Labels are a brand.
As Nike, H&M, and Target are brands so we learn what to expect from them. From the Nike label I know I’m going to get shoes – sneakers to be exact or some kind of sports-related clothing item. Dassit. I don’t expect fancy makeup or greasy potato chips from them. They have tailored their brand from scratch so that we know exactly who it is without even saying the name (I call that good marketing). Think of the Band-Aid brand (yes, it is a brand). Many of us don’t even say bandages (the correct term for it) we just say band-aid because they have branded the entire name (I call that even better marketing).
So, the same can be said of us. If you’ve been branded as longwinded, kind, or optimistic then people expect you to speak at length, be overly nice, or be full of hope. Likewise, if you’ve been branded as a liar or gossiper then people expect you to lie or be unable to keep secrets.
But what happens when labels begin to trap us?
So, I’ve been known all my life as a smart girl. I have always made pretty good grades in school and went to college on multiple scholarships. I have loads of books laying around my room and I get into arguments about the difference between their, there and they’re (it really gets under my skin!). But whenever I got a “bad” grade in school, extreme disappointment overcame me. It was like I wasn’t allowed to make lower than a B+ (and even that was pushing it). I couldn’t be anything other than smart (and the best at it) because that is what was expected of me. I was branded into a smart girl so I had to live up to that label. I guess it started because I made a couple good grades when I was younger, was on honor roll, the student of the month and stayed out of the principal’s office. But, honestly, I was under a significant amount of pressure trying to live up to the label others expected of me.
People expected me to go off to a prestigious school (I wouldn’t say Virginia Wesleyan University is exactly ivy league) and land some cushiony job making loads of money (I wouldn’t say teaching high school English is exactly cushiony or pays a lot of money, either). However, that was the type of label my family and friends placed on me and expected of me.
My identity was wrapped in this label with a tight bow on top, impossible for me to escape it, as much as I tried.
However, I found freedom in knowing that labels aren’t always a bad thing and we have the power to change them. If I start calling myself trustworthy, I begin to take actions that yield such. Then people will begin to expect me to be so. You have to start thinking of yourself as a brand, LLC, or INC. And think of all the healthy, honest and hopeful things that make you you. Start living up to your brand.
The thing about labels is they can either define you or confine you.
What are some things people tell us we are? Sometimes we accept lies because we don’t have truth to combat it. And, I believe many times it isn’t what’s said to us, it’s what’s not said to us, that hurt us most. For example, it’s like the girl who believes she’s beautiful but it wasn’t said to her too often therefore when lies are thrown at her insecurities (and many other things) manifest. You could believe you are successful, gorgeous, worthy (and others) because someone said those things to you, and you believed you could be based on the label branded on you. If Beyoncé and Jay-Z choose to groom their children to be singers, performers, or entertainers then they will, most likely, become so (and also because they have the resources at their fingertips).
Brands allow us to follow a template in life. We’re not just aimless doing whatever or going wherever. When you know who you are (your specific labels) then you will live up to what you’ve been branded to be. And there’s nothing worse than not knowing who you are (identity) and going through life trying everything because no one told you who you were or where you come from (which is why orphanages, adoption agencies, runaways and absentee fathers all have an identity crisis in youth being its core issue).
I found freedom from the intellectual label by finding other things that define me. I’m not just the smart girl, I’m the hood girl, I’m the girl with the afro rocking dashikis and pumps, I’m the girl nextdoor, I’m the best friend everyone tells their secrets to, I’m the girl who loves Jesus and a glass of red wine. I am many things (labels) but not one label defines me holistically.
Now try to think of the things that are not true of you. Some of us have been living up to labels our whole lives that have nothing to do with who we are or what we were created to be… who you are isn’t something you find difficult to live up to. It’s the thing that you know you can’t live without doing.
The only label your identity should be under is Christ. He calls us his children. His beloved. And we inherit an inheritance of The King. Once we believe we are loved, worthy, enough, handmade and masterpieces then we’ll start living up to those labels. Not ones chosen for us by people who may or may not have our best interest at heart (or ones fabricated by ourselves). But don’t just stop there. Get specific and dig deep.
Choose to live up to labels that are set aside specifically for you for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
So, what are some labels you’re living up to? Let me know in the comment section.
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