I have always been opposed to self-limiting labels. Maybe because I accepted them for myself and then found out later that I didn’t have to. I’m talking about words like diabetic, addicted, allergic, gluten or lactose intolerant, accident-prone, stupid, disadvantaged, and even gay or lesbian. You may feel like you have symptoms of some disease or affliction that has a name, so you choose to accept that label, but in doing so you severely limit your options and your ability to heal. Your words are very powerful, and your body listens to you. You are whatever you think and feel you are. Accepting a label is accepting limits. You may have done something stupid, but that doesn’t make you stupid.
You may have been born into situations where these words hold some power. Maybe diabetes runs in your family, so you’re diabetic. Maybe your family has never had money, so you’re stuck in a disadvantaged situation and feel like you can’t move beyond it. Maybe you experienced some abuse as a child, so you’re justified in taking on a label that supports that fact that abuse occurred. I’ll say them again: you are not stuck, and you are in charge. There is a way to move beyond what you don’t think you can move beyond. There are plenty of stories about people who have done this—a boy born into an impoverished family who becomes wealthy and powerful, people who have managed and healed their bodies from various diseases and illness, and those who have overcome tendencies they believed were inborn. “…there are those who may outwardly appear impoverished, without talent, and doomed to mediocrity. A classic label appeared beneath a picture of the boy Abraham Lincoln as he stood in front of his humble birthplace—a simple log cabin. The words read: ‘Ill-housed, ill-clothed, ill-fed.’ Unanticipated, unspoken, and unprinted was the real label of the boy: ‘Destined for immortal glory.’” (Thomas Monson, “Labels”) So we know it’s possible. Why is it not possible for you?
I believe it’s all about vision and belief. If you want something to be different, believe that it can be and visualize it the way you want it. You may not see immediate change, but you won’t feel stuck anymore. As one blogger suggests, “Create your own labels. The labels you place on yourself matter, so choose them wisely. Make sure you embrace labels that help you become the most awesome version of yourself.” (Nia Shanks, “Stop Labeling Yourself by Their Standards”) Holding onto labels offers no hope for change. Another blogger said this: “Negative self-labels offer us excuses not to change behaviors and traits. We act in harmony with our label. If we believe we are ‘no good’, we might be more tempted to not change our behavior.” (Steve Mensing, “Self-Acceptance”)
I’ve accepted lots of labels for myself. We all have. There was one in particular that I wondered if I could shake, but I did it. I hesitate telling this story because many of you don’t know this about me, but I think it’s important to tell to help people understand it can be done. It wasn’t easy and it has been an ongoing aspect of my healing process, but I feel like I won. I feel like I conquered. Maybe this blog is the best way to share this story.
I experienced some sexual abuse as a child. I wasn’t aware of it; I had blocked the traumatic memories. They were still there, of course, playing limiting and false beliefs in my subconscious mind and dictating a lot of my behavior. Some of that behavior was that I didn’t feel comfortable and safe around men, I didn’t like to be touched, and I had difficulty expressing emotion. I also was raised by a mother who had difficulty nurturing and comforting me because she couldn’t nurture or comfort herself, so I was always seeking mother-figures in my life, hoping to get those needs met through another person. These two childhood situations were a perfect formula for a label: lesbian. I needed a nurturing female in my life and I didn’t like men, so the world said: I must be gay! I tried to embrace this label for a while, but my religious beliefs were not in harmony with it. I was conflicted for many years, living on the fence, unable to live fully on either side because both sides said I was wrong. If I lived as a good Christian, what about my unresolved feelings and unmet needs? If I lived as a lesbian, what about the truth that I knew in my heart: that God didn’t make me this way, that he wanted me to follow his plan, “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” I wanted to follow that plan, but there was a lot in the way. I even tried to live both lives by creating a false persona, but that created even more problems about my true identity. Once I began the journey of healing, I made the choice to throw away some labels: abused, broken, unmet needs, victim, controlled, and finally, homosexual. I chose some new labels that would help me to change: empowered, whole, in control, heterosexual, and free. And after some rigorous Christ-centered energy work in which a lot of generational and personal negative patterns have been cleared, allowing into my life the love and acceptance I was lacking before, I am free. And I choose to be different than I was. I choose to be the real me.
I’m still not married to a man, but that’s my goal, and more importantly, it’s the desire of my heart. There may still be some things to work through in order to reach it, but I feel confident that anything is possible. Even issues as difficult and stunting as these seemed to be for me. I am whatever I think and feel I am. I am a child of God.
Please carefully consider the labels you accept for yourself. If there’s one or more that you have accepted and attached to yourself and you don’t like it, you can change it. There is a way out. You are a child of God. You are of infinite worth. You are more magnificent than you know.