We are a lot of things that we do not even know. Our socialization shapes us into some toxic behaviors that we cannot even name. I am a recovering codependent, for example. For decades I put other people’s needs above my own to the point where it harmed me.
It was the done thing so I knew no better. To this day all the women I know take pride in it. When the men gather they too compare scars!
Where I am from you are not your own person. You are part of a close knit whole that rewards and reinforces codependent behavior. The philosophy is that without it life as we know it i.e. family and society would end.
We say things like “Musha mukadzi” to convey the idea that without a woman there can be no home. Home is an idea built on the labor, love and self sacrifice of women. We carve home out of nothing and create families and a sense of community by giving our whole selves over.
The act of birth requires that we give our bodies – share them with another for anything from 9 months while pregnant to 2 years while breastfeeding. My grandmother with 9 children gave over her body for all of 18 whole years. Our very bodies is not your own.
As soon as they can walk little girls are taught to serve. That’s the start of a life long journey of service. Every woman I ever knew served everyone, she served them first before herself; giving physically, emotionally, spirituality for families and society without complaint.
It is not uncommon for a woman to spend hours cooking only to serve the men first and then to the children sometimes leaving nothing for herself. The ones being served think nothing of it and rarely offer to share, the labor or it’s products.
Society rewards all of this with a pat on the back and the “good woman” label. Everyone loves a hard-working muroora, they all rave about the self sacrificing mother and are in awe of the wife who turns a blind eye to infidelity and gives birth to the most children. The backlash is strong for the ones who do not follow the rules. The”selfish” ones who put self first.
Typically we get the dregs of our own abundant love. We say “No” to very little so are always busy, and always tired and always drained. We hardly notice how we don’t really rest even after pouring until we are empty.
Our culture reinforces codependency both ways, even men are not spared. We all serve this master. So many work their way from boyhood to the grave trying to make money to take care of their families. This agenda is the first and sometimes only mission assigned every male, provide and protect. Take the money and the respect. It’s a one dimensional life, a road filled with endless toil, ego and an almost narcissistic self importance. The reward for men’s codependency is headship, a social status treasured above all things by most.
Despite it’s seeming rewards codependency is a deadly pursuit that means choosing others over yourself all your life. It’s toxic in that it is limiting for us individually and collectively.
As an alternative we could take up self care and collective care, a totally new business for most of us that involves choosing, loving and protection ourselves first. Kuti “tandira neuku ini ndotandoira neuko”.
Allowing individuals be their very best and helping each other along the way ultimately benefits the whole. We could be our best selves, together.