By Susan Stone
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 sign on someone, we label people whether they deserve it or not.
With harmless labels such as creative, talented, gifted, generous … none can argue the benefit of being known as such a person. But what kind of life can we expect from someone who has been labeled a trouble-maker, lazy, difficult, 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 pinned on you that you would like to change?
Over the years, I have had the honor of counseling dozens of people who had outgrown their labels.
Some were near 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 Laura, was diagnosed as a schizophrenic at the age of 5. I met her when she was 23. She was a cutter, self-destructive, very depressed, threatening suicide and had been hospitalized several times.
When her father brought her to meet me, I saw a beautiful and very gifted young woman. I had a feeling there was much more to her story.
Laura was so shy you could barely hear her speak. She looked down at the ground and never made eye contact.
After gaining her trust, we talked about what had landed her in the hospital so many times. The first time she was 5 and was diagnosed with borderline schizophrenia because she was hearing voices. When I asked her who was talking to her, she said, “The ghosts.”
Aha! I knew it! This was my first clue that something else was going on.
When I asked if she could see them too, she looked at me like I was crazy and said; “Of course!”
So I asked more questions, beginning with: “What else can you see?”
The rest of the afternoon was wonderful. As she told me one story after another, she became more and more animated. I don’t think she had never met anyone who believed she was telling the truth!
Today she is a certified massage therapist.
Her goal is to open a business where people can come to nurture their body, mind and spirit.
She also wants to become 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 “idiot.”
Being the middle child, I was sandwiched between two genius sisters.
In the early ‘60s, no one knew about dyslexia. How many kids did the system call “slow?”
I didn’t know I had it until my daughter was diagnosed in elementary school. By then I was in my 30s and had believed my whole life that I was just stupid because I inverted letters and numbers. Reading and math were terribly difficult for me; even with tutors I was barely able to eke out a passing grade.
My family used to pat me on the head and say, “Well, at least she’s pretty. Hopefully she’ll marry well.” No wonder I have felt less-than most 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 own body parts. This is my good knee and this is my bad knee … who knows how that affects its ability to heal?
At the end of the day, no matter what the world has called you, know this: You are a wonder to behold!