Dear Burned-out Brown Girl, you are not Alone

shanita liu
[Photo Courtesy: Shanita Liu]

Did anyone ask how you were doing today?

And when asked, did you share how you were really feeling?

Because if you felt safe and comfortable enough to share how you were really feeling, then you would’ve told him/her/them the truth — you are burned out.

  • Burned out from grinding out to prove your greatness.
  • Burned out from getting degrees and designations to prove your value.
  • Burned out from convincing them that you’ll be fine even though you’re not their dream [fill in the profession].
  • Burned out from pursuing passions that don’t pay (and cringing any incoming “I told you so’s”).
  • Burned out from dealing with judgment and jealousy that accompanies every move you make.
  • Burned out from receiving gallons of guilt every time you attempt self-care.
  • Burned out from f***king up and failing at self-care.
  • Burned out from distress and derailment every time you try again.
  • Burned out from following other fun and fresh brown girls who seem to have it all.
  • Burned out from people-pleasing when you’ve been dissed and disrespected.
  • Burned out from believing that busy-ing is a badge of honor.
  • Burned out from being productive, polite, and professional 24/7.
  • Burned out from wearing a friendly face even though you’d rather punch that person in the face.
  • Burned out from worrying that someone will see that you don’t have all your *hit together.
  • Burned out from fielding questions about your projected timeline for procreation.
  • Burned out from hiding who you really are.
  • Burned out from trying to undo what they did to you.

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Oh Brown Girl, I hear you. I see you. I feel you. This s**t is hard, and you are not alone.

It takes too much energy to thrive when you’re trying to stay alive to survive and remove the residues of colonization, patriarchy, and mass marginalization.   

Our ancestors didn’t have the luxury of taking mental health days and outsourcing chores to hired help—they were the help.

Their trauma includes being forced to shut up, put their heads down, play small, and work nonstop. Their work included backbreaking labor, sacrificing their beliefs and bodies, handing over their sacred practices, and suffering abuse of all kinds. What they endured was unimaginable, and while they fought tooth and nail for their freedoms, they still left us with a legacy of sacrifice.

Let’s pause to take a deep breath.

I know it’s heavy, but that’s the truth. Our truth. It’s what still lingers in our DNA. It’s all part of our family pathologies that get passed down from generation to generation. You may see some of it in your mother or in all the mothers from your lineage.

And to be honest, I don’t think you’re fully liberated from this stuff yet. The debris of our histories still linger, and it contributes to why we constantly run ourselves into the ground.

Our past lingers in the way we treat ourselves—putting our families, relationships, and careers first.

It lingers in the way we still adhere to our cultures’ and communities’ notions that focusing on the outside is worth neglecting our nourishment on the inside.

Despite all this, burned out brown girl, it doesn’t have to be this way. I believe your ancestors endured too much hardship for you to give up on living a happier life. I believe you have everything you need inside of you to self-explore, self-empower, and self-care yourself out of this wreckage.

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And before you get nervous, let me address the word “self” because it might seem scary. How do you start the self-work? And how do you sustain whatever you started? How do you ensure you don’t slide back into suffering?

While I don’t have your answers, I can confirm that this self-work stuff works because I have my answers. That’s because I finally dared to picture what was possible and try a new way.

It wasn’t easy. It took me years of resisting self-work and burning out as a student, mom, dancer, business owner, public servant, and wife to finally commit. My work is certainly not over, but I am proof of the ongoing progress.

What does that progress look like? I now put aside resources each month for coaching and therapy. I do things that I never did when I was growing up like meditating, channeled writing, adult coloring, hiking, giving reiki, and connecting with other brown girls. I open my heart and enter safe spaces to unpack and process my melancholy. And when I do this, I get closer to wholeness.

I like wholeness, especially since it lets me unleash the paramount parts of my power that were hidden away. And burned out brown girl, you can too.

Your wholeness matters because you matter. So, here’s what I believe is possible for you.

  • It’s possible to choose peace and pleasure over chaos and collapse.
  • It’s possible to stop sacrificing and step up for yourself without getting swallowed by shame, guilt, and judgment.
  • It’s possible to let go of your to-do list.
  • It’s possible to ask for help and get help.
  • It’s possible to feel energized enough to put your deserted dreams back on the docket.
  • It’s possible to set boundaries and leave environments that sabotage your personal, emotional, mental, and physical wellness.

And you know what else is possible?

Embracing something that our ancestors couldn’t—being free.

By Shanita Liu

Shanita Liu, MPA, CPC teaches women to beat to burnout. As a certified transformational life coach, workshop facilitator, speaker, and … Read more ›