Failure Mirroring Depression in the Professional Black Woman

By Kim Knight | Oct 31, 2022

Failure Mirroring Depression in the Professional Black Woman 

By Asia Hall, LPC

Picture By Canva

Professional black women are hitting the glass ceiling and shattering it. A lot of evolution has occurred since the days of the “stay-at-home mom”. Women have begun reaching new avenues in their careers and have even commonly begun establishing their own businesses. While recently attending a work conference, I noticed that a number of professional black women were accompanied by their partners on this trip. Please be advised that this by no means is assuming that these are not equally successful male partners within the relationship, it is simply an observation of how black women are reaching their professional goals while also helping to “bring home the bacon”. 

However, there is a correlation that I have personally experienced as a professional black woman. Feelings of anxiety and/or depression are confused with a sense of failure. Being goal-driven can fuel ideas that sometimes present with increased or unrealistic expectations. At times, they may not be unrealistic in their ability to attain, but time against the clock may be the antagonist. This may include establishing a time frame to complete goals, but not factoring in the unexpected crisis that may occur along the way. I have included examples of possible crises below. 

Crisis Alert: 

  • Health- whether this includes a personal health scare or an unexpected medical issue that may present within an immediate family member such as your children, spouse, or parents 
  • Family Planning- plans to increase the members of your family may differ from the original dates discussed within your professional timeline
  • Relocation- relocating to a different area may hinder plans to complete professional goals as it may present a feeling as if one has to “start over” 
  • Financial Setbacks– these setbacks occur when 

financial strains outweigh profitable income 

The mentioned forms of crisis may differ from person to person. What may seem to be a crisis to some may not negatively affect others. Levels of success and reaching professional feelings of success may differ as well. For example, I have been in my field for many years and have attended professional events in various settings. Attending an event as a licensed professional and not a resident was my personal identifier as feeling successful. At one point I looked around and even stated a personal affirmation. “I am successful. I feel professional”. I wish that I could say that reaching a place within where that affirmation resonated with me was a constant. That would be a lie. 

As black women, we often feel the pressure to work harder, be smarter, and always to be present for our families. Dropping the ball in either of those can feel like a total failure. Symptoms of this feeling of failure may also mimic depressive symptoms as those identified below. 

Symptoms of Depression 

  • Trouble Sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Feeling worthless or guilty 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions 
  • Sad mood 
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue 

Depression negatively affects the way we feel about ourselves. This can mirror the feeling we get when we do not reach a goal or feel accomplished. “So close but not close enough” right? I have observed that these symptoms are not always addressed in the most effective way. In order to combat these feelings,

many black women will “press through” and/or “keep busy”. This can reflect generational traits as matriarchs have often been observed moving forward during difficult times, even when exhausted beyond the point of normalcy. 

Requesting or accepting help may be viewed as a sign of weakness or inability to manage tasks. This is especially true for the woman who desires to balance it all. However, it is very effective in maintaining the stability of mental health. Help may present in various ways such as therapy, taking time off, speaking to a spiritual advisor, or decreasing responsibilities. Receiving the necessary help is vital in maintaining a healthy identity that also allows continued growth in both professional and personal settings. 

About the Author

Asia Hall is a licensed professional counselor and clinic director who has a passion for working with individuals who are fighting to overcome

strongholds of generational dysfunction, trauma, and addiction. She believes that planting seeds through support and education will assist not only her clients but her community in bridging the gap between judgment and empowerment.


Kim Knight

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