Why do we believe that cutting ourselves off from the people who care about us, calling it something like “I’m putting my head down” “grinding” or hashtagging it, is how we become successful in a capitalist society? I am not implying that this is indicative of simply the Black community but it is symptomatic of the lower class rungs of society who are trying to climb out of poverty and into the perceived stability of upper-class society. Whether it’s more money, a more powerful job or role, getting into school or whatever various ways we climb up the social ladder, in the most sincere way: abandoning people who have a positive emotional investment, in you, is the dumbest sh*t ever.
Why do we believe that isolation yields success? To make this a bit more intimate, as Black women who typically have absorbed a significant amount of trauma through generations, through our childhood and coming into our Black womanhood, we should examine why we often have the inclination to turn inward, and how unhelpful isolating oneself is.
The capitalistic society we live in functions on the exploitation of labor for the accumulation of personal wealth…in very broad terms. That wealth is not just a matter of money. Sustainable wealth that can be passed down through generations, the sort of stability many of us are thinking of as we talk about becoming successful, is not simply about the dollars you have in the bank. It is about your proximity to influence and power and your access to a network of resources. Who you know, the relationships you cultivate, absolutely holds weight in this society.
The people that care about you, are emotionally invested in your well-being, that you love and love you, might not have the mindset or status that you are pursuing, but they absolutely benefit you. It is one thing to minimize someone’s influence in your life, we do this as we enter into adulthood and leave our parents home, as we evolve through our stages from high school to college. Coming into our adulthood we create a pathway defining how we want the world to see us. We solidify our circle of close friends, creating a board of confidants. With that, we do have to remember that as much as we are defining ourselves, the people that we engage, are emotionally investing in us. These relationships deserve a level of reciprocity. A creating that circular energy of reciprocity is the foundation that allows our success to flourish.
To wit, one rarely truly isolates themselves. Social media is a big hindrance, as we claim that we are “working on ourself” as we scroll through Instagram and respond to comments on Facebook. We simply do not live in a society that, no matter how much we claim the success of the American dream is to pick YOURself up by the bootstraps, that truly makes it possible for someone to do it on their own.
The relationships you cultivate matter. I know this frustrating for a lot of us, who do not come from communities of access. Who don’t have family members with successful careers and money that they can freely invest and take risks with. Honestly that is why we often turn inward. Facing forward and realizing the dearth of resources that you have easy access to can be very frustrating. But I want to encourage to use that as a reminder that we need to come together to create the structures that allow our communities to flourish. And not to think of that simply in grandiose terms but in a grainal manner of how engage others and start solidifying the foundational aspects.
Getting into school, especially top tier programs is partially about getting into the room with the right people of influence. Yeah, your homegirls or your parents might not be wealthy or well educated but their different interests might inspire your story, support you emotionally and trust me, learning how to effectively tell your story to a diverse audience makes walking into the rooms that tetter on the sphere of influence, a much easier and productive experience.
I totally understand the need for solace and to unplug emotionally. To have the space to be with yourself. That’s like weekend or week, maybe every night you have a cut off time and a nighttime routine. But I am speaking directly to this idea of isolating for months at a time, to reach a goal. I don’t know any model of grand success that came through isolation. So I behoove you to not fall into that trap of that belief. Set boundaries with the integrity of compassion. Understand the emotional value your relationships foster, collaborate with your peers because success ain’t fun when you’re alone, and learn how to be specific about the help that you need.
I’ve definitely made this mistake through most of my twenties. I disappeared, moved cities, stopped talking to people for months at a time because I was going through it and thought I would pop back up once I had finally made it. If I could do it all over again, I would be honest about my struggles with the right people, worked through my fear of vulnerability that held me back from asking for help and learn how to ask for the help that I actually need. Understand the power of perspective and how to strategically view my sphere of influence through my friends and family. I missed opportunities because I tried to do things on my own. I wanted to be selfish in only caring about myself and it just took longer to get things done because no one achieves success on their own.
By all means, scale back when needed, do not engage toxic people. There are times of focus that means I can’t sit on the phone and talk all day, or even text. I might not be socially available for right now, cause I’m working on this but a “hey I’m really busy and focused on xyz because abc, how are you?” might be the pivotal ah ha moment you never saw coming.