“There’s an adage that to succeed, black people have to be “twice as good”: twice as gifted and smart, twice as hard-working, twice as … everything.”
You’ve been working so hard on getting onto the career path that you’re in. Since the first day of school, you have been doing the work. You have been making your parents proud, your aunts and uncles, your younger siblings, heck – maybe even your whole community.
You put in long hours into school, and then into your career. Does anyone really notice? And I mean, really notice the work that you’ve been harboring. You did your best in academics and in all your extra-curricular activities. You master hard work, patience, and determination. So you take these with you in your career. But something still feels off.
What does it really mean to be a successful woman? What does it really mean to be a successful black woman?
The reality is that your struggles are warranted. In fact, black women and their accomplishments are often times overlooked compared to black men and white women. It becomes a double whammy because of the intersectionality between being a woman and a woman of color in a society that favors men and white women. It becomes that much harder to be seen… truly seen.
And it doesn’t only happen with work ethics. Historically in the black community, there are several comparisons and some sort of established hierarchy. The lighter the skin, the finer the hair, the more proportional of a body, the better. Within the same race, black people still feel the need to compare and place others in some sort of pyramid. You were primed for comparison since the beginning.
So you question, “Will things ever be any different?” You get tired of fighting the fight, and you also understand that you need to sustain the life that you built for yourself. You’re caught in a bind between standing up for what you deserve and complying with the social norms and culture at work.
There isn’t always a safe space to open up about your challenges as a successful black woman.
In fact, I’m sure you’ve internalized the ways people have seen and treated you, and that influences the way you perceive yourself. The messages you’ve received become the voices in your head that directly affect your behaviors and how you carry yourself.
So it does get exhausting to work twice as hard to get to the same starting point that others are privileged to have.
I get it, I too have experienced the difficulties of being a successful black woman in the world of therapy and business. I limited myself to only become the person that people made me believe I could be, and I was voiceless and I was in pain. I turned inward and was extremely shy. I never felt like anything I had to say was of value, so I kept my mouth shut. I tried to stay as stealth as possible.
“If I don’t make a sound, I won’t be noticed.” When you’re the only black person in the room, you represent your entire race. I decided that I can’t afford to make mistakes. That was too much to bear.
I limited myself. Until I decided to heal myself. I started going to therapy as a place to explore and release. It was tough, but it felt right.
In therapy, you get that safe space. You don’t have to carry the challenges and traumas that inherently hang over the heads of every successful black woman. In therapy, you get to unload the stressors you carry and also celebrate your resiliency. In therapy, you can lighten the load. In therapy, you get to be the professional black woman that people out there are trying to keep you from being… Don’t let them.
Stand tall, stand strong, but carry a lighter load.