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Unravelling The Toxicity Of Hyper-Independence As A Black Woman

Growing up, I couldn't help but notice how the black women in my life seemed to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders – emotionally, physically and financially. It’s a familiar story for many Black women. There's this unspoken rule of hyper-independence we’re supposed to live up to; the idea that we should reject any form of assistance and adopt this ‘I can do it all by myself’ mentality.

However, rather than reflecting genuine strength and resilience, being hyper independent often indicates a distorted perception and potentially unhealthy mental state, which can lead to several psychological outcomes, including distress, depression and anxiety. For many, this hyper-independence can be perceived as a trauma response, stemming from either personal experiences of shouldering all responsibilities in their household or from witnessing the women in their lives carry the burdens.

Some argue that the reason why Black women may exhibit a level of unhealthy independence stems from the Strong Black Woman (SBW) stereotype that portrays African-heritage women as strong, self-reliant, independent, nurturing, and self-sacrificing. The stereotype has persisted through generations, with roots tracing back to the era of slavery, as Black women in the Americas were compelled to shoulder numerous responsibilities independently due to the violence and separation inflicted upon their husbands or male family members.