Was your life shaped by labels your family gave you? Being the pretty one, the funny one, the shy one, the wild one, the quiet one, the moody one, the happy one, the smart one, or the not so smart one can limit the way you live your life – if you let it.
Another form of labeling is predicting who is going to be what when they grow-up: he’ll be a doctor or musician, she’ll be a lawyer or dancer. Labels can be spoken or unspoken, and even the subtle ones can pack a wallop. Certainly not all childhood labels or career predictions are negative influences, and most are not presented to harm, but labeling or predicting is a bit of a slippery slope, and may lead to a landslide of hidden emotions or misguided reactions.
Your assignment for this week is to discover if you have accepted or applied any label fables. (Remember, we are not placing blame here, so there is no need to call your parents or siblings to complain! And, you are right, not all labels start-out as fables, but once a label sticks it is very hard to shake, even when it no longer applies.)
Not knowing or fully exploring your label fables may be keeping you from creating the life you really want. The following exercise is a simple, yet effective way to expand awareness and create the opportunity for change. Your Wishful Thinking Ways assignment for this week is to name the labels you and your siblings may have received. Begin by making a list of your family members, yourself included, and see if any labels come to mind. If so, jot them down next to the family member’s name.
Now, forget the other folks on the list and only focus on the label(s) you received. Ask yourself the following questions:
Did I accept this label without question and adapt my life accordingly?
Did I think about the label, but not let it influence my life greatly?
Did I rebel against the label, and let it influence my life in the opposite direction?
Did I accept the label in anger and spend time making sure everyone – including myself – paid dearly?
Am I still living by someone else’s label? Do I want to continue to do it?
Please add any questions that help you gain a full awareness of any label fables in your life and how they have impacted your life. If any lingering emotions arise during the process, use Wishful Thinking Ways week 4 to guide you through them.
Then complete the following sentence. “I let the label of being ____________ impact my life by _____________________________.”
And, because I never ask you to do an exercise I haven’t done, I’ll start. I let the label of being flighty affect my life by limiting my choices and lowering my perception of myself and my strengths. For years this label fable rattled around in my head, but once I took an honest look at it, it shrunk in size and importance to me, which led me to create the life I really want.
Take time to discover how your label fables might have led you to or away from events and choices in your life. Explore your labels and the effect they’ve had on you. Be honest. And remember, the goal is to label fables, not play the blame game.
Throughout the month, we’ve been using Wishful Thinking Ways to set the stage for change in 2012. Join us on Fridays in February as we continue our Wishful Thinking Ways by discovering your dreams. If you haven’t seen or completed “My Courage Diet”, I suggest it as a final exercise for the month of January. It’s designed to get you ready for change by surrounding you with a real sweet treat – you at your best!
Being happy and satisfied, doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and being unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming. So, no matter where you are today, it is the perfect starting point for where you want to be next.
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