By Deirdre L. Jones-Lowman
Is it just me? Or do I give more to everyone else than I do to myself?
Even though the burdens are not mine to bear, I tend to set everything aside to come up with solutions to everyone else’s problems. No matter what, I provide unwavering support to everyone’s hopes and dreams. However, when it comes to taking care of myself, I’ve set invisible boundaries that hinder me from identifying and addressing my own mental health needs.
How hypocritical is it for a motivational speaker and a professional life coach to not lead by example?
Recently, I heard the term imposter syndrome—a feeling of doubt about yourself: skills, talents and accomplishments. Women leaders face feelings of self-doubt and insecurities all the time—that is normal. As I self-reflect, I must ask, am I an imposter if I’m not doing the best for myself? Am I an imposter for ignoring my own mental crisis? For prioritizing self-care? For looking out for number 1.
Well…no…then, I’m just selfish.
That’s how the world views my decision to put myself first, and intentionally deny everyone else’s expectations of and for me.
Recently, I witnessed the intolerant worldview of criticism of putting one’s own mental health first with Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka and Sha’Carri Richardson. Simone Biles is a 5-time All -around Olympic Gold medalist. After she withdrew from the Olympics to put her mental health on a pedestal; worked to reclaim her mind, so that her body would follow, critics called her selfish. She is viewed as selfish for choosing not to indulge in the tired psyche of bearing the brunt. Simone refused to carry the burden of other’s traumas and expectations—whether real or imagined. Naomi Osaka, two-time U.S. Open tennis champion, transformed her family’s lives through her tennis prowess. She emerged from poverty to become the youngest and highest paid professional athlete. After withdrawing from the 2021 U.S. Open for mental health related issues, she was criticized and fined for calling out sick from work. Sha’Carri Richardson, U.S, Track and Field Olympian, was disparaged for her flashy nails, flamboyant hair and Flo-Jo inspired appearance. Her biological mother unexpectedly died after the Olympic Trials. She tested positive for cannabis use, was banned, and denied the opportunity to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
How women of color deal with their emotions and mental stressors such as loss and grief differ, individually and culturally. Acknowledging your mental health needs is not only for athletes. Women of Color are thought to be unbreakable, hard as steel, and immovable. Our mommas taught us to be strong and suck it up when we are being mistreated, abused, and used. Society has told us that we are incomplete, angry, and invisible. Our minds and bodies worn from the mats, tracks, and tennis courts. Our psyches shredded from corporate jobs and corporate sponsorships, brimming with micro aggressions. What protects Black women and other women of color—our psyche or physicality? When women of color act, her actions at some level reflect upon her racial community, and she cannot centrifuge her racial identity from her womanhood. (Accapadi, 2007).
Society is witnessing the antithesis of the angry Black woman. While White womanhood has always been protected—verbally, historically, and legally. Its fragility is constantly on display and perpetually protected, as demonstrated by the Karenscaught on film withunfounded threats, accusations, and false claims—who play victim when they are the aggressors—displaying and acting on privilege which could cost Black lives.
Women of color, particularly, Black women, are not viewed with the same fragility of non-Black women. White womanhood looks very different than Asian American, Black, Indigenous, or Latina womanhood, because each woman’s experience is shaped by the internal expectations and external perceptions of what it means to be a woman within each of these racial communities (Accapadi, 2007; Hernandez & Rehman, 2002; Anzaldua & Keating, 2002). The television, the internet, and social media outlets allow an unprecedented, inside-look into the lived experiences and lives of Black women. Black women are seen through the lens of the proverbial cat fight, disingenuity, fakeness, excessiveness, anger, and aggression. But rarely and I mean rarely, does society have an opportunity to witness Black women at a near breaking point. The results of antiquated norms and expectations, microaggressions, and the shouldering of other’s responsibilities. We are witnessing a self-care revolution! We are witnessing women of color claim their mental health through our inner strengths, vulnerabilities, self-awareness, and a new level of personal selfishness that is long overdue.
Deirdre L. Jones-Lowman, Ph.D. (Cand.), MPhil, MBA is the Founder and Managing Director of the Pay It Forward Initiative Life Coaching and Mentoring Service. The Pay it Forward Initiative is a M/WBE-certified, 100% female owned, career and life management coaching practice. Deirdre is an ICF ACC certified Coach, thought leader, motivational speaker, and self-care advocate. To learn more about the benefits of coaching, for inspirational and motivational content, or to book coaching services with Coach Deirdre, follow her on all social media platforms and/or visit her website:
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Opportunities to Learn/Read for Yourself:
Accapadi, M. M. (2007). When White Women Cry: How White Women’s Tears Oppress Women of Color. College Student Affairs Journal, 26(2), 208-215.