Labels We Attach To Ourselves

A Life Coach Story

We’re too attached to the labels/masks that we create for ourselves. We need to continuously step outside ourselves. We need to make fewer assumptions and be less opinionated. This would make us less combative, less fearful, less greedy, and more content. In many ways it is a simple as that.

Childhood Years

Many times our labels are put on us are by others, but perhaps the most lasting and yes, even the most destructive ones we put on ourselves. I like many kids from broken homes in the 1950s I thought that mom left because I didn’t do what she wanted. I labeled myself as the cause of the family breakup. It would be years before I discovered that no one did what she wanted. She was an extreme narcissist and no one ever gave her enough attention. Thank heavens I did eventually grow out of that identity.

During these early years I knew I was different from most around me. I just didn’t seem to fit in with the crowd. That caused me to label myself as insecure, meek, shy, withdrawn. Even several years later when I found that my IQ was in the top 2% I just didn’t believe it. It would be years before I had enough self-confidence to throw away those early destructive labels.

Very early in life I also labelled myself a dreamer. That label was one few ones that joyfully stuck with me my entire life. I spent much of my childhood years reading books about places I had never known. John Steinbeck, Jack London, and others of that genre fascinated me. It would be in these years that started spending hours looking up at the nighttime sky and dreaming where my life would lead me. I continue to do that even today.

My high school years were in a small rural town in central Indiana. While I have many pleasant memories of those times, I was indirectly taught that people who were different from us were to be regarded with at least suspicion and maybe even disdain or hate. Despite that message I found it tragic when a negro family (that is the polite word for what they called them at that time) moved into our small town and their house burned down within a week. As an explanation of how that happened I was heard that their kind didn’t belong among us country folks and someone made sure they knew it. I was also told that a classmate didn’t act “right” as he liked boys instead of girls. I don’t think that was really true but that was the label that was ferociously attached on him.

Because I wanted to be part of a group, I labelled myself as something I never was, just so I could part of the clan. Luckily, these wrong-headed high school label wasn’t attached to me very long, but I will always regret that I never had the courage back then to disclaim it in front of others around me.

College Years

It would be my college days before another permanent label was self attached. This was the first time I was exposed to African Americans and I quickly found out that they weren’t that much different from me. I would discover the same thing for Jews and Muslims and several others that I was told to distrust. It was as if my college years caused murky scales to quickly fall off my eyes! I found I just didn’t have any reason to view so many people with the myopic vision of my earlier school years. In my college years I labelled myself awakened.

Early Adulthood

My religious identity of my youth was never strong to start with. My parents seemed to think that they didn’t need it as they only dropped my brothers and I off at church on Sunday morning then went home to do whatever they did. That fact even at that early age made me skeptical of religion. In my early adult years I tried to re-establish a religious life. I went back to the Catholic Church of my youth but that didn’t last long. I just had too many questions about what I was told to believe unquestionably. That just wasn’t me, I need answers. When I went to the parish priest I guess he was too busy to help me much. I ended up telling him that I would not be coming back. The only response I got was a letter from the church asking “Does this mean you won’t be contributing to the building fund anymore?” With this experience, I labelled myself non-religious. This was not the last time it tried to put on a religious label; that would happen again some twenty years later.

I always seemed to be the odd man out in my life. I didn’t make friends easily and I absolutely never figured out what women want. So, as a freshly minted college graduate I labelled myself a bachelor for life. It would be years before I discovered that these problems were due to neurological differences called Aspie traits. I dated occasionally but rarely got past the second date. I lived sixteen years in that mode.

I labelled myself an engineer but my heart was just not in it. I became an engineer because that is what my father dreamed to be, and I was going to become one primarily for him. Electrical stuff just never interested me that much, even in college. But I never had the courage to try to discover where I really belonged, and I never had any help in making that choice. It would be halfway through my working years when I discovered that the logic of computer programming was where I belonged. I finally labelled myself an IT guy.

Next Wednesday I will finish up how I have labeled my life, and then some thoughts about all of this.

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