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Why I’m Rejecting My ‘Good Upbringing’

I’m rejecting my good upbringing.

I am shunning the values and morals my good Ghanaian Christian mother raised me with.

Let me add some context.

I received a phone call from a family member which left me distraught. Actually, it left me annoyed. As I ended the call with tears of anger collecting at the rims of eyes, I berated myself for not making a stand once again. Said family member had made a snarky comment about one of my life choices, and again I had failed to speak up or defend my boundaries.

Growing up, it was drummed into me to never talk back to those older than me, that resting (read: laziness) is a cardinal sin, my bed was to be made every morning, crying is a useless exercise, and how others perceived me is definitely of most importance. I hold no grudges against my upbringing; it always found me in favour with my teachers and the other adults around me, and I was always hailed as a good child. The adult version of me is highly spiritual, respectful and hardworking, and I do happily credit my mother’s “God first”, “cleanliness is next to godliness” and “always put in your best” mantras for this.

However, whilst passing through adolescence and early adulthood, I found it was this same upbringing that left me unable to handle or confront conflict adequately, or even curtail some of the disrespect I receive from peers.

Values and Morals

Whilst values are defined as an individual’s standards of what is right and wrong, morals are society’s standards of what is right and wrong. And I was raised with a strong sense of what was acceptable in the eyes of my family and the community at large.

I come from a large Ghanaian family, and like many African cultures, honour and respect for others, particularly elders are deeply woven into daily practices. Values are formed from our personal experiences and the culture we are entwined in. According to the last UK census, UK born people of African descent, at the time represented 0.7%, or 323,000 people of the UK population (there are probably a lot more of us now).

If values are learned, it makes me wonder how many of us have blurred the lines that separate good manners from an obsessive fear of the opinions from the community. Especially when it results in a passive disposition, and a reluctance to voice out and be different. In fact, this distorted view of respect suggests it is disrespectful to criticise authoritative figures. This is why for example, journalists criticizing heads of states and other politicians is such a contentious issue in many countries.

In as much as I don’t believe in being rude or unnecessarily confrontational, for many years now, I have questioned exactly how ‘good’ these morals and values are.

Rejecting my good upbringing

A few years back, I was sat with my boss in a café whilst we went through my end-of-year review. I beamed with self-satisfaction as he appraised my performance throughout the year, which I must admit had been amazing. However, my smile dulled as the meeting turned away from the quality of my work and towards my relationship with the team: I was a good team player, and generally liked by everyone, but the ever persistent problem – I needed to speak up more in meetings and defend my ideas, some of which were pretty good. I died a little bit inside whilst he suggested that some coaching should “help my confidence”. I didn’t believe I wasn’t confident, but I also couldn’t really argue with some of his assertions. I knew as one of the youngest members of the team, I knew I had allowed my “good upbringing” prevent me from stepping up when needed.

It was in that moment I decided it was time to actively turn away from some of what I had been raised believing. That meant nipping disrespect in the bud swiftly, even if it was being dished out by an elder; making more decisions that suited me rather than the opinions of others, and leaving my bed unmade every once in a while.

I’m at the point now where significant leaps have been made. I have less anxiety about making choices that suit me - hence the conversation with the family member I spoke about at the beginning of this article. However, there is still self-work to be done, which is why I was left seething at my phone in the first place.

Rejecting my good upbringing, or at least aspects of it is a concept I have understood in my mind, but when it comes to the practicality of it, it’s something that will take time as I continue to further forge out my path into adulthood.


The Writer Behind the Writing

Madeline is a copywriter and blogger from London whose website, was established to help other writers improve their craft, as well as amplify the stories and writing of black women. She is also a mother, wife, sister, daughter and a master of International Communication and Diplomacy. In her spare time, Madeline is a lover of books, glossy magazines, TV, fashion and food!