Why has the exclusion of black people and black movies from the Oscars been so frustrating and upsetting to us? Part of the reason is because the actors, writers, and directors that we support, look up to, and are inspired by aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. Another reason is that excluding black narratives and characters from the nominations makes us feel like our own lives and experiences are being invalidated. Finally, I believe that the lack of black nominees in the Oscars this year resonates with us deeply because as black women we have experienced similar invalidation throughout our lives and careers. We know the pain and disappointment of being overlooked and underrated. We are familiar with the frustration of having our ideas and abilities repeatedly questioned. The fight to diversify the Oscars is not just about the entertainment industry, it’s also about fighting for our lives, our work, our stories, our selves to be acknowledged as important and legitimate.
So how do we manage the stress, pain, and disappointment of being overlooked? How do we make time to affirm ourselves when the rest of the world is behind the curve? We must validate our experiences, acknowledge our accomplishments, and celebrate ourselves.
Acknowledge the Pain of Being Overlooked
In our efforts to appear to be strong black women we can sometimes fail to acknowledge our difficult experiences. When we feel this type of disappointment, we may turn to self-criticism and analysis to determine if we could have done something differently but doing this when we are upset will just make us feel worse. Instead, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. An important aspect of healing is accepting the pain we experience when we are overlooked. Consider writing or sharing your experience. You could do this through journaling, writing and performing poetry, or writing a blog. It can be healing to have other people bear witness to our pain and share similar experiences.
Validate Our Accomplishments
I have a hard time with this one; I tend to forget what I have accomplished or I quickly brush aside things that I have done. I’m thankful for supportive friends who affirm me and what I have accomplished and sometimes even remind me of things that I have forgotten. It is easy to get caught up in daily life and forget to validate what we have done after we achieve a goal. I encourage you to take time to reflect after you make something happen. Identify and write down the specific things you did to achieve your goal, identify the obstacles that you faced and overcame along the way, and identify the people and strategies that helped you to be successful.
Just as it is important for us to acknowledge our accomplishments, it is essential for us to celebrate who we are. Even when we don’t accomplish a goal we are worthy of celebration. Don’t wait until you achieve something to celebrate your wonderful presence in the world. You can celebrate yourself in small and large ways. You might give yourself affirmations each day. You could spend some time reflecting on your unique qualities, which benefit you and the people in your life. You may also choose to celebrate yourself by spending time with your close friends. You could take yourself out to a nice meal or on a fabulous trip. What you do to celebrate yourself is not as important as making an effort to joyfully affirm yourself on a regular basis.