We’re accustomed to assigning labels to things based on how WE feel, or what we think is “in good taste”. We might say, “that vegetable is too bitter”, “that color is just awful”, “that outfit is so tacky”, “that hairstyle is really unattractive”, and so on and so on. We judge, based on our personal preferences. We forget that, for the person eating that vegetable, painting their family room that color, wearing that outfit or opting for that hairstyle, those particular choices might be ideal. We’re all different. We all think differently. We all process differently and, because we’re unique, we all walk through this world differently.
It’s easy to “label” people too, isn’t it?
We identify strengths and weaknesses based on how we “see” another, often without really knowing what’s going on inside him or her. We define someone else through our lens; our reality of the world.
Our “blessings” can become our “curses”. Even with the positive parts of “who we are”, advantages can sometimes become burdens; strengths can sometimes become weaknesses.
I’ve often been aware that, in my life, some of the attributes that I consider positive have presented challenges. I’m also aware of how blessings that others have, may too, sometimes become curses. Below are some of the “labels” we attach to ourselves and others (some with easily removable tape and some with permanent glue that we feel we have the responsibility to “wear” forever):
sensitive: This one is easy for me to because I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been told, “you are too sensitive” or you are “overly sensitive”. This is, as my friend Dan would say, “how I come” to this life, to this experience. When people say this, they’re usually commenting on my inability to be okay with something that was said or done. Typically “you’re so sensitive” isn’t said in a “wow that’s so cool” way, but rather as a profound weakness in not being able to simply “shrug it off”.
The blessing is that you always try to be sensitive to other people. The curse is that you may be easily hurt.
extrovert: I lean toward extroversion; although there are plenty of times when I simply want to be alone. I genuinely love being engaged with others. It’s usually easy for me to strike up a conversation or find a way to fit in. I don’t seek out being the center of attention, but I don’t mind standing up in front of a group. There are times when I love the sanctity of my home, the ability to simply “be” and write or read or research or clean or organize or decorate. That doesn’t make me less of an extrovert. It just makes me, “me”.
The blessing is that sometimes it’s easier for extroverts to interact with different, or large groups of, people. The curse is the expectation that you should always be “on”, and if you’re not something’s wrong.
strong (or tough or resilient): Like most people, I’ve had my share of challenges. Years ago, there was a short period of time when both my father and brother died and I suffered a significant betrayal. Although I usually handle adversity well, that was a “dark period” in my life. I heard a lot of what “strong” people don’t want to hear, “you’re so strong, you’ll get through this”, just like resilient people typically don’t want to hear, “you’ll bounce right back, you always do”.
The blessing is that you can often navigate the choppy waters of life, while holding steadily onto the oars of your strength. The curse is that sometimes you’re not given the “allowance” to fall apart.
laid back (or easy-going): What a great way to walk through life! There’s always a song in your heart and you let things simply roll off your shoulders. If you really are laid back you tend not to assign weight to something that’s not worth it, and you accept life as it comes to you.
The blessing is that you probably have a real “go with the flow” mentality that makes you easy to be with. The curse is that others may not seriously consider how YOU feel because you’re always “okay” with what everyone else wants.
accepting: Being accepting is a wonderful thing. It allows you to get outside preconceived opinions and welcome those whose lifestyle or beliefs are different from yours. It opens up your world. It also gives you the advantage of dealing with change as a part of the “human experience”.
The blessing is that your view is expanded and you have the immense opportunity to learn more and experience more. The curse is that some people will expect you to take whatever’s thrown at you and simply be okay with it.
caregiver: Caring for others is really important, because there are so many for whom you might be their only “light” in this world. Whether it’s advocacy, volunteerism, caring for a family member or spending time with someone who’s lonely, when caring for others is done without expecting something in return, these are true acts of love.
The blessing is your ability to impact our world positively. The curse is being taken advantage of because your big-heartedness won’t allow you to ever say “no”.
Strengths and weaknesses; blessings and curses. There are so many more examples that come to mind, but we’ll save those for another time.
It’s typical to be “labeled” by the people who know us, or think they know us. Often those assignations are good, but sometimes the pressure of living up to that standard is daunting. We need to remember that, like a prism, we have many moods; many colors. We shine more in some light than in others. We can’t always be every facet of ourselves, and that’s okay.
How do the people who know you best describe you?
How do the people who spend time with you (not necessarily the same as those who “know you best”) label you?
How are those adjectives the same or different from how you see yourself?
Are you really in touch with yourself and how you genuinely feel or have you created a persona based on who you think you have to be, because of who others say you are?
I am strong. I am weak. I am confident. I am vulnerable. I’m a human; multi-faceted, trying my best, making mistakes and walking in a way that, I pray, makes at least a small difference.
©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”: #29. Know the difference between real worries and simple problems; sometimes we assign a lot of energy to something that, in less than a week, won’t affect our life at all. Let’s save our strength for what’s really important.