Caged By the Opinions of Others

Caged By the Opinions of Others

Others’ opinions about us can lead us to feel we are caged. Trapped, we grow in fear and worry, but recognizing them and boldly stepping out of the cage can bring us into new freedom.

I could feel myself slipping into the dark place of despair again.

As is my habit these days, I quickly ran to grab my Bible and said a quick prayer to counteract the negative thoughts.

Growing up, I was a bubbly and outgoing toddler. However, from the age of 6, I had turned into a bookworm.

My mother could not explain my sudden social anxiety and just brushed it off as a phase I would outgrow. However, as I grew older, my love for reading also grew. When I got hold of a book, I never wanted to set it back down until after reading. So great was my love for reading I would sometimes forget to eat or shower once I started reading a new book. 

In my culture of Zimbabwe, children are supposed to enjoy being on the streets and playing games with their peers. My mother would try and help me make friends, calling out to children who were my age to invite me if they had any fun activities planned. 

Now that I look back to those days, I loved books, and like my mother and father, I enjoyed reading anything in print, especially novels. However, reading was my way of escape, and I could see the world through a different lens by immersing myself in the characters of the novels I was reading.

My parents were a comfortable middle-class couple, with my dad working at a mine and my mother a stay-at-home mom. 

After having three children, she decided to go back to school and eventually college. As is custom, we would bounce around relatives’ houses while my mother was at school. 

Caged by the mental opinions

During that process, a lot of traumatic experiences took place, and I became caged by the mental opinions of others. 

I felt I had to diminish myself and be a ‘yes sir no sir’ type of person.

‘You have no right to speak up,’ I would tell myself whenever I felt anger well up inside me, and ‘be grateful that these people welcomed you.’ 

As a result, I buried myself deeper in my books, and the only time I felt free to speak was during public speaking or with the debate team.

Still, the voices, negative retorts, and unpleasant memories stayed with me. I didn’t know how to own my struggle story and always felt that I had to hide and shy away.

I felt my past was something I could never be completely free of, even when many good things were happening.

Getting a Master’s Scholarship to study in the US and many other things.

Too scared to live

I was always too scared to live, laugh or savor the moments because I would be waiting for something to go wrong, as people would have said to me in the past.

I would self-sabotage relationships and hold back just in case negative proclamations would be fulfilled over my life and all my fears did come to pass!

It was easier to say I was cursed. That everything that could go wrong was going to go wrong. 

I was caged, and day by day, I felt constricted, stagnant, and stuck.

Counting the years and going over every painful word in my head, I convinced myself that what everyone else had said or continued to speak over me was true.

The mental opinions of others strongly influenced me. I let any and everyone speak into my life.

That was until a few months ago when my faith was lifted through amazing people who have been sent my way.

Barry reminded me that I was an Esther, and I was born for such a time as this.

 “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

A dear friend from Canada taught me to own my struggle story and speak from my scars, not my wounds.

Tire Tread

She shared her resilience story and a beautiful story about how life is the tread of a tire. With each passing moment, our tread wears down.

I decided then that I didn’t want to use my tread to worry and be fearful. I’m boldly walking in my purpose now. Every thought that takes me to the past, I completely shut it down.

I used to be a worrier who dwelt in the past a lot. I was always anxious and would replay painful experiences or words from the past over and over when going through a crisis.

For example, I would tie everything bad to a past event or a negative pronunciation that someone may have made in the past.

Now I feed my mind with positive words from scripture or sing a song to uplift me. That’s how I stop it.

I acknowledge the pain, pray for forgiveness and remind myself of a promise from the Bible, and dwell on that instead.

I pray these words “God forgive me for trying to fix everything on my own. I need you for where I have failed,”

This always helps me when I feel caged, or the shackles of anxiety start to bind me. Knowing that I don’t have to do it on my own helps me remain uncaged and free from the mental opinions of others.

 

Quotes to consider

  • When we step back and see how our struggles built essential strength to thrive in the world, we appreciate our path to success a lot more. Samantha Postman. 
  • Never forget the power of your struggle story Samantha Postman.
  • I am who God says I am Hazel Moyo.
  • Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu
  • Other peoples’ reaction to you might be telling you more about themselves, than about you. Don’t take it so personally. D. Riddell

Questions to answer

  1. How can one learn not to be trapped by the mental opinions of others?
  2. Due to the entrapment of the thoughts within my head, I got angry as I got older. How can you resolve childhood trauma to make sure past hurts do not affect you in the present? 
  3. How do you tell if you’re caged by the mental opinions of others? 

Further Reading

Five Actions to Take when Someone Rains on Your Parade

‘Power over’ or ‘Power With’. What causes you to flourish?

How Relinquishing The Need To Control Can Give Us Freedom From Anxiety

 

Hazel Moyo is from Zimbabwe and lives in East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Hazel Moyo

She is an Advocate for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Hazel works to raise awareness of Childhood Trauma. Hazel is also an author who through her literary work shares about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Prevention, Intervention, Trauma Healing, and Resilience Building.

You can follow her on Facebook Instagram Twitter LinkedIn

Photo by Christopher Windus on Unsplash

 

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