I am tired.  


But not the simple sleepiness that can be solved by a little nap.  


No, this exhaustion was beyond the physical.  


As I talked to some of my close friends, all black women, we all seemed to convey this mutual and shared fatigue.  Oddly enough, we never talked about slowing down, taking a break, or dialing our life back a few.  On the contrary, we actually talked about how we were going to beat the exhaustion to <insert a long list of tasks, jobs, activities, etc.>.  



Black women and the feeling of being able to do it all and be it all, almost to ‘Superhuman’ levels; ‘withstanding’ all feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.  Most black women can attest to this feeling, and the urge to do more and take on more.  This is known by many as being a S.B.W. (strong black woman) and more recently as the ‘Black Superwoman Syndrome’.  



‘Black Superwoman Syndrome’ is different for every black woman, but it is the universal feeling of feeling like you have to take on the world and all of its problems, while juggling your blackness and womanhood, and a multitude of other roles.  Being a ‘Black Superwoman’, your world is about doing more, and taking on more.  Feelings of exhaustion, depression, and fatigue are skirted to the side as we prove that we can defy any and all expectations.  The ‘Black Superwoman Syndrome’ has been romanticized over the years and has been seen as a badge of honor that black women wear as they tackle daily life.  The reality, though, is far more serious and not as honorable. 



No one truly knows where the ‘Black Superwoman Syndrome’ was birthed, although it could be traced back to slavery times.  As white, cis-heteropatriarchal imperialism tore African families forced into slavery apart, black women were forced to become the head of the household; in many families, having to be the parent, primary provider, and the one keeping the family unit together.  Even as slavery ended, the societal attack on African-Americans.  Many African-American men were left with deep emotional, physical, and mental scars and wounds that left many women forced to not only continue to be the rock of the family, but also an anchor, support, and nurturer for the Adult black men.  Generations of black women were forced to step up; regardless their own emotional, physical, and mental scars.


In the present-day, unfortunately, black women are still being pushed into the anchor role of African-Americans; as mother, lover, wife, and black freedom-fighter and activist, among many other roles.  


Because of race and gender and the societal institutions of racism and sexism, black women are already at a disadvantage.  Black women already have to work at least twice as hard as a white man, and if we are to add any other identities that black women can possess, including skin color, sexuality, gender expression, class, educational status, weight, health, and ability, the intersectionality of black women’s makes the simplest, most basic rights of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ that much harder.  


Even with those struggles and challenges, black women are pushed to not speak to it or voice how the challenges affect them.  We are coaxed to smile, proclaim our super-human strength, and push on; taking on more on our shoulders.  As a black woman, you can’t be tired, drained, or depressed, because it’s ‘too much to do’.  Black women are expected to put on a great face, and have pride as they carry the weight of the world on their shoulder.  


Sadly, this ‘Black Superwoman Syndrome’ is hurting, and even killing our black women.  Even in this day and age, where social media has shown a light on the importance of mental health within the black community, it is still a taboo topic.  Being African-American, black women are more than 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems.  

Many still will not draw the correlation of being stressed, burned out, and depressed to serious mental and physical medical conditions.  While #MelaninMagicand the youthful #blackgirlmagicmay keep black women looking youthful, the reality is that stress can accelerate their bodies.  Black women, between 45 to 55, have been observed to be “biologically 7.5 years older” than white women the same age.  (Joiner, 2013)


How do black women fight this ‘Black Superwoman Syndrome’?


1.    Speak up

The first step is to speak up, and speak out.  Be open and vocal about their struggles and what they’re going through.  We as black women have been conditioned to keep our mouth closed and that is not true.  In speaking up, you will not only get the support that you need, but you will also know that you are not alone. 


2.    Self-care

One of the easiest ways to combat and keep the ‘Black Superwoman Sydrome’ at bay is to engage in self-care.  Self-care is different for everyone.  Self-care can be taking a lavish vacation and pampering yourself at a spa, but it can also be taking a nap, reading a book, or listening to music.  Do what makes you feel good.  


3.    Get professional help

You are not an island, and sometimes you need to seek help outside of yourself.  Getting professional help is, for many, the best way to cope and deal.  While, yes, your friends are a good support system to have, speaking with a mental health professional can be what is truly needed, as they are someone you can confide in, and have been trained to be able to provide guidance and direction.  


And as I look at my trusty Superwoman cape while I lie in bed and watch Netflix, I feel relieved that, just for a second, I don’t have to feel the weight on my shoulders.  


Works Cited

Joiner, L. L. (2013). Black Women and Health: Extreme Stress Causes Accelerated Biological Aging. Retrieved from The Root: https://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/11/black_women_and_health_extreme_stress_causes_accelerated_biological_aging.html