8 Ways Black Women Hold Ourselves Back (And What to Do About It)

1. Being Afraid to See Other Black Women Win

In this cut-throat society, where looks, image and success is everything, it can be more than a little intimidating and threatening to see another gorgeous black woman stopping traffic with her drop-dead looks or building the impressive professional career you’ve always wanted. Although it’s much easier said than done (trust me), the thing to remember is that nobody’s life is perfect, even if it looks that way from the outside.

What To Do About It: If you find yourself envying another successful sister, consider befriending her and learning from her. Instead of envying her gorgeous 4c hair, while yours is still in that awkward TWA (teeny weeny afro) phase, ask for some natural hair tips. Successful women can always learn from each other and remember – there’s always room at the top for more! Be glad to see black women getting promotions, finding love, travelling all over the world and leading happy, fulfilling lives. Use their Instagram-worthy lives as inspiration to live your own life to the fullest!

2. Playing Into The “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype

I have to make a confession—I’m not a “strong black woman”. And to be honest, it’s the last thing I’d want to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the legions of black women who have survived years of societal abuse. It’s just that I think there is more than one way to be a black woman, and the “strong black woman” narrative simply doesn’t encompass all that it means to be a black woman. There’s nothing wrong with being strong, independent and fierce, but black women, we can also be much more than martyrs who endure large magnitudes of pain in silence. We can be beautiful, feminine, gentle, sensitive and vulnerable. Unfortunately, the world we live in rarely affords black women the benefits of vulnerability and this fact only further damages the black female psyche.

What To Do About It: Christine Pungong’s statement on Fader Magazine perfectly describes the power of self-love as a black woman: “The greatest thing I can do for myself in a world that invalidates my experiences, identity, and existence is to love myself fiercely, and care for myself as best as I can”. Yes, you may be black and strong, but you may also need to seek treatment for your mental health. You may need to delegate and prioritize self-care. It’s also important to find a tribe of supportive people who will have your back when times get difficult. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help that you need and so truly deserve.

3. Supporting People Who Don’t Support Us

Hollywood, modeling agencies and hip-hop and rap music have not been shy about their disdain for darker skinned women. Unfortunately, the truth is that black women are one of the largest demographic of consumers in society and we are often loyal to people and companies that don’t respect us. Many of us continue to support the careers of colorist rappers and musicians who consistently diss the black woman’s phenotype.

What To Do About It: Rappers like Kodak Black and athletes like Gilbert Arenas, as well as companies like Shea Moisture, should not benefit from our loyalty. Films that negatively portray us and insist on typecasting us into the role of the sassy black best friend should no longer receive our support. Our Instagram feeds and Pinterest accounts shouldn’t only promote and celebrate biracial actresses like Zendaya and Amandla Stenberg. We should fully embrace darker-skinned women who more accurately reflect the average black female phenotype, such as Duckie Thot, Khoudia Diop and many others. This is not to say that black women shouldn’t be fans of entertainment, art and commodities that we enjoy, but it’s important that we don’t do this at the expense of cultivating a culture that embraces and celebrates us. If we don’t support our own, who will?

4. Not Embracing Our Natural Hair And Unique Beauty

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a proud member of #TeamNatural. If I had it my way,

every black woman would experience how freeing it is to be natural and defy western notions of beauty. Many women use wigs, weaves and chemical treatments to hide their natural hair. Years of slavery, colonization and Western media and marketing have successfully brainwashed black people into believing that our hair is not beautiful as is. Black hair care is a global billion-dollar industry and our spending habits are bringing huge sums of money into the Korean and Indian markets annually.

What To Do About It: Consider going natural, or if you decide to wear a wig or weave, consider choosing one that resembles your natural hair texture. When we do this, we make a statement that our natural hair is beautiful, and most importantly, enough. There are literally dozens of afro-textured wigs and weaves to choose from. Let’s support platforms made for us and by us, such as CRWN Magazine, which “exists to create a progressive dialogue around natural hair and the women who wear it”. Magazines like DDS Magazine and CRWN magazine promote black women and showcase a different standard of beauty than the one that has been pushed on us for years.

5. Limiting Ourselves

Do you have a dream to go shark-cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa or experience weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight? Think these are only activities that white people do? Think again. Don’t let stereotypes stop you from hopping on a plane and visiting Malawi or Italy, or just living your life in general!

What To Do About It: Take full advantage of the opportunities that come your way. We live in a great big world full of endless possibilities and there is no reason to let societal boundaries, personal insecurities or familial or peer pressure keep you from recognizing and achieving your dreams!

6. Not Taking Control of Our Mental and Physical Health

Black women, we are at a disproportionate risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, thanks to racism and white supremacy. We are also at a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases, fibroids, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other diseases. This means we have to be vigilant when it comes to remaining in control of our health.

What To Do About It: As black women, we are the leaders and founders of many important causes, including #BlackLivesMatter and other political movements, and while fighting back against racism and political injustice is important, it should never come at the expense of your mental health, emotional soundness and physical wellbeing. Ensure that you’re maintaining a regular exercise routine, eating right and spending time with people who support you and love you!

7. Not Managing Our Money Effectively

According to a study by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the median wealth of single black women is $100 when compared to that of single white women, who stand at $41 000. While we have unfair distribution of generational wealth to blame for this, it’s time to change this statistic.

What To Do About It: There are many ways to place ourselves in a better collective financial situation, such as avoiding getting into debt, saving for retirement early, and planning out your spending in advance. Other tips for saving your money can be found here.

8. Being In Relationships With People Who Don’t Respect and Appreciate Us

Unfortunately, black women have centuries of pain, suffering and hardship imprinted in our DNA. It makes sense that after all we’ve had to endure, many of us would struggle to see our self-worth and fall into relationships with abusive, neglectful people who don’t add to our lives in a positive way. An unsupportive significant other, toxic friends and negligent family can all contribute to a low sense of wellbeing.

What To Do About It: Find a community of supportive men and women who appreciate you. Make it a priority to find your tribe and surround yourself with loyal, caring people who push you to be your best, but also accept you as you are.

“Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.”


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