As women of African heritage, we are often subject to what I call the "Strong Black Woman Syndrome". I'm not trying to claim that the brothas don't suffer from something similar, I am just speaking from my own perspective as a sistah.
Whatever difficulties, challenges and frustrations we face, we play the same old tape that says: I'm strong, I'm tough, I can handle it, I've got everything under control.
Of course, it's true - we are strong and tough, confident and capable.
What I am saying is that this is not the whole story.
For many generations, we have had to be strong and tough. This was how we survived. It was how our families and our communities survived. We had to stay in control.
But there was a terrible price to pay, and we paid the price.
We lost touch with ourselves, to a certain extent. We lost touch with our feelings and our experience. We lost our ability to be real, even with our closest friends and loved ones.
Other people - white people, our men - saw us as being strong for them. We were strong for them. We were always feeding someone else, caring for someone else. But we were often not there for ourselves.
And we passed on this syndrome to our children, from one generation to the next.
When you are feeling vulnerable, are you afraid to admit it - even to yourself?
If you are feeling tired or scared or lonely, do you see this as a sign of weakness?
Are you ashamed to let anybody see you cry?
Do you always 'look on the bright side' or use 'positive thinking' and believe that this is going to solve all your problems?
Are you willing to admit when you have a problem? Are you willing to ask for and receive help?
Before you can begin to find a solution, you first have to be willing to admit you are in difficulties. And you have to be willing to ask for help.
And be ready to receive help and support when it is available and on offer.
After you have cleared out the problems, difficulties and obstacles, then you can begin to create a better life - the glorious life you deserve.
But first you have to be willing to be real about what is going on for you - all the hurts, frustrations and fears that are part of the human experience.
To be a strong Black woman means to be able to be real. Really real.
Copyright (c) Zhana 2006
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED