Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of my girl friends out there doing their thing. Most women I know are juggling one or more jobs, school, and attempting to have somewhat of a decent social life (which oftentimes are nonexistent). A good percentage of my social media timelines show the glorification of exhaustion through status updates-whether speaking on the work overload during the week of a huge test, getting little to no sleep from working two full time shifts in a row or working two or more jobs back-to-back, or a combination of all three.
Getting a glimpse into my friend’s seemingly busy lives always take me back to my undergraduate days when I had to balance classes, work, clubs and sports. I desperately tried to make it work, and I probably made it look easy like most women I know. But by the time the last semester of my senior year rolled around, I was a hot mess. I lost interest in almost everything; I spent most of my time in my dorm room sleeping or crying, or at the gym. The weight of trying to take on more than I can handle eventually took a major toll on my mental health-and that was just during college!
Now I’m not judging anyone for having a busy work and/or school schedule; I admire women and people in general who work persistently toward their goals. But, speaking from experience, when I see people who are exhausted and draining themselves both physically and mentally, I feel an adjustment needs to be made in order to maintain sanity.
First of all, there is nothing wrong with working hard. I do believe working hard towards a goal is an amazing thing-especially when you see the end results. But as black women who oftentimes ignore mental health issues, it may be a good thing to slow it down a bit. Finding the perfect work/life balance is not always easy, but sitting down with yourself to go over what works and what doesn’t, and with a little bit of trial and error, it can be obtained. I believe in the saying “work smarter, not harder.” If you can find a job or career where you can pay all of your bills and still manage to be able to store a percentage into your savings, then please by all means stick with that job. It’s better to have one well paying job than multiple low-paying jobs and run the risk of burning yourself out.
Statistically speaking, black people as a whole have been known to conceal any issues pertaining to mental health. In general, we have been told by our family members, friends, and by the few black women in staring roles that portrait the typical hard-working business women, that black people don’t suffer mentally; that any problems that shall occur can be easily prayed away. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.
“Overworked” as the new “sexy” has taken on many forms in pop culture that are affecting black women in particular. There has been a noticeable contribution to the black women trope in today’s rap and hip hop, with the infatuation of women who are seemingly superhuman. There are an abundance of songs praising women for grinding and hustling hard, all while putting down women who aren’t as busy. Women are called “thots,” “hoes,” or “bitches” if they enjoy going out for drinks and having a good time; but are called “baddies,” “wifey,” or any other term of endearment if they are overworked to the point of losing sleep or having poor eating habits. The strong black woman trope has begun to surface even more, and it’s hurting our community.
The “I’m a strong, independent, black woman, who don’t need no man” narrative has become something so normalized, that we oftentimes overlook what these strong, independent black women actually go through to obtain that status.
As black women, we are told to always be strong, to never ask for help, and to never show weakness. While this makes us one of the hardest working groups of people- Black women have been named the most educated group in the U.S. and are also leading the game when it comes to entrepreneurship- it also leaves us vulnerable to developing serious mental health conditions, and can also prove to be detrimental to our physical health.
Good news is that views on mental health issues among blacks are making positive strides. Historically, blacks, in striking numbers, have ignored any issues pertaining to mental health, where the active search of mental health services had been viewed as a sign of weakness. While this stigma has been challenged more in recent years, many people are still in the dark about this problem that is affecting our community.
According to Mentalhealthamerica.net, adult African Americans are not so quick to acknowledge their psychological problems, but are, however, more open to seeking help.Given the history of disparities in the socioeconomic statuses between blacks and whites alone, mental health issues has always been an issue for us. And so to add on the pressure of being superhuman, that adds even more to our plates. Without an effective work/life balance, and without the proper tools, such as therapy or even talking to a trusted friend, grinding to the point of exertion will quickly burn us out, making the hustle counter productive.
So before taking on that third job, or maxing out the number of credit courses in one semester, try sitting down to come up with a realistic way of meeting your goals without causing significant harm to yourself both physically and mentally. Chances are, you’ll see an improvement in your work, and you’ll also most likely live a much happier and healthier life.