12/17/2012 04:12 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

The Mask of the Strong Black Woman

Don't let the mean mug fool you; strong black women feel pain too.

At least that's what Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman by Dr. Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant claims.

Beauboeuf-Lafontant set out to test her theory that the term "strong black woman" was intentionally established as a way of dismissing the real issues that black women face within a society.

This façade has something relating the "tough black women" to superwomen; but even a superwoman feels pain from the burdens she carries at times.

According to Beauboeuf-Lafontant, the idea of the strong black woman emerged after slavery to appease blacks for how harshly they were treated.

"It was part of the justification for treating a group of people like they weren't human, so you could exploit them without second thoughts," explained Beauboeuf-Lafontant. "It's a very comfortable narrative to say in spite of slavery and segregation, poverty and abandonment; black women have made it. That means they're no longer on our 'we have to worry about them' list."

From articles that negatively portray black women in the media, to the reality shows and movie roles that perpetuate bad behaviors, images of the strong black woman have been ingrained in our minds, making it almost impossible to look at black women in any other way.

Yes, the media may have molded our perception of the strong black woman, but the fact that we continue to allow the media to do so puts us at fault.

In Beauboeuf-Lafontant's research, several women spoke outwardly about their struggles with clinical depression, obesity and the overconsumption of food to cope.

"Food was a metaphor for unmet needs." Beauboeuf-Lafontant said. "So these women recognize that food was not just for sustenance or about celebration either. It was about trying to find a way to voice pain."

Black women are strong, because many have to be. They are the backbones of their families and the wise souls who help others figure out life's unanswered questions.

Women like Michelle Obama have succeeded in helping others see the beauty in a strong black woman. The positive images of the First Lady as a classy, respected, and powerful woman have allowed many of us to embrace the title "strong black woman" without reservation.

When asked what would happen if more black women started showing their true inner selves, Beauboeuf-Lafontant said:

"There'd be tears, there'd be crying, there'd be screaming and then there would be healing. It's not going to be pretty and it may seem chaotic, but what comes after the rain? The sun and things grow again. And they grow in a healthy way. I think that's what would happen."

We should all prepare for that moment and look forward to the day when we can all just be ourselves.

So the next time you feel a strong black woman, or any woman for that matter is holding back; look deeper, be open and encouraging because at some point every superhero must take off the mask.