To The Black Girl Who Always Has to Be Strong

I am a (half) black woman, and I understand the pressure to feel like I have it “together”—an almost unspoken requirement of being a black woman. My parents never told me I had to be strong, I’ve never been forced into resiliency, I have no story of struggle that caused me to feel I have to fend for myself in this cold world. I’ve simply always felt that Black women have a responsibility to unconditionally be a pillar of strength in every moment of their lives. It’s almost like we have been mentally conditioned from centuries of having to be the backbone of our families and communities, or we’re subconsciously haunted by the ghosts of our ancestors who had no choice but to be irrepressible.

This is my letter to the other Black girls who feel the same.

Dear Black girl who feels she always has to be strong,

I wish you didn’t feel obligated to have the strength of a dozen oxen.

Please don’t feel the need to be strong for your mother, or father, or great uncle; your best friend’s second cousin, or your neighbor down the block. Please, just be strong for you.

Don’t feel as if you’re obligated to take on the daunting task of being strong for every person you’ve ever come into contact with at some time in your life.

Why do you think you always have to be tough?

Who told you you had to carry the weight of the entire world on your shoulders?

Who said you can’t be vulnerable?

What happened in your life that contributed to the creation of this impenetrable exterior?

Don’t run and hide your tears from the world. Don’t feel embarrassed for having feelings.

You are not a fragile catastrophe. You are not inadequate.

You are not pathetic for needing someone else’s help.

I have to convince you your value is not attached to your resiliency, and your moment of weakness will not be plastered all over Page Six.

Black girl, you are Superwoman, but you too have weaknesses and flaws. You too need to rest your brain and your body, and no one will fault you for periods of rejuvenation.

I need you to focus on you sometimes. I need you to cry sometimes. I need you to take yourself out on a date sometimes. I need you to do what makes only you happy sometimes. And I need you to stop beating yourself up for your shortcomings all the time.

I need you to know it’s okay to not be okay. Your pillow doesn’t have to keep your secrets.

Because cardiomyopathy is real, and stress can kill you. Depression is alive and well, and you have to take care of yourself.

You have the right to be sad;

you have the right to be selfish.

You have the right to feel depressed;

you have the right to be filled with overwhelming happiness.

You have the right to feel lonely;

you have the right to feel anxious.

You have the right to feel tired;

you have the right to feel incomplete;

you have the right to laugh until your body hurts;

you have the right to feel normal—

you have the right to feel all these feelings and not be criticized.

Please, Black girl, be kind to yourself. Please put yourself first sometimes. I’m begging you, don’t listen to what the naysayers have to say—it’s all lies.

Most importantly, feel like you are special and you are enough.

A Black girl who feels she always has to be strong, too