She's Got a Big Ego?: Reflections on Black Women and Self-Confidence

by Bee Quammie

We weren’t meant to be here.

When I say “we,” I mean Black women. When I say “here,” I mean existing in a place of self-confidence. If America’s greatest fear is an educated Black man, the world’s greatest source of confusion can be found in a self-assured Black woman.

Stereotypically, Black women generally fall under one of two categories: we’re either meek creatures who strain silently under the weight of being the “ugliest,” “loneliest,” and “least desirable” demographic on the planet; or we’re arrogant, angry, fire-breathing dragon bitches who demand more than the world thinks we deserve. However, the fact that this isn’t true and so many of us exist in a third category entirely—as a confident woman who knows who she is and what she stands for—is a perplexing concept because the world outside of Black womanhood never thought we’d ever take up space with healthy self-esteem.
Nearly every Black woman I know has had an experience where she’s expressed confidence or assertiveness, and has been labeled as “egotistical,” “angry,” “vain,” or “rude.” And nearly all of those women have uttered a statement like, “…but if I was White/male, it wouldn’t have been a problem,” at some point in her story. In a patriarchal, white supremacist society, Black women are seemingly missing the very attributes that designate our worthiness to others. As such, there’s a sentiment that we’ve resigned ourselves to this doomed existence, with the intersections of race and gender converging at a weak point in the very essence of who we are. Unless we’re given a compliment or told we are worthy, the world doesn’t expect us to be able to deduce that on our own.

When we stand and say this is not true, that we know who we are and are proud of who we are, we wrinkle the blanket of false comfort the world has cloaked itself in. We create a new, uncomfortable truth. The discomfort in this truth is that we’re no longer on the auction block waiting for our worth to be determined. We aren’t looking solely for external sources to validate us, and when we dare validate ourselves, we cross an invisible line and are punished with descriptors like “arrogant” and “difficult.”

Black women are largely revered for our strength and selflessness. We’re always taking care of someone else. We’re always supporting someone else. When we are defended, it is because our personal context is in relation to someone else—we’re someone’s mother, daughter, sister, and/or lover. Our strength is tied to the pain we endure, and our selflessness doesn’t allow us room to be full of ourselves. Nikki Giovanni’s “Poem For A Lady Whose Voice I Like” speaks eloquently to the issue of Black women and self-confidence in a world that would prefer us timid. It reads, in part:
and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu 
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
and i’ll show you a hungry person
A hungry woman is easier to mold, control, and subdue than a woman who is full of herself. That being said, it’s easy to see why the world is threatened by a Black woman who owns, protects, and celebrates every part of her being.
We weren’t meant to be here, but we are. We weren’t meant to own ourselves, to love ourselves, to create our own paths and demand our own respect. In a world that is more invested in our low self-esteem than in our personal empowerment, confident Black women still thrive—and we aren’t going anywhere.

Photo: Shutterstock

Bee Quammie is a Toronto-based healthcare professional, writer, and founder of ‘83 To Infinity and The Brown Suga Mama. Recognized by Black Enterprise & the Black Canadians Awards for her digital work, Bee aims to live '83 To Infinity's motto: "It's never too late to learn something new, do something new, or be someone new." Follow her on Twitter at @BeeSince83.

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