Let Them See You Sweat

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I keep beginning to write this post, only to walk away from it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is fear. Maybe it is my ego. I cannot pinpoint it. All I know now is that this time,  I cannot walk away.

I have a supremely difficult time being vulnerable. For me, I do not see vulnerability as a weakness or a dissension from God’s masterful work he employed when sculpting us in His image. It is central to our human experience. It uncovers the depths of our souls. It shines a light in the darkest crevices. It reveals our wholeness. It makes one strong.  It is necessary to trust. It is necessary to love. It is necessary to change lives, to change the world.

And it is one of the biggest plights of my life. I don’t know why I decide to fight it so often, to attempt to live as a Superwoman as if it is humanly possible to do so. Even Superman had a Kryptonite.

I tried to seek out the answer through various venues, starting with my family. I come from a lineage of strong women, and that is something that I am nothing but proud of. My grandmother, aunts, cousins–they pour themselves out for the ones they love on a daily basis, and it is seldom that I see them in a state of weakness. I admire them; their strength, their compassion, their love. I know they have each gone through their share of struggles, and if it was not for their ability to pick themselves up, they would not be where they are today. But even they did not do it themselves. They had each other, their circle of sisterhood. As Pilate, Reba, and Hagar supported each other in Song of Solomon, they continue to come together and support each other.

Then I look to my mother. To this day, she never ceases to amaze me. She is beautiful and beaming of love. Even when I was the irritating, spoiled, ungrateful child I can be, she has not walked away from me. But this is not a trait that she employs solely to her only child, and that is what surprises me. I have seen a snippet of her struggles, and I can count on one hand the times I saw her cry. She held it together, especially for me.

But now I am at this point that while I praise the women before me, I feel like I am employing the qualities I admire about them in the wrong way. The largest struggle I have encountered in my nearly two years since leaving home is knowing who I can trust and reveal myself to–all of myself. I’d rather be strong. I’d rather be Superwoman. I’d rather be someone people can depend on. It’s easier to be dependable than dependent.

But it’s also toxic. Very toxic. I remember reading When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down by Joan Morgan and feeling so refreshed because she gets it. She understands. She has an entire chapter on “Strong Black Women” and how toxic that mentality can be to Black women. It is completely okay to be strong. I would not be here today if I was not strong. I would not have been able to get through heartbreak, depression, loneliness, isolation, self-worthlessness, all of this without strength. But when it takes away your vulnerability, your humanity–that is when it becomes toxic. When it makes it increasingly difficult for you to trust people, to lean on them for support–that is when it becomes dangerous.

I’m tired of employing this “Strong Black Woman” logic. It’s not that I do not want to be strong. I just also want to be real. Real with myself and real with the loved ones around me. I have legitimately pushed people away because I felt I was becoming too vulnerable in front of them, and that is something I am not okay with anymore.

The reason why I am writing all of this is because I know I am not the only person struggling with this. Whether it is a person in my life, or a complete stranger across the world, it is not an issue that people do not struggle together with. For me, I can never go through something without taking a note from Jesus. If there was anyone in the history of existence who endured the greatest degrees of vulnerability and triumphed, it is Him. And that keeps me going. Whatever keeps you going, find that. Keep challenging yourself. Push your limits. Because doing so will also challenge you to become a person with no secrets, full of integrity.

We were created to be in community. There is nothing beneficial about perpetually isolating oneself emotionally to preserve “strength.” We are all imperfect beings. We are one piece to a puzzle. When we live like no one needs to truly know us, we set ourselves up for failure, especially in our moments when we need someone the most.

I know this is a stray from my normal topics, but it needed to be said. It must have been if I keep thinking and wrestling with it so much. Hopefully, we can all grow together from this. There is nothing wrong with letting someone see you sweat. Or cry. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Because it is only but one setback on your path to greatness. A setback you can overcome. When you act like it is something you can fix when you really can’t, you end up like Olivia Pope, drowning in a pool of issues and a glass full of egotism. You are better than that. Get back on your path–the right way.

With much love,

Amber <3

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