I’m Black. I’m a Girl (big ‘G’). I’m an introvert.
Funny how those things aren’t often thought of as going together – Black Girl Introvert (BGI) – and, in America, how often those things aren’t allowed to go together.
For a personality type that’s considered to be rare (1-6% of all Americans) it’s notable how many people these days, throughout popular culture, talk openly about their introverted lives. So many folks are proudly identifying themselves as introverts; embracing their unique personalities in a decidedly extroverted world; talking openly about all aspects of lives as introverts; with some even calling for introverts to unite (… albeit separately, in our own homes).
Did the 1-6% all of a sudden wake up and decide to come out of their introverted shells all at once (….separately)?!
Being an introvert has become ubiquitous in American culture. Today there are blogs (www.introvertdear.com – just one of many); articles (far too many to start naming; google ‘introvert + huffington post’ and you’ll see what I mean); books (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking); social media groups (like this and this); even pop songs (Hey, Alessia Cara!) all dedicated to describing, discussing and extolling the virtues, ups, downs, and everything in between about life as an introvert.
What is also ubiquitous in American culture, are the limits and boundaries placed upon Black Girls that keep us from freely being/expressing/living the full range of who we naturally are. Black Girls in America live under an enormous weight of entrenched stereotypes and expectations of our behavior, none of which are characteristic of being an introvert.
Black Girls are seen as assertive, aggressive, and angry. We’re expected to be confident, engaging, outwardly strong/expressive, and always willing to help without ever needing a rest/break. We’re supposed to be outgoing, loud, always have something to say about anything in every moment. If we’re not expected to be the life of the party, we’re certainly expected to add to it because don’t we love the attention and spotlight? Black Girls are expected to entertain – especially if that entertainment contributes to the stereotypes of who America says we’re supposed to be.
Since the expectations of Black Girls in America are given such a severely limited range, it’s not hard to imagine the challenges BGIs experience in being who we naturally are. BGIs feel all kinds of pressure to explain ourselves; make others comfortable around us; act in ways contradictory to our nature; and be held accountable to peoples’ misinterpretations of our attitudes/behaviors/thoughts whenever they don’t fit the stereotypes of their expectations.
Being a BGI in America can feel like some sort of condition, and a limiting and exhausting one at that.
As a BGI, I have found that solo-travel provides both the treatment and cure for my experience of this condition – primarily because it helped me realize that my real condition (read: problem) was not being a BGI, it was being a BGI in an American culture that created a very small box for a Black Girl to exist in. Fortunately for me, I was born not being about that box – at all!
Here are 5 ways traveling solo can help a BGI find her freedom ‘out the box’:
EXPERIENCE BEING ‘AMERICAN’ – You’ll experience the perks of being ‘American’ in ways being a BGI in America doesn’t allow. You’re in another country; you’re already different. People will see and respond to your being American first and foremost rather than just a Black Girl to fit in a box. Your being different is expected, appreciated and in many ways celebrated. Outside of America you’ll experience what it’s like to be an American in places where being the different kind of American that you naturally are is actually a good thing!
NO TALKING REQUIRED – You won’t have to talk to anyone you don’t want to talk to AND there’s no one to judge, label, misinterpret or consider you weird, antisocial, a monster etc., because the truth is, this whole needing people to talk thing – sooooo very American. There’s a reason why a stereotype of the typical American is: loud and talks a lot. As a BGI on that score, you’ll find a refreshing comfort in many places and cultures abroad (and they’ll find the same in you!).
AND THE CONVERSATIONS YOU DO HAVE… – You’ll find folks in other countries prefer quality and meaning in their conversations rather than quantity and volume. So when you do have conversations, they’ll tend to involve more interest and depth of discussion (even learning and growing) likely to touch your mind, heart and/or soul in some way than you usually have on a typical day in America.
FREE YOUR INNER EXTROVERT – She’s in there, trust me! As you travel solo you’ll increasingly (at your own pace of course) find yourself wanting to engage others and initiate conversations while exploring new places, people and cultures. Every introvert has an inner extrovert. Balanced living encourages us to let our inner extrovert come out and play. Traveling solo allows the opportunity for that balance through the freedom to experiment with, explore and engage your inner extrovert. Doing so allows you to discover more of who you are and to love all of her.
DISCOVER YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF & LOVE WHO YOU FIND – Free of the constant stream of messaging about how you’re supposed to be, you’ll be able to experience the freedom of being you, as you naturally are, in ways that allow you to not only realize there is nothing wrong with you but also to discover, embrace, experience and ultimately love all of who you are as a BGI (quirks, imperfections, wisdom, beauty, strengths and all). And once you have that experience of self-acceptance and self-love, you can’t help but bring that back with you as a part of who you are and how you choose to live not just when you travel but also in your daily life. Traveling solo gives you the time and space you deserve to experience life outside the limited confines of American stereotypes and expectations and once a BGI feels that freedom there’s no going back to living any other way!
In what ways will solo-travel help you find your freedom in the New Year…and beyond?
(NOTE: This post was originally published at Las Morenas de Espana)