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Living Your Life Beyond the Labels Assigned to You by Others

There’s an insidious epidemic that has happened to many of us internally that’s not widely discussed, but which can be just as crippling as the pandemic we just survived. And if not addressed consciously and mindfully, can affect us for our whole life.

I’m talking about the impact of imprinting and conditioning that starts when we’re young and builds over time. Simply put, the effect of others labeling us – and ultimately labeling ourselves – without regard to the often serious consequences.

No Surgeon General’s Warning

We know packs of cigarettes have a warning about how smoking could be harmful to your health (duh!)? Well, unfortunately, there’s no such warning about the impact of imposing (nearly always false!) labels on others and ourselves – I wish there were.

Did anyone ever tell you that you weren’t good enough at something? Or that you’d never amount to anything? Or that you weren’t smart enough? Or that you weren’t creative?

That kind of labeling starts when we’re young, and it can leave a lasting, lingering imprint if we don’t address it. By contrast, when we have parents, relatives and teachers who encourage our individual gifts and talents, we’re far more likely to thrive – in school, at work and in life.

As an avid reader as a child (and something of a loner inherently), I was told I wasn’t good at sports and should stay focused on my intellectual side. As a result, I never engaged in team sports and didn’t pursue athletics in any way other than as an observer. No surprise, when people were chosen for sports teams in school, I was always among the last to be picked.

My mom encouraged my sister and me to engage in arts and crafts. Even though I actually won awards for my projects, my sister was dubbed “the artistic one,” and me, “the intellectual.”

When John Lennon was five, his teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wrote down “Happy.” She told him he didn’t understand the assignment, and he told her that she didn’t understand life. Wise beyond his years even then at five years old!

More recently my friend rocker Paul Stanley of KISS recently observed something similar. A mother tweeted how her six-year-old daughter painted an amazing scene in an after-school art club and the art teacher told her she’d done it wrong. She was so upset as art was her favorite thing to do. Paul was mortified. He responded to the child through her mother, “your art is AWESOME!! There is no such thing as doing art ‘wrong.’ There are only teachers who are wrong! Keep doing exactly what you’re doing; I LOVE it!”

How about you? What labels have you carried throughout your life, and how have they impacted how you saw and interacted with the world in terms of barriers or constraints?


Busting Through (Usually False) Labels Is Liberating

As a result of growing up and living with these false labels, we adopt belief systems about who we are and what we are and aren’t capable of. And we diminish our capabilities, hold ourselves back, and limit our life circumstances – all because of things others said that we took on as being true about us.

When you realize that you’re not the labels others have imposed on you, you can free yourself to take back your power and choose to see yourself differently. When you see that those were just belief systems that no longer serve you (and never did – and weren’t even true!), you’re free to take on whatever is calling to you to be and do now.

For example, you’re being led to take up painting (maybe for the first time ever) – but you’ve held that you weren’t creative all your life – try taking a class and dabbling in it; wade in and prove that in fact that believe was a lie.

One highly effective tool to begin breaking loose from these old beliefs and thought patterns about ourselves is to question the truth about them. Byron Katie is an author and speaker who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as “The Work” (and has published books and courses on this approach). Effectively it encourages us with four powerful but simple questions to address stressful beliefs, anxieties, and assumptions that may have held us in their grip for years and gently moves us to self-evaluate whether these are really true – and to re-frame new possibilities that are likely to be more positive and freeing allowing us to move forward in our lives with peace and ease.

What Might Be Possible if You Embrace the Label of “Creator” (Get Curious)

A colleague of mine, Steve Chandler, is an inspiring coach and author. One of my favorite books of his addresses this topic head-on – and it’s simply called “Creator” (I highly recommend it).

Can you see how powerful it can be to make some time for introspection to consider where you may have held yourself back by living old beliefs, labels, and limitations that others (or you yourself) have imposed on you that have resulted in you playing small or holding yourself back in life? Can you also see the promise and potential in terms of what’s possible in your life when you shift out of those debilitating mindsets?

I hope you’ll make the time and effort to get curious, take a closer look and evaluate this for yourself. You owe it to yourself and to those you love to take the reins of your life, embrace the truth about your gifts and talents and who you really are, and plot a truly empowered course from here forward. I’d love to hear what you learn. Reach out to me if you want more support with this or just want to share your insights.


Kelli Richards

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