Hailing from Philadelphia by way of Plainfield NJ, Sandi spent many years as a 911 paramedic. After being critically injured in a devastating accident, she still longed to heal others. Author of the best selling book “Broken Pieces: The Rebuilding of a Sista (#DearSistaGirl book#1)”, Sandi Marcella has dedicated her life to empowering women and guiding them through the process of healing past traumas and breaking generational curses.
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Can we discuss the dynamics that cause women to verbally destroy other women simply for being human? Can we PLEASE talk about how women came out of the woodwork to laugh at and drag Cardi B. for doing what was right for her!! Come on, let’s unpack this.
The level of cattiness surrounding Cardi’s decision to divorce her husband was damn near unparalleled. She gave her heart to a man she loved. He cheated and she gave him another chance. When he proved to be unable to keep it in his pants, Cardi chose her peace of mind and that of her child’s by walking away. So, why did women across the country rise up to vilify her? Why the disdain? Why, oh why all the judgments? “If she had cooked and cleaned he wouldn’t have cheated. If she was a better wife and not a former stripper he would have stayed home. If she would have xyz then he wouldn’t need to cheat”
WHY Y’ALL?? Well, let me offer a few reasons why so many fangs came out in defense of the cheater and not the victim. Could it be that women saw in Cardi what they themselves wish they had? Could it be that the truth Cardi spoke contradicted the lies these women lived? I wanted to take each woman, sit her down and ask “Sis, who hurt you?” because that type of vitriol is borne out of pain.
It’s extremely difficult for women to see themselves in another woman’s situation when that woman chooses peace and they have not. It’s easier to place blame than it is to heal their pain. It’s easier to claim they found a way to keep their man from cheating than it is for them to face their own mans infidelity. But you know, people in glass houses…right?
Make no mistake, the women screaming “you should’ve done this and that” are the same ones who go through their mans’ phone while he’s asleep or in the shower. They are the same ones finding their man sent dick pics to random chicks. They are the same ones sitting home mad asf because he supposedly had to work late but he’s not answering his office phone. They are the same ones popping up on his job to make sure he’s actually there. They are the same ones stressing because yet another chick called her saying she’s pregnant by her man.
When Cardi said “no more” and filed for divorce, she triggered thousands of women who secretly wish they had the courage to do the same. Thousands of women who are stuck in the turmoil of their man saying he loves them yet cheats every chance he gets. Blaming the victim for being victimized is a trauma response Sis. Spitting hatred at the one who’s hurting is a trauma response Sis. Blaming another woman for a man’s ashy behavior is misogynistic Sis!!
How did women get here? How did women forget that sisters need each other? How did women forget that Sisterhood is powerful? How did women end up equating being in a relationship with societal validation? How did women get to the place where they believe struggle love is preferred over affirming relationships? How do women end up choosing drama and chaos over peace? I’ll tell you how; years upon years of unhealed pain. Years upon years of unrecognized and internalized trauma has caused women to turn on their sisters when they need each other the most. However, until they face what’s truly going on in their lives they will continue to project their issues onto others continuing the cycle.
What did Shakespeare write? “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”…yeah, that part.
Why don’t we cry in public? Why do we, as Black women, feel that we can only express our emotions in solitude? Why is it that our only safe space? Well, the answer depends on the woman and her personal experiences. However, the answers all tend to be rooted in similar childhood experiences.
In the majority of households of color we heard things like:
“Don’t you dare cry!”
“Fix your face before I fix it for you!”
“If you cry I’ll give you something to cry about!”
“Don’t let one single tear fall from your eyes!”
“Close your mouth!”
“Whose doors are you slamming?”
“You mad now? You better get over it.”
“Why are you mad? You don’t pay any bills around here!”
We were brought up to stifle our emotions. From childhood, we are taught to suppress our tears and we learned the lesson that crying shows weakness. We are taught that any emotion other than joy should be kept to ourselves. This way of thinking is problematic and fosters shame and self-denial. Each is unhealthy in its own right, but severely detrimental when combined for generation after generation. Our enslaved ancestors were beaten until their backs were raw, yet they didn’t cry out for fear of increased retribution. Our mothers and aunties stifled their cries so they wouldn’t be next. The children who were a witness to such horrific acts of brutality, and oftentimes the victim themselves, were told to be brave and show no signs of weakness. Those days are over (well, kind of over but that’s an article for another day) but the suppression of our emotions continues to be the only way of life for far too many of us.
Today, in the Black community, crying in public is still seen as a taboo. It is seen as unacceptable. As Black women, we have to hide in order to find a safe space where we can shed our emotions without judgment. In bed alone. In our mirrors. In the car. In the shower. It is while we are alone that we find solace in our tears. It is there that we give ourselves permission to be weak, fallible, sad, or angry. It is there that we give ourselves permission to have the wide range of emotions indicative of the human spirit. Here, it’s ok to be human. Here, alone with our thoughts, it’s acceptable to be who we are. However, there is a high price to pay for the suppression of our emotions. Living life in such a way that it diminishes who we are for the sake of what others may think is detrimental to say the very least.
As Black women we are subject to a double standard that isn’t applicable to other women. We aren’t afforded the luxury of being seen as competitors in business; rather, we are seen as emotionally unstable and we are labeled as such. Despite those labels, we have more power than we give ourselves credit for. Moreover, those who label us as such, see our power as well and do all they can to prevent us from realizing it. When we are assertive, they call us aggressive. When we are truthful, we are labeled as difficult. When we lead effectively, we are labeled as bossy. When we cry, we are labeled as weak and ineffective. When we demand answers, we are said to be “too much.” The most disheartening label that has been stitched into our collective psyches is given when we stand up for ourselves and speak our minds. It’s then that we are called an “angry Black woman.” Whereas these labels may seem irksome, remember that the people who label us do so in an attempt to diminish our power.
I’m here to tell you, fuck that and fuck them. No, for real; there is no mandate that says we must conform to the box others insist on placing us in. How many times have you had to hide your emotions because you didn’t want to seem weak? How many times have you changed what you were going to say solely because you were worried what someone would think of you? How many times have you needed to break yourself into bite-sized pieces just so someone else could feel whole? Even if your answer is “only once”, that was one time too many. It’s high time that we reclaim and embrace who we are and how we must handle our business. Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business. That is their issue and, as such, it should rest on their shoulders. What becomes of a pressure cooker when the release valve is glued shut? What happens when you shake up a bottle of carbonated drink with the top on? Just like the pressure cooker and the closed bottle, suppressed emotions will build up behind the mask you use to hide how you feel. Pent up sadness and anger can and will breed discontentment and resentment.
Let me ask you this: Where do you cry? Where do you feel safe while crying? Where do you vent your anger? Do you wait until nighttime? Do you immediately separate yourself and find a place to safely let it all out? Do you wait until the next day? Or are you among the growing number of women who continually hold it in with the hopes that it will all go away? Many of us refuse to shed a tear even if we are alone. Why is that so? Is it because we have been conditioned to believe that tears, even in solitude, are a weak spot in our armor? We are such believers in the idea of “not letting any cracks show”, that we beat ourselves up at the first sign of what we perceive as weakness. Our internal narrative is abusive and toxic. We are harsh in our attempts to soothe ourselves. Soothing words shouldn’t be abrasive yet we whisper our self-contempt daily: “What’s wrong with me? I’m acting like a baby! Get it together Sis, you can’t let them get to you! Toughen up. Stiff upper lip. Knock it off, you’re better than this!” We swallow our tears, we suck it up and keep it moving. What many of us don’t understand is that regardless of how long it’s been since the triggering event, that emotion is still sitting in our psyche, building and festering. It will keep doing so until a seemingly innocuous incident triggers us, unlocking the emotional floodgates. It’s at that point we are accused of overreacting. Maybe so, but if we give ourselves license to freely express ourselves regardless of the opinions of others, we wouldn’t find ourselves in said position to begin with. Let’s unpack this further.
What would it take for us to ignore the societal restrictions and cry when it’s warranted? What would it take for us to feel safe enough to vent our anger in a healthy manner? What would it mean for us to have the power to express ourselves at will?
Pssst…come a little closer, I have a secret to tell you. You already have the power to express sadness or any of the myriad of emotions we have at any time, anywhere, ever. Don’t let these people fool you into believing that you’re limited in your public interactions. Our emotions are natural. It’s the suppression of them that’s unnatural and unacceptable.
Let’s make an agreement with ourselves that each and every time we need to assert ourselves, or express any emotions, that we do so without pause or reservation. Crying is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, crying is cathartic; it’s healthy. The repression of our emotions is what’s detrimental. Expressing how we feel freely means we are in touch with who we are at our core. Expressing our emotions releases stress. It opens up a pathway between our hearts and our minds. It creates connectedness and allows for clarity in the end.
We as Black women are our most powerful when we give ourselves permission and space to be human in all of our experiences. We have both strengths and weaknesses but it’s when we accept the totality of who we are that we are our most powerful selves. So, how do we handle our interactions with coworkers or colleagues? How can we hold space for ourselves? First, we have to give ourselves permission to be unapologetically authentic. We have to be more concerned with our progress and our own mental health than we are with what anyone else has to say about us. Suppression of our emotions is damaging to our health and our psyche. Changing how we respond to judgmental people in an attempt to placate them, fosters a sense of inadequacy, frustration, and eventually resentment. Their opinion of you is their problem and theirs alone.
In the instances where the person passing judgment is the same person that pays your salary:
But do not back down. Do. Not. Back. Down.
The same strength it takes to soften your words to appease someone is the same energy it takes to say: “I said what I said.” It’s the same energy it takes to reply: “What words did I use that made you uncomfortable and doubt my ability to perform my duties?” Ask this and then wait for an honest answer. Their judgments of you are more a reflection of who they are than anything else. They are not the reflection of who we are, they are only a reflection of who they are, their limited views, and experiences. You are the reflection of their inadequacies and a constant reminder of your superiority. They see our power and they use demeaning labels in an attempt to subjugate, diminish, and belittle us, thereby removing our power.
The strongest defense is to shine brighter. Blind them with your brilliance. Smile with the knowledge that they see what we are capable of and they seek to eliminate it. Again, that’s their problem. Go around them. Go over them. Go through them if you must. No matter how they counter you, just keep at it until they shut up, sit down, and voluntarily move out of your way. You’re better than they are, now I want you to act like it.
#DearSistaGirl; I had a conversation the other day and the subject of self-honesty came up. Being not so honest with ourselves in regards to the relationships we find ourselves struggling in, tends to be overlooked. So let’s unpack this, shall we?
Sis, are you really mad at him, or is he not living up to the fantasy you concocted in your mind about who he is and how he should behave? Can we discuss this fantasy building tendency we have? We need to unpack why we do it and the inevitable emotional fallout it causes. We need to discuss it in order for us to avoid the pitfalls that will always follow.
Oftentimes, we as women tend to tie our self-worth and identities to a relationship. We don’t see ourselves as complete unless we are in a relationship. Many times we see being in a said relationship as a way to validate our existence. Societal pressures play a big part in forming this mindset. Statements like: “What do you mean you don’t have a man yet?”; “Why are you still single”; “No one’s scooped you up yet?”; “Stop being so independent so you can settle down!” Sound familiar? From the time we are young, we begin to dream of the time when we walk down the aisle to get married. We dream up scenarios about the perfect boyfriend. We not only daydream about his looks but we also daydream about how he will treat us, the adventures we’d share, how much money he’d make, and how he will make sure we want for nothing. These teenaged-girl dreams subconsciously follow us into adulthood.
However, what awaits us as we become women are timelines and more intense societal pressures to achieve the perfect career, home, and relationship. We begin to actively seek out ways to accomplish each goal. We have an idea how we’d like our homes to look, so we diligently put our dollars aside and start to look for just the right spot. We decorate it much in the way we had dreamed of. We craft our resumes in such a way that we will land that perfect job so that we can easily finance our lifestyle. We plan everything, every detail of our lives. We even plan our relationships, and this is where we can get stuck if we aren’t careful. We are so accustomed to planning how we want things to be that we forget that we can’t plan how someone else will behave.
When we enter a relationship we have preconceived notions about how things will be. However, we are still influenced by societal pressures for perfection. We expect that our partners will live up to the ideals we’ve had since childhood. We expect that knight in shining armor who will sweep us off our feet. We expect to be showered with gifts and to be spoken to in dulcet tones. We expect that once in a relationship, your partner’s drive and ambition will match or exceed your own. You expect your dreams to come true. But sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes we enter into a relationship with someone based on sexual compatibility, yet we failed to date them long enough to discover if they are:
1. Emotionally available 2. Financially stable 3. Emotionally stable 4. Employed/Self-employed 5. Ready to be in a relationship 6. Intellectually compatible 7. Raised on love or survival
We are so excited to be in love that we fail to discover how they show love. They may profess love with their words but not know how to do so with their actions. So here you are arriving home from a stressful day at work expecting your partner to greet you with a hug, a kiss, and soothing words. But what you find is him sitting on the couch playing his game system where he’s been all day. He looks up for a split second and asks, “What are you going to cook, I’m hungry.” This isn’t the first time or even the second and now you’re mad. Sound familiar?
How about this: For his birthday you bought him a gift that he’d been eyeing for quite some time. He was so hyped that he called his boys to brag about you. Months later, your birthday (or any other gift-giving holiday) rolls around and all he gets you is a card. Now you’re mad, hurt, and feel unappreciated. What is the common denominator in each scenario? Lack of clear communication early in the relationship. It’s not him you’re mad at. You’re mad that he’s not living up to all of the preconceived notions you formed years ago? You’re angry because he didn’t abide by the non-existent conversation you should have had from the beginning. Did you fall in love with who he was or did you fall for who you hoped he’d be? Falling in love with an idea or with potential, as opposed to who he really is, can be disastrous.
Let’s be real, having various in-depth conversations during the dating phase is a crucial step that we often miss. We base an entire relationship on sexual compatibility without even once asking important questions. The answers to these questions could very well be deal-breakers, so skipping this step is a huge mistake. So, what can you do if this is the situation you are currently facing? You can rectify it by having a serious heart to heart/face to face conversation with your love interest. Discuss what’s upsetting you. Talk about what you need from them but also be willing to listen to what they need from you. Be patient when having this conversation. Allow it to flow naturally as opposed to you controlling the narrative so it can move in the direction you hope for. If you two can make compromises and work the kinks out of your relationship, then great. If not, respectfully part ways and chalk it up to a lesson learned. And PLEASE learn the lesson! It’s not good to move on to a new relationship holding the same hidden expectations that ended your previous one.
Take your time dating. Date him for several months until you’ve exhausted your list of questions. Date him for several months to observe how he handles stress, his money, and how he treats the women in his life, among others. Find out if he’s kind-hearted and note if he was raised on love rather than survival. If he was raised on survival, chances are he won’t know how to love you properly and his responses to everyday scenarios will be askew. Your love languages matter, Sis!! Go into a relationship fully informed about who he is and what he is about, as opposed to holding on to the fantasy you want him to fulfill. There’s no rush. Societal pressures will be there whether you jump into a relationship or whether you don’t. But which is better? Getting into a relationship that adds to your joy or one that disrupts your peace? I want you to choose joy. Why? Because you deserve it.