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Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Bazothin’abantu Syndrome

A few years ago, I was under so much pressure and was constantly feeling stressed out. Feelings of anxiety would literally rise from the pits of my stomach and pile up in my chest ready to burst on a daily basis.  Desperate to relieve myself of these feelings, I turned to smoking as a way of release and gradually adopted it as a habit over that time to alleviate my anxiety. With each puff, my uneasiness was somewhat lightened (momentarily) however, my feelings of shame heightened. I felt so embarrassed by the fact that I had adopted a habit that I had been programmed to think was dirty, disgusting and something that a (black) woman should never ever do.

Out of fear of being perceived negatively by people, I went to such extremes to make sure that nobody ever found out about my dirty little secret. I would always walk all the way across the office park just for a quick drag in hiding. Constantly looking over my shoulder in my moments of ‘indulgence’ became common practice. I developed an obsession with ensuring that the nicotine was untraceable on me.  It became so bad that it ultimately turned what was meant to be an anxiety-relieving habit into an anxiety trigger. I had become a closet smoker and even worse, a carrier of “Bazothin’abantu” Syndrome.

‘Bazothin’abantu syndrome’ (BAS) is a commonly acquired condition that has swept across the world and “claimed” the lives of many for years.  Like the name suggests, this pandemic is characterised by a fixation with other people’s opinion about one and is possibly rooted in the fear of being judged or rejected. Despite the quickness to shun this syndrome (judging from the growing popularity of the “one-thing-I-don’t-suffer-from-is-Bazothin’abantu-Syndrome” post on Instagram), I have wondered if it is actually something that is possible to be completely free of.

The very basic human need to be accepted, respected and validated automatically makes all us somewhat susceptible to what ‘Abantu’ think of us. The way the world works and the way we have all been socialised is rooted in ‘Bazothin’abantu syndrome’ to a certain extent. Societal structures, the roles we play in relationships and general (un)written rules about what is inappropriate or wrong somehow control the way in which we act, what we don’t say, how we dress, or even what we keep hidden. If so, could it be ‘Bazothin’abantu syndrome’ is what actually governs us?  What if we actually did not care what people thought about us?

The syndrome manifests itself in so many different ways that perhaps we all suffer from it albeit at different levels and stages. My moment of enlightenment came when I realised how much trying to manage people’s perceptions of me had started to consume me and had inadvertently become more important than God’s. I was so dedicated to shielding myself from people’s judgements when the one whose opinion I valued the most, had already “busted me”. This realisation made my hiding antics very futile which essentially liberated me from my abnormal concern for people’s thoughts of me on this particular matter.

Shrinking ourselves, attempts to keep up appearances, leaving beyond our means as well as any other way in which we stifle the authentic self in order to be perceived in a certain light are examples Bazothin’Abantu syndrome. On the other extreme, BA Syndrome could potentially be the reason many avoid doing wrong things. Fear of disappointing parents/ family and abiding by rules are also ways in which this syndrome “guides” us in a positive light. If so, then clearly it is not entirely the bad thing that we have made it out to be?

Needless to say, I am on the fence about where I stand with regards to this syndrome. As I become more aware of myself and my environment, I have learned that the syndrome is something that will always exist and needs to be managed constantly. My decision not to smoke has completely become rooted in my own personal convictions versus the opinions of others. Whatever your viewpoint may be, like a wise unknown author once said “do you bu-bu”.

8 comments on “Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Bazothin’abantu Syndrome”

  1. Great article! We living in a high pressured society and now we have stuff like Instagram were people want to be "liked" and accepted and just being perfect! It's not possible, so let's do us bu-bu

    1. Hey boo :). Thanks for reading. Exactly, we have come to morph ourselves into what is most liked?? Cant deal.

  2. Fantastic article.Absolutely spot on. We need to own who we are and stop giving our power to others. We are fabulous even with all our flaws. Being perfectly imperfect amplifies the things that you rock at.Never strive to be others' idea of who you should be but rather embrace the person that you are.Ask yourself why other people's opinions should trump your own.Are you able to give a portion of your pain to those people that you hold in high regard when things go wrong?The answer is no. So why then should you be a slave to society's issues with you are?We are on an equal wavelength as people by virtue of our humanity and no other human being has the right to dictate how others should live their lives.

  3. Thank you Refiloe. Your feedback is always so very appreciated and completely SPOT ON.

  4. Wow what a touching article.. It really moved me in so many ways!!!!!!! I need to ask you a few questions regarding your topic. Can we discuss via email?

    Thank you

  5. Thanks for your great article Lerato! Fact is, when we suffer from judging ourselves (against God's laws), we automatically feel judged by others and can't help in turn to judge them too. Judging ourselves triggers guilt. Guilt and shame go hand in hand. So we constantly feel bad about ourselves and then push that down so we don't have to deal with it. That syndrome has been part of an ancient programme that the patriarchy of our world has set up...ton continue ensuring we, as women, feel second class to men. The patriarchy cannot and will not have the power of a sovereign women leading the hearts, minds and evolution on this planet. But the loophole is they cannot control the changes each of us chooses to make within. Yes, it starts with self-discovery and the origins of our powerful thoughts and feelings about ourselves. Truly seeing yourself, your life requires great courage. But you will find the Light of Truth bringing forward more of God into your life. It's what He wants for us all. Bless all sisters that choose this. In turn you are triggering others to do the same. To our freedom!

  6. I am so grateful for this ocean of relatability that has helped me to expand my explanation of the current struggle that I am working tirelessly to change. I wrote an article about the journey I am facing, and this article came in to save the anxious feelings I had about sharing online.

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