In 2001 when Destiny’s Child released the ultimate girl-anthem, “Independent Women,” I was 13, well into puberty and doing my best to survive the last year of middle school. That song not only gave me life, it gave me something to strive for to escape the torture that had become my reality. On top of the incessant bullying, my time as a teenage adolescent was depressing as hell and I had little hope for the future, that is until I heard “Independent Women.”
Fast forward to today, I’m a well-known yoga instructor in my ‘20s, single and a workaholic. I spend almost all of my time creating content, writing sequences, recording YouTube videos, composing workshops and so on. Even when I find down time to enjoy myself my imagination is busy weaving together another creative idea. It’s constant and I don’t always feel independent, to the contrary at times it would appear I’m subservient to my work, as if I’m nothing without it.
2008 marked the year Webbie and Lil Boosie premiered the male version of the Destiny’s Child hit. Everybody and their mama’s were lip-synching that song, confidently carving out the letters with their lips, self consciously proclaiming themselves the archetype of Webbie’s I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T woman.
The independent woman phenomenon is real, especially for women of color because many of us have been holding it down as the primary bread winner and caretakers for decades. Yet now that the meaning has been commercialized the question is are we becoming over-achieving independent women to hide a deeper insecurity or because we’re truly driven by the desires that we pursue?
After graduating college I started a fashion blog and became obsessed with all that it encompassed. Naturally my devotion incited viewers and it wasn’t long before the sponsorships and speciality invites rolled in. The notoriety assuaged the self doubt I began toting around as a teen and I was compelled to keep up with it. In my mind I was the quintessential independent woman that others strived to be — can you say delusional. As time went on the swanky parties grew dull. My skin broke out in protest to the pounds of makeup I constantly wore to hide my spotted face and under eye circles. I was growing uninspired from hours of churning out meaningless content just to keep up with what was now expected of me, but at least I epitomized independence, or so I thought.
Eventually my lack of self care and supportive relationships led to a random illness that left me bed ridden. I could barely move let alone model my outfit of the day. I looked sickly and felt more alone then ever. Most of my friendships had deteriorated from lack of care and attention and my freelance fashion gigs were dwindling. There was nothing independent about my situation anymore. I needed help and healing.
So I stopped blogging, let go of my fashion gigs and started working a regular corporate job. No, it wasn’t fun, but for once I wasn’t working myself into a stupor to keep up with a socially acceptable persona to feel better about myself. If I was going to be independent it was going to be true liberty, one where I was free of self-deprecating thoughts and behaviors. That’s where my self care and shadow work began.
Now here I am again, a self-employed entrepreneur, yet this time instead of blogging about fashion, my lifestyle of wellness and self development has become my brand, the perfect ingredients for a workaholics disaster. Despite the self examination I’ve done to heal from past traumas and insecurities, I still have to consciously remind myself not to use my creative talents to fill a personal void or make myself believe I am someone I am not. I’ve gone so far as to stop assigning myself endless to-do lists just to appear busy and instead cut my daily goals in half to ensure that they’re intentional and aligned with the woman I want to be. A woman who’s career is an extension of who she is as opposed to what she does, so she does it naturally. A woman who can cook, clean and care for herself but still desires edifying partnerships with others. A woman who is receptive to having her needs met and capable of meeting the needs of others. A woman who is confident in her healing and not her limiting beliefs. Now that’s the kind of independence I’m talking about!