As black women, we wear society's wants, prejudices and fears on our skin. Since caricatures of black and brown women are so widely presented, many people feel as though they already "know" and "understand" the black female experience.
People are quick to tell us who we are, what we like and what we are capable of becoming. There are many times our personal narrative gets interrupted by the sweeping generalizations and trite stereotypes. Sometimes it's hard to hear our own voice over all of the noise: "Black girls don't X," "Brown women always X" and "You can't be a black girl and X."
There is a new generation of women of color rising from a rich history and an ever-changing present. Here are four ways to shed the weight of the past and transform yourself into a carefree black woman:
1. Stop apologizing.
You have nothing to be sorry for. Stop taking the responsibility for other people's miscalculated projections of who they think you should be. That's on them, not you.
You don't have to be sorry; you just have to be yourself. That's your only responsibility.
One thing that you absolutely cannot control are other people's expectations. You don't owe them anything. You're not in this world to make people feel comfortable, safe or entertained.
In the words of poet Big Sean,
Let them clutch their pearls, scratch their heads and wonder. But you need to stop apologizing.
2. Get uncomfortable.
Eliminate words like "should" and "used to" from your vocabulary. These words and expressions act like chains holding us back from growing and moving forward.
You're under no obligation to be the same person you were as a teenager, last year or last month. What you're "used to" doing wasn't getting you the results you wanted or deserved. So, make a change.
Again, you're under no obligation to stay still. Stagnancy is slow and boring. Stigmas, stereotypes and judging from afar are safe and reassuring because there's no risk involved.
The key to being a carefree black woman is accepting yourself as you are in this moment and acknowledging that it is within your right to change. Don't be a statue. You're a living, breathing work of art.
3. Fine-tune your squad.
What people do you spend your time with? Look around you, and ask yourself these questions truthfully: Are the people in your immediate circle positive, empowering, encouraging and supportive? Or, are they simply fixtures that take up space on a shelf?
Well, that space is prime real estate, and you deserve a squad that elevates. Also, that whole tearing one another down for no reason is old. Ladies, we're stronger together.
There are enough people in the world whose only goals are to break us down. Let's not do their job for them.
Who inspires you? Janelle Monáe? Solange? Amandla Stenberg? Willow Smith? Your mom?
Be inspired and be encouraged no matter whom you're with. You don't have to carry the world on your shoulders alone.
4. Know when to say, "That's enough."
Not every battle is yours. Not every comment, look or side-eye requires a response.
It's OK not to fight all the time. It's OK to be tired of the pressure and expectations the world places on our strong, but very human shoulders. Black women are not born hard or cold.
We smile and laugh, and damn it, we like cupcakes, septum piercings, multicolored hair and John Mayer. There's no one way to be black, brown or a woman.
Let's stop thinking so hard and just be. Let's be authentic. Let's be notorious.
It's human nature to try to put things into neat boxes so that our brains can organize the millions of thoughts and functions it has to perform on a day-to-day basis. Sorry, brain: This generation of carefree black women refuses to be stifled.
We can be everything and nothing, all at the same time. There are no more rules.