Photo by Dom J from Pexels

Suffering in silence is common within the African American community. If you’re a woman we’re taught to be tough, hence the common phrase “A strong Black Woman.” If you’re a man you’re taught to hide your pain, because it can be seen as a weakness. I remember being a very emotional little girl, but it was hard for me to embrace that because I would get teased for being “too sensitive”. I learned early on that if I feel offended or hurt by something, the best way to deal with it is by burying it inside, and displaying a tough exterior. As an alternative to displaying vulnerability within our community we joke. We’ve managed to turn our pain into what we like to call “Cuttin Ass,” which basically translates to teasing. This is our defense mechanism. You know the saying “I laugh to keep from crying”? Well, we basically mastered it. If you didn’t grow up within our community, you wouldn’t last a minute without leaving feeling less than you did upon arriving. Walking into a room with my family is similar to walking into a room with Madea and Joe. There’s literally a ROASTING SESSION (another term for cutting ass) every single time.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

When there are serious matters on hand we revert to saying things like, “I’m good, and I will always be good, because I got me!” Which also translate to, “I’m hurt and I need help, but I feel alone.” I guess ill be the first one to admit that, at least the first person I know. Our pain is not seen as being pain because we display anger more often than any other emotion; hence the term “Angry black woman.” How could we show any other emotion when that’s the opposite of what we were taught? Remember that sensitive little girl I told you about at the beginning? Well she needed to survive her surroundings, so naturally she developed an alternative to displaying vulnerability by putting up a wall. What happens to our emotions behind the wall over time is they start to build up. This is why suffering in silence for me is no longer an option.

I know some of you were wondering about what’s the big deal on being vocal about dealing with a mood disorder, or dealing with anything for that matter.  Well, there you have it. We are so quick to post on social media about someone elses suicide, or suicide attempt, and say “suicide is real. Bullying is real,” but fail to realize that it is also real inside of our own homes. Burying our own feelings can lead to suicidal feelings as well. We say “Black people don’t attempt suicide,” but that’s not true. Why do we give more props to the woman who post things like, “I’ll always be good, no matter what! I never crumble!”  Than to the woman who post “I’ve been depressed for a while now, I wish I had someone to talk to.” We pride tough exteriors, and we judge and belittle sensitivity. We see it as being annoying and weak so no one wants to be affiliated with a weak person, right? If you think about the strength it would take to show your true emotions, you’ll realize who the truly weak person in this matter is. It’s very easy to hide behind ANY wall, or tough exterior. It takes guts to show who you truly are, and what you truly feel. It took me until this year to realize that I am now tougher than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’ve cried more now than I’ve ever did, and I talk about how I feel and what’s going on. I’m subjected to criticism and being judged, but you know what? I’d rather be myself in this world, than to hide behind a character I’ve created to mask who I truly am. That’s all we’re really doing in life. Putting on a character for those to see what we assume might be a better version of ourselves, but it is not truly ourselves. We are not who we display, even to the closest people in our circle.

When did the definition of being human become flawless? We are meant to be flawed. If you’re a man who is told not to show your emotions, please understand that you are not just a protector of a household. You aren’t just the muscle of the family, but you are also entitled to having emotions as well. My nephew came home from school one day and said to me that he and his friend made a pact that when they got in trouble, no matter what they wouldn’t cry. My nephew was 9 years old, and it’s something that stuck with me because he’s already learning, just as I did about sensitivity being a weakness. I could understand how as a parent you wouldn’t want your child to display any type of vulnerability in front of other people because then he/she will be a target. I can also understand why our parents were doing the best they could to protect us growing up, and teaching us those same techniques. Without having any words left to say to my nephew about his new pact, mainly because I understand that it’s a survival technique inside of our community. I still feel for him and every other child who has to be taught to survive, rather than just be the best version of themselves, in order to maneuver in the world outside of our homes. I’m not sure how it works in any other community outside of my own, but I know that where I’m from has taught me resilience.

Being vocal about anything personal is a BIG DEAL. I guess you can say I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, and into the unknown. My goal is to set a new trend within our community. This trend will hopefully alter our perspectives on what we view as being weak, and ultimately allow enough space to be who we were born to be. This obviously won’t happen over night, but it will open the door to freeing our souls from hiding behind the expectations of our community.

-Love, ELLiE

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