Birthday Lessons: Weightless Contentment

25, baby! 🥳

Today, your girl turns 25 🥳. Very thankful to God for seeing me to a quarter of a century! I was sharing on my instagram today how I am currently the happiest I’ve ever been, and it’s because of a lot of behind-the-scenes work I’ve been doing. From regular exercise to therapy, reading books by no-nonsense psychologists to journalling, it’s been a season of intentionally ‘doing the work’, and there’s no way I’d rather have entered 25.

So today I wanted to share some of the key lessons I’ve learnt from my therapy, my reading and in my recent experience that have really set me free, into this season of ‘weightless contentment’, which I am committing to as I design my life as a young woman stepping into Quarter 2 (Q2), year 25 of 100, God-willing! Written as notes to self, hence the tough-love tone! I hope these bless you!

Last thing: these types of online posts can come off wrongly as ‘I have arrived’. Pls pls note I’m very not perfect, never will be, and have nowhere near ‘arrived’ 😂. Anyone who says they have is a con artist (imo 😊). Over here, we are still learning and hopefully always will be. I am just here to share what has set me free. Just to be real!

12 Life Truths towards Weightless Contentment

(Not to be skim-read, yo. Tek time and read slowly. Let each one marinate 😂☕️).

  1. Make friends with actual kindred spirits, not with silent spectators. Discern. You can love both, differently. — Dr Thema 
  2. You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep everyone else warm. — unknown
  3. Boundaries feel offensive to those who haven’t done the work, or who struggle with being controlling. They’re very attractive and sexy to – and honoured by – those who have/don’t.
  4. Compassion is knowing most people are doing the best they know how with the hand they’ve been dealt. (You included.)
  5. People-pleasing is a form of being controlling.
  6. People largely do things for themselves rather than to us. Their actions aren’t always about you. We are not the centre of others’ universe. Also, you are responsible to others, but not for them (or for the consequences of their actions, or for their growth). For more on this last point, check out the book Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend. Life-changer.
  7. People (re)act largely within the strict bandwidth of the quality of their character. Only therapy, healing, humility (teachability, accountability, an ability to say ‘sorry’ and mean it), consequences endured, forgiveness, and inner work can mature/shift/upgrade that bandwidth up a notch. Those things teach us self-awareness and to manage our pride and emotions. But those things also cost, and not everyone wants to/has resources to do that work. So manage your expectations, don’t judge, live in love.
  8. People’s patterns indicate their ‘character bandwidth’ level. Do they lie? Do they evade confrontation to escape accountability? Do they honour others and consider others’ feelings? Do they always shift blame and play victim? Hear patterns loudly; watch words, charm and even popularity silently. Patterns are, imo, the loudest fruit we produce – even louder than our ministries. Pray, love, and stop demanding green (re)actions from a person who’s shown you their bandwidth is red. Observe and mentally note their bandwidth without judgment. Respect the bandwidth: avoid denial. Never hold/use someone’s bandwidth against them or to condemn them (point 4 above). Result of all this? More compassion; managed expectations; less offended-ness. Stay humble: you have your own bandwidth, and we all have space to grow. Holding space = showing grace. (Grace doesn’t remove the need for boundaries, though).
  9. Love = acceptance. Acceptance is not enabling (of toxic behaviour). It’s also not controlling or trying to change another person (not your job). Instead, it’s taking things at face value and moving, pivoting, distancing, setting boundaries accordingly. Not out of fear; but out of power AND love AND self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). When God shows you someone’s true colours, stop trying to paint a different picture – but also notice if their desire is to change/improve/do the character work (here again, patterns > actions > words).
  10. Clarity is kindness, and therefore your responsibility (because kindness is: Galatians 5:22, remember you’re responsible to others). As are the communication, honouring and enforcement of your boundaries, as far as possible: your responsibility. Abuse is the violation of someone’s boundaries; any rebellion against someone’s “no”. This is why disciplining children – teaching them the meaning of “no” – is an act of love both to them and to every person they’ll ever interact with as an adult. A child who does not understand people’s “no” risks becoming an adult with reckless, abusive habits.
  11. Unforgiveness is a matter of the ego. You are NOT above the human experience; you are not that special. You also hurt others. My encouragement is to forgive. (Reconciliation is different, and first requires a repentant spirit + repentant behaviour patterns in the offender. See this insta post and caption and Matthew 3:8 for more on this.)
  12. Stop demanding things of people/spaces that are ill-equipped, inappropriate or unwilling to give you them (e.g. validation, safety/support, understanding, total acceptance, fairness, justice, emotional maturity, loyalty). You hurt yourself when you do that. Seek them in Jesus first, and shift the direction of your demand(need) to the places/people that are freely flowing that thing towards you already. Go (with wisdom) where it’s forthcoming.
  13. Bonus 1: Heal – as far as you have the resources to. Heal for you, for those you love, and so that your babies don’t have to, because hurt people hurt people. Your healing is your responsibility, no-one else’s – and not the responsibility of those who hurt you. Are you healing from anything your parents (even if unintentionally) did, or maybe didn’t do? Have you ever had to before? (This isn’t about blame: re-read point 4 above and apply it to your parents). Why not stop that cycle repeating for your children? Try the BetterHelp app/website for therapy at a good price from the comfort of your own home – they can offer it from £36/session if you need financial help. True happiness and freedom sometimes come at a cost. Also, on stigma: therapy isn’t a ‘lack of faith’. Therapy, like your GP or local doctor, is a God-given resource. God is the champion of healing. You have free will to choose it.
  14. Bonus 2: until you stop outsourcing your validation, you will never be free or fulfilled, and you will likely hold (even subtly) controlling tendencies, including people-pleasing. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of your choices: having a small boardroom of trusted, impartial accountability figures, including God/the Holy Spirit and your core values, is wise. But note that, apart from God, no-one in that boardroom’s primary job is to validate you (a therapist may validate therapeutically for a time, e.g. where a person healing from abuse/trauma literally cannot do so for themselves yet/any more; but even a therapist’s goal is ultimately to help that person build up their capacity to validate themselves; to regain their own sense of self-worth, their inner strength, their voice and to reclaim their own boundaries). In fact, it’s concerning if your boardroom are all validatory yes-men. Your boardroom’s job is actually to provide unbiased wisdom/counsel and diverse perspective; to mirror your values back to you, and help flag your blind spots – all in order to empower you to validate, assess, and back your own decisions – decisions you are responsible for, not them. Choose your boardroom wisely.
  15. Bonus 3: please please learn your love languages and your attachment style (google ‘attachment styles’). Otherwise your ‘love’ may hurt more than it heals.
  16. Bonus 4: feeling uneasy at a gut-level about someone, even without proven evidence, is a valid enough reason to put a boundary in place, even if just distance. The fact you do feel uneasy, rather than don’t, is loud. No logic, rationale, reason, explanation, or evidence needed. You can let them know the boundary, if you like and feel safe to – this can be kind and help them love you well by accepting your boundary (point 10 above). It’s also your responsibility to, if you want to, check in with yourself and your boardroom as to why you feel uneasy – to own and maybe work through that feeling; maybe there’s healing to be done on your side. Either way, if the person consistently pushes, rails against, denies, ignores, dishonours or tries to ‘reason’ you out of your boundary, your orange flag has just turned red. That’s a toxic behaviour. If they’re feeling offended, let them sit with their offended-ness and work through it for themselves: their response to your boundary is their responsibility, not yours (point 3), and indicates to you their character bandwidth (point 7). Accept the indication, be it good or concerning (points 9 and 8). Show compassion/empathy (point 4) but don’t change the boundary just to appease them (point 5). Doing so would be emotional codependency, not love. Note the orange/red flag and keep it moving. People who love you will rise to honour your boundaries – even if they feel hurt at first – and they’ll do so while honouring their own. That might mean you can no longer be friends. Bottom line: intuition-based decisions can be valid, wise, revealing and freeing.
  17. Final Bonus: stop expecting others to do, in a certain situation, what you would do. You are not the standard. People have different triggers, backgrounds, values, traumas, pain and fears you may never know of. People were parented differently, loved (or not loved) differently, neglected and valued (or not valued) differently. People developed different coping mechanisms as children in order to survive. Some may still be in survival-mode, and literally not have the mental/emotional space to consider you, because they’re privately fighting demons you know nothing about. Judge less. Hold space. Choose to be curious (‘why might they have done this?’) instead of self-righteous (‘how could/how dare they have done this?!’). Accept people as they come, and prioritise kindness. And remember point 4, above.

This isn’t about judging people. It’s actually about humility – holding point number 4 at heart as you live out the other 16. It’s about compassion coupled with wisdom (Matthew 10:16). It’s allowing others to live this towards you, too; the challenge of not being offended by someone else’s boundary towards you, and checking yourself if you are. It’s honouring our boundaries and honouring others’. Not doing the former is codependency; not doing the latter is narcissism. In all, it’s working towards the essence of healthy love.

As you can see, God has been teaching me so much recently. I am so grateful for these life principles which can be applied in many situations and at any age.

Final thought. Freedom comes when you learn (decide) to like you, and hold constant  space for your flaws, as you actively heal + improve. All 3. Here’s why:

  • When you like you, you no longer compare yourself, or try to cling, convince, coerce, connive or control others into liking you too. Validation is no longer outsourced / a drug. 
  • When you hold space for flaws, you live in compassion and humility, holding space for others’ flaws too. 
  • When you like you, you like your ‘no’ and you honour where you end and where others begin: your and their boundaries.
  • And, when you actively heal and improve, rather than seeing your imperfection as an excuse not to, you show humility.

In short, you love better 🤎.

Much learning pre-25 😌🙈. Here’s to Q2. Great TED talk on setting boundaries here. Great article on understanding attachment styles here. For anyone who wants to take this further and heal deeply, I’d suggest looking into therapy with a psychodynamic approach/focus. I’m rooting for you. Also would like to shout out, credit and thank my brilliant therapists over the years – Nadine, Konstantina and Andrea – who all remain in my boardroom; plus my amazing friend + cousin NS who, en-route to her PhD in psychology, already has her first-class BSc and MSc with Distinction in the bag (she’s amazing and yes, she’s in le boardroom too🥰). And, lastly, thank you to the many other psychotherapists/psychologists whose material I’ve been reading and following.

Thank you for your support along the journey so far. See you in November.

Your wellness champion,

Imani x

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