I delayed writing this piece because honestly, I didn’t know what to write. April has been a very strange month, there has been a global stillness but yet it still feels like my mind and my heart has been so busy. There’s been a lot to contemplate. A lot of plans to change. A lot of plans to make. It has been a lesson in understanding that every day looks different and that’s okay. It is a trap of capitalism to try to make each day a carbon copy of the previous one. Some days are super productive. Other days you stay in bed until 12 and have noodles for breakfast. Other days, you wrestle with yourself because of what spending so much time with yourself is exposing in you.
A lot of things have shown up in my heart during this lockdown that I didn’t realise was there. I’m sharing them with you in hope that you might be encouraged to know that we are all carrying some things hidden inside of us that are unfavourable to others and ourselves. I’m conscious that this is a list of things ‘I need to work on’ which might look like I’m focusing on negatives and not positives but what I want to highlight is that sometimes we perceive hidden parts of ourselves and we judge ourselves for it, instead of responding to ourselves with love. It is possible to love yourself as you are but also recognise that you also have areas you need to work on.
1. Love of Applause
I realised that so many things I was doing was because I wanted the applause of people and I feared not getting it. I didn’t share certain things because I wanted applause. I would share things that I knew would get me applause. I wanted always to get applause because I feared the opposite: being ignored. I know it might seem like the natural opposite to applause is to criticism, but love of applause comes from feeling seen and appreciated. It’s perfectly fine to want to be seen and appreciated, but in this month, I was shown that there’s some aspects of me where that desire is acting unhealthily.
I responded by:
1. Re-evaluating who my audience is. My first audience is an audience of one. In the bible it tells us to seek to be in good standing with God and people, but God comes first. God is my first audience because if there were no other people on this planet, it would just be me and God. I believe that God made me for a specific purpose on this earth and so God must be my first audience because it is because of God, through God and in God that I live. If I live to please other people, when will I actually live out myself and who I am meant to be?
2. Understanding that impact doesn’t always look immediately like people applauding you. Sometimes people don’t applause because they don’t yet understand, or because they are battling their own insecurities, or because something you’ve said or done has been challenging for them. Imagine, holding back what you feel burdened in your heart to do because you’re waiting for people to applaud you who can’t do it yet. Eesh.
3. Putting boundaries on my social media use, where it's so easy to get caught up in likes and applause.
2. False Humility
Ha. In April I realised my heart was proud proud proud and operating in major false humility. False humility looks like this ‘I’m going to continue to operate as small so that people don’t perceive me as too big’ or ‘I’m not going to operate in my gifts and talents because people might think I am proud’. All of this so I could seem humble but it’s really manipulation – an attempt to control the way other people perceive me. I remember once my Pastor said to me ‘do you think that tree’s worry about whether people are offended by how big they are? Or do they just grow and bear fruit?’.
During lockdown I have felt led to do so many different creative things and express myself in different ways but I have been hesitant because I did not want it to look like I was doing ‘too much’. Can you imagine, a tree that has the capacity to grow 10 fruit deciding it would only grow one so that other trees didn’t feel intimidated? Or a seed deciding it would stay that way because it doesn’t believe there is space for its full manifestation as a tree.
I responded by:
1. Getting around people that see my capacity and call me out on it. This month I joined a mentorship group and it has helped to keep me motivated and it has challenged me to express some of the lies about myself I was telling, but also challenged me not to just end at expressing but into living out a new way.
2. Understanding that I am a growing and dynamic human being. I was not made to live in one form forever. I am here to bear fruit, to grow, to add value to the world, to rejoice in my growth, to give glory to God. I am here to experience that upwards movement.
3. Digging out the roots of that reluctance to grow, which brings me to the next point.
This is a big one. At some point in the month I watched a video of a woman talking about her experiences of childhood trauma and it was triggering. I knew going into the video that it would be sensitive, but I didn’t expect it to be as triggering as it was. There were a lot of childhood experiences that resurfaced that I thought I had healed from but that were still quite raw. In the process I realised that that’s where a lot of my insecurities and fears about ‘being a tree’ had first of all come from.
I responded by:
First, being annoyed that I wasn't as 'healed' as I thought I was. Then, deciding I would have some therapy sessions to talk it out. I am quite good at reflecting on my own and dissecting my own experiences but sometimes the healing comes from saying it out loud with a physical witness present. I decided that physical witness should be a therapist because it’s important to me that the person I express to feels able to hold what I share. It’s weird to think about being a mental health professional that has spent a lot of time encouraging people to go to therapy and then realising that you actually need to go yourself.
La la la la – can I take my fingers out my ears now? Do I have to talk about this? Gosh. This month I have been challenged in my hypocrisy and shown where I have been doing more talking than doing (or more thinking than doing). This month asked me ‘do I stand by the words that come out of my mouth?’ ‘do I put my money where my prayers are?’. For example, I saw online an article about how COVID 19 has impacted people in Yemen and it talked about people not being able to access basic resources etc and I immediately sent it to my prayer group for it to be prayed about in our weekly session.
A couple of days later I saw a post going around that was to raise money for people disadvantaged in Yemen and I said in my mind ‘ah that’s cool’. And then I had to stop and say but wait, didn’t I pray about this? That people would have access to resources? And I am here in a position to potentially help and am I about to scroll past? Even the bible says it is useless to pray for someone to be ‘warm and well fed’ without making direct provision for their physical needs (James 2 15-16). And its hypocrisy because I would very quickly say ‘ah this world is no good, we don’t care for each other anymore’ – but there are many ways which I fall into that statement.
I responded by:
Making the effort to actually stand by the things you claim to stand for. Otherwise don’t claim to stand for them.
5. Lack of focus
I’ve noticed in lockdown that my mind is very scatter-brained. I would generally consider myself a fairly mindful person but a lot of the time I am not. I can be very easily distracted. The three main distracters are my phone, memories and sounds. I am very distracted by sounds. There are some people who are so structured and they know how to keep specifically to certain times, how to focus on one thing for hours. I am not that person, not at all. But things still have to get done.
I responded by:
1. Putting my phone in a separate room. It sounds so simple but it really is. Put it out of sight out of arms reach because in those moments where you want to turn to it, it won’t be there, and you will turn back to whatever you were doing.
2. I give myself grace knowing that I am someone who is easily distracted and I factor my nature into my planning, working with myself rather than against.
3. I give myself a limited number of small and necessary tasks to do within a certain period of time (usually a day but it could be a few hours) and I do them. Sometimes I lack focus because I am trying to do too much and my mind is trying to think about all of these things at once. No. just pick 1-2 things and do those.
4. Pray and remember the ‘why’. Prayer is really powerful because it really helps me to re-align with the intent of whatever I’m trying to focus on. For example, when I’ve been struggling to commit to working from home, I’ve prayed and asked God to help me because I know that there is a purpose for me in my job role that I’m losing sight of in the moment.
6. I didn't know Jesus
You might not be walking the Christian walk, but this was a big deal for me. It made my whole christian walk feel like a lie. I know God as father and the Holy Spirit but not the person of Jesus. Imagine you’re on your way somewhere and you've been following this person for like 3 years and you’re talking to your friend saying ‘yeah I know him’ only to realise that you have never gone to actually walk beside him at all.
I responded by:
Repenting in my heart (which just means to turn away from not knowing Jesus towards knowing him). I pray more directly to Jesus which I didn’t do before and that has reshaped my spiritual and mental landscape immensely. I don’t know if there’s a point where you ever feel like you ‘know’ Jesus, but I am more aware of seeking intimacy with him.
There’s actually a lot of things but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have also discovered many great things that I like about myself during this time - I am actually way more creative than I thought was. I have a good ear for music. I am really encouraging. People find me to be a source of peace and a safe place. I make time and space for people. I am bad at replying to texts sometimes, but I am great at making space for people. I've come a long way from where I started and that's the biggest blessing.
Are there any parts of yourself that you have had to confront during lockdown in April? How have you responded to those?
Do you judge yourself for the parts of you that are ‘unfavourable?’. What things in love could you say to those parts of yourself?
What are the things that you have realised about yourself that make you happy?