African-Americans in this country have always dealt with, and overcome hardships. Whether it be the hundreds of years of slavery, the decades of fighting for civil rights, or the modern-day oppression we experience in our personal and professional lives, Black people have always found a way to turn their setbacks into setups for a bright and prosperous future.
However, while we can be credited for many of the greatest parts of modern culture, we often fail to recognize how our hardships have affected our physical, mental, and emotional health as individuals and families. It has become the norm for us to ignore “signs of weakness” and uphold this narrative of a strong Black man or woman. While this seems like no big deal in your own personal life, this can and has become detrimental to the advancement of Black people when passed from generation to generation. However, in 2022 and beyond, we are going to address and break these common generational cycles so that every generation after us is closer to positive health in all aspects.
To help you get started, here are three generational cycles you and your family can begin to overcome in 2022.
1. Refusing to Ask for Help
Like all generational cycles, they did not just appear out of nowhere. They each have a history and justification behind them. More specifically, when it comes to asking for help, Black people were never made to believe that others would help them. We have become accustomed to being hurt by non-Black people and having to fight for our place so much in this country that what was once a means of defense and growth, has now become a limitation.
When we refuse to ask for help, we are stripping ourselves of our basic human need for relationships and assistance and holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations. In some cases, we will even risk slowing down any personal or professional growth just to handle a situation ourselves. But this perpetuates so many false narratives that affect us the most. We start to believe that we can’t trust anyone, we don’t need platonic or romantic relationships, or that we don’t have the right to experience the rollercoaster that is basic human emotions.
Each of these narratives not only affects how we operate, but they impact how others see us as well. If we communicate that we don’t need anything or anyone, others will stop offering help in dire situations. Of course, there are a number of other discriminatory reasons why we are not given assistance in comparison to other races. However, if we want to help the issue, we have to begin to push the narrative that we, like all other humans, need help.
So, to get yourself used to asking for help, you have a couple of options. You can first try offering your emotions. If asking is the uncomfortable part for you right now, that’s no problem. Lay out your stressors to people you trust. It can be as simple as telling your spouse, “It frustrates me when I have to do the laundry and dishes as soon as I come home from work.” You never had to ask and when communicating this to someone you love, it is often met with an action that solves your problem. As you get more comfortable communicating your stress, you can begin to ask for small things that would assist you in your personal life. Before you know it, you will feel comfortable even asking for help in bigger parts of your personal and professional life.
The more you begin to offer up your needs and ask for help, the more you will see its benefits and how many opportunities can be released to you when you do so.
2. “Mental Health is for White People”
Let’s start by establishing that this idea, “mental health is for white people” is wrong. Mental health is for everyone because we all deal with our own personal struggles that impact the way we think. However, like our hesitancy to ask for help, this false idea has an origin as well.
For most of American history, mental health was not a resource that was available to Black people and some would even argue that oppressed African-Americans had “bigger fish to fry.” During slavery and civil rights, Black people spent most of their time trying to survive rather than picking apart their mental state. But even when slavery was abolished and the civil rights movement was over, we were still seen as being at the bottom of society so there was no effort to advance us as people, let alone our mental health.
Even though our mental state wasn’t a priority in this country, we have to make it a priority within ourselves. As individuals, African-Americans have their own trauma and stressors to address but additionally, we still subconsciously deal with