Nothing makes you feel like a hoarder as much as packing up all your things and moving.
Packing and moving is a revealing process because it uncovers all you’ve stored up over the last year, or ten. It forces you to open up the drawers you’ve affectionately dubbed “junk” drawers and find the notes, the gum wrappers, and the spare change that have been cluttering that space for longer than you can remember.
When it comes to packing, I’m more of a “shove everything into boxes and then figure it out when we get there” kind of packer. But Carl insists it makes no sense to move things you don’t want to keep, so I’ve gotten much better at taking inventory and throwing out the junk.
It’s a long, exhausting process, but it’s a liberating one.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the same concept with our minds and our hearts instead of our homes.
A few years ago, I did an exercise that changed the way I think about the junk on my insides. Some friends and I sat in a circle and wrote on pieces of paper all the negative things we believe to be true about ourselves. At first it seemed like a surface level exercise for anyone who was even remotely self-aware. We were feigning humility – writing down all the easy answers, flaws that were really more like quirks, and actually fairly endearing.
But as we kept going, horrendous things started pouring out the tips of our pens.
I am too much work, I’m annoying, I’m mean, I’m ugly, I’m disgusting, I’m never going to succeed at anything.
When we were done, we scanned the lists in total disbelief. We didn’t realize those thoughts and beliefs had been sitting in our minds and hearts for so long.
But they had, and they’d been impacting the way we lived, and we could only see that once we had them out, on paper, and in black and white staring back at us.
We pick up things as we go through life. Someone makes an offhanded comment about us, a teacher labels us in some way. We become “that child” in our family, or in our friend group, or in our church. Someone says something to us in a moment of calloused anger, or during a breakup, or during a fight – and that thing, that name, that lie, becomes a part of our internal narrative. It gets stored away in a back corner in our insides, but it certainly doesn’t stay there.
The way we live our lives is completely dictated by the narrative going on inside our hearts and our minds. You can see evidence of this all around us. Do you have a friend who believes she’s not desirable? She projects that – acting like someone who is undesirable – and the result just proves her point. Have you ever met someone who thought they were annoying? They act like someone who thinks they’re annoying, which is, unfortunately, annoying!
We project what we believe to be true about ourselves, and that belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And that’s why it’s so important to take an inventory every once in awhile.
None of us had realized the things we believed to be true about ourselves. We didn’t know we thought that, but we could remember exactly when we picked it up, when we started believing that lie to be true.
We hated our lists and the hurt they represented, but with our stack sitting right in front of us, we knew exactly what we had to do. It was time to clean out our junk drawers.
First, we called the lies out for what they were.
We went through, line by line, replacing those lies with what was actually true. Some of them we could do on our own, but for others we needed some help.
We jumped in for each other, providing the words and the truth when we couldn't find them on our own, replacing those lies with the true things about us –the truth that sometimes only people who love us are able to see.
And then, armed with truth and in an act of defiance and bravery, we took the papers outside and we burned them.
They lit slowly, and then we watched as the paper was engulfed in flames, shriveling into a crisp and then disappearing into a pile of ash.
It was a perfect physical demonstration of what we wanted to happen to those lies that had crippled us for so long.
And along with those pieces of paper, some of those lies were also reduced to ash that night. But it wasn’t a one-time-fix all. Other lies have taken more of a fight, and others still do. But something shifted that night.
For the first time in my whole life, I took stock of what was stored up inside of me. With the help of my friends, I went through the junk drawers in my heart and in my mind, and I actually took steps to cleaning them out.
The lies we believe about ourselves are sticky – they are tough to get rid of, like a stain, or gum on bottom of our shoe. But calling them out is the first step.
Noticing them and seeing the patterns in our lives that have emerged as a result — that's the first step to getting them out.
And that’s the step we took that night. We cleaned out the junk drawers inside of ourselves, finding the names, the hurtful words, and the labels hidden within. And together we began to fight to reclaim what’s true.
Try it for yourself – on a piece of paper, write down every negative thing you believe about yourself. Then replace each lie with what’s actually true (you may need some help from a friend). And then, when you’re ready, destroy that piece of paper. It's purely symbolic, but it's liberating.
Your life doesn't have to be dictated by those lies. It’s time to do an inventory. It's time to get them out.
What lies have you believed about yourself?
P.S. If you need more encouragement on this topic, you'll love this podcast episode: Girls Night #111: Negative Thought Patterns: How God's Word can Help you Break Free from Fear and Take Back Your Joy.
You can also check out this related blog post: Life Is Too Hard And Too Short To Be Our Own Worst Critics — Here’s How To Stop.