Being a part of the Black community can feel like making a choice between feeling or functioning almost daily. When you hear that, your first thought might be “but can we not do both?” The answer is yes, we absolutely can do both. But, when considering how much pressure there is on Black people to fall into the habit of pleasing others before ourselves, we can then acknowledge how much more of a challenge it is to do so. Even as we find the capacity to balance both feeling and functioning each and every day, it’s quickly deemed “excessive” or “too much.” We’re often handed a suggestion or a preference on how to live our lives — as if pleasing society pays the bills.
So why do we find ourselves questioning whether to experience our emotions or focus on our workload each day? When we spend more of our energy considering what might be beneficial to those around us rather than what is best for us in the present moment, we fall into the pattern of people-pleasing. Not only is getting stuck in this pattern all too common, but it also leaves us unable to walk in our true power. Truth be told, Black people are more than capable of feeling and functioning. I want us to disregard the pressure of doing as someone else wants, wishes or suggests. I want us to know that existing is enough, therefore showing up in the fullness of identity and still accomplishing everything life gives is more than admirable. Let yourself do and let yourself feel — fully. When we do that, we walk in our power.
Plenty of us are familiar with the things that make someone a “people pleaser”, but when you align those traits with the Black experience we begin to see how breaking free from the habit becomes more of a challenge. First, stop and consider if you find yourself relating to any of the following patterns:
- Feeling guilty for saying ‘no’
- Being worried about what others think
- Having over-achieving tendencies
- Hungry for approval
- Feeling fearful of abandonment
Whether we relate to one or none, we all can easily see how so many of those characteristics sound like ones that would surface in a person or a community whose identity has been judged, attacked, and stolen all throughout its existence. When we look at it through this lens, it becomes clearer as to why we find ourselves considering others’ feelings to such an extent. We do this in hopes that the same amount of energy we put into treating others compassionately will be matched. Although it is rarely reciprocated, we continue to put effort into remaining un-intimidating, friendly, and approachable. Because who wants to be labeled as the angry or threatening Black person yet again? Rather, we want to find a place where we feel accepted as we are. Let’s not forget that seeking that place becomes consuming to our subconscious decision-making, prior to even choosing when and how to interact with others.
With growth we learn that this habit originates from a place of attempting to keep us safe or protected but time and time again the cure for this pattern of living proves to be self acceptance. So then comes the next question: how does one begin the journey of self acceptance when surrounded by a society that consistently rejects and disapproves the qualities that make a Black person who they are to the core?
I believe we can only begin this journey when we begin detaching from society. If the goal is accepting self, there is no other place to start than within. Maybe that looks like:
- Moving your energy away from things you can’t change
- Identifying your gifts/strengths/passions
- Setting goals
- Celebrating life more often
- Choosing rest before you end up burnt-out instead of after.
The journey to self-acceptance looks different for everyone, and it takes time to put into practice. When we dismiss outer expectations and meet our innermost selves with honesty, the less of an effect society will have on our life. That is the best place to start, for if our minds remain open and free then we find worth in everyday life. And where we find worth, acceptance will naturally occur. It’s a beautiful thing.
Now, once we escape the people-pleasing nature that we get entangled in, we can walk into our potential more freely. Whether we are exercising our ability to feel and function in work, in family, or in social life we will still be met with societal opinions on the way we should live our lives. However, be reminded that just because we are able to find the capacity to balance our everyday needs does not mean it is open for suggestions. Let us do and let us feel- respectfully. How we choose to let the fullness of our personalities coincide with the completion of our everyday tasks should be our business, and our business only.
About the Author:
Rachel Brown, a young writer based out of OKC, loves writing to bring expression to the pursuit of life.