“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Phil. 4:8
When I was little, we learned about different techniques of brain washing that were used during the war. I remember one specific technique was to play specific statements over a loud speaker every morning. After a while, people started to believe what they were being told on a daily basis. I could never understand this concept because in my young mind the truth was the only thing that mattered, not what was being blasted over a loud speaker.
As I grew up, people started defining me based on their opinions and whether it was intentional or not, I became what they said I was. I didn’t even realize it was happening. I was told I was mean, stubborn, rebellious, strong willed, disrespectful, and reckless. In turn, I became exactly that. I had moments growing up where I fit those descriptions (all kids do), but they were not WHO I was. I became what someone else thought about me. The funny thing is, we all do this and we don’t even realize it. Someone else’s negative opinion of us, is a reflection of their own insecurities. They see their own faults in us like a mirrored image. Those things people called me may have been a temporary state of mind, but through their words, I made it my identity.
It took me until I reached my 30s to realize that I am who I decide I am. It has been such a long journey, and I am still learning every day. But first, I had to heal from one of the most damaging and wide spread forms of mental manipulation, gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a phrase used to define: “Manipulating (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” This is done by placing seeds of doubt in someone’s mind and making them question their own reality. After taking away a person’s essence piece by piece, it leaves the victim in a state of confusion. For example, I was told my kids would be better off without me, that I was a waste of skin. By this time, I was so confused as to what was actually real, I almost took my own life. I only wanted what was best for my kids and I thought it was the right thing to do. This same person told me I was bipolar and insisted on me taking meds for my own sanity and safety. He even went as far as to gain sympathy from others for dealing with my, “mental instability”. He made himself to be a hero in the eyes of everyone outside the home.
When I finally gained the courage to leave, the battle had just begun. There were years of gaslighting I had to reverse. It took a physical toll on me as well as a mental and emotional one. Some days, those negative thoughts would hit me like a wall out of nowhere and cause me a panic attack. Eventually I started to remind myself, “That’s not me. I know who I am.” And the panic would start to dissipate.
When I realized that I was the only one who could define who I really was, my entire world changed. I changed the way I thought about myself, I changed the way I talked about myself, and in turn that changed the way I carried myself. Every day I remind myself who I am and who I am striving to be. I spend my time reading the Bible, playing in nature, and talking to those who add to my life. Now, I have the most supportive network of friend and family.
Who do you want to be? Take the time today to write out the qualities you want to embody and remind yourself every day that that is WHO YOU ARE. Forget what others have defined you as, forget what society and your significant other have defined you as, and create your own persona.