I'm a Strong Independent Woman, Right?
This mantra originated as a meme online around 2011 and has variations such as, “I’m a strong black woman who don’t need no man.” It went viral quickly and empowered women to view themselves as strong, independent women physically, emotionally and mentally. Even eight years later I still find myself telling myself i’m a strong, independent woman when I doubt myself.
But this uplifting mantra has a downside… It can make you feel invincible. Not in the sense that I think I can stand in the middle of a busy street and not get hit by a car- I’m not delusional here- but couple this mantra with being twenty-three and already feeling like an ‘adult’ who knows it all and is going to be wildly successful, and you get me last July. Cue the lyrics, “nobody likes you when you’re 23,” because I was tough to deal with last summer.
Necessary context clues: my grandmother had passed away in May; my great grandmother had passed away mid July; I was moving from my apartment where I lived alone to a house with two other young females. I was experiencing major life changes, trying to cope with my losses, moving all my belongings for the sixth year in a row, and was trying to be the glue in my family now that my grandmother was gone.
Typically my mom and stepdad, Trent, help me move every year along with my grandfather, Pawpaw. That was plan until my mom and I got in a fight while trying to help sort through my grandmother’s belongings in June. Due to us both being hurt and stubborn, neither one of us wanted to apologize so we didn’t. And I was a strong, independent woman who didn’t need anyone, right? I figured Pawpaw and I could handle all the moving ourselves.
To help with this process, my dad and I came down earlier that week and packed up a bunch of items I knew I wouldn’t need in my house because my two roommates already had living room furniture, dining room furniture and a fully equipped kitchen. On the weekend, Pawpaw and I came down to move my bedroom furniture and clothes to my new place. Mind you, my mom had offered to help at least two times but my stubborn, strong, independent self said no. I wanted an apology before I’d accept her help.
It didn’t seem like that bad of an idea, but had I ever physically moved furniture, lift boxes, lug suitcases around full of clothes for six + hours? No. Not to mention, I hadn’t been working out regularly prior to this like I had in the past. I was physically unprepared to handle all this.
As the day went on my back kept hurting and getting worse but I chalked it up to being out of shape and weak. I didn’t think that much of it because we had to move all my stuff. There was a deadline and I am just stubborn enough to push through the pain.
Luckily, I had a friend who could come and help PawPaw move the sleeper sofa because otherwise that was going to be a gift to the new tenants of my apartment. Do you know how heavy sleeper sofas are? Too heavy. Anyone who knows the future me- please talk me out of owning another sleeper sofa.
After calling it quits due to my back hurting so badly I could barely walk, I figured I could sleep off the pain. However, I woke up in more pain than I had been in the day before. I knew something was really wrong. I consulted another grandfather who is a physical therapist and discovered I had strained a joint in my spine. Ouch.
And then I cried. Not because I was injured, but because I let myself think I was invincible; I was above accepting help; I was so stubborn that I caused myself to get injured and would have to spend a lot of time doing physical therapy to get back to a healthy state. My pride and ego clouded my judgement, and that wasn’t the person my grandmother or great grandmother had raised me to be. I was letting myself down and abandoning who I was and who I strive to be all because I didn’t want to apologize first.
Don’t get me wrong, I still see myself as a strong independent woman but everyone needs help at some point. And asking for help doesn’t make you weak. Asking someone who you feel has wronged you doesn’t make you weak either; forgiving someone and asking for their help takes so much energy, effort and strength. Ignoring them and being mean/rude/distant is the easy route. I think holding on to your pride, and harboring negative feelings towards others, takes away from your independence. You allow these people you’re mad at to affect your emotions, your actions and your thoughts.
Learn from my mistake- if someone wants to help you when they have nothing to gain, they are offering their help as a way to apologize aside from saying the words, “I’m sorry.” If you physically can’t perform a task like moving for more than six hours, ask friends and family for help. If they say no then they say no but if they say yes you can potentially avoid injuring yourself in ridiculous ways like straining a joint in your spine.
And lastly, if it feels like your whole life is spiraling down and the world is out to get you, I promise it’s not. In the moments you want to curl up and disappear is when you need to reach out to talk to a friend, family member, or professional about your feelings because the world is not out to get you. Those who care about you want the best for you and the phone works both ways (meaning sometimes they don’t reach out because your loved ones might be going through a tough time too and don’t want to reach out to others for the same reasons you don’t want to reach out). We’re all in this thing called life together and the best way to get through it is together. Shout out to just a few of the amazing people in my life who have helped me get this far.
Lex Be Real… I’m a strong, independent woman, but need a lot more workouts (and friends to help) before I’m ready to move all my belongings again.
PS. For those curious, my mom and I are doing just fine. We both apologized and are in a healthy place in our relationship! Like every mother and daughter we have ups and downs and silly arguments.