Everywhere I look and read, I see posts about running your own race. I must admit that I am amongst those who have reposted these statements and I believe the years 2017 and 2018 were filled with more of these statements about finding my lane and running my own race. . .
The year 2019 posts are more direct and considerate and they speak directly to the avoidance of competing with friends and or family members, they indicate that don’t measure your success based on other people’s success, they talk to pace, they consider background and other factors to consider in running this race.
All of this tells me that, we are all going through it and we are all aware of what is sucking the joy out of our souls and is taking away from the potential beauty of friendships, family relationships and life that we all could be enjoying…. Only if we could take away competition, the need to fit in and belong whilst suffocating the best version of who are meant to me
Disclaimer : I am in no way an expert in this subject but here is what I have learned so far about competition……..
As early as age 13 I was told that the birds of the same feathers flock together, this was always interpreted to me as “keep the right friends, you are assured success”, the right friends also meant right thinking, perception in life and basically avoidance of trouble. And for my generation the biggest trouble was always defined as sin, which basically meant boys and pregnancy which would mean pro-longed extension of poverty and suffering and shattering of dreams . . . at least that was what I heard in church and surrounding neighbors most often.
So I have always committed myself to keeping the “right” crowd and sticking with people who are committed to life as much and even more than I am. In fact even to date, I still hear “show me your friends, I will tell you your future “. . . . . . I still have to explore the extent of this statement further.
This committed to life thing I define as people who share the same values as mine and who have similar belief systems as I do. . . . At least this is what I have come to understand it’s meant by the birds of the same feathers statement.
So in simple terms, the crowd that we keep, informs the kind of people we turn out to be in this world. But what does that mean exactly……?? In my attempt to speak to competition I decided to focus at the mid-life (crushing) season where competition, discontent and ungratefulness most shows itself up the most . . . it is because of this season(mid-life crushing) which I believe occurs to more than 60% of the people on earth, that interested my curiosity.
Does it mean if I keep the crowd that has wealth, I shall acquire or access that wealth too? And at what stage of my life does this apply to? If they are educated I too will be, if they get married, I too shall be married? The list of these questions may go on and on and on … and I have personally had to answer some if not most of these questions.
I was 13 when I gave my life to Christ and made most of my decisions that forms the basis of my value system to date. It was at age 13 that I decided no boyfriend I also intentionally kept the crowd that showed up in class and did well at their grades. Somehow each and every one of us made independent decisions but the wealth of support and rooting for one another was tremendous.
To be honest, when you are raised in a small church community there is limited variety of personalities, unlike with big townships and cities where there are a vast majority of people who think differently. So being extremely different in my church community was something not very common. Instead uniformity was encouraged, to such an extent that we wore similar colors for the majority of the days when attending church services, a pencil skirt in black and a white blouse was our traditional uniform. It was also very common that when girls reached a certain age they get married and start a family. Even in my school environment, I would pay attention to the clothes our teachers were wearing, for example if a specific jacket was a hit in a certain season, one teacher would have it in yellow, another in brown, and another in orange until you see all the colors of the same jacket being won in the same season by most teachers. I definitely think this is where my love for shared values and ideas was born, being in a crowd that does things the same way and consulting with elders for the most of my decisions. In short, this church community provided me with security and a space to belong.
It was a common thing in my church to hear testimonies about the Holy Spirit charging you not to wear trousers. I specifically recall how I made the decision not to wear pants and I also made an intentional decision that I would not testify as it was commonly done, to say that the Lord has said not to wear trousers anymore. To me I just knew that being different would not serve me at that time, nor did I have a need to wear trousers because it was not common in my eyes to see people wearing them. My mom, who is not a member of this church, I had never seen wear trousers to date and so to me this was not an issue.
In church we were also encouraged to find ourselves within the five folds ministry. We were encouraged to sing, testify, preach, act, and do all types of artistic expressions, within the confines of the church environment. Each time we did these activities I felt like myself . . . my true original self-bursting and bubbling out with life . . . . The day I discovered that I am a great orator and that I could recite all of Psalm 137 and many other Psalms with no struggle . . . ohw my goodness I just knew that standing in front of people and serving or edifying them with the word gave me so much joy.
I also have great memories of our days in SUB A- to B (the now Grade 1-2), where we did beautiful artworks made from seeds, bean and maize. I still crave even to date to recreate that beautiful artwork of a gigantic bird on a green board with a red beak.
So it seems to me that whilst being different is something that I was and lived I still craved the approval of my surrounding environment for belonging and even it meant demeaning my own light
Fast forward to 18, I move to Johannesburg to pursue University studies and I meet driven new friends and sisters in Christ. And so the drill goes on, I keep the same type friends and all is well. Now, just like the pace from back home, over here we are driven, we are committed, we performing and are getting rewarded with Diplomas, odd jobs here and there, some boyfriends, marriages etc. etc. I think it once dawned on me that one of the major reasons we are all here is that we “qualified” to be here. So in some form we all had to perform in our grades to get here and the more I listened to each and every one of us, we all had serious ambitions and goals to achieve.
It is at this stage ….University that I quickly realized that life is not a one Way Street where one applies all the rules from the book and the results come out as expected for everyone. I learned by observing closely decisions made by a vast majority of people , some starting a course and turns out they are not in love with it, something I thought was a luxury for those kids at the time and I have come to understand how important it is as I adult 🤷🏿♀️. And so the more I saw these outliers the more I was seeking belonging, a place to call home and I am glad I found it . . . . .
And as life would have me be, I too had my most challenging experiences but somehow I managed to handle it with grace. I failed in my 3rd year at university, which meant no graduation on “record time” . . . I had at that stage had a full time job and was able to enroll part time and would graduate a year later. I don’t remember feeling sad over this experience because I always felt like what I got out this was more than a Diploma. I received a wealth of leadership experiences which had set me up for a success that I don’t think I would have had, had it not been for this failure.
I also wonder though on the other side, whether or not my easy handling of my failure was as a result of a friend of mine whom we helped carry this burden together?
How the lesson came to me
It was late 2018 that I received a letter confirming the following “Dear Ms. Nomusa Malatji, this letter hereby confirms that you are now permanently employed by xxxx” before this date I thought I was okay with not having this confirmation. I thought not getting an increase and bonuses was okay because it’s just not my affirmation language….
I realized I was wrong, this confirmation that I was finally permanent meant more to me than what I was willing to admit :
This letter seemed it represented the following:
- I am finally good enough
- I am finally skilled enough
- I am finally worthy of the bonus
- I am finally worthy of a salary increase
The moment I realized this , I sobbed , not because I’m happy to receive the letter but because I had placed my own worth on the hands and the process behind this letter . I had given my life and taken most of my family time to give to this organization for over five years and all along I felt I received nothing in return with regards to the validation I craved for so much
I woke up …. I am expecting external validation to inform me how to feel about myself 😭😭😭😭my skill and my capabilities
Early in the year 2017 I had started a conversation with my friend about studies . I was telling her how I am feeling insecure about the fact that I have a Diploma. The basis of my insecurity is because everyone( my friends) has post Diploma qualification and I was stuck on this Degree and which I was struggling for years to complete. My darling friend believes that if it bothers me so much I should work hard and get it …. but here’s my concern … I was struggling to get through the idea of wanting something because I want it versus wanting something because my friends have it.
As I did the work on myself I realized that being different is uncomfortable and I accepted that the kind of pressure I was putting myself under was the most unkind thing I could ever and had been doing to myself.
I sat down and I wrote what I call my ” timeline ” of pain , challenges and responsibilities and I tried to compare all of it to my friends ….. this timeline gave me so much context and I realized that all of my friends combined have never experienced what I had experienced. I then concluded that I had no business expecting myself to be or having or pursuing a second or a third qualification for that matter just because I want to say ” look I made it too”
The amount of pressure I was putting on myself was becoming extremely unhealthy especially since I knew that my brain 🧠 had shut down and I was going through a severe memory loss due to trauma and other experiences
I accepted that it’s okay to have healthy pressure and for me this ended when I was age 25. Healthy pressure is when the company around you challenges you to be more to go for more …. unhealthy pressure is when you feel inferior because what you have doesn’t compare to what others around you have . Since I have kids this looks like comparing your toy to what other kids have …. swipe the toy around and you realize the other kid is happy regardless of the kind of the toy they have 🤷🏿♀️🤷🏿♀️🤷🏿♀️
So the problem her is me not the qualification
Anything and everything that I pursue right now should be based on who I am meant to be and not so much what the majority around me are doing …. as we say over here ” that train has left ”
So … not having a second qualification was another experience that made me question my worth . I was fine until I compared myself to what my friended have and I was wrong
My last experience showed up when I invited my friends to view our newly purchased home ….. one evening I found myself pacing up and down looking at every room practicing how I was going to present our beautiful sweat and I could hear myself saying I’m going to show them that we have this big idea on how we are going to change this room , we going to break this and etc etc …. as I was pacing down like that I heard the Holy Spirit loud and clear ” so you are saying this house is not good enough in its current state “???
I stopped 😳
Did another job on self …. why can’t I celebrate the house in its current State ….. how exactly do I feel about the house ??? That evening I spent the night sobbing on my knees and repenting. Again I was feeling insecure because it has become automatic for my generation to buy a certain type and here I was …. again, going for something different and the only reason I felt the need to over explain it’s because mine is different to theirs 🤦🏾♀️🤦🏾♀️🤦🏾♀️🤦🏾♀️hhaaa
Don’t get me wrong if I could tell you how we made the decision for our house I swear you would go and buy one right now similar to ours
So that night I made a decision. If I can’t present the house without one single criticism I must cancel the invitation . I would only invite my friends over when I can fully stand in our sweat and be truly joyous
I stood up and the invitation continued and I was so happy , I believed my eyes sparkled with joy , self assurance and contentment
I have learned that I am a tribal person. I enjoy sharing common successes here and there and I find joy in shared joy and experiences . The church formula has had both its ups and downs for me . I have observed young couples falling deep into the hole of expectations, some because they were verbalized and others because they were just observed . There was once a time in church where every young person got married and drove a Merc on their first Sunday to church as a couple. I watched with sadness as those that couldn’t afford collapsed under the pressure .
Sometimes comparison is not direct as I have experienced it . Some days it’s the sad experience when trying to conceive and everyone around you has a baby and there are those telling you , you are not praying enough. It is when you have a child with special needs and somehow that’s measured against your closeness with God or the challenges in marriages and you are told you are not doing this or that enough
We are all a tribe and we desire being seen .
How am I digging deep ??? How have I turned around my situation?
First I made an admission that I am human being with a need to belong . I also admitted to myself that there are specific things I desired and thought I would have achieved by a certain stage , mainly an accounting proffessional qualification.
I also managed to grow up and let that train go and not return
I learned to admit that whilst I was genuinely happy and excited for everyone around I wondered what the meaning of my lack of this proffessional qualification meant
I stopped registering in an effort to belong and I gave my brain 🧠 a year of freedom and recovery
I further realized that I have been selling myself short and looking down on myself
I finally admitted that I had a limiting self belief about myself and that yes I suffered from a low self esteem
I started being open minded that I don’t need to be permanent in a job to be happy. I now admire people who are freelancers and have to remain hopeful that their contracts will be renewed and better yet trust God in the uncertainty
I stopped deferring my happiness …. words like ” I will be happy the day this and that happens ” no longer exist in my vocabulary
I show up to my friends gatherings whether I have cash in the bank or not and when I don’t have , I confidently speak up and say the truth without feeling inferior
I own my stuff with all that it comes with
I open my heart to listen …. with no judgement or an answer to a friend going through divorce a friend who had a miscarriage a friend struggling in marriage and a friend who feels lost and a friend who hates their job or a friend who chooses being single and not be married…
I show kindness to myself and write gratitude journal for all that God has given me …. I make an effort to belong to myself and to find meaning in the little things
I stopped insulting my sweat
I started being more creative and looking inward myself and not external . I started this blog in March 2017 and I started loving interior design and gardening . When I become creative regardless of who is doing it I feel fulfilled and inspired
I opened up in a scary way to a group of strangers about how these experiences have me anxiety and stress…. I held hands and prayed with them
Comparison is a joy stealer and I am intentionally paying attention to myself and I have finally let go of the need to over explain myself. Like when my one friend said ” you are the jealous type ” 🤷🏿♀️🤷🏿♀️🤷🏿♀️🤷🏿♀️🤷🏿♀️
I know who I am and I am content in who I am