As I shared in my transparent thought last week I have been busy juggling many roles in life much like you reading my transparent thought. I am busy being a pastor, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a friend, a confidant, a visionary, a business owner, a grad student, an accountant, a web designer, a graphic artist, a teacher, a maid and a cook. This week I made a conscious decision to stop and take off my cape because my mind is tired. My body is tired. Yolanda is tired.
As I sat down to write this thought, I was apprehensive about sharing these words," I AM TIRED." Why? Because women, women in leadership and especially black women are not allowed to show this type of vunerability. We are taught that you must be the "strong black woman" thus you don't show your tiredness or exhaustion to the world as God is your strength. Women, particularly black women, are reared to believe that we are superwomen fueled by God. Our special attributes? We have the power and strength to take on the weight of the world and not fold; suppress emotions; the ability to resist being vulnerable or dependent; we succeed despite limited financial, emotional and physical resources and support; and we help others. All the while looking like we just stepped off of the cover of a magazine. The, “strong Black woman” narrative is both empowering and devastating. This warrior being everything to everybody, every day and every second of the day is draining and taxing to our souls, minds and bodies. But we determinedly push thru the natural to reveal the supernatural with a smile. The statement is true, God is our strength, however He also gives us His wisdom to know when our bodies are saying is time to take the cape off.
That is what I am doing in the next few weeks, taking off some capes. Although I am living my best life, feeling the most fulfilled and confident I have every felt in my life plus I am seeing the fruit of my labor in those the Father have ordained for me to pour into, I have been pushed physically, stretched intellectually and spiritually in addition to encountering some very disappointing and disrespectful situations in the past few months that caused me to just be TIRED! And in my Father's wisdom I have deemed it necessary for me to stop and sit at my Father’s feet to take stock of my spiritual, physical tank and empty my emotional tank of the emotions from all the matters that have me TIRED! I have found that without showing myself internal compassion and dedicated time for restoration, you can push yourself to the brink of insanity.
Every SUPERWOMAN needs SELF-CARE.
While we tend to our homes, vocations, play our positions and tend to the to do lists all the while attempting to defend our super naturalness "the silent killer" heart disease is creeping up. It is currently the number one cause of death for women in the U.S., with Black women being at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, according to the American Heart Association. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) the chronic high pressure levels are leading to negative effects on our bodies, specifically the musculoskeletal, respiratory, nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, and gastrointestinal systems. The not sleeping, worrying and disconnecting is affecting the female reproductive system and having a negative effect on babies in utero which is a contributing factor to the high number of preterm births and infant mortality rates. We develop behaviors such as emotional eating, smoking, and dysfunctional sleep patterns from generational hurt, trauma, cycles and pathologies. We can no longer afford to ignore how taxing this superwoman syndrome is on us and take the time to take the cape off to take care of self.
But that is the double edge sword from the superwoman syndrome, we do not slate time for self-care. Women, black women in particular, are so indoctrinated to push past healthy limits that we often do not know how to set essential and necessary boundaries that would protect us. We aren't encouraged to set them because then we would not be the noble, kind and polite woman who sacrifice for those we care for, instead we push past hurt, pain, disappointment, heartbreaks, exhaustion and depression to be the resilient superwoman holding down a house, a job sometimes two, while being a caretaker of family, friends and the pets all the while suffering silently. While there is beauty in giving yourself, at no point should we give so much of ourselves that we are depleted still showing up.
Another consequence of the superwoman syndrome, we allow and justify uninspiring and toxic relationships, habits, experiences and energy to take up spiritual space. We no longer can justify mistreatment, pain and suffering and our resiliency should not be defined by our ability to withstand an immense amount of pain and suffering without emotionally breaking. We have to eliminate every ideology that normalizes the idea that emotional stoicism is self-control. I've had several men tell me that I am "overly emotional" when I expressed sentiments after hurtful and disappointing situations; emotional expressiveness and being intuitive were devalued and associated with femininity and femaleness. So, to give the façade of being strong emotionally I erroneously learned to barricade my vulnerable side and refuse to be emotionally free. I learned very quickly that this was destructive to my health and well-being. When we do this, we block the ability to open up and experience emotions and feelings that were given to us by God as way to release and exchange with others in an enriching and constructive way. This mindset of suppressing legitimate emotions greatly impacts our health and influences health behaviors that lead to heart disease, anxiety, tumors and other womb related illnesses and other lifestyle related infirmities.
While it is a benefit to be strong and resilient in a society that is structured to work against you, it is important to take stock of our mental health, moreover, it’s important to embrace a lifestyle that makes your individual health and well-being a priority. In order for us to grow individually and advance corporately the Kingdom of God we must first recognize that taking care of your spirit, mind, soul and body make you better equipped to show up for those you love and serve. Remember Lazarus two sisters, Martha and Mary, Martha reminds me of the superwoaman who gets things done and cooks lip-smacking meals. In Luke 10:38-42 we read about her getting busy with preparations for guests, while Mary sat at the Lord's feet soaking in His words. When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary not helping her, he answered saying; “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” She chose what was good for her emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. There's nothing selfish about doing what's good for your well-being, as long as it's not at the expense of others. Here are few of my self-care tips that I apply to my own life.
Recognize that the S on your chest is not for superwoman or savior but for SELF-CARE.
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