Why Telling Black and Brown people (especially women) “You Must Work Twice As Hard” is Damaging, No Matter How True

I am a self proclaimed (and proclaimed by others) perfectionist. Not perfect, far from it, but perfectionistic. You know her, the inner bitch that kills you slowly and deliberately by your own doing, fed by shame, fear, and personal & historical trauma? The one that amplifies every failure and mistake to equal your worth, and cripples you with her harshness?

Today I want to focus on the historical and generational trauma impact of perfectionism. For many of us Black and Brown people, this impact is killing us very deliberately. For many years, as people of color, we have had to work harder. We have and are seen often as less than our counterparts, it’s been demanded we work harder to prove our worth and value, and honestly, it sometimes still never feels like enough. Put the identity of “woman” on top of that and it’s a double whammy. It’s a lot to endure.

What has been a peculiar strategy, one born of group preservation and desire for growth, is that we as Black women impose these same standards and pressures onto one another. We regularly tell one another “to work twice as hard, look better, act better, anticipate mistakes. Be better. Be better.” We model this. Long hours with no reprieve, neglecting our own needs, being a martyr at the expense of our own self preservation, taking on every single task under the sun, and being particularly harsh when our humanity kicks in. And we look at our fellow sisters and tell them, be the best too, sometimes putting down the ones that fall into this form of self hatred that was passed down to us, with things like you don’t dress well enough, not enough degrees, not articulate enough, not enough. Never enough – a direct reflection of what we think of ourselves.

One time, I attended a conference. As for most of us in higher ed, I work(ed) in a very white space and was so excited to connect with other Black women and men of color. I attended as many sessions as I could to learn and grow, to feel connected to my culture, to feel renewed. I left instead feeling heavy. That I had so much to do to even be perceived as worthy by most of society. There were ample messages around you have to get more degrees (a master’s degree isn’t good enough), you need to work longer hours (I was regularly working 60 hours already), create, innovate, and find all the Black businesses and support them today. All while nicely dressed, perfect brows (all the women did), and in high heels. I was overwhelmed and spent many days warring with myself, anxious, and exhausted. To be fair, these messages had been passed down to me since I was young. I think it was just I need affirmation I was on the right path. And instead received a very condensed and intense version of “be better” and it confirmed my worst fears – I’m really not doing enough, or at least it will never be enough due to my identity. Later, I broke into tears.

I’m a pretty high achiever (most perfectionists are), but by definition of my perfectionism, imperfection or lackluster achievement (which means a B+ instead of A) are not tolerated. And any messages about that, fuel me to action and often burnout. And then I had these thoughts:

Why are we perpetuating a message handed down to us meant to keep us inferior and assimilate to a culture that wasn’t created for us? Why are we killing ourselves with a perfectionistic ideal that says that we will still never be good enough? Why are we, Black women, denying, and frankly, obliterating, our humanity in the name of being the best? Will respectability politics actually get us respect? Is this all we are?

The outcomes are clear, racism, especially when internalized, are killing us – quite literally. Racism is strongly correlated with higher blood pressure, chronic disease, and the silent and hidden ailments like depression and anxiety in Black people. We have got to change this narrative.

Listen. I’m not saying that we should be lazy and not work hard or reach our dreams. I’m saying that we should not make that work ethic dependent on proving our worth and at the detriment of our health, soul, and spirit. It should not be the first priority. We should be that first priority.

Today, as I cried in a meeting with a superior (and then feeling ashamed for showing weakness, but that’s another post, for another day), and confessed that I have to prove that I’m good enough, successful enough, especially because I’m one of few Black women in the room, metaphorically and physically, I realized perfectionism is getting me more C’s in life and less happiness. Realizing how deeply I’ve come to see failures as the only confirmations of my worth, and hearing how loudly the voices of “be better, twice as better,” and feeling twice as worse, I realized I’m doing what the oppressors always sought to do to me – destroy. It hurts.

I still want to be better and still am dealing with the shame of not being as fearless, wonderful, and perfect as my sisters around the world and my ancestors were. But perhaps, maybe, just perhaps, my ancestors can be proud of me being good enough. Not twice as good, but just as good, and trying my damn hardest. Maybe they will smile when I give myself a break and say, this is what we worked for. Maybe they can still think I’m beyond their wildest dreams, without the self-hatred of a historical perfectionism not meant to make me soar anyway, and taking breaks to refill my cup.

I dont know. Maybe I’ll find out someday when I disengage from perfectionism.

Patience…

Patience

But, sometimes we get tired of waiting.

And the Universe says that patience is a virtue.

So, don’t we all want to be patient? Of course!

And like my image above says, “good things come…”

But when does being patient turn into being dumb?

How long can we be patient before we’ve been patient enough?

To be patient for a significant amount of time, is OK, but after this time has passed it starts to feel like it’s in vain.

You start to feel like your patience is being overlooked.

Almost as if the party you are waiting on knows that you are waiting, but they don’t care.They are inconsiderate of you and your time.

Why do we have to wait, or be patient after we’ve been patient for long enough.

And who’s to say how long is the right time to be patient, but after being patient for a very long time, there’s questions that need to be answered.

Does our time not matter?

Is it that being impatient is synonymous with being “rude” or “uncouth” when we don’t sit down and wait like the little pets you try to treat us like?

So then we sit and wait patiently, because we’re scared of retaliation of some sort?

Why?

Why should we even be worried about that?

Is that why we wait patiently after we’ve been waiting for so long?

Why is it that we don’t realize our own value, strength and worth would cripple these offenders who take advantage of our patience?

Why is that having expectations for you, the one who we ceremoniously wait patiently for, is unheard of?

Why do we listen when we’re told to be patient and wait, while the powers that be sit on their imaginary throne and take their time without considering us, the patient ones.

We can only be patient for so long, until we start to realize that maybe this is something that is not worth being patient for.

Because we know our worth.

So the longer we’re patient, the harder it is to win us over, because our time is valuable and if they don’t know our worth, we definitely should, and they will find out soon enough.

My Gym Bae (in my head)

If you have any type of insecure, homophobic tendencies, this blog post is not for you.
You’ve been warned.


Ok, so y’all know I’m slightly crazy, but I can’t help but to think that there’s someone at my gym that is trying to reach out and connect with me (like THAT),  but just can’t take that step. Why? There are many reasons that I will touch, kind of, below. But being that I’m awkward and anxious as fuck and have slight social anxiety, I just ignore it all and go about my merry way.

All he has to do is say the word and I’ll be like “let’s go” (hand clapping and all).  But I won’t be the one to say it first.  Just trying to avoid any awkward moments that may occur, because you know…not trying to be that gay guy that hits on everyone because he thinks they are gay.  But I’ve been getting some interesting vibes from him.

vibes

The first day I noticed him, we made some awkward eye contact in the locker room.  Then later that week, there was an awkward “I can’t really hear you but I’m done with this so you can have it” moment. Then another day the same week you asked me to spot you rather than the other people who were around (even though there was only like 3 other people around). Maybe it was because I was the closest person. But why me?  I just want to work out and go about my merry way without any social interaction with strangers.  Now I’m forced to stand over you with my junk over your face. Staring down at your toned chest and shoulder skin because god forbid you wear a regular ass shirt to the fucking gym.  Just let me do me, by my lonesome.  That’s how I like to work out.

I had my “Equality” shirt on that day.  Let’s just say it wasn’t not planned. (I told yall I’m crazy).  I tend to evaluate people to see how they react to certain things.  But it’s all passive.  So by wearing that shirt, I evaluate how people react to me and since he asked me to spot him, I feel like he supports equality (I know, crazy).  He doesn’t seem like a hater off the bat, but maybe he was just really focused on getting his reps in and it didn’t matter what I was wearing and he just really needed a spotter.

But see I’m petty, because if I needed a spotter but the closest person to me was wearing a “Trump” shirt, I’d go to the next person

to the left.

Now, I feel like I’m just projecting what I want him to be onto him.  But I can’t help but feel like I’m being stared at in the locker room by him.  Especially when I’m looking out my peripheral and see him facing towards me while I’m getting dressed, rather than facing towards the lockers on the wall. Maybe he’s just weird like that. Who knows?

I know, I know. This all sounds crazy, and yes I’m slightly crazy and yes I know that someone I know who works out at the same gym at the same time as me will most likely see this (no it’s not y’all, so don’t ask me about this haha),  but whatever (actually, I’m going to need y’all to be chill if you do read this, LOL).

But IDK, maybe I’m being irrational and it’s all in my head.  I try to shut the world out when I’m working out so I don’t really know what’s going on.  I just like to do my set, dance a little in the middle, and then do my next set.  But he seemed to be everywhere I was the last two days we were working out at the same time.

I ran…lol

run awa

I went to another part of the gym each time because my anxiety got the best of me, and I kept staring, and then I just didn’t want to be “that guy”.  Gay or not, I hate being “that guy”.  Who knows, he probably isn’t even paying me any attention, but I’ve been working out for so many years and have not had a hunch about another person in the gym like this at all.

If he’s just trying to find a workout partner, I. AM. NOT. THE. ONE. lol

It's a no from me

*shrug*

I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens…

Crossroads

But why not me?

I stand at the crossroad

Of uncertainty and rejection

Far too often

To be asking the road to answer

Such a silly question.

She doesn’t know.

If so, I’m not sure how she could explain away

The aching of feet

Tired of a repetitive journey

That leads nowhere

But back to hours of standing

At this crossroad.

The road thinks I’m hopeless.

But why NOT me?

I wonder aloud to the crow

Always circling this crossroad

Waiting for me

To rip my heart out and leave it

For death and his dinner.

He thinks I’m foolish

To carry it around,

Alive

Beating

Hungry.

But WHY not me?

I ask the couple in the

Old beat up Chevy.

Always passing by to their home –

On the other side of the cross road

Of course.

They flash me looks of endearing pity

They could not know.

They wonder how I got here

Get here

Every time.

They think me broken

And never stop to wonder,

As to not be

Cursed in my presence.

But why not ME?

The sun hears me

And my pain is the only thing

Strong enough

To shy her away.

She will not know,

Disappears and sends

Rain.

But even rain isn’t enough to wash away

The dirty traces of shame.

BUT WHY NOT ME?

Thunder roars

He can keep up.

But he cannot settle down

To answer me.

He thinks I’m weak.

but why not me?

This time barely a whisper.

And she stirs within me.

Because.

You are the universe

That cannot be contained.

It will always be you

And yet, never you.

She thinks I’m strong.

I choose my road.

Afraid.

You wrap me in your arms, stroke my cheek,

I feel weak

Safe

Beautfiul

Afraid.

You kiss me softly with your lips,

But also with your gentle words,

Touch

Patience

Quirks

Wisdom

And a smile that always feels

Exactly right

Safe

And bright.

It frightens me.

You feel like home,

Safe and comforting,

Yet easy and familiar,

But also like an undiscovered adventure.

Is this a mountain, ready to fling me down as soon as I climb up

Or a smooth river, ready to gently carry me to safety?

I can’t take the mountain anymore.

You disarm me,

I put down walls willingly,

Lay down my weapons of mass protection,

Hang up my armor.

I am raw,

Pure clay from the earth,

Soft and malleable

Yet strong and buildable

For you.

I don’t have the energy left in me

To be putty for an evil crafts maker or solider.

Please don’t be from enemy lines.

I am knowingly

Intentionally

Choosing

To

Melt.

It’s been a long time

Since I’ve decided to lose form

And be the soft, flowing, mess

That I am

For another

In attempt to find love.

You make me want to try.

I am afraid.

But also so damn ecstatic.

Capitalize on the ecstasy,

But please don’t exploit my fears.

Make me believe.