I got this.
Over the almost 4 decades that I have been alive, I would say that I have become pretty confident in my ability to weather the storms that come my way. I mean, I teach an exercise called “Hills and Valleys” to show Black women how they navigated the tough roads in the past and can use those strategies to do so in the future.
Not to mention that we have seen and heard about how our aunties, grandmas, mamas, and literally every Black woman on the planet, have faced difficult situations and persevered all on their own. Guess that’s the “magic” everyone keeps telling us we have.
However, I’ve realized that unlike magic (which does not need any effort or incur a cost to the individual), our “I got this” approach to the problems we face have come at a steep price:
1) A mental price- irritability and anxiety
2)a physical price- weight gain, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, chest pain, hypertension & migraines;
3) a relationship price- isolation, distanced friendship, struggling marriages
4) a financial cost- not getting the advice to help us negotiate better wages nor access to networks to provide skills that would catapult our businesses or our trajectory at a job.
Doing it all by ourselves ain’t magic. It’s tragic.
Yes, there are times when we truly have no other option. Yet this is rare. Often, it is because the choices we had have disappointed us in the past or my favorite- we are so used to spending time, energy and attention on everything, we don’t even consider that another option exists.
Even as I help Black women strategize about how to move into their purpose and execute, often by building a support network and asking for help, I still struggle. Mostly, because now it is embarrassing. Even when I am doing well professionally, there is a personal struggle that I hold close to my chest, too afraid that I’ll share with the wrong person. Or I am personally rocking it at home and then having a professional disaster. I literally have held onto the stress, disclosing it to no one until it hurt to breathe- literally chest pain when I am breathing. It is only then, that I realize I have to do the inevitable, turn to someone for help.
Have you had the same scenario, where you’ve wasted precious time- days, weeks, sometimes months, hiding what you are struggling with until it comes crashing down and now you are forced to get help to pick up the pieces. It usually happens for the issues that are most precious to us. A problem with our kids, our marriage, our job, our health, our parents, and more.
While, I am in no way completely sober from this addiction to struggle my way through situations all by myself, I am recognizing when I relapse much sooner and getting pretty open about what I can’t do and what I just don’t want to do.
So here are some ways we can get back on track after a relapse into attempting to do it all on our own.
Find your shame supports.
Think back about who are the people that either you exposed that you were struggling and helped you get out of that space. How often and regularly are you connecting with that person? Find out if you both are willing to be each other’s shame support, which means that you both get to share your struggle with each other. That way both of you benefit and both of you get satisfaction at helping the other person.
Fix the wound, not the symptom.
Often the issues we are struggling with include a seen problem, which we pour most of our energy into and then ignore the unseen problem. The problem at work, where you now want to leave your job, is yes due to the fact that the environment sucks but have you communicated with them about how it would work better for you. Often this requires a conversation that we have already deemed useless or a conversation with someone that we’ve decided is against us. Who do you need to reach out to for a discussion?
Feed your faith.
Sometimes all we’ve had in the past to get through a situation was faith, because all our plans A, B, C, D all failed. Instead of solely relying on what we see (and wasting a lot of time, I might add), start taking some time to listen to what you know. We often have the answer. We can feel it in our body- where we feel warm and light. We can hear it in silence, because it keeps urging us to move into a certain direction. Look back at the times when faith got you through and get more confident that the success at that time wasn’t a one-time situation.
It really looks easy to just do it ourselves. Yet, the pain & isolation that can come from taking everything on without an outlet can quickly grow and stop us from taking any movement forward at all. Black girl magic is not something inside us but something we create together. Ask for help. Have the talk. Disclose the secret with the friend you trust. And then take the breath that you’ve been holding all that time.
Dr. Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo is a healthcare social entrepreneurship & funding consultant, specializing BIPOC, women-led healthcare practices partnering with community organizations to create health justice for historically excluded & under-resourced communities.
As a pediatrician, researcher, and researcher she has secured $2 million in grant funding and has led inter-professional teams to build and scale healthcare delivery and research programs to achieve health equity for marginalized youth and families.