LabelIs there something about you or what you do of which you are best known for? Is there a label that others use to categorize you? What sort of gimmick makes you memorable to others?

When I watch TV shows, like the news or some of those ‘Reality’ shows, I often see a job title or description with the person’s name on a flash banner as they are speaking. Have you ever thought about what your label would be in that circumstance? How would you be tagged?

People have a tendency to categorize everything, including other people. It is a way of making sense out of the world around us providing clues to guide our responses.

This realization was most profound for me when health issues became disabling and forced me to leave the workforce. I was no longer a working person with a job title and was no longer affiliated with a local business. After 20 years of being certain of my label (Student, Store Clerk, Waitress, Secretary, Customer Service Rep, Operations Manager, Controller, etc.) I was suddenly “Disabled” or nothing. I had lost my identity. This turmoil seemed to amplify my physical and emotional pain.

How did I fit in the world if I was no longer working full time in the workplace? Throughout physical rehabilitation I asked this question of myself and others. I received a variety of disconnected answers, such as, “Aren’t you a wife, an inspirational speaker, a reader, a support person, a preacher”. I struggled as I felt that I was more than my marital status–the wife of my beloved husband, I didn’t feel particularly inspiring, I spent most of my time reading for me and not to others, I was not clear about what a support person would/could/should do nor did I see myself as a church leader much less qualified to preach to anyone at this time in my life.

I quickly found myself in social situations where I would give myself an ambiguous label like “Freelancer” or “Student” or “Coach” just so that I wasn’t the only person who didn’t have a label. Later, as I grew into my new role of one of the “unlabeled “, I discovered that I was free to try some new activities and ways of connecting with other people. Participating in online forums, volunteering for causes that I cared about and exploring my own neighborhood more closely were open to me. The possibilities seemed limited only by my stamina and the “give and take” I would have to make in order to cope with my pain condition.

Surprise! The biggest lesson I learned was that I am flexible and adaptable. I am more than just one label. I now accept that I can be tagged in many ways. I am a Freelancer, Student, Coach, Dog Lover, Photographer, Advocate, Cook, Wife, Sister, Friend, Aunt…the possibilities are boundless and I own them proudly.

Oh, tag me hopeful. So, what are your labels?

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