Birth of the Strong Woman Syndrome
I am screaming internally for help, but something is preventing my mouth from opening. It won’t open, so I chock on what’s overwhelming me. Someone sees me choking then performs the Heimlich Maneuver. The maneuver saved me, thank God. But what happens when my choking goes unnoticed and the moment, I am about to succumb to such distress is the day I am supposed to break free and learn to seek help, but I refuse.
Last year I was a guest on the podcast Dope Conversations with Erica Warren. We spoke about a few things, but the “Strong Woman Syndrome” was the conversation topic. I have had an issue with this for years. I recall a time in my life I was about to lose everything because I would not ask for help. I got a second job and attempted to fix it myself but never asked for help. Having that second job was not producing what I needed, and it was wearing me down: mentally, physically, and spiritually. In a moment, I felt comfortable sharing with someone what was happening. Simultaneously I healed in more ways than one. My being able to voice the burden and her generosity brought a healing level I didn’t know it could.
During that moment, I had to deal with why I put an S on my chest and refused to open up when I needed help. Before, I never thought it was an issue; faking strength I assumed would ultimately make me appear unmovable. Upon entering Christianity, I learned to “wait on God.” Although I ran across several who did not mind asking for money, it took root that begging is not having faith. It was easy to take root and flourish within me because it justified my need not to be as weak as I felt I was. I would not have been as receptive to these sayings if there was not something deep within me connecting to it. These things only watered what was there, which is why I never questioned any of it.
First of all, waiting on God is not characterized by inactivity. A simple Strong’s Concordance word search will reveal the Hebrew word for wait requires activity, not passivity. The whole notion of “we are not beggars, only deepens the dysfunction causing people to be too prideful to ask for help. By definition, a beggar is someone reduced to poverty and is homeless. This person lives to ask for food and money. Beggar should not even be a word used among people who are not homeless and only need help when teaching on faith. Yes, a simple definition just set someone free.
It all spiraled out of control earlier in life; my experience with asking for help looked like control, abuse, and gossip. Some people who have the means to help only do so to control when and how you will help them. The entire time there is an agenda cooking, all while you think they genuinely want to help. They say I’m not missing my blessing, but from the same well hold over your head what they did for you, making you feel they are why you were able to do or have what you do. If you pay a phone bill out of the goodness of your heart, the integrity of your heart will not allow you to say, “I paid the bill, and they won’t even answer my call. Or, I helped her get that car; she should be the first one here to help me. Destructive mouths like the ones that say these things are what produces the “Strong Woman Syndrome.” And this syndrome produces a lack of trust even in God.
You may have needed $200 to avoid your lights from being disconnected, but the person intentionally only gave you $75, knowing you had no means of getting the remaining portion. I have had it done to me too many times to count. And here I’m thinking help helps you out of the problem, not just one step up while you remain there. For those who will read and say, “you should be grateful for what you got,” you are part of the problem, and you are missing the point. The person doing the controlling, of course, has some severe issues a therapist could help with. Inner healing across the board is vital.
The most toxic form of emotional abuse is withholding. Withholding comes in many forms, but we will talk about withholding resources for this blog’s sake. Withholding has made me feel isolated, ignored, and unimportant. I have been refused $5 for something important only to have the same person buy someone else a pack of cigarettes. Never have I asked for much, but when there was a need, there was a need. I was a young mother, raised my daughter, and made way for us, and from time to time, I fell short. After a while, a denial letter can for food stamps when I only made $8.00 per hour. No child support either, so I maintained it on my own. However: when I had, I showed up for people, but when I needed it was like the world was empty.
The household I grew up in was all about the money and what you could do for them; I suffered, but there were times the treatment was better because I had something to offer here and there. Can you imagine standing up for yourself and someone threatening to put you out saying, “that little you do means nothing.” I guess if I paid the mortgage, I could disagree from time to time. I often wondered if I was a generous person or had the trauma produced a people pleaser? Maybe this is why I felt I always had to have something to give to be valued (this may also be why this same mindset showed up in relationships where I shared my prized possession just to be loved). Every time I got a lot of cash, I helped everyone, but no one seemed to remember that. I did my part, and I maintained, but there were moments I was spoken to as if I was the lowest of the low and there was no need for me. A lasting impression was left on me so much so that if I was running low or needing help, it meant I was of no value.
Have you ever asked for something, only to hear from someone else about your situation? Not only have I asked for help, and the person told others to look good and seem as though they were such a great person to me, there were times I was “blessed” financially going through the same thing. Yes, even when someone said “God said,” I imagine God said to tell everyone what you did. I was given $200 before that I did not request. I needed it at the time, but I had not asked for it. Well, before handing me the envelope, I was asked if I needed money. The tone in which I asked threw me off, but I replied anyway. So, I was handed the money; I proceeded to pay a bill only to have a total nightmare the next few days. The individual had gone to several people to ask them if they thought they made the right decision by giving me the money (remember it was said, God said to do it). I had a dream revealing where the spouse was so livid it shook me feeling their anger as I slept.
At that point, I was ready to give it back. I could not believe “God said” to do something, and it turned into this. I did not need the stress in my life, but I was furious, affecting how I saw them. Once again, an unrelated situation has erected the rejection, worthlessness, and abandonment. I did not discuss my financial business with them, ever, so I honestly thought they were an answer to my prayers. Hurt began to suffocate me, I wanted to do what a hurting person would, and that was to give it back and, at the time, curse them out. Well, this only strengthened the complex. I was like I am talked about when I ask and when I do not, what kind of world is this? I have done things for people no one will ever know, ever. Well, unless they tell you.
Then there are the remarks that do not make anything any better: “I’m tired of you,” “you need a reality check,” or “you had the baby, not me.” I spoke about another instance on the podcast I would like to share again, I was living on my own, raising my daughter, making $8 per hour, and after I paid all the bills, I did not have money left for gas. My car was low, and getting my child to daycare, which was in the opposite direction of work, was stressing me out. I decided to ask for gas money. After asking, there was a delay because they needed time to talk it over with their spouse. I guess the spouse finally agreed, and the $20 delivered to me. I had a 93 Honda Accord then, so the $20 filled me up. It wasn’t until years later the same person gave me a journal set back that I gave them as a gift. It appeared unused, but to my surprise, pages had writing on them, so I read it before tossing it in the trash.
I read the pages where it mentioned, “she over there and do not even have gas to put in her car, she needs a reality check. I asked my husband to give her $40, but she is only getting $20. If I told you who did this, you would understand why this only deepened the wound. I felt so much pain at that moment; it only set me a thousand steps back. Emotionally I was undone. I read the heart of someone who wrote that over three years ago, but it felt fresh. That incident was just one of the many things the person would do while talking about me to others and creating a narrative that I was the problem in their minds. I never cared to explain myself because if I didn’t know anything, I understood how manipulative people can be and how fast people will believe a lie, especially if they have an issue with you too.
If you need help processing emotional setbacks such as these, please reach out to me. You are not alone. I have lived it now; I live to help you. Please join my private Facebook group, Unaltered Voices. This group will help strengthen the muscles weakened by disappointments. Don’t forget to share this article with others who may need insight.
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