In my earlier blog post, I shared that many people walk around with the question “Who am I?”; they perceive themselves as not belonging and alienated. Not knowing who you are means that you have not defined your identity and shows that you are unaware of the reason you are here on planet earth. This may cause you to walk the journey of life without purpose, triggering an unstable way of living. Some people experience a worse sense of not knowing their identity than others. Various groups of people experience an even more damaging feeling of being alienated. A key group suffering from ‘identity crisis’ are descendants of slaves and inhabitants of former colonized countries. History has caused them (as a group) to develop a slave-mentality and thus blocked the healthy development of their own identity.

Descendants of slaves and inhabitants of former colonized nations often look at others to identify themselves and regard others as higher than themselves.

I experienced this myself in Ghana, where I live since a few years. Ghana has a common saying, “if you see a white man, you have seen god”; this looks like a joke, but it reflects a typical expression of a slave-mentality. And people value me highly only because I came from abroad. They marvel in amazement that I left my home country for Ghana. The opposite was true when my husband and I lived in The Netherlands. My husband fought to get accepted, and people found it normal that he left his country behind to live in The Netherlands. What is the distinction between my husband’s migration and mine?

Group slave-mentality

When entire groups of people walk around with the nagging question, “who am I?”, the individuals within that group cannot live up to their full potential and cannot flourish in their God-given talents and abilities. They will instead stay where and how they are, making no progress in their personal life. The progress of the entire group and nation then comes into danger.

Thus, the more reason to get rid of your slave-mentality and to recognize your identity.

Not knowing who you are because of the influence of history

Things that happened to your forefathers could still influence you in present times. The trans-Atlantic slave trade of colonial times displaced and scattered many people around the globe to places where they did not have links to their (cultural) roots. The so-called colonial masters cut off the culture, history, and identity of millions of slaves around the globe. Why? Because if slaves cannot identify themselves with their culture, history, and family, they get alienated, making it easier to rule them. The colonial rulers applied this tactic to the slave-receiving territories and the slave-generating ‘home’ territories. They enforced foreign morals, culture, and history on native populations. As a result, many people lost their identity and feeling of belonging.

People who suffered most from colonialism and slave trade were Africans. Even in present times, they still face most of the consequences. They experience the adverse effects of history in current times, whether in their own country or abroad.

Who am I? – Group identity crisis

When an entire group of people, or even most of the citizens of a country, suffer from an identity crisis, you could say that group or that nation has an identity problem. This has a negative impact not only on their individual well-being but likewise on the country’s welfare when an entire group or a nation looks up to others and does not define themselves. It could affect their economic development and the economic development of the country. 

Slave-mentality in former colonies

The effects of the colonial era are visible up to date in many people living in former colonized countries. Though the time of imperialism has ended, its impact has not. For example, in Ghana, where I live: slave-mentality is visible everywhere. You can see it in public administration (looking for loans from abroad), in industries (importing instead of exporting), in corporate entities (paying foreigners more than nationals), and in individuals (getting their identity by imitating foreign media). These examples are the influence of the treatment their ancestors received hundreds of years ago. It affects the identity of current generations and affects the minds and behavior of many individuals, even up to date.

Having a slave-mentality causes you to let other people decide your life and your identity. It makes you think it does not matter who you are, so why should you identify who you are (and what you want)? As a result, having a slave-mentality causes you to stay stagnant in life instead of progressing; after all, you suppose, others are always better and more important than you.

Slave-mentality ‘abroad’

The descendants of slaves transported to other nations or even other continents lived among people who differed from them: different cultures, different backgrounds, different histories, and sometimes a different skin tone. Unfortunately, the slavery their ancestors went through has affected their minds and behavior up to date. They often have a lower chance in the labor market and are in a lower position. The cause is not their abilities but their low self-esteem and the way so-called authentic inhabitants around them treat them.

You and others

It is vital to note that with a slave-mentality, the onus is not only on you and your history. People around you often treat you as different and inferior because of that same history. Thus, causing a double negative impact on you.

Meaning, to get rid of your slave-mentality, you must work on two things:

  1. Do not let your past define you
  2. Do not allow the opinion and treatment of others to affect you.

Stop letting your past define your identity and get rid of your slave-mentality

No matter your past or the past of your ancestors, your past does not define who you are. Your history does not detect your identity. But God does; He created you in His image and for a purpose, His purpose. God is your creator, not history. And He created you in His perfect image. Why do you even consider yourself as not valuable?

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

genesis 1:27 (NLT)

Just let your past be your past and face forward, because God created you in His image as His masterpiece. Masterpieces have nothing to do with slave-mentality. As a masterpiece, you cannot and do not have a slave-mentality. Leave your past and move on. Look at God, read His word, allow Him to speak to you, and step out in your divine image; as His masterpiece.

For we are God’s masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

As a Christian, you have more reasons to pay attention to your future instead of your past. You are new in Christ; you are not the same as before and not what your ancestors were.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”.

II Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Stop allowing others to decide your identity and get rid of your slave-mentality

To stop letting others define your identity is straightforward. Just do not look for their approval anymore! Do not consider others (white people / former colonialists), but focus on God and the reason He created you. He made you capable. He did not create you by chance, but for a purpose.

Seeing yourself as substandard because of not knowing your true identity causes you to act inferior and, as a result, you cause others to treat you as inferior. This makes you feel inferior again, and this confirms the inferior view you have of yourself. You end up in a negative cycle of not perceiving your identity and viewing yourself as inferior.

You should remember that all human beings are the same (formed in God’s image) and you can break your cycle of negativism.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

genesis 1:27 (NLT)

“From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth”.

Acts 17:26a (NLT)

Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.”.

Romans 10:12 (NLT)

If you want to learn who you are, stop watching others and rather lift your eyes to God, who formed you in His image: you are like Him! Thus, if you want to know your identity, look at your father in heaven and recognize all His traits in you. And then do not forget what you saw, but believe it and act based on it.

“For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it”.

James 1:23-26 (NLT)

Why do you need approval from others, knowing we are similar? They are on the same level as you with the same authority above them: God’s authority. Why do you regard others as higher than you?

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus”. 

Galatians 3:28 (NLT)

God made you perfect. He created you as an individual without making a mistake. He meant you to be ‘you’, not someone else. Stop needing others and get your value from the One who created you.

The major challenge of slave-mentality is seeing yourself as without value. A Slave’s value is decided on by his owner. What your owner tells you is who you are (and what you do). As a child of God, your owner is God Himself. God bought you and made you His own; He freed you.  

“Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”

Galatians 4:7 (NLT)

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

John 8:36 (NLT)

Live your life based on who you are in Christ and your identity in Him

Do not bother with your past and do not bother with what others say about you. Rather, bother about what God says about you. Know that you are excellent, valuable, priceless, and well able. Read the bible and absorb what God reveals about you, His creation. Let your past be your past. Let others say what they want and do not let it touch your inner self. Align your self-image and your emotions with the word of God.

Pray for recognition of who you are in Christ and ask God to help you live based on it. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in your everyday life. Realize that your value is Christ in you and who you are in Christ.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

You are God’s possession. Never think you are not worthy! You are chosen and belong to God; you are His. That defines you, and that is your identity. 

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

I Peter 2:9 (NLT)

Let us pray:

Thank You, Lord, for letting me see who I am. I am Yours. I am worthy and I am valuable. My identity is who I am in You, not what others say nor what my past says about me. I do not live in my past and I do not accept the devaluing opinion of others. My freedom is in You.

I renounce what my ancestors did and what they have gone through. I do not allow their experiences to influence me and I put off my slave-mentality. Instead, I put on a Christ-mentality and walk in victory. Whatever people around me say about me, I do not accept it as truth. Rather, I choose to walk in the truth of Your word.

Holy Spirit, help me to continue seeing who I am and help me understand who I am in Christ. Reveal God’s purpose for my life through the reading of His word. Help me grasp my true identity and live based on it.

Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

©copyright 2021; Christel Owoo

Photo by Hussain Badshah on Unsplash