The topic of black mother-daughter relationships is one that I’ve held off for a while now. Black women face an enormous amount of social criticism whether it be in politics, social media, or from within their own community.
The need to protect and uplift black women is crucial. The need to help with the issues black women face are critical. But I’ve realized that can never be really done without first identifying what those issues are.
Mother daughter relationships are extremely powerful. It has been only within the last three years have I’ve began to uncover and analyze the emotional impact of not just my own relationship but the relationship between mothers two generations prior to that.
The relationship that we have with our mothers–as well as our fathers–translates into so many areas of our adulthood, it’s insane.
These relationships impacts our self-image, our emotional well-being, our romantic attachment styles, and our abilities to relate to other.
The trauma that surrounds an emotional unhealthy or toxic relationship is one that stealthily eats at our confidence, self view, and ultimately the way we view our lives, if it goes unaddressed.
However, there are many factors that we as a black community have to struggle with that stops us from examining and healing our own traumas that hinders the growth of a new generation.
There are way too many narratives that cloak the realities of pain that we as black people and especially black women face.
When we are children we all need a certain level of healthy emotional support and connection to develop healthy ties and emotional boundaries in our adult life.
However, in certain parts of black culture being open and vulnerable is often something that is not taught. This is due to the fact, that they have never been taught themselves, whether it’s because emotional expression wasn’t encouraged by their own parents or their parents weren’t available to have this level of support in their own childhoods.
Those our grandparents and great-grandparents lives that are plagued with feelings of invalidation from childhood and into adulthood.
When I think of what they were not able to examine or express, I think if the levels of self-hate and lack of self-love that was denied to them. That makes my heart break.
In homes that don’t have healthy emotional encouragement, there is seldom expression of emotion that isn’t met with some form of dismissal or invalidation for feeling the emotion in the first place. A home may feel cold or full of tension. There may be feelings of walking on eggshells to not disturb any kind of peace or feeling scared of your mother.
Other times parents can be overly-critical due to stress factors in their adult lives but this does not give the excuse for parents to demean, insult, control, and belittle their child for these reasons.
Of course, no parent is perfect but is in these moments where being emotionally open and apologizing for mistakes is a good place for children to see that their parents are capable of making mistakes and this forges deeper trust.
If your parent never apologizes or never takes accountability for the pain they caused, this can be seriously damaging to your self-worth and validation. Having a parent seldom apologize to you can make you feel as though your feelings, and who you are as a person can be disrespected without any consequence.
This can transcend into your own boundaries and can mirror what kind of people and relationships you allow in your life.
In a time where there is so much criticism for black women, when black women find themselves in such a world that doesn’t support them on many layers is crushing. When we are not supported fully in social, political, or even communal spaces, it reaffirms an already harsh inner critical when struggling with emotional abuse or neglect.
You are worthless, not good enough, and not valuable in any capacity.
When the black community faces so many structural issues, it can be overwhelming to face those issues on top of having little emotional support. If you’re an educated black women with this type of emotional support, it can be extremely overwhelming to be cognizant of these elements and feeling subjected the pain of these conditions.
To be aware of the oppression that you are up against, even though you may not be facing it every moment, can be hard to become a fortress for yourself when you feel like you don’t have the same familial support.
It can be also another layer when you don’t have the backing of those who share your blood. It can feel like a deep sense of betrayal and may send you questioning your worth. It is hard to know and understand that your relationship with your mother can be unhealthy
With black women facing abuse within their workplace, in school, and within their community it is unimaginable how a black women maintains a healthy relationship with herself if it doesn’t begin at home.
The reality that we never got the care we needed as adults can be crushing. It at times can be all consuming, it can ignite a lot of anger and resentment as well. Take the time to acknowledge these feelings but try not to make them your life story. There is hope and you’re not alone. Being an adult or even young adult, now is the time to turn this opportunity around. You have the power now. You have all the capability to give yourself the nurturing and emotional power that you deserve.
No man is an island. Finding validation to your experience is crucial. Emotionally unhealthy or stable relationships are often unrecognized by society and often not taken seriously. There is nothing more hindering to healing if your story isn’t validated. If you don’t get the emotional support from your mother try and find other family members to support you. If you don’t have much family to turn to, leaning on friends for support is also key.
2. Be responsible for your own emotinos
This can be tricky and all of us struggle with this as well. Learning how to handle your own emotions is hard when you didn’t have a role model. But it is possible. Know that you are responsible for you and that now means you are captain of your own ship and now can make your own life choices.
That does mean you are now responsible for your own emotional well being. Start learning how to pick yourself up when you are down. How to calm yourself down when you are angry. What makes you scared? What makes you angry? This can become an exciting endeavor in learning how to be your own friend and have that be enough.
Although this task is a new uncharted territory, i is okay to grieve and have anger for the things you lacked in your childhood. There is always room for that but moving forward, acknowledging that your life does not start and end there. You are whole. You are valued. Your life story up to this point isn’t your whole story. And a new one is unfolding.
3. Seek therapy.
It is often hard to find a good therapist. Let alone one that acknowledges the mental impact race may carry for young black women. It is important to find a therapist that challenges you on your own personal goals but doesn’t invalidate or take lightly to your experiences. If you find a therapist that specializes in trauma or childhood trauma this is a good route to start in.
The journey to overcome this is one that is not for the faint of heart. Congratulate yourself on taking a step to healing that many never take.