Throughout time society has sent out messages, which has had a negative impact on the self esteem of many African American women. To help understand common reasons African American women can have low self and self esteem tips for African American women, I have interviewed therapist Dr. Janice C. Hodge, LCPC.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“As President of J.C. Hodge and Associates, Chicago, IL, I am a Certified Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. It has been my honor to serve diverse bodies of committed people in private practice as well as in Church and Society. Prior to my work in religion and mental health, I taught first-grade in the Chicago Public School System. Licensed in Illinois as Clinical Professional Counselor, my clinical training background includes Clinical Pastoral Education at Bethany Hospital, Chicago and Pastoral Psychotherapy at the former Pastoral Counseling Center of Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge IL. My academic degrees are in Early Childhood Education, Vocational Guidance and Counseling, Theology and Pastoral Psychology from Roosevelt University and the Chicago Theological Seminary respectively.”
What are some common reasons African American women can have low self-esteem?
“With three decades of work in multi-racial and multi-cultural settings and with African-American women in particular, I do not think that the self-esteem of African-American women is lower than women of any other ethnic group with similar levels of education, health and socio-economic background. This assessment is based on the reality of accomplishments among said women. African-American women, according to their capabilities, find work, maintain themselves and their families, support friends, churches and/or communities. They continue to withstand the harshness of the American society that devalues their womanhood. In spite of many betrayals, rejection, abandonment and trauma from different sources many African-American women continue to live with integrity and find value within. An ongoing concern for the African-American woman is the condition of self-hatred. I separate this condition from the general definition of self-esteem due to the historical, economic, political and sociological roots of chattel slavery and oppression in America. Observable challenges for some African-American women are best explained by the need for quality education and access to quality physical and/or mental healthcare than low self-esteem.”
What type of impact can an African American woman’s low level of self-esteem have on their overall life?
“In my clinical view, this question is best addressed by examining the toxicity of self-hatred, which stands apart from the typical clinical definition of self-esteem. Self-hatred may lead some women to define beauty as that which is light or white. Such a woman will not see her complete beauty and feel ashamed. The problem of this type of shame leads to many complications in life. Shame that is related to ethnicity can lead to feelings of anxiety and cognitive confusion. Shame can lead an African-American woman to the adaption of a value system from an external culture. In extreme cases, shame can lead to emotional or physical violence. Unresolved shame issues can also lead to poor decisions in life.
Children’s stories such as Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel, negative media portrayals of African-American women feed self-hatred. Veteran advertising tycoon, Tom Burrell has written a significant book entitled Brainwashed. The book provides details on how American media has promoted and continues to promote the toxicity of self-hatred.”
What are some self-esteem tips you can give to African American women?
“First, be aware that self-hatred is not your fault but it is now your responsibility. It is hard work and it is a worthwhile endeavor. African-American women can decrease self-hatred by committing to the fullness of self-acceptance. One important way to self-acceptance is found in a successful professional counseling relationship. Choosing to be in professional counseling is a sign of strength and sanity. Life is difficult for everyone and there is no human perfection. Always embrace and treasure your cultural tradition, hopes and dreams. Be intentional about gaining knowledge of African-American women in history by reading. Determine what can be applied to your life from your reading. Many of the thoughts, feelings and experiences of African-American women in history are quite familiar. The book, When and Where I Enter authored by Paula J. Giddings is an excellent book for this purpose. Join a life-giving community! Be in the company of good and just people. Committed involvement in an established church and/or organizations grounded in the African-American cultural tradition is in your best interest.
In time, the truth and encouragement derived from these associations will aid in the healthy resolution of self-hatred.”
What type of professional help is available for an African American woman that is having a hard time boosting their self-esteem?
“Individual counseling with a qualified and competent mental health professional is invaluable. It may be hard to find an accepting and understanding counselor to join the work on your goals but do not give up the search. Mental health professionals include certified pastoral psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical professional counselors. Discover legitimate online resources such as Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com). Also look for therapeutic groups to support human concerns such as Adult Children of Alcoholics, Overeaters or Debtors Anonymous.
There are many worthwhile books available for self-improvement too. Dr. Robin Smith, a competent mental health professional, has written many books on personal empowerment. Additionally, find a copy of Black-Eyed Peas for the Soul edited by Donna Williams at the library or from your favorite bookseller. The book is a collection of short stories from many known and unknown authors. Look for my contribution to the book, “What You Think Is What You Get”. Support is definitely available but you must seek it. Remember, when the student is ready, the teacher arrives!”
Thank you Dr. Hodge for doing the interview. For more information on Dr. Hodge or her work you can check out her website on www.jchodge.com.
Tips for Making a Multicultural Relationship Work
How to Have a Higher Level of Self Esteem
How to Boost Your Self Esteem