Making It Easier for Women of Color to Get Support from a Therapist of Color
Charmain F. Jackman is a licensed psychologist who grew up on Barbados, where many people of color, she recalls, had an all-or-nothing view about mental health: You had it, or you didn’t. There was no in between.
Today, she says, there is still a stigma about mental health among people of color that makes women of color less likely than white women to access mental health services. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, mental health services are used by:
21.5 percent of white women
10.3 percent of black women
9.2 percent of Hispanic women
5.3 percent of Asian women.
But over the past several years, that has been changing, according to Jackman, who has made it her mission to destigmatize mental health services—and make it easier for people of color to access to therapists of color.
“There has been a real groundswell of people being more open about mental health issues, and understanding that therapy can be helpful,” Jackman said in a recent conversation with the Conferences for Women for Mental Health Awareness Month.
Superstar rapper Jay-Z has publicly spoken about the benefits of therapy; and Taraji Henson, the actress who appeared in Hidden Figures, started a foundation to help her father who suffered from PTSD.
Jackman also has been working to educate people of color about the benefits of therapy—and dismantle
The cultural message that if you seek therapy, it means you are crazy or weak;
The idea that you shouldn’t share family business with strangers; and
The cynicism bred of infamous historical events, such as the Tuskegee Experiment.
Another big obstacle that Jackman has been working to overcome is helping people find a therapist of color—since most people prefer to speak to someone from their own background.
There’s a difference between being a go-getter and being gutsy, Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, observes in her book, Brave Not Perfect.
“So many women stick to doing only the things at which they excel, rarely going beyond what makes them feel confident and comfortable,” she writes.
But what happens when we’re outside our comfort zones—either by choice or by circumstances, such as the challenging ones we now find ourselves in?
That’s where being brave comes in. And, that’s why we thought it a good time to catch up with Reshma, a bravery expert, and hear how she is navigating these times at home with her husband, eight-week-old baby and five-year-old son with whom she’s making time to master TikTok dances. One of several things that she said is helping her is asking the question: “Who do you want to be when this is over?” Read the interview here.
In this month’s episode of “Women Amplified,” Reshma also joins another amazing woman, Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target, for a dynamic conversation about why we need to give up on perfectionism to find our courage. Tune in here.
Finally, in case you missed it, here are some new resources and initiative we launched last month:
Finding Your Bravery Now: A Conversation with Reshma Saujani
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect, recently spoke with the Conferences for Women, about perfectionism and bravery in a world turned upside down. The conversation has been edited for brevity.
CFW: You’ve talked about striving for perfection as an impediment to growth. In today’s extraordinary circumstances, perfection doesn’t seem remotely possible. But does it still play a role in how women are responding to the present moment?
Reshma Saujani: Perfectionism is totally at play. The coronavirus is very hard for perfectionists and extroverts. Extroverts for obvious reasons, and perfectionists want an A on everything. If you’re working from home, with kids and dogs in the background, it’s stressing you out. When perfectionists are dealing with uncertainty, it’s also really hard.
You have to honor what you’re feeling, but be brief. If you were supposed to be at a conference and you’re not there, acknowledge that sucks. Then let it go. Also, recognize moments when anxiety hits. For me, it’s at night. Doing meditation and breathing then is helpful.
The question I keep asking myself is: Who do I want to be when we are out of this? Who do I want to be as a leader, a partner, a mother? If I can ask that question and be committed to it, then I can also play. I’ve played three innings of Whiffle ball with my son. I’ve never done that before. I’m taking voice lessons. I’m serious about mastering TikTok dances with him. Play is so important because it builds bravery and courage.
CFW: How else do we find our bravery in these unprecedented circumstances?
Saujani: I’ve been thinking a lot about how you develop courage in a crisis. Some of the tactics I talk about in the book apply. You can’t be brave if you’re tired. So, what are the things getting in the middle of your sleep now? I think it’s important to put devices away. I was on a call with work colleagues and could hear CNN in the background. I said, ‘Shut it off. Today will be as bad as yesterday.’ Playing and doing something you suck at is also important. It’s relevant to bravery and building coverage.
CFW: Strength is another good word—something we would all consider a good thing to strive for. But can expecting yourself to be strong at all times be setting yourself up for failure? Right now, after all, it seems we need to acknowledge that this situation is so much bigger than us and that it’s OK to not feel strong.
Saujani: Absolutely. I have an eight-week-old baby and a five-year-old and elderly parents with heart disease and diabetes who are five states away. I wasn’t acknowledging that I was feeling really scared. Every so often my husband would see me have a frightened look and stare off. He’d say: It’s going to be OK. And, I realized I was not acknowledging even to myself what I was feeling.
On social media, there’s so much about how to have perfect home schooling. I’m not seeing a lot of expression of fear and grief. But it’s what gets us to learn to be imperfect. If you’re constantly putting up walls, it’s just all veneer.
CFW: What has been most difficult for you in the present circumstances, and how have you been dealing with it?
Saujani: It’s frightening to bring a newborn into the world at this moment. I look at my son and think he’s frowning. He has to be picking up on us. The idea of not bringing enough joy into his life makes me feel bad.
I think it’s important to do one simple thing a day to take your mind off this. Maybe it’s one day not watching any news and watching The Tiger King on Netflix. Part of being less anxious is doing something that is totally mind-numbing.
In a moment when you have 6.6 million people unemployed and everybody is worried about their jobs, people also don’t feel they can be brave at work now or take time for themselves and that’s horrible. If I show up frazzled and afraid, that is not going to help. Self-care is important.
CFW: No one would wish these incredibly difficult circumstances on the world. But are there any opportunities for growth that you imagine could come from it?
Saujani: I think it gives us the opportunity to be still and question: Who do we want to be when we come out of this? It might be too much to answer that question today. But I think that is a good thing to think about.
In this special episode, Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, talks with guest host Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target, about her new book, Brave, Not Perfect.
This conversation took place before the outbreak of COVID-19. But we’re airing it now because it clearly speaks to the challenges many of us face today. Tune in for practical advice and inspiration from Reshma to help you navigate away from the pull of perfectionism, which will only make you more anxious, and toward a life that is bolder, braver, and ultimately happier.
“What I learned to do is work on silencing that voice in my head that told me I wasn’t smart, wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t belong.” —Reshma Saujani
What you’ll learn in this episode of Women Amplified:
The origin of perfectionism in women and what “brave, not perfect” means
The importance of building the habit of being brave as a form of self-care
Why you need to prioritize yourself without feeling guilty
How to forgive yourself and create time by saying no to unimportant things
Understand that perfectionism and people-pleasing don’t serve women; being authentic does
The best and the worst advice Reshma has ever been given
How Reshma learned to create equity herself as a woman of color
Why failure is not attractive for women
The importance of assessing why you’re doing what you’re doing
Laysha Ward, left, interviews Reshma Saujani at the 2019 Massachusetts Conference for Women
This Month’s Guest:
RESHMA SAUJANI is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, the international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a computer programmer looks like and does. The organization has already reached 185,000 girls in all fifty states, Canada, and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the international bestseller Brave, Not Perfect, and the New York Times best-seller Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World. Saujani’s TED talk, “Teach girls, bravery not perfection,” has more than four million views and has sparked a worldwide conversation about how we’re raising our girls. In 2010, she surged onto the political scene as the first Indian American woman to run for US Congress. Saujani lives in New York City with her husband, Nihal, their son, Shaan, and their bulldog, Stanley. @reshmasaujani
This Month’s Guest Host:
LAYSHA WARD is executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target and a member of the company’s executive leadership team. She leads Target’s enterprise-wide approach to engage and deepen relationships with external stakeholders to drive positive business, social and environmental impact. Ms. Ward serves on the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Advisory Board and the Stanford Center for Longevity Advisory Council, and is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the Economic Club of New York, the Economic Club of Chicago, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and The Links, an international women’s service organization. She also sits on the for-profit board of directors for Denny’s Corporation. She was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and continued through the Obama Administration, where she served as board chair. Ms. Ward received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and a master’s degree in social services administration with an emphasis in management and public policy from the University of Chicago @layshaward@target