Black Women & The Pedestal Complex

By Tekita Bankhead

I have often found myself to be blessed by my pain.

No, I don’t mean that I have invited pain into my life. At least, not consciously. Nor have I celebrated misfortune. What I have found is that the greatest confirmations of my purpose have been birthed by some of the most difficult and somewhat traumatic experiences of my life.

The birth of this project came after the death of one of the longest, yet most dysfunctional, relationships hot messes of my life. I freed myself from a fuckboy, once and for all, after being stood up on my 28th birthday. A few months ago, I sat in a therapy session with my counselor. I had started going back to counseling because I was meandering through my life with a nagging sense of numbness and could no longer outrun my despair. On the surface, I should have been celebrating every second. I had just begun a wonderful new job with less stress, more pay, and amazing Black women supervisors. I was entering another year in a community where I felt supported and connected. I was fly and delivered an effortless slay on most days. Life was poppin’.

But behind closed doors…

I was having a hard time sleeping. I barely had the energy to have decent conversations with the people I loved the most. It took way too much coffee to concentrate at work yet way too many calendar appointments to keep me distracted. I kept missing church services. Something was off inside of me, and I came back to therapy to get Tekita back.

I sat in my third session, honestly feeling that this white woman had no clue how to piece me back together. In my head, I had assumed that she would never be able to empathize with my struggle, my sentiments, or my sense of obligation to everyone and everything around me. On this day, I talked about this overwhelming need to prove myself. I felt I had to prove myself in romantic relationships so guys would fully commit to me. I felt I had to prove myself in professional spaces so that the old white men who dominated the field of prevention work would respect my credibility. I felt I had to prove to myself that I was strong. I had to prove to others that I am a loving a loyal friend. I had to prove to my students that I was an authority figure and not their peer.

My brain kept screaming the same messages over and over.

Say the right things. Do the right things. Be the right things.

In the middle of me pouring out my insecurities, she looked up at me and said something to me that changed everything. “Tekita, have you ever realized that you put everyone and everything in your life on a pedestal except for you? What strikes me as most odd is that you clearly embody all the things that you are trying to prove. You’re intelligent, you’re incredibly talented, you’re beautiful, you’re loved, you’re respected, and you are a good person. You seem to see that in everyone else. My concern is, do you see that in yourself?”

How dare she know my life?! I sat there in stunned silence. I had never thought of my interactions in that way. As I toyed with this newfound concept of a pedestal complex, I realized that I did not suffer from this alone. Just about every Black woman I could think of had at least a piece of this complex. WE are the ones who lift up our partners, our families, our communities, and our worlds. WE are the ones who are celebrated when it’s trendy but not always when it is necessary. WE are the ones who are assumed to be under-qualified when we deserve the supervisory roles of the people questioning our skills. For weeks, this pedestal complex took over my brain. I talked to all of my best friends about this theory. Each of them said, “your counselor is absolutely right.” Well, damn. Now, what? I had to figure out how to not only put myself in my rightful position on top of the pedestal but also figure out how I could bring as many Black women as I could with me. Then, it hit me…

BLACK. WOMEN. BUILT. THIS. DAMN. PEDESTAL! HOW DARE THE WORLD MAKE US FEEL LIKE WE DON’T BELONG ON TOP OF IT?

So, here we are! The Pedestal Project is my brainchild for reclaiming our pedestal. I firmly believe that is important for Black women to have an abundance of spaces where we are represented positively. The world attempts to blame Black women for everyone else’s demise but does not take ownership of the pain it inflicts on us every day. My goal is to reflect all of the awesomeness of being a Black woman back to Black women. My mission is to validate the experiences, restore the spiritual wholeness, and affirm the divine gifts of women who look like me. I believe that some of our greatest pains have the potential to produce our most fortified pedestals. Therefore, it is important for me to help you keep your pedestal polished and impermeable. Here is where we not only celebrate our evolution but also foster our growth so that we can be the best version of ourselves with nothing to prove. I pray you enjoy your journey with me to the top.

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