You are one of one million sisters who suffer from Strong Black Woman Syndrome. Your condition is genetic; you come from a long line of matriarchs who could’ve spent their golden years singing a medley of woman-done-wrong songs but instead “never missed a beat,” and took up the slack of erstwhile lovers, underachieving relatives, and manipulative “friends.”
Fortunately, your condition is in remission. You’ve learned to woo-sah your way to a lower blood pressure, a freeloader-free home, and a drama-deficient relationship.
But New Year’s Eve always threatens a relapse.
With all its promise of fresh starts, the advent of a new year can also be rife with pressure to perform, succeed, and excel. Even if you’re a great place in your career, love, and family life, you’re still tempted into constant race mode. Sure, your condo’s great, but an additional rental property would be better. Your master’s is paying off, but you could stand an additional certification, home business, credential. You’ve got a great guy, but this year you’re thinking of dropping tiny hints about taking things to the next level (Tiffany & Co. catalogue on the coffee table, perhaps?). You’re newly married, but time waits for no man; before you feel the need to freeze your eggs, you plan to insist to the hubby that y’all get cracking on your two kids.
And then there are your volunteer commitments, the Obama re-election campaign trail you’d like to join, the four upscale parties you’re slated to plan, the book club you’re spearheading, and the youth choir robes you said you’d sew.
Because this time of year requires way more than a woo-sah to ward off feeling overwhelmed, here are five 2012 resolutions for SBWS sufferers like yourself should consider:
1. Drop one stressful commitment.
If you’re employed and/or in school full-time, your CV is impressive enough just the way it is. Trust. It’s great to offer your time and resources to causes you love, but not to your own detriment. If you find yourself so frazzled you’re headed south on the freeway when you’re scheduled to appear on the north side of town, start drafting a resignation letter for someone.
2. Resist the urge to let bitterness propel you forward.
Bitterness is a helluva drug. Consider the Curious Case of Janet Hubert. If the story of the ousted Aunt Viv tells us anything, it’s that holding on to an offense does you more harm to you than to the offender. In the intervening two decades since she left The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith has become one of the highest grossing movie stars of all time. While she was self-publishing a book, griping to TV One’s Life After cameras, and granting exclusives to TMZ, he was earning a billion dollars in worldwide box office. Just think of all the ways she could’ve worked to diversify herself if she’d focused on transcending the experience of being forced out of a ‘90s sitcom. Instead, she’s allowed that single experience to define her entire public image. If order to truly grow, you’ve got to let go.
3. Unplug for one full hour each day.
Smartphones and tablets are like Kryptonite for the recovering SBW. The constant ding and blink of notifications is far too tempting to ignore. That is, of course, unless you power them down and ask a trusted “sponsor” to keep the device at bay for at least one full hour each day. Whatever will you do without the entire world at your fingertips? Start a reading list and tackle a novel a week. Take up crocheting. Study a foreign language. Make out with someone. Take a country drive in a convertible with a scarf around your hair. Talk to a friend face-to-face, just to hear the sound of a voice other than Siri’s.
Bottom line: you’ll be surprised how free you feel without the supposed convenience of cutting edge technology.
4. Eliminate enabling.
Everyone needs help sometimes, and if you’re in a position to offer it, that’s great. Just know that just because you can help doesn’t always mean you have to. If someone relies on you more than him- or herself, it’s time to exercise the power of “no.”
5. Thumb your nose at the Joneses.
Every new year presents new opportunities to keep up with the Joneses. But why not do something radical? Why not forget the Joneses all together? Life isn’t a mad-grab competition, with an end goal of acquiring or accomplishing more than your peers. It’s a winding road toward self-discovery—and there’s nothing wrong with taking the scenic route. This year, focus fully on finding out what matters most to you; it often has very little to do with getting the same kinds of things that other people have.