As I prepare for my graduation tomorrow I can’t help but reflect on what it took to get me to this point. I have been called many names, negatively labeled, and some even laughed at the idea of me going to school expecting me to fail. I was speaking to my son today about labels and how when we display certain negative behaviors consistently people often attach that label to us. I explained to him that although it is frustrating the only person that can change it is the individual labeled. Changing the label isn’t about changing for people, it is about growing and maturing to a level beyond our past negative actions. I use to become frustrated when people placed labels on me but then I had to pause and think about whether my actions made the labels accurate. Often times they did and other times it was an unfair assumption and as grandma says to assume is to make an A.. of U and ME.
When I was a teenager people placed many labels on me and I found myself acting them out. My mindset was “well since that what you think I am, then that’s what I will be”, although my heart was in a different place. It became more frustrating as an adult when I grew beyond the actions of my youth and people still held me in a place of my past negativity. I am often amused by family members that I haven’t spoken to in years or old acquaintances that say they know me. That phrase is often followed by a past label of my youth without considering that maybe I have grown up.
It is easy to get caught up in how people feel about you or what they say even to a point of affecting one’s self esteem. I spent many years feeling as if I could be nothing more than what people called me but then I grew up. It hurt me more because most times it was “church people” placing the negative labels on me. If I had a quarter for every time a “church person” called me “bad” I would be rich. My mistake was placing “church people” to a higher standard without recognizing that they are human to. I believe that’s where many people get tripped up feeling that just because a person goes to church, is a minister, or highly involved means they are perfect. Ha! We all bleed the same blood and live in the same world, facing many of the same issues whether folks are real enough to admit it.
So here’s what I learned: Labeling people is wrong but is practiced by every human at some point in their lifetime so get over it. The best thing I could do for me is know who I am and be secure in it. Just because people called me a name didn’t mean I had to live my everday by it. If I had not stopped living by the labels placed on me, I would probably be strung out on drugs, in jail for life, have 18 kids, or in a grave by now. Point being, change your label for you. Forget people. Establish your core values, know who you are, embrace who you are, love yourself, and live your best life.