So, that got me thinking. Other than our names, what labels have we given to ourselves that help define us?
Sometimes I hear someone say something like, “Oh, I’m so clumsy.” Or, “I’m very organized”. Or, “I’m not very adventuresome”. Or, “I’m such a geek”. Or, “I’m a runner”. While none of these is particularly oppressive, each of them does put us into a box that begins to define us in our own minds. When we define ourselves in a certain way in our own minds, we give others permission to define us in the same way.
When we see a product in the grocery store we often look at the label to determine if we will even give it a chance to make it to our table. The label that has been placed on it, good or bad, gives incredible influence to the consumer on whether or not to purchase.
I’ve always thought it is incredibly sad to hear a young child mention that they are not very good at something. It is amazing to me, that by about 5 or 6 they have already put some limiting labels on their abilities. Sometimes parents help them along with this by adding, “Don’t worry honey, I was never good at that either.” I often hear adults say that they were told the things that they would never be good at. And it stuck.
So I think about Brooklynn, the brand new baby, who just arrived in our world this week. I’m trying to picture a wall above her bassinet with blank labels. And I’m wondering who among us would be comfortable entering her room and with the help of a permanent marker, writing things like “Not good at math”, “Terrible organizational skills”, “Maybe just mouth the words instead of singing”, “Afraid of flying”, “Not very creative”, “A bit clumsy”, “Shy”. Imagine.
When I see a new baby, I see only possibility. It is as if they have every potentiality waiting for them. If our best-self entered the baby’s room and wrote on the labels, I suspect we would write things like, “Dreamer”, “Visionary”, “Talented”, “Kind”, “Endless Possibility”, ”Beautiful”, “Wise”, “Good Friend”, “Confident”.
I challenge you to keep this image in your mind when you are tempted to apply a label to someone, including yourself. When we label people, it is as if we are writing it with permanent marker, in a place where we read and re-read the label every day. We begin to believe it. Maybe it’s time we all choose to scrape off the limiting labels that we, or others, have given us and replace them with labels that allow us to become who we are striving to be.
Welcome to our world, Brooklynn. May your life be filled with people who continue to see only possibility in you!