What does it mean to be a successful woman? Does it require an amazing career? An accredited degree? A loyal partner? Or just the will to always take off your makeup, regardless of how tired you are? In order to get an answer, I turned to the person who always gives me the most sage advice, my fifteen-year-old sister. “Being a successful woman means you’re grounded in yourself. You have a job in a career that you actually like. You’re stable and confident and funny without putting people down. You have a husband or wife that loves you, good friends, and a good pet.” Do you see what I mean? At fifteen, I was still watching the Disney Channel and applying eyeliner like my life depended on it. She’s the best! And while I agree that a satisfying career, spouse, and friendships are foundations for a great life, I wonder just how essential they are to a great state of mind.
Michelle Williams is an accomplished singer, actress, and entrepreneur. Aside from being a member of one of the greatest music groups of all time, Destiny’s Child, she has also starred in multiple Broadway shows, performed at Coachella, and owns her own home décor business, Believe By Michelle. Her new fiancé, Pastor Chad Johnson, is a professional sports chaplain, nonprofit owner, and one of a select group of men who can rock a bald head and full facial hair. All of this, coupled onto the fact that Blue Ivy knows her by name, makes it seem as if her life couldn’t get much better. One of the reasons why celebrities like Williams have so many followers is because their success is inspiring; they give us something to strive towards. This is also the reason why it can be quite shocking when these same celebrities turn around and admit that they are battling their own demons.
Throughout the years of being in the public eye, Williams has been a devoted advocate for mental health and self-care. In a 2017 interview on CBS's The Talk, she went on record about her previous battles with depression, claiming that she “was at a place that got so dark and heavy” that she considered suicide. One of the factors that kept her, and continues to keep others, in this dark place is guilt. Williams says that when she originally disclosed her feelings to a coworker, he replied by saying “y’all just signed a multi-million dollar deal, you’re about to go on tour, what do you have to be depressed about?” For many, there is an expectation that the more success you achieve, the less struggle you will face, but this simply isn’t true. Just because you “have it all” does not mean you are enjoying any of it.
A few days later, Williams had positive updates for her community of friends and followers.
Each of our relationships to mental health is a lifelong commitment. It will last longer than any friend, partner, or encouraging comment on Instagram. On one hand it requires us to be our best cheerleaders, but on the other it requires us to admit when we need help. One of the many reasons I commend Williams for being vulnerable about her mental health is because I know how difficult it is to do so. Like many women, I struggle with showing the world the sides of me that aren’t put together. I look at my life and feel as if I do not have the perfect job, or partner, or body, which can cause me to shut out from the very same world I love to engage in. Social media only deepens these insecurities since the majority of images I scroll through all day are amplified versions of the best parts of everyone else’s life. The fact that Williams chose social media, a place where artists like her are often victim to vicious scrutiny and bullying, to share such a personal truth is bravery personified.
One of the biggest takeaways from Michelle Williams’ honesty is the fact that self-care is an active process. Not because it requires you to move (in fact, for some self-care may be to stop moving), but because it requires you to make a choice. Williams chose therapy and mental health counseling. I tend to go for my scratched up Love & Basketball DVD and some eucalyptus candles. For you, it may be medication, exercise, journaling, prayer, reading affirming quotes, or applying a great face mask. Whichever methods work best for you, are the ones that need to be implored. The first step to finding these methods is to believe that seeking help when it is needed is a commendable act, not an embarrassing one. As Williams states, when you change your mind, you can change your life.