re neglecting our responsibilities.

Self-care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. By prioritizing self-care, we show ourselves the love and compassion we deserve. We also set an example for others, showing them that it’s okay to prioritize their own well-being.

Surround ourselves with supportive people

Another important step in unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality is surrounding ourselves with supportive people. This means cultivating a community of people who uplift and empower us, who allow us to be vulnerable and express our emotions without judgment.

Strong black woman friends laughing

Having supportive people in our lives can make all the difference in our mental health and well-being. When we feel seen, heard, and understood, we are better equipped to navigate life’s challenges. We also have a greater sense of belonging and connection, which is essential for our overall sense of well-being.

However, finding supportive people can be challenging, especially if we’ve spent our lives suppressing our emotions. We may struggle to trust others or worry that we’ll be judged for our vulnerability. But building supportive relationships is worth the effort. We can start by reaching out to people we trust and admire, or by joining groups or communities that align with our values.

Seek help when we need it

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. When we’re struggling with our mental health, we should seek help from a professional. This can include therapists, counselors, or other mental health professionals.

Seeking help can be challenging, especially if we’ve been conditioned to believe that we must always be strong. We may worry that we’ll be seen as weak or that we’ll burden others with our problems. But seeking help is essential for our well-being. It allows us to address the root causes of our challenges and develop strategies for coping with them.

There is no shame in getting the support we need. In fact, it’s a courageous act that can lead to greater healing and growth. We can start by talking to our primary care physician or reaching out to a mental health professional directly.

Redefine what it means to be strong

Finally, unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality requires us to redefine what it means to be strong. Strength should not be measured by how much we can endure, but rather by our ability to acknowledge and process our emotions.

Strong black woman laughing and looking happyBeing strong means acknowledging our vulnerabilities and seeking help when we need it. It means setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing our own well-being. It means embracing the full range of human emotions and allowing ourselves to be fully human.

Redefining what it means to be strong requires us to challenge the narratives that have been imposed upon us. It requires us to reject the idea that we must always be strong and embrace the full range of human emotions. By doing so, we can cultivate greater self-awareness, develop deeper connections with others, and ultimately live more fulfilling lives.

A final note

Unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality requires us to challenge the narratives that have been imposed upon us and to embrace the full range of human emotions. We must prioritize our own well-being by first acknowledging how we truly feel, practicing self-care, surrounding ourselves with supportive people, and seeking help when we need it. By doing so, we can cultivate greater self-awareness, develop deeper connections with others, and ultimately live more fulfilling lives.

It’s important to note that unlearning the ‘Strong Black Woman’ mentality is not easy. It requires intentional effort, vulnerability, and self-compassion. Our range of self-care journals, workbooks, and planners are created for and by Black women and provide a variety of tools and journal prompts for self-love, self-awareness, boundary setting, and more. These resources can help guide you on your journey toward greater self-awareness and well-being.

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