Healing unlocks the captive joy within us.

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“You are so happy all the time.”

I understand a lot of people. To this day, my mom shares her memories of me being a happy baby.

But as I entered my 20s, the reality of systemic racism and police brutality slowly began to wipe the smile from my face.

Not much has changed since the Civil Rights Movement. It is 2021 and we are still dealing with traumas like our ancestors endured. They are simply repackaged and delivered to us in a different way.

Despite the intolerance, prejudice, and microaggressions that African Americans have to deal with on a daily basis, we are expected to move forward and not make a big deal out of our complaints.

Sure, we can get some news coverage of protests and political events. Other races may stand with us in solidarity during visible moments of hate, but it’s what happens after the cameras turn off and the crowd leaves that makes the impact.

While everyone else can get on with their lives without a care in the world, we still have to live with the pain.

I eventually came to terms with the fact that this is the world we live in. I can only get the best out of him while he’s here. I knew that I had the choice to spend the rest of my life in misery, or heal myself and continue to choose happiness.

In the end, I chose to regain my happiness.

Black women deserve joy just like everyone else. Getting to that place requires facing our battlefield of emotions. They are often a crossfire between anger and pain.

The unfortunate thing for black women is that the world has magnified our anger more than anything else. As a result, society perpetuates the stereotype that black women are always angry.

Oh yeah. let’s go there

The infamous “angry black woman” stereotype stems from the ignorance of past generations. That officially became a thing in the 19th century in what was a conscious effort to demean black women.

White artists painted their faces and portrayed black people as stereotypical caricatures, including the angry black woman. This stereotype suggests that all black women are bold, hostile, and aggressive.

The history of portraying black women as “angry” in movies, TV shows, and other media has had damaging effects on us over time.

“This trope is dehumanizing, disrespectful and racist. It doesn’t provide black women with the space to express the full spectrum of human emotion,” she says. JaNaé Taylor, PhD, LPCand founder of Taylor Counseling and Consulting Services in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“[This stereotype] It is an unfair assessment of how people can experience a black woman who passionately expresses herself or chooses to disengage from an unhealthy experience.”

Shena Tubbs is a licensed professional counselor and founder of black girls heal.

“I think this stereotype is very damaging to us as a people, because it vilifies Black women’s ability to have feelings that are not docile, subservient and grateful that she exists,” says Tubbs.

White men, and even white women, can express their anger without judgment. When a black woman does it, we are ridiculed instead of celebrated. This form of implicit bias is unfair to black women across the board.

“The ‘angry black woman’ stereotype is weaponized to discredit our voice and intentions in an attempt to reduce it to mere background noise that can and should be ignored,” says Tubbs.

Let’s be clear: as Black women, our anger is justified. We have the right to express our feelings like any other woman. It is not right to be ashamed when we actually express them.

“Being angry is a normal human emotion and, frankly, black women have a lot to be angry about,” she says. Ashley McGirt, MSW. “Masking our emotions and pretending not to feel anger causes more harm than good, as we need to feel all of our emotions and process them in a healthy way so that we can be free to feel something else.”

What society has not realized is that there is more to us than anger.

He used to be very self-conscious about the way he interacted with people of other races. I exaggerated my friendliness in an effort to be less intimidating. I felt like I had to hide who I was so that the people around me would feel comfortable.

Then I realized how ridiculous it was. Some people will find fault with you whether you are “nice” or not. It’s more important to be real.

Black women are not a monolith. We come from different walks of life and are deeply diverse as a people.

We also have our own individual journeys to happiness and healing. It’s not always simple, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone.

“The idea that I can name 5 to 10 steps to healing is harmful and doesn’t take into account our unique and diverse needs as Black women,” says McGirt.

The healing process is as diverse as the people who are healed.

“For some women, identifying, acknowledging, and working toward solutions leads to healing. For some, it will be processing racial trauma and healing the body of somatic experiences. For many it is therapy,” says McGirt.

This process is far from easy. It requires work, support and radical self-compassion. Healing is not a linear process, and it can take years to heal a wound that happened in an instant. When generational trauma is factored in, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

“It seems to me that women get stunted in their healing process not because they are unclear about things that happened in their past, but because there is a part of them that goes into their logical brain and thinks that because it happened years ago, they should get over it,” says Tubbs.

“The truth is that you can feel as much pain now for something that happened to you 30 or 40 years ago as the day it happened. You can’t heal wounds if you act like they’re not there.”

When we heal, it unlocks all the joy that is captive within us. Preserving that joy also requires effort.

“Joy in these times requires the full exercise of radical self-care,” says Taylor.

get therapy

The main goal of self-care is to maintain mental, physical, and spiritual balance in your daily life. Talking with a licensed psychotherapist can be an effective way to manage your mental health.

The black community has been known to avoid therapy for a multitude of reasons. Considering that I used to be included in that group, I can definitely understand why.

“The therapy space has been home to some pretty scary and discriminatory practices for black women and other BIPOC communities,” says McGirt.

I personally have trust issues, so at first I wasn’t too excited about seeking therapy.

What I will say is that it is better to find a safe place to land when you go this route. By that, I mean finding a black therapist who knows firsthand the plight of black women.

Love yourself

Don’t let society’s views of black women fool you into thinking you’re not beautiful or unworthy of love.

True love begins with self love. You must learn to love the skin you are in while accepting every flaw and imperfection.

I also recommend finding Black role models, influencers, and content that portrays Black women in a positive light.

“It is important to find things that connect you with yourself. Those can be movies that make you feel good about being a black woman. It can be music or talking with friends.” Brittany A. Johnson, LMHC.

Loving yourself also means treating yourself. It’s okay to splurge a little once in a while.

“Black women deserve everything the roses. Give yourself permission to enjoy all the luxury your heart can hold. Luxury can certainly include expensive labeled items,” says Taylor.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to take care of yourself. But if you can and want to, there is nothing wrong with that.

protect your peace

You have every right to choose who you will and will not allow into your life.

I am a socially selective person by nature. In other words, I am cautious about who I let into my space. This contributes to my happiness and tranquility.

“Make use of your boundaries and cut out people, places, and things that don’t feel right to you or you,” says Taylor. “Protecting your peace means maintaining a healthy environment for growth and also taking care of your mood.”

One thing I love is the fact that more Black women are cultivating safe spaces where other Black women can find community, feel comfortable being themselves, and work together toward a common goal. black girls heal is one example of many.

I encourage you to find a tribe that not only suits your interests, but also helps you grow mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Laugh to not cry

Happiness requires having a sense of humor. They say that laughter is good for the soul and I honestly couldn’t agree more.

Try not to take yourself so seriously. Learn to ignore things when they are not that deep.

Read happy books. Watch funny movies and TV shows. When you get a chance to laugh a little, take the opportunity.

To meditate

I start my day with prayer and devotion to lift my spirits and get my mind on the right track. From a personal point of view, this changes the course of my day. I feel so much more at ease after checking this off my morning to-do list.

You can also take short breaks throughout the day to pause and realign your focus. I do this while listening to meditation music in apps like Calm.

newspaper

Your thoughts are like water. You can’t contain them all. If you try, you will eventually explode. I highly recommend making a habit of journaling. Writing can be therapeutic and support the healing process.

Start documenting the chapters of your life so you can have memories of the progress you’ve made over the years.

Who knows? Years later, you may want to write a book and share your story with the world.

I am a living testimony that you can find joy as a black woman in a racially unjust world. Being happy, healthy and complete is a daily effort.

Just know this: it is possible, and you deserve it.


Johnaé De Felicis is a writer, drifter, and wellness junkie from California. It covers a variety of topics that are relevant to the health and wellness space, from mental health to natural living.