What is your t-shirt size, do you even know? What color do you look really good in? I am not talking about clothes. I am talking metaphorically. If the words and labels people throw at us were T-shirts, would you collect them and hang them in your closet? Many of us do. As children, grownups often carelessly throw out hurtful words in a moment of anger and a child will grab it, put it on, and then spend the rest of their lives getting real comfy in that shirt. For example, a parent may say to a child, “You didn’t get the brains in the family”. That child grows up believing they are not smart. The classes in school are not advanced, they don’t put forth their full effort, and the child barely graduates high school. Imagine if the parent had said, “Some areas of school may be difficult but you are working so hard. You are such a hard worker and I am proud of you.” The child may have chosen to wear that shirt, made a strong effort in every class, and possibly graduated with honors.
We throw words at others and they grab them up not even knowing if it is a true fit or the right color. Do you know what your size is? Simply put, do you know who you are? Are you still wearing the raggedy old smelly t-shirts from childhood? Or are you so unsure of what looks and feels good that you constantly try on new shirts? As an adult, with a closet full of ill-fitting t-shirts, it is easy to wear whatever comes at him/ her. When a partner says, “I wish our house was cleaner”, the shirt flies across the air, it lands on her as, I am not good enough. The adult who doesn’t know what looks good on herself, hangs that shirt in her closet. Wears it in public for the whole world to see. If she truly knew herself, she would have shaken her head and told her spouse, “The house is lived in, and I am doing the best I can at this season of my life”. Shirt would say I am surviving. Or, “Yes the house is messy, and I need better time management skills”. Her shirt really is, “I am a procrastinator.”
It is time to check your closet. Gather evidence around you. Evidence is the way mentally healthy people respond to you and how you treat others. Make a list of who you believe you are. If you think you are generous, you may have a t-shirt hanging in your closet that says you are selfish. Ask those around you, am I generous or selfish and what ways can I improve? Ask yourself at the end of each day, what did I do that was generous? Chances are high you have some shirts you have kept hold of not ever challenging if they look good on you or fit your body. Do some thinking into the past and determine where that shirt came from, who gave it to you and why? Maybe you were selfish. If I no longer want to wear that shirt, then I have to decide to throw it out and put on a new one. I am generous, I am kind, I am gracious. Don’t those sound beautifully made? If you keep having negative, ugly, ill-fitting shirts thrown at you, look down, you most likely are wearing “I am not important, worthy, or valuable” shirt.
To help you determine which shirts you want to wear and what will look best, my number one resource is my Creator. For me, it is God. I am going to search His words to know who He designed me to be. He named my shirts before my first breath (Ephesians 1:4), it is up to me to put them on. He says I am a child of God. John 1:12. As a child of a King, I need to behave as royalty. For more truths of who you are click here: https://bible.org/article/who-does-god-say-i-am . If my upbringing left me with unhealthy role models, I will have to search for people who display what I want to be like. Read biographies, join groups, observe others and how they behave. I love to people watch, I try to watch without judgement, but working on finding the positive. When I see a parent bend down and look into a child’s eye when they are talking, I feel the smile cross my face. I want to wear “I am an attentive parent” t-shirt, so I behave accordingly.
Challenge: Clean out your closet, take inventory of the shirts you wear. Figure out what shirts you DO want to wear. Put people in your life that affirm the shirts you wear. To those that keep tossing shirts that do not fit or look good on you, set up healthy boundaries. Block the shirt from landing on you. Also, do some reflecting on what shirts you throw at others.
Side note: My husband bought me a shirt that says, “Best wife ever.” I desire this to be truth and worn till the hem falls out and has holes in it. It is a keeper.
Author: Elizabeth Havens, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMT 2522