Recently I watched as Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas won two gold metals in the Olympics and made history by becoming not only the first African-American woman, but also the first woman of color to win the individual-all around in gymnastics. Remarkable feats for anyone, let alone a 16 year old. Being an African-American I was so proud of her, so you can imagine my shock when I was told that much of the talk about Gabby within the African-American community online wasn’t about her gold metals or her history making accomplishment, but about her hair. Her hair? Are you kidding me?
I took some time reading different blogs and websites and was shocked to see that a lot of people were more concerned about the texture, style and condition of her hair than about what this 4’11” exceptional athlete was doing in London. The more I read, the more I found myself enraged at the ignorance of those who expressed that Gabby was representing all African-American women “and her hair should look good” while she was doing it. This is so ridiculous. She is representing African-American women, showing that if you are dedicated, focused, work hard, refuse to take no for an answer and never give up on yourself, you can accomplish all of your dreams. Instead, many people are worried about the superficial and that got me to thinking.
There are so many places I could go with this. I could talk about the psychology of racism, self-hate, the European standard of beauty, stereotypes, the psychodynamic value (or devaluation) of African-American hair, post traumatic slave syndrome, images in the media that make many African-American’s consciously or sub-consciously reject their own images as attractive, self esteem, and the list could go on and on. However, I decided to try to stay as true to this blog as possible, and discuss something I think everyone could benefit from and that is understanding automatic negative thoughts, or ANTS.
You see, we all have automatic thoughts which are thoughts that just pop into our head without us giving much thought about them. We will discuss this more in detail next week. We all at times even have ANTS (automatic negative thoughts), but some people seem to be infested with ANTS and when reading those disparaging remarks about Gabby, I realized that those people were infested. Instead of looking at a beautiful, successful, incredible young woman, they quickly pointed out the negative and decided to focus on that for whatever reason (in the African-American community, the word “crabbing” is often used to describe when other African-American’s complain about more successful African-Americans, often in attempts to make the other person feel bad while also making the person complaining feel better about themselves). Those ANTS keep them from being able to truly see or recognize the beauty right in front of them.
People with ANTS, if you take them to a beautiful beach will complain that it’s too hot, the waves are too loud, it smells too salty or that the sand is getting between their toes. If you take them on a beautiful midnight stroll they will complain that the moon is too bright or that their feet hurt. Or, if you show them a beautiful teenager making Olympic history, will complain that her hair isn’t done nicely. They will never be happy unless they are complaining about something. They are so used to being miserable that they are only happy when complaining. These people usually don’t even know that they have a problem because they have lived with the ANTS for so long that they are part of them.
Are there people in your life who have ANTS? People who always seem to rain on your parade, point out the negative in every situation or seem to only be somewhat content when they are complaining about how miserable they are or pointing out flaws and imperfections in other people? If so, recognizing that they are infested with ANTS helps keep you from making their issue, your issue, and allows you to detach from them either physically or emotionally. Maybe you recognize that you have an infestation of ANTS. Start paying attention to your automatic thoughts, especially those ANTS and next week we’ll start working on getting rid of them.