A recent photo of Sasha Obama with her head thrown back, laughing and enjoying her friends as they walked behind her dad, who’s also the leader of the free world, made me smile. In that moment, she looked so carefree and happy, so clearly loved and secure. As a mother of three daughters, it is my deepest wish that as long as they live under my roof, they will go into adulthood being beautiful, carefree and confident young women.
But being in this space for half a decade has shown me just how hard it is to be a black girl growing into womanhood. Broken homes, unique beauty rejected by the very community that should celebrate it, dehumanizing images in music and television that minimizes our humanity all contribute to many black women feeling the exact opposite of “carefree.”
And while you might not have had the kind of privileged home that Sasha has, your journey to being a smiling, carefree black chick can start today.
Yes; just like that song from Frozen, you’re going to have to let go of situations, people and a lifestyle that drains you. People guilting you into taking up the mantle every time they need your energy, body and resources need to be put on mute. Not everything needs to be a battle of good vs. evil and rage against the machine. That’s not to say that you don’t take up any causes, just not ALL of them. Your sole purpose in life is to live it abundantly, and not on a deficit because everyone wants a piece of you. And battles don’t just happen in real life and on the streets. Battles are now happening in social media every day. You’ve got your coffee and check your Facebook and first thing you see is a string of notifications, people tagging you on this issue or that so you can join the battle de jour. Refuse to be available for all the social media battles that drain your time and precious mental energy.
Take a good look at the people in your life and ask yourself one question: Does this person add or take away from my life? Do these people respect your humanity, celebrate your success, reciprocate when you give of your time and resources? If not, you might want to…
Cutting ties can be different things, and doesn’t necessarily need to end with a bridge being bombed to smithereens. It might mean you see that time-sucker and drama queen with the perpetual crisis blowing up your phone and pushing IGNORE. It might mean you see that relative as infrequently as possible. Bottom line, if people aren’t adding to wellness, you need to start subtracting them from your orbit.
Simple concept right? Wrong. Black women have been the community punching bag for centuries, and many of us still hold our hope that the people we love but who hate us might soften their hearts and see us a different way. Love is more than a noun. It’s an action. Love isn’t accepting that you’re inferior so another group can feel superior. Love isn’t allowing others to call you bitch, THOT, whore, blackie, nappy head, dark butt. Those people do not deserve your love and ignore that stuff in the bible about turning the other cheek when someone slaps you. In fact, don’t ever let your abusers get that close. Gravitate to people who celebrate you–your unique beauty, your resilience, your intelligence, talents, and philosophical outlook.
People always talk about how you should love yourself as if self-esteem can come to you by magic or download via smartphone app. This can be especially difficult if the people around you don’t affirm you. But feeling good about yourself leads to confidence. And only you can determine what will keep you in a good place. If your weight is inhibiting your confidence, take the measures you need to drop the weight healthfully. If you feel self-conscious about your looks, discover what makeup and clothing style compliments you, and brings out your best features.
Self-esteem also comes from accomplishments. Graduating college, finishing a project, teaching yourself a new skill, discovering a hobby are just a few ways. Take on a challenge that will make you proud of you.
Life can be stressful, and too many black women bury their hurts and fears in unhealthy ways–maybe it’s overeating. Maybe it’s lashing out in anger for any tiny infraction. Maybe it’s chasing after men who aren’t good for you. Whatever it is, seek your own healing. Don’t be ashamed to seek help and get counseling. Don’t feel inadequate because you are not able to overcome your mental health issues with prayer. God made doctors too.
You only get one body, so take care of it. Exercise regularly. Eat pure, whole foods. Stay away from processed foods, that often can affect your mood, thus your outlook on life. Vigorous exercise a few times a week has been proven to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and improve your sleep. The body and mind are interconnected, and what you have going on in the inside often shows itself on the outside.