Written by: Dr. La-Toya S. Gaines, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
For Black women, being labeled “strong” seems to be a fact left unchecked. However, closer examination reveals that this label impacts how Black women see themselves and function in relationships.
At best, being described as strong, Black women can inspire resilience, perseverance, and a sense of empowerment and pride. At its worst, it can create pressure to suppress emotions, limit expressions of vulnerability, and strain relationships with family members, partners, and friends.
Here are five ways being a strong Black woman can impact your relationships
Emotional Labor: Black women are often tasked with the responsibility to provide emotional support and to be the pillar of strength for others. The expectation of being a source of strength to others leaves Black women unable to seek the emotional support they need without fear of being perceived as weak, needy, or burdensome by others. Bearing the emotional load for others can lead to emotional exhaustion, burnout, and strain in relationships.
Independent Woman: The inaccurate perception that Black women don’t need others and desire to be left alone can lead to partners and family members not offering the emotional, physical, or social support they need. The result is Black women who feel alone and isolated, reinforcing the false belief that they can’t rely on others the same way others can rely on them.
Strained Communication: The pressure Black women feel to exhibit a strong front while suppressing their emotions can create problems in honestly expressing their thoughts, feelings, needs, or boundaries in relationships. These communication challenges lead to misunderstandings that create barriers to open and honest communication with loved ones.
Asking for Help: The unfortunate result of being a strong Black woman is that it hinders Black women from seeking help, whether it’s emotional support from a friend or professional help for mental or emotional well-being. Asking for help can be viewed as a personal failure. When Black women avoid being vulnerable by asking for the help and support they need, it can be hard to build trust and emotional intimacy in their relationships.
Role Expectations: When the cultural expectation for Black women is to be strong and independent, this can clash with traditional gender roles in dating and marital relationships. This can result in Black women taking on excessive responsibilities while neglecting their self-care, disagreements over decision-making, and an imbalance of power dynamics.
Black women are like others in that they experience various emotions, strengths, and vulnerabilities. When society promotes a more nuanced understanding of Black women that supports and encourages their mental and emotional well-being, facilitates their expression of vulnerability, and challenges the notion of the perpetual strength of Black women, Black women can be free to fully engage in authentic and mutually satisfying relationships with their partners, friends, and loved ones.
Interested in learning more about dismantling the Strong Black Woman stereotype? Register for my webinar, Silent No More: An Empowering Guide to Owning and Changing the Strong Black Woman Narrative, here.
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Dr. La-Toya S. Gaines, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr. La-Toya S. Gaines is a licensed psychologist and owner of Family Matters Counseling and Psychological Services. Dr. Gaines has a dedicated her career to empowering Black women to disrupt the narrative of the Strong Black Woman. She is teaching generations of Black women to give themselves permission to prioritize their needs without feeling guilty. Dr. Gaines is using her voice to reduce the stigma of mental health in the Black community.