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Choosing who you want to be: using labels for the power of good
Have you ever been labeled in a way you didn’t like?
Sure, no one wants to be called names, or bullied. But that’s not all there is to labels. They’re not all bad?
Labels can help us figure out who we are, what we stand for, and what we like to do. Essentially, which labels we choose or refuse to take on can tell us what kind of person we are, or aspire to be.
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Let’s dig in deeper into those labels we refuse. Have you ever resisted a label that’s usually seen as a positive thing? For example, maybe someone’s referred to you as “brilliant” or “hilarious,” and your immediate reaction was to tell them, “no, I’m really not!”
That’s because sometimes, we refuse labels that we don’t think we’ve earned. But here’s the secret: the only person who can decide if you are or are not a particular type of person, is you. So what if you could have the confidence to flip that rejection script?
Here’s the good news: you can. With practice, you can build the self-acceptance you need to claim and embrace who you are, even if right now you feel like there’s nothing you can do right.
This exercise walks you through one way to practice the self-acceptance of claiming your labels.
First, find a comfortable place where you feel safe. When you’re advanced you can try doing this on the subway or while you’re shopping for groceries, but for now let’s stay somewhere relatively private. Like your bedroom, or living room.
Without thinking too much, simply state an ‘I am’ declaration. Choose something positive that you might normally resist. Say out loud, in your head, or even write on a piece of paper: “I am a _____” (and fill that label into the blank). One that we hear A LOT in our mindset and improvisation workshops is “oh, I’m just not creative,” so let’s use that as an example.
Take a deep breath and say out loud “I am creative.” Say it a few times. Write it down. Do whatever you like. It may feel a bit uncomfortable, and that is perfectly normal.
Now, if you don’t think you’re very creative, you might feel some resistance when you say that. A little voice popping up and saying “oh gosh, no I’m really not.”
If that happens, it’s ok. That means we’ve found a good phrase to practice. We want to take some time to really get into that feeling. So we can figure out why you resist this label.
We’ll start with what the label means to you.
How do you define creativity? What could you objectively see, hear, smell, taste, or touch that would prove someone was creative? Find examples of people you know who you also see as being creative. Write down their creative aspects, what they’ve done to make you believe they’re creative.
Now you’re going to reflect on your own assumptions and that personal definition. Challenge your definition a bit, and ask yourself if you’ve manufactured any rules, qualifiers or metrics that are just make-believe? Whose voice is it that is laying down those rules? Is it your own, or some imaginary authority outside of yourself? Often the rules we have in mind around complimentary labels are just not true. Can anyone ‘own’ creativity? Now challenge yourself to find at least one way you ARE creative. You can and will find at least one.
If you’re still having trouble seeing how this label could be applied to you, you can ask your friends if they think it fits. If your support system tells you they think the label fits, ask them for examples so you can see yourself the way they see you. Most times our friends see the very best in us, and we can use that in our favor here.
And remember, this is your support network we’re talking about when we say friends. The people you’d want to talk to if something amazing happened in your life, or the people who you’d call if something really terrible happened.
The most important thing to remember here, is that this is about you. This is about changing your mindset in a way you want. In the end, you’re the only one who gets to decide if you are or aren’t the label. This exercise is about trying these labels on in a safe environment first, and then pushing yourself to own that label.
Also, it’s ok to change your mind down the road. You can make a choice that feels right for now, and change your mind later. You can choose to believe this forever, or you can choose to believe this for exactly the amount of time you want.
We are many things, and you can use labels to box those things in, or you can use them to expand out of the box.
This week, take time to find a few labels you want to take on, that you’re maybe a little uncomfortable with. Journal about your feelings, and share your thoughts with us in the comments for this blog.
We’re excited to watch you grow. We’re with you, so be brave.
We would love to hear your thoughts and your experiences of incorporating this practice into your daily life. Make sure to drop into the Be Brave Community and let us know how you get on.
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