In the yoga community yoga philosophy is often misinterpreted as toxic positivity. People say things like happiness is a choice and just be positive. This can be really harmful because it invalidates one’s feelings and emotions. Especially those that result from negative experiences.
Most recently I explored the phrase be strong and the specific effects on black women.
We are often told to be strong in response to oppression and difficult circumstances but does that erase our humanity?
The video below expresses a few of my thoughts on the topic.
Video Transcript: It’s Mo here, how y’all doing? Like subscribe and all that good stuff.
A few days ago my friend Liana Chronically chic here on YouTube, released a video about toxic positivity. She did an excellent job explaining what toxic positivity is and why it is harmful. Today I would like to take it a little further and talk about why we should all stop telling black women to be strong.
Now if you feel this video is about you I encourage you to engage in self reflection. This video is not directed at one specific person. As always ** If you have a problem with this video I did not come here to debate you bro**
First off, telling someone you are so strong is not a compliment. We are strong because we have to be. We do not have a choice.
A study conducted a few years ago found that black women in America feel pressured to act like superwomen, projecting themselves as strong, self-sacrificing, and free of emotion to cope with the stress of race- and gender-based discrimination in their daily live. This pressure to be strong can affect our mental and physical health.
To be strong in this way we have to sacrifice our humanity. It’s hard to go through the world trying not to show your emotions because the wrong emotion in the wrong situation can threaten your safety, livelihood and even your life.
You have to also understand that because historically black women were seen as less than human, our feelings were rarely validated. Never forget that for quite some time you could not legally SA a black woman because she did not have the right to consent. Many of us are taught to be quiet, turn the other cheek and keep moving because it is how we survive.
Isn’t it time we did more than survive and thrived? To get to a place where we feel safe to express all of our emotions takes a lot of work. Being vulnerable is not easy and the wrong response can send us quickly back into our trauma cycles.
This form of toxic positivity can be so deeply culturally entrenched that we think it’s normal. However as Liana said in her video it’s not so much about the person who is in distress. When you are telling someone to be strong is it really about your comfort? Is their vulnerability making you uncomfortable?
I would venture to say that toxic positivity is the language of the oppressor. It often removes responsibility from the oppressor to the oppressed. Instead of asking the oppressor to change the systems of oppression we ask the oppressed to stop complaining, often ignoring the system that it is not within their power to change.
How many black women feel that we have to work twice as hard for half of the reward while being beyond reproach? This compounds our stress because we have an intense motivation to succeed, but at the same time there are so many barriers to achieving success. It is all very exhausting.
So next time you feel the need to tell someone to be strong, just listen to them. Allow them to be fully human. Maybe genuinely offer some realistic help.
And to all my overwhelmed, overworked sisters out there remember your are enough and you are doing enough. Allow yourself to be fully human. The problem is not that we need to learn to cope better the problem is the discrimination and systems of oppression that force us to be this way.
I have included links to mental health resources in the description box below as well as a link to Liana’s video. Let’s keep the discussion going. How do you feel about the phrase be strong? Have you experienced toxic positivity? Comment down below.
Thanks so much for watching. hope you have a good day, bye!!!