Navigating social spaces as a young, black woman battling mental health

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Navigating social spaces as a young, black woman battling mental health

‘Black excellence’ and ‘The future is female’ are slogans that have been highly popularised, and although they are inspiring, to whose detriment should these slogans be realised?

For the past five years or so, the entertainment industry has been having continuous open and honest discussions about mental health and navigating social spaces with the said condition. American singer, Summer Walker, was recently labelled uptight after her Tiny Desk concert was published on YouTube. She was hurled with unpleasant names until the world learnt that she suffers from anxiety. This created a conversation about mental health on several social media platforms and I couldn’t help but relate.

As an ambivert person, I have struggled to explain my mild social anxiety because I lacked the correct terms for it. I didn’t grow up a shy kid, but I wasn’t bubbly either. Throughout my life, I have been loud and carefree around the people I’m comfortable with, while I was closed off to new people. I’ve been labelled an “ice queen” because a person wouldn’t understand how I could switch from being loud with my friends to reserved in certain social spaces.

My friend, who is a teacher by profession, suffers from severe social anxiety, which has sometimes put her in awkward situations at work. Although she is an excellent teacher who is comfortable with her grade 1 leaners, she struggles to openly converse with her colleagues. She told me that even though she hates socialising with her colleagues, she does it anyway because she fears being labelled an “ice queen who thinks she’s better than her colleagues.” This reminded me of what American singer, H.E.R, once said in an interview, expressing that if it were up to her, she’d only put out records and not tour, because her anxiety often gets the best of her.

Although we are having open conversations about mental health, we still have a long way to go, especially as black women who are expected to be brilliant, healthy and humble always.

Abenathi Gqomo
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