A User’s Guide to Inadequate Women’s Syndrome

In our culture of categorization, there’s no shortage of diagnoses offered to a myriad of situations.  We’ve read about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, Battered Women’s Syndrome, and even Munchausen and Stockholm Syndromes.  I’m here to drop science on a new one: Inadequate Women’s Syndrome, or IWS for short.  This bullshit has tried to claim me as a victim.  I work. I mother. I drop off. I pick up.  I purchase. I mail. I arrange. I tidy. I sort. I write. I laugh. I lie. I sign. I meet. I groom. I read. I report.  I nurse. I fry, sear, simmer, scramble, stir, and strain.  This all, generally before 6 p.m.  I then move on to the demands of the evening: homework, laundry, the few friendships I’ve been able to maintain.  And the events, causes, campaigns, and headlines that keep me connected to the world around me.  This pool will never drain, people.  Nor should it.  There will always be more work, needs, tasks, terrors, surprises, and sales than one superwoman can handle.  And our pasts, as well as our present, feed us the lie that we must complete the list, cook the dinner, host the party, aspire to the promotion, attend the mixer, read the story, master the smoky eye, and of course, either snag, keep, and/or please your partner.


Yes, really.

And the tragic part is we believe it.  We believe it, we chase it, and we literally get sick over it. Every day replaces the last as the stuff you didn’t get to.  Each project is completed only to begin planning the next. You are dumping your energy in a bottomless well.  The goal is never fulfilled.  There’s an ache, albeit dull and quite possibly tolerable, but something ain’t right.  These are the symptoms of IWS.  Feelings of inadequacy robbing you of the ability to treasure, celebrate, and more importantly, sit your gorgeous ass down and soak up your swag.

In the words of MC Lyte: Naw, I’m not havin’ it.

Here’s a little diddy that is the double-edged sword of empowerment vs. self-imposed neuroses:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE Chaka.  This is a classic female anthem.  But we take it too damn far. I am SO not every woman.  And it most definitely is NOT all in me.

To chip away at the stinky, smelly, stubborn, veil of inadequacy, I’m devoting the next month to strategies to overcome IWS.  We will look to cause, character and community to fight back and re-claim the joy of our everyday lives.   I solicit your engagement and your input.  I don’t claim expertise, but I do commit to passion and persistence.

My lovelies, as I alluded in Healing: Part 2, our best is the mutha f@c$in’ bomb.  However, our definition of best is where we get caught up in the game.  The fault lines in our hearts become filled with the doubt and self-destructive goo that fuel the fire of inadequacy.  I know so many women who are unconvinced of their successes.  They almost chronically refuse to celebrate themselves.

Brown Betty ain’t havin’ it.

We are flippin’ that shit.  Finna do it on ‘em.

Here are some teasers on inadequacy (and the havoc it wreaks) that run the gamut from funny to spiritual.  Chew on ‘em for a spell, and join me for a ride I hope will help you destroy IWS forever.


The Curse of the Strong Black Woman

“I’m a strong Black women.”

How many of us have said this, heard this, celebrated this affirmation of perseverance and independence?  I would venture to say we would be hard pressed to find a popular Black film, TV show, novel–drama or comedy— girls’ night conversation, that does not espouse this strength of Black women as a core component of our identity.  To this I say, you’re damn straight.  I’m strong.  Black women as a collective represent a commanding level of strength in the historical, political, social, economic, and spiritual growth of this country.  However, this strength has come, and continues to come, at a great cost.  It is estimated that the depression rate of Black women is almost 50% higher than that of White women.  While data in these reports can be limited and questionable, it begs the question:  Does our resilience, our culture of keep on keepin’ on, contribute to our own demise?  The tendency to minimize our needs, ignore or suppress symptoms, our continuous, sometimes chronic focus on others, has resulted in a breakdown in self-awareness; one that has taken its toll on our mental and physical health.

I’m the first one to admit that I am guilty of this self-denial.  I have always prided myself on pouring into others.  However, the downward spiral and subsequent dissolution of my marriage triggered some critical tipping points in my overall health and wellness.  In my heart, I knew I had suffered from depression since adolescence.  However, I had no mechanism or incentive to bring these concerns forward to my mother.  This is not to say my mother didn’t love or care for me. She absolutely did.  However, unseen issues of health, those of the heart and mind, were not talked about.  And even if they were, they were glossed over, dismissed as a mood swing, something I needed to get over.  I took this paradigm into my adulthood, and unfortunately, it remains a norm in our communities of women (of every color).

When my divorce began to impede my daily life (work, parenting, relationships) I was fortunate enough to have fellow sisters in my life that mandated the acknowledgement of my needs.  I fought it.  Boy, did I fight it.  However, my weariness outweighed my stubbornness.  And my desire to disrupt this cycle of denial in my household necessitated a change.  So I did.  I sought therapy.  I took medication.  But more importantly, I spoke.  I said it out loud.  I gave voice to my needs, my pain, and my confusion.  I looked that stereotype of independence and strength in the face and I said, “No.”

Yes, I’m better now both physically and mentally.  However I am still hesitant to share my experience in unfamiliar company for fear of judgment, specifically from other women.  But I resist it, as I am committed to helping model the kind of self-care strategies I believe we have a right to claim.  Yes, prayer is powerful.  Yes, we need to take responsibility for bad decisions.  And yes, sometimes we bring pain and disappointment on to ourselves.  But that, my sisters, is not an environment that cultivates healing.  Our ancestors shared space, story, joy, and pain, to sustain their livelihood.  Let us look back, learn from them, and re-institute safe spaces for our sisters to ask for help.  Never judging, always loving.

QUESTION:  What keeps you from reaching out for help?