about a 5 minute read
Have you ever stopped and thought about your opinion you have of yourself? For a long time, I allowed myself to be ‘boxed’ into this state of mind that what people said I am is true and they had the final say.
It took me until I left the UK to see that I had been buried under labels that people – society had carefully or carelessly given me. As I grew more aware of my identity in Christ I realised that there was a conflict between what God’s word says and what people say and I had to choose one. I am complete in Christ but that did not mean I totally deny my politically correct titles as I’m still very present on this Earth. I learnt to not accept them as my final identity.
In this post, I want to address the boxes we allow others to draw around us and scriptures that will begin to help initiate a change of mindset if you really want it.
In the early years of my secondary school career, I was labelled a ‘troublemaker’ and therefore ‘wouldn’t amount to much because I was the ‘ring-leader’ of a group of girls who ended up bringing the school’s name to disrepute. I had not known how heavy those words were to me over actions I had only viewed through the eyes of a child as I was back then. It was just some harmless fun in my young opinion. The conclusion, given to me by the Head of Year, came from this one silly incident and my limitations derived from then onwards from her analysis.
It wasn’t until recently, through news articles and general discussions with other black women, that I realised black girls in school were treated a lot harsher than their white peers. I won’t excuse my actions, I did mess up back then but I also was aware that offences other students did wasn’t met with the same force, slander or disdain. I wasn’t entirely oblivious of these subtle discriminations throughout school, I simply didn’t have the words to pinpoint these experiences. Seeing these instances over and over again had awoken a sense of fear – that I would never be ‘good enough’ because the majority of my teachers didn’t believe I was competent to succeed and my competition was already miles ahead of me in almost every way. Whenever someone did believe in me, I withdrew into the box filled with the titles others had labelled me.
As I climbed into tertiary level education and simultaneously into the workplace I learned about the double consciousness which shed light on my teen years.
‘It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideas in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.’ W.E.B. DuBois (1903) The Souls of Black Folk
I came across this text as I studied Literature in uni. I learned that I had been daily dealing with this ‘two-ness’ that would help me sail through society “safely” for others but restricting for me and also pretty tiring. I became aware that the ‘two-ness’ I juggled with was the cultural and complexion aspects. I had grown up in the UK, with a dual awareness of the English culture through the lens of a Jamaican heritage. I had black skin which meant I’d be labelled negatively without even opening my mouth and so I must work harder in whatever space I’m in to prove that I am not one of them, but a ‘good person’ whatever that meant.
Only until I left the UK for China, I learnt that I had been performing to the satisfaction of others. For me, that physical getaway helped me acknowledge that I needed to renew and reset this overworked mind of mine. The China life was difficult from the beginning to the end but being out of London’s bubble, I got a chance to think clearly and hear whatever God was trying to say.
Obviously, I’m not saying ‘hey, go leave your home country for some time to hear from God,’ haha but perhaps you need to get some reeeal quite time. Like no technology around you, just silence or somewhere quieter than what you’re used to and get some paper and pens and do a spider diagram. Write your name in the middle of the paper and underneath your name write ‘the state of his/her heart as of [today’s date].’ (Third person may be easier to talk about yourself) then truly write all the things – the good and the ugly about this person who shares the same name as you the labels you’ve been called and the ones you’ve called yourself – ‘failure,’ ‘stupid’, ‘no one cares about’… whatever is relevant. The most important step after that is to find scriptures that tackle those areas in your life. Google is your friend here. ‘Open Bible’ has a good array of topical options. Find scriptures to speak OVER your situation but don’t get discouraged when you don’t see instant results. It’s about the process. If you’ve ever dismantled a cardboard box, it can be really difficult depending on how it has been secured. Maybe you have got to empty the contents it had to carry beforehand.
But as always, don’t try and do this alone. Firstly get Jesus involved. Maybe you’re a talker and it would help to also get some close Christian friends involved. Or, if you like your privacy, begin to talk with God – even if you have tried a million times before with little result, and say those scriptures over yourself. Meditate on them.
When you feel such feelings trying to battle with your mind, bring those scriptures back up and speak life again. Write them out on index cards, as home screen backgrounds on your phone where ever you have quick access to them.
We could take a look at the Israelites in Exodus 13:17-22 who had left Egypt in a very dramatic way, free from slavery physically but mentally they were locked into the only mindset they knew. What about us? I wouldn’t point fingers at them and say ‘ha, look! They were pretty blind’ or whatever if we’re doing the exact same thing.
God’s done so many things in our lives and kept us close to Him even when it doesn’t “feel” like it. He has given us the freedom to live beyond mental barriers and renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and learn our new identities in Him.
So my question is to you, will you allow Jesus into the process to dismantle those ‘boxes’?