Originally, this started as a Facebook post that I transitioned into a blog.
Because our attention span is about 20 seconds and any post longer than a paragraph often gets the LIKE without the comment because we really didn’t read it all. We keep it moving to the next colorful, exciting photo or image that we see on our timeline and news feed. That’s honest and that’s many of us.
For that reason, I desire for this “short” blog (remember, I only have about 20 seconds to capture your attention, before you decide to move on) to be read, processed, and shared.
This morning I had the rare opportunity to watch What Not To Wear. Often I’m out of the house and on my way much earlier. I love makeover shows, weight loss and fitness shows, and recovery and intervention shows. Can’t help it-it’s the #mentalhealthmedic in me. Today the show featured a 30 year old African American woman who works in a homeless shelter. She was nominated by her co-workers because she often dressed like a young girl in a doll outfit. She also carried a poodle purse. She was quite shocked that her coworkers nominated her-no doubt out of love. However, after the initial shock -it became quickly apparent she wasn’t feeling it-and quite frankly, was afraid to lose “her style” and “her identity.”
This young woman was quite defensive when the makeover stylists Stacy and Clinton began to critique her and make light of her style and clothing. (They do this for everyone-it’s part of the show.) She then tearfully shared in about a 30 second snippet that she was once homeless and did not want to go back to talking about that time in her life. Stacy and Clinton were in for someone very different from their “norm” on the show. No matter what stylish and age appropriate, yet modest outfit they dressed her in, she looked miserable and she commented, “I feel weird.” “This doesn’t look right.” “I’m uncomfortable.” The stylists remarked to one another, “You just can’t make everyone happy.” They were right, but for the wrong reasons.
This young woman while beautiful to everyone else, could not see herself as so. The small part of her story she shared about being homeless, the fear of looking “scanky”, and “feeling weird” as well as her emotional break when they threw away her “old” clothes, allowed me to see this young woman as a survivor likely of trauma. The natural act (and show premise) of stripping her “old self” was way to terrifying for a woman who has endured loss and displacement and perhaps deprivation.
This is trauma.
Trauma is defined by the experience of the survivor. Trauma has devastating long term effects on one’s emotional psyche. Trauma is powerful. The brain’s ability to hold onto emotional footprints and the mind’s protective ability to repress the events of powerfully laid memories of years before is quite complex. The voice of the traumatized black woman can sound like this: *crickets*; silence. Many women who perceive themselves a broken, ashamed, lost, confused, unattractive, ignored, neglected, rejected, and disapproved have been silenced either by others or themselves.
As I watched the show, I just wanted to jump onto the screen and love on her and tell her everything is going to be well; that change is good and growth stretches you; that it is time for her to see herself as God sees her-beautiful, restored, and whole and not as she saw herself as “weird”.
I want to know this young woman…I want to pour into her the unconditional love of God…wait…I do know her…don’t you?
She’s you, she’s me…she’s every woman who has fought something to be her true authentic self.