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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What does the Label Say?

Labels are powerful.  On a cereal box, they tell you what’s inside.  On a person, it’s a different story.

Sometimes labels can build us up.  Empower us.  Help us to believe in ourselves and our capacities.  But sometimes, labels tear us down.  Make us small.  Both kinds tend to stick.
              
 “I'm selfish.”
"I'm not a good friend."
“I'm lazy.”
These are the labels people tell me they live with.  Yuck!  When confronted with an old label, I almost always ask “Where did you learn that?” and then get ready for a story from long ago that certainly may have had some truth in that moment, but has little to do with the person standing before me.

The “I'm Selfish” one really kills me.  People with this label suffer under an onslaught of internal judgment and criticism.  And the sad part?  Even if they do something totally self-less, altruistic, kind, or nice, they are immediately subject to an internal message that says, “Oh, that’s good.  You’ve put on a nice show today.  But don’t forget, you’re selfish.”  It can be very difficult to let go of old labels.

I like the idea of self-definition.  I think it’s a good idea to get curious about our labels, our identities, and be conscious of which to keep and which to let go of.  It’s a choice.  Much of our identity is given to us… gender, family of origin, specific wiring, gifts, and talents.  But, an awful lot of our identity is also given to us by imperfect people in very imperfect ways.  But guess what?  You can give an old or untrue identity back.  You don’t have to keep it.  You can let it go.  Peel the label off the box and make a new one.