While contentedly minding my business this past week, I had three different experiences of people expressing issue with the term or idea, “Soft Life”. My overarching and initial internal response was, “Ok, enjoy doing you; to each his or her own”. I am generally not inclined to persuade or debate…but after a little reflection, I realized that their expressions of disdain served to motivate me to complete what I began MONTHS ago, and that is to unapologetically share my perspective on The Soft Life, as a Black woman psychiatrist and therapist who specializes in treating depression, anxiety and burnout in professional Black women and women of color.
What does The Soft Life mean, to me?
Short answer: The Soft Life is an antidote to the Strong Black Woman trope, and I think it is critical to our wellbeing and healing journey as Black people. Like Audrey Lorde inspiringly said, self-care is revolutionary (clearly paraphrased). Like TriciaHersey through The Nap Ministry preaches, rest is revolutionary. Similarly, a Soft Life, for Black women, is also revolutionary! And let there be no question, I’m all about it and here for it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Strong Black Woman trope has served an invaluable purpose in our history. It was, and in many ways still is, our armor. It was an extremely adaptive coping mechanism, born out of the most traumatic and brutal times of our history. It is rooted in survival and fear. We 👏🏾would 👏🏾not 👏🏾be 👏🏾here 👏🏾today if it were not for the women and men who endured centuries of atrocities…and who still do present day. However, some of those generational responses to trauma have now become harmful to us.
Black women are increasingly alienated, demonized, and rejected by society, and few seem to care or pause long enough to ask why, or to acknowledge that their impressions of us are rooted in the historical and ongoing infliction of trauma, pain and suffering on Black (and Brown) people.
Our co-workers and workplaces often view Black women as angry, intimidating, aggressive and just out right unpalatable and lacking in affability. It’s gotten so bad that even the meekest and gentlest of us get these stereotypes unfairly and insensitively projected on to us, on site, without bothering to get to know us as individuals, humans. The implicit bias and distaste for Black women outside and even within our community is so loud yet rarely directly or helpfully addressed.
The most important consequence of perpetuating Strong Black Womanhood is the extreme stress of it all, which quite frankly is killing us. This stress is being manifested not only emotionally and relationally but physically, as illness, through weathering. Just look at our health outcomes. Academics pontificate about why Black people’s health outcomes are so much worse than others, regardless of socioeconomics, as if the answer hasn’t been staring them in the face all this time. It leaves one to think that perhaps no one wants to see us and definitely not our pain; it’s giving, fragility. It’s giving, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!”, circa ’92. I digress…
I continue to see so many Black people, especially professional Black women who base their value and self-worth on what they produce, on what they achieve, on doing, instead of being.
Are we not yet sick and tired enough to consider a different path?
Historically, Black women/Black people have not had the freedom, space, or luxury to acknowledge our own humanity, show vulnerability, rest, or just be.
At what point can we just be??? 🙏🏽
We have not had time or safe spaces to cry because who cares about #BlackGirlTears? Like really? Seriously?
BUT I SAY ENOUGH‼️
We cannot look to others to be the source of our healing. We cannot afford to wait around for others to see our humanity and worthiness of love, support, and care. We have agency and can exercise it to engage in the process of healing ourselves. While we do not have control over the institutions and people who continue to project their prejudices upon us, we do have control over our healing and the boundaries we set with those who are not aligned. This is within our realm of control.
Insert The Soft Life
I am here to help challenge harmful notions of Black womanhood and oppressive traditions. I invite us all to consider a gentler, more sustainable, and healthier way of life, beloveds!
The Soft Life embodies a commitment to self-love, self-care, self-compassion, self-worth, and prioritization of one’s overall health and well-being. That’s it.
What The Soft Life Is NOT
The Soft Life I practice and encourage is not about excess, luxury goods and elaborate vacations. The Soft Life is more about simplicity than it is about glamour and grandeur. My brand of Soft Life does not require financial wealth. (Let’s keep it real though, having financial security helps!) On the contrary, The Soft Life may involve financial sacrifice, saving money to insure you always have options to prioritize your health, and mindful/intentional spending that is aligned with your values….and I absolutely acknowledge that this unfortunately and unjustly requires some degree of privilege in this country.
The Soft Life is a mindset and way of life that is focused on health and balance.
It’s not about selfishness. It’s not about not loving others; what is a life without love?? Instead, the soft life encourages loving others within the framework of healthy boundaries. If we do not tangibly love ourselves, how can we possibly love others in a healthy way, if at all?
The Soft Life is not about easy, but it does encourage ease and simplicity. In fact, living a Soft Life is not easy at all. It requires focus, discipline, intentionality, and sacrifice. What’s easy about any of that?
Choosing a Soft Life, i.e., your personal health, means that you will likely have to release some things and maybe even some people. Sometimes, when initially adopting the Soft Life, there are feelings of grief and loss as you begin to choose health and let go of what was familiar but not serving you well. I cannot think of many things in life, that are of significance, that are easy. Having the expectation of life being easy and effortless sounds like fantasy and immaturity, if not delusion. Good luck with that!
Any sacrifices one may make to live a Soft Life will pale in comparison to the love, joy, peace, vitality, radiance, health, and fulfillment that it results in.
The main, if not only way, that my interpretation of the Soft Life likely intersects with the more mainstream Insta-versions is that I do not encourage a mindset associated with any of the following terms: boss girl, hustling, grinding, bad bishes, ride or die, hard work, or even loving hard. When I closely and literally consider these terms, I want no parts of a way of life that connotes or denotes any of this. For e.g., I encourage smart, strategic, efficient, and effective work that is sustainable, and not perpetually or continuously hard, especially for those who are already established and advanced in their careers. I’ll be breaking some of these ideas down in the future.
Lastly, at least for now, the Soft Life encompasses minding one’s own business. The word ‘mind’ in that phrase is what resonates most with me because it makes me think of mindfulness, another core tenet of my practice and teachings of the Soft Life.
When I’m living mindfully, that means I am so intentional about my way of life that I don’t give my precious and finite energy to thoughts, situations, or people that are not aligned with my values and wellbeing. And that’s that.
I’ll be sharing more about what the Soft Life is and what it isn’t in the months to come. If you like this, stay tuned. If not, I wish you well!
Signed Dr Iman Hypolite – Unapologetically, The SoftLife.MD