Labels can be handy. Without them we would be guessing which cans contain the chicken soup, right?
Labels organize our lives. We love labels! We give everything around us a label of sorts.
Without pinning an actual label on someone, we label people whether they deserve it or not. With harmless labels such as creative, talented, gifted, generous…none can argue the benefits of being known as such a person. But what kind of life can we expect from someone who has been labeled a troublemaker, lazy, stupid, or crazy? What effect do these labels have on us when we are young and impressionable? What label do you struggle to keep? What label has been unfairly pinned on you, that you would like to change?
Over the years, I have had the honor of counseling hundreds of people who have outgrown their labels. Some were at the end of their rope and ready to cash it all in because of a label they were burdened with.
One of my clients, (we’ll call her Laura) was diagnosed as a schizophrenic at the age of five. I met her when she was twenty-three. She was a cutter, self-destructive, very depressed, and threatening suicide. When her father brought her to me, I saw a beautiful and very gifted young woman. I had a feeling that there was more to her story.
Laura was so shy, you could barely hear her speak. She looked down at the ground, never making eye contact. After gaining her trust, we talked about what had landed her in psychiatric hospitals so many times. Beginning at the age of five, she had admitted to hearing voices, and so her journey on heavy drugs began. When I asked her who was talking to her, she said; “The ghosts.” Then I asked if she could see them too, and she smirked and said, “of course” and smiled. The poor child lived in a haunted house…and was the only one who knew it. Going to her parents for safety only exposed her secret.
So I asked her more questions and we spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and talking. She was speaking in a normal tone and lit up with joy retelling some of her favorite stories. “What else can you see?” I asked with honest interest. She told me one story after another, and became more animated as the afternoon wore on. I don’t think she had ever met anyone who believed that she was telling the truth!
This was the beginning of a new life for Laura. She had ever been taken seriously and certainly had never been treated as a sane person with special gifts.
Today she is a licensed massage therapist. Her goal is to open a business where people can come to nurture their body, mind and spirit. She also aspires to be a life coach, so she can help people like herself who have been misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mislabeled.
I myself was pinned with the label of “family idiot”. Being the middle child, I was sandwiched between two brilliant sisters. In the early sixties, they did not have a word for dyslexia or ADHD. How many of us were labeled “slow”? I didn’t know what it was called until my daughter was diagnosed in elementary school. By then I was in my thirties and had believed all my life that I was just stupid because I inverted numbers and letters. Reading and math were terribly difficult for me. Even with tutors, I struggled in school and could barely eke out a passing grade.
My family used to pat me on the head and say, “well at least she’s pretty, maybe someone will marry her so she won’t starve.” No wonder I have felt less-than for much of my life!
Overcoming these labels can take years of therapy, and some of us go to our graves never knowing it was never true. How tragic.
We just cannot seem to help ourselves. We do it unconsciously. We even label our body parts…this is my good knee and this is my bad knee. Who knows how this affects our ability to heal?
At the end of the day, no matter what the world has called you, please know this…You are a wonder to behold!
I love you so much,