Label Makers

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How do you define yourself?  Most of us define ourselves by our roles at home, careers, relationships/orientation, faith, etc- there are thousands of ways to define ourselves.  But let’s be real for a minute: they are all labels.  They may describe you, but they do not define you.  You are more than a label. 

We are excellent label makers.  We blindly assign a label to someone and put them into a box with other people who share that label- and may decide they are “good” or “bad;” we might decide to give love or hate to those people based purely on that label.  But aren’t we doing a disservice to ourselves and each other by doing that?  As humans, we are complex creatures; we cannot simply be defined by one or two labels.

As many people do, I had to confront this daily within myself.  Throughout my life, I have been told I do not look “like a doctor,” and this really used to grate on my nerves (because a backhanded compliment, in the end, is really just a well-executed slap across the face).  But why?  Why did this bother me so much?  Someone else’s opinion of my ability to do my job based upon my appearance is just an opinion- but it grew into a chip upon my shoulder.  A chip, which grew into a twig, and then into a branch.  Carrying around the weight of this burden really contributed to my burnout; I felt I could never just “arrive” as a physician.  I realized I had to spend several more minutes explaining things, was held to a different standard in leadership positions, and had to work harder for respect around the hospital, as compared to my male counterparts.  I changed myself to try to fit the mold of my role, and I did actually have far fewer comments about my appearance.

One day, I looked in the mirror and saw a girl I did not recognize: a frumpy girl in crocs (I know, forgive me, it was a dark time) and scrubs day in and day out, hair never done, barely wearing mascara, circles under my eyes.  My shine, my sparkle, my femininity- the things that made me unique- were gone, all in the name of trying to fit in.  I tried so hard to “look” like a girl who could be a physician. 

That day, I thought (for the millionth time) about quitting.  I highlighted my hair, wore lipstick, put on heels, and decided to quit- but not my work.  Instead, I quit listening to the voices around me, the nay sayers, the haters, the judgers, the critics.  I decided to just be myself- everyone else would just have to deal with it.  I realized that my worth was not dependent upon someone else’s opinion of me- and I no longer wanted to allow other people to define me. 

Bottom line: 
1. Don’t put your self worth in someone else’s hands; you’re too precious and too wonderfully and fearfully made to give yourself away for free. 
2. Shed the labels that define you.  Who are you really, beyond your career, relationship, family, faith, etc? 
3. Have you assigned any labels to someone?  Rethink that label, and try to see the person underneath the label.

Have a great week!
xo

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