Self-preservation is a behavior that ensures the survival of an organism.
Like the girl group Destiny’s Child once sang, “I’m a survivor, I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to stop. I’m going to work harder. I’m a survivor, I’m going to make it. I will survive and keep on surviving.” Or like Gloria Gaynor sang it in1978, “I will survive. I will survive. Hey Hey!”
Black women have been self-preserving since the beginning of time.
The skeleton of Lucy are the oldest bones ever found. Scientifically speaking, her existence dates back to 3.2 million years ago. Lucy is not just the oldest woman on record, but she is also a Black woman and evidence of our innate ability to self-preserve. Like Robin Harris notated in the film Bebe’s Kids, “we don’t die. we multiply.”
In America alone, African Americans are a community of 42 million people strong predominantly descending from 450,000 chattel slaves transported during the transatlantic slave trade. Even when we were in bondage, raped, and degraded to a level as low as 3/5ths human, Black women put their emotions and feelings of worthlessness aside to still love their spouses and offspring for the purpose of community and self-preservation. But is surviving enough? Is being magical with limited resources enough? Should we continue to put aside how we feel for the betterment of the whole? What will it take for us to move past being strong survivors to happy and fulfilled? How can we as Black women not only survive but thrive?
This is #BlackGirlMagic Defined (Pt. 3): Surviving Vs. Thriving And The Happy Black Woman.
In our heart of hearts, Black women are givers. We give all we have to those we love, and when we have nothing left to give we find a way to make some more. Then, we give that away too. This is #Blackgirlmagic defined at its best! Black women are selfless beings. We find joy in giving all our love to our husbands, partners, children, families, and friends. But who loves us and gives to us? It seems as if all we have done is survived, we have not as a whole progressed, evolved, or thrived. How do we preserve our own wellbeing too?
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
– Maya Angelou
According to Merriam-Webster, to thrive means to grow or develop well. To thrive is to prosper and flourish. It is not enough to wake-up every day, to eat, to maintain a roof over ones head, to put clothes on one’s back, to work, and to have energy to love others. This is just surviving. These are the basics. To thrive is to do all of the above and enjoy your life and the company you keep while doing so. Are we thriving as Black women?
I know that we are working hard. I know that we are paying bills. I know that we are independent goal achievers and/or multi-tasking lover mothers, but are we happy? I took a poll amongst friends while researching for this piece. How would you describe #Blackgirlmagic?
Strong, resilient, beautiful, smart, sexy, bold, audacious, ambitious, God-fearing or loving, these were the words that came up repeatedly. What’s missing? Happy, excited, adventurous, joyful, fun, funny, no one mentioned these words.
I’d like to end this three-part series with a call-to-action. We know that we can survive. We know that we can overcome any obstacle put in our way. We know that we can raise children and love lovers into magical unicorn human beings who defy odds and champion success, but what about our dreams and smiles and visions. We’ve done all this with a glass half-full. We’ve been sacrificing our own feelings and wellbeing to win the war. In 2016, it’s time to get our happy back and thrive. Then we will be able to teach our lovers and children how to do the same.
Just imagine, if #BlackGirlMagic Defined meant happy. We’ve done everything else. It’s time to put our love, self-love, on top.
Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her Husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing. She is the Communications Associate at Impact America Fund.