Why Molly and every other Black woman should stop being everyone’s superwoman
OPINION: We’re so used to playing superwoman, we don’t even notice when we’re doing it.
Molly showed up on Sunday’s episode of Insecure with that Olivia Pope energy.
That, “it’s handled” energy.
That ‘come hell or high water,’ it’s gonna get done type of energy.
Kerry Washington not only directed Sunday’s emotional episode, but she brought all the Black superwoman vibes with her. We’ve come to glorify this Black superwoman archetype. The type of woman who flawlessly bats down every obstacle in her path without blinking an eye or taking a break. Nothing is too much for her. Her value is in her competency (or so she’s been led to believe).
Being this kind of superwoman has become an unspoken goal for many of us. We wear it like a badge of honor. We aspire to achieve it. We break ourselves for it. We ‘yaaasss sis’ this woman when we see her in the streets. And we shove ourselves into the closest mold to perfection trying to be her ourselves.
We’re so used to playing superwoman, we don’t even notice when we’re doing it. But what was interesting about this episode was that we got to see through Molly a little more clearly how this superwoman role doesn’t always serve us.
“I’m straight.” — “I can deal with it.” — “I’ll handle it.” — all direct quotes from Molly during Sunday’s episode. She spent the entire episode trying to be everything for everyone while being none of that for herself. Her mother is in a coma. She has the right to have a moment for herself.
But too often as Black women, we feel like we don’t have the ability to have those moments for ourselves. We have these standards of excellence, and so many times, instead of waiting for others to show up, we start taking care of things ourselves. We forge ahead. Because we sometimes feel like if we don’t do it, no one else will.
But is this healthy? (Easy answer, no.)
Is it sustainable? (Easy answer, no.)
Then why do we continue to do it? (Not-so-easy answer, trauma? Learned behavior? Necessity?)
Maybe as Black women, we’re so used to people trying to find something wrong with us and picking us apart that we grab hold tightly to the one thing we can control—our output? Does that become a building block to our self-esteem? Are we deep down telling ourselves that no matter what anyone tries to say about us, they will not say we don’t handle our business!
Or is it learned behavior? Passed down from the women before us who did not have the luxury of resting when their sons, brothers, and husbands were being tortured, killed, and captured? When they themselves had to take care of business for fear of the same for themselves or their daughters?
I’m unsure of what the source is, but this practice has got to stop, or it’s gonna wear us thin.
We have to stop playing into the superwoman syndrome. Our worth is not tied up in how many balls we can juggle at once or what we can do for other people. We need to step back and allow ourselves the opportunity to rest and take care of ourselves. That is our right. Our number one job is to take care of ourselves — not to be a mix of Oprah, Claire Huxtable, and Beyoncé all rolled into one.
When Issa showed up at the hospital, she asked Molly, “What do you need?” To which Molly responded, “I’m straight.” Yet homegirl was literally standing half naked in the middle of the waiting room. “Maybe some clothes?” Issa suggested. Clearly, Molly needed something, but her automatic response was that she didn’t need anything. And clothes were just her visible needs. What did she need emotionally? Spiritually? But as women, we are often so trained to think of others’ needs at the expense of our own, that it’s nothing for us to say we’re good when we’re not.
Even more, Molly barely missed a beat with her work deadlines, as if pausing wasn’t an option. She’s going through a personal crisis, but when her co-worker offered help, she sidestepped it. Instead of being real and sharing that she had a family emergency, she’s trying to keep all of her plates spinning at once.
We’ve got to let others see our needs so they can have the opportunity to show up for us as well. We have to stop trying to be everything for everyone. We have to begin requiring that others show up for our needs too.
And I understand that sometimes we are the best suited family member to resolve issues during certain moments of crisis, but during the calmer time periods, we have to begin to require others to prepare themselves to start being there for us like we are for them. We have to be vocal about what we want and need, and ask the people that we know love us to step up to the plate. Like Issa did.
What’s so beautiful about the support that Issa gave during this episode is that Molly didn’t have to ask, she just showed up. But for some people it won’t be that easy, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t care. It just means that we have to be clear and direct with them about what we need. We have to take decisive actions to pull back — sometimes letting the balls drop — so that others can realize that, yes, they too have the ability to help keep some of these balls up in the air. We are not the only ones capable of stepping up to the plate. Sometimes we have to step back and let others learn how to fill in the gaps on their own.
Because at the end of the day, we can either be all things to everyone else, or we can be all the things we need for ourselves.
But unless we are the fictional, only-born child of the infamous Papa Pope, we can’t be both.
Kamaria is an attorney, poet, writer, and lover of all things created #ForTheCulture. She runs a blog, ‘Words of My Mother,’ has lived all over the DMV (heavy on the V), and enjoys skating, debating, and car karaoke. (Because, why not?!) She can be reached on Twitter at @like_tha_moon.