In this 9 minute episode, you’ll hear:
- Carrie in story-telling mode – not sure if you’ve heard her like this on a podcast before
- Why the labels others assign you (in school, home or even on the playground) don’t have to determine your destiny
- All the awards and honors she did NOT earn (sniff) and why that’s totally okay!
- Why social workers told her NOT to adopt her son & daughter!
- Her late mentor Chet Holmes’ wise words on persistence
Please listen, download, subscribe and share! Someone needs to be encouraged!
I think everybody has had the experience of buying a shirt or a pair of pants where there was an itchy label in the back…something that kind of rubbed you wrong. While the label was maybe necessary so that you know how to put that piece of clothing on properly it really was very uncomfortable, and we really just couldn’t wait to tear it out or cut it out or get rid of the label.
I think as humans we have all sorts of labels that don’t always serve us. One of the things I really strongly believe is we need to learn to defy labels.
Let’s start with my dad.
My dad was raised in an uneducated family and an alcoholic family if we’re being brutally honest. It was not a really warm and fuzzy family. I would go as far as to say my grandfather was even verbally abusive. I know that’s not popular to talk about but it is what it is.
My dad was the oldest of four and he was in a “certain” part of town and in a “certain” school. He had “certain” labels. But my dad determined really young that those labels were itchy and uncomfortable and he cut those out as quickly as he could. He excelled in his high school and excelled in his job. As a matter of fact, in one of his early jobs he was told by one of the other men to ‘Stop working so fast and so hard or you’ll work yourself out of a job. You’re making the rest of us look bad and nobody likes that.’ That was uncomfortable for him, too, because he was an achiever.
Being an achiever was unusual for his family because they were not even high school graduates except for his mother. Dad went into the United States Coast Guard and even as an enlisted man he earned the highest medal given, the Achievement Medal. He did that as he continued to take off labels. He continued to work and test and excel and do and I learned early from him that we do not have to fulfill the labels that other people place on us. He retired as an officer in the Coast Guard and later went into the ministry.
We do not have to fulfill the prophecies that other people make for us, the things they tell us in school, the things they call you on the playground, maybe even the things your parents say to you — don’t have to be the case.
The other story I like to tie into labels is when I was in high school. I was not a kid that was labeled. I was not a super achiever and I wasn’t an under achiever. I was kind of in that messy middle. When they handed out labels like Most Popular or Best Dressed or Most Likely to be on Stage or Most Likely to Succeed, I remember being at prom and thinking ‘I didn’t even get any label; I didn’t get recognized for anything!!’
When I left school –that safe ground of education – and moved forward I remember looking at other people and thinking ‘Wow, they know what to do. They know what’s next. They know what defines them.’
I had to make a choice. I could either be defined by a label that somebody gave me or be defined by the fact that nobody gave me a label.
- Instead, I determined to be successful.
- I determined to be onstage and
- I determined to create my own label – a label that was comfortable and a label that fit me instead of something that I let somebody else assign me.
Later, when I became a mom I adopted two amazing toddlers, a boy and girl who are biological siblings. Mark was a little older than 2 (maybe 24-25 months) and Emily was 8 months old. I’ll never forget sitting in the meeting of the decisions makers (the social workers and the caseworkers and the important people that were deciding the fate of these children) and they were saying to me ‘I don’t think that these kids are for you. I don’t think that they’re a fit. We think that the little girl has autism and failure to thrive and failure to bond. You’re educated and you’re achievers and we don’t think she will ever meet your expectations. We don’t think this is a match. We’re going to recommend that you say no.’
I’ll never forget the outrage that we felt at that label being placed on her and those limitations being placed on her at 8 months of age. Sure enough, I guess I’m just stubborn enough that she became ours anyway against popular advisement. When she moved in the Child Specialist told us she was almost 9 months old but at a 3-month developmental level. Within 6 weeks that child was at a 10-month old development level because of music therapy and physical and occupational therapy and just what my late mentor, Chet Holmes, would call “pig-headed stubbornness” on her part and mine.
Long story short (or maybe we’re past that) she was a 16-year-old high school graduate who was the fourth in her class. She was Drum Major of the marching band. (Incidentally, Drum Major of her momma’s marching band….so she was a second generation Drum Major.) She was an honor graduate, of course, as fourth in her class. She was President of the National Honor Society. She was involved in student government and so many other things. She was First Runner-Up for Homecoming Queen in her Senior Class and Band Sweetheart her senior year. She is now on full scholarship at college studying Music Therapy so she can work with amazing kids and special needs populations that have been labeled in so many different ways.
I tell her over and over again that she did not meet my expectations and shame on me for those expectations. She blew every one of those out of the water. She ripped off every itchy, painful, uncomfortable label that she had been given. She defied them and refused them and she defined what she would do and what she would be. She continues to do that.
I continue to do that and my dad continues to do that. At his age he continues to rebuild and works and does things that other men his age are not doing. He refuses to be defined by labels.
I want to encourage you to defy labels whether it’s a label that somebody else gave you, whether it’s a label you read in a book, a label you’ve assigned yourself, or maybe a label that somebody didn’t give you that you desperately wanted.
I did not get the label Most Likely to Succeed. I did not get the label Prettiest Smile, Most Likely to be Onstage, Best Dressed. I didn’t get any of those labels and guess what? I went ahead and created my label and I wear it proudly.
What label will YOU choose?