We all have our own opinions about... almost everything.
Sometimes, our opinions are based upon our own experiences; more often than not, our opinions are formed from stereotypes. We live in a world where gossip spreads faster than melted butter. If someone has a bad experience somewhere, we see it all over social media. As a result, their experience is a part of how we process information about that place. That is how stereotypes begin to take hold in our minds.
Stereotypes are pre-conceived notions about a group of people—they can be good or bad. However, unfortunately most stereotypes are bad. There are a LOT of stereotypes, but I am only going to focus on those that are about us as prisoners’ wives, and about our families. It is important for you to know these so you are not caught off-guard when people cast harsh judgement on you and your family. The things people say are ignorant, spiteful, and hateful.
Although we know that these things are not true, it is still very hurtful. Sadly, most people believe the worst without questioning or forming their own opinions, so they often don’t get to the truth.
No one else can determine your value
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “You are not going to believe what people are saying about me and my family!” And I gently assure them that I have probably heard it a hundred times before. When you understand that the cruel things people say are out of their own ignorance, fear, and prejudices, it is much easier to forgive them. People say stupid things. They believe everything they hear. But, you must remember that their beliefs and words do not define who you are. No one else can determine your value. Their misguided opinions about you and your family do not dictate your current or future success in life.
One of the most important lessons you will learn is when to defend yourself, and when to walk away. Most of the time, the right thing to do is to walk away. Walking away is not always the easiest, but it is the right thing to do. Your words will not convince them to believe something different about you. However, your actions, how you live your life, might change their minds. Either way, here is the hard truth. It is not your burden to carry! When we carry someone else’s bitterness, judgment, or anger, it keeps us from reaching our dreams. We only have the capacity to carry the weight of our own dreams when we are running toward making them come true. That extra weight slows us waaaayyyyyy down. It isn’t worth it!
In order to help you be prepared, I am listing some of the most common stereotypes I have heard about prisoners’ wives and families. This is certainly not an exhaustive list- but it will give you a good idea of what you are up against. Some of the most common stereotypes about prisoners and their families are:
- You are a criminal who just didn’t get caught
- You are running drugs into the prison (a mule)
- You are sleeping around with other men
- You cannot be trusted
- You are lazy
- You are a liar
- You are stupid
- You are on welfare
- You are NOT a good mother
- You don’t care about your children
- You are dirty
- You are desperate
- You take advantage of people
- You are better off without your husband
- Your children are sneaky
- Your children are a bad influence
- Your children will end up in prison, too
- Your family is not worth saving
These are just some of terrible stereotypes about us that are out there. Every day is a battle to overcome the stigma. But it isn’t a battle with other people, it is our own internal battles that we must win. We must not let what others’ say about us or think about us influence our destinies. We have to fight for our new legacy.
Tips to move beyond drama
If you feel stuck by what others think of you and say about you, I have a few tips that will help you move beyond the drama, and as a result will lead you to a happier, more peaceful life.
1. Stop listening to it. Don’t let people tell you what others are saying about you and your family.
2. Do listen to encouragement and affirmations. Connect with people who build you up and encourage you to live up to your highest potential. For me, this was reading my bible and going to church. I love to see what the Lord has to say about who I am in Him! When I dig deep into His word, I walk in confidence.
3. Remember that you have said things you regret, too. While you are painfully aware of how others use stereotypes to box you in, you often don’t see the stereotypes you have applied to others. Knowing that you have believed a stereotype helps to forgive others for falsely accusing you.
4. Keep a journal of things you are grateful for. Reading this is a wonderful resource when others are tearing you down and you start to get discouraged. Want to start journal writing, but not sure how to start? Click here for helpful tips from The Write Practice.
Be prepared to face the ugly things people throw at you, but don’t let it stick to you. Don’t give up. You can do this!
I am rooting for you!