“My feeling is that labels are for canned food… I am what I am – and I know what I am.” – Michael Stipe

A first grader spent a week during the summer, with her ‘favorite’ grandmother. The child was intrigued with her grandmother’s daily ritual of taking her medication. One day, the child noticed that several of the labels on her grandmother’s prescription bottles were coming unglued. Deciding to ‘help’ her grandmother, the young child lovingly removed all of the labels, from the bottles, and spread them across the table. Then the child gathered all of the bottles, and lined them up in a row, from smallest to largest.

The grandmother walked into the room, to find her grandchild, glue stick in hand, randomly gluing prescription labels onto prescription bottles. With loving patience, the grandmother thanked the child for ‘helping’ her while pointing out that each of the labels had to match the bottle containing the correct medicine.

The grandchild and the grandmother spent the next 30 minutes carefully reading the drug labels of every color and pill shape combination imaginable, until they had correctly glued all of the correct labels onto the correct medicine bottles. When the child was picked up at the end of the visit; she happily volunteered to her parents, that she could hardly wait to ‘grow up’ and become a pharmacist!

All of us have been ‘labeled.’ Maybe you have been labeled the ‘oldest,’ the ‘funny one,’ the ‘smart one,’ a ‘Daddy’s girl.’ Or perhaps you’ve been labeled a ‘diva,’ the ‘black sheep,’ a ‘gossip,’ or some negative term. We may like the labels, and again, we may be afraid to be labeled because it can be confining, limiting, and a miss-characterization of who we really are; or who we want to become. Without even consciously thinking about it, we constantly seek ‘labels’ which will define us the way we want to be characterized.

As we work with clients, we can help them discover who they are and who they want to become. We can also encourage them that they get to choose their labels. If they have been labeled in positive healthy terms, they can build on those labels. If they have been pigeon-holed into a negative, confining label, they can cast it aside or outgrow it. They can dream dreams, and set goals and become whoever they want to become, and live out their lives to the fullest!

[Coaching Questions]

  • What are some positive labels you have been given in your lifetime?
  • What are some negative labels which you have been assigned in your lifetime?
  • Have you been labeled with a Sharpie or some other kind of permanent marker, by others, and put on a shelf? If so, what have been some of the long term effects?
  • Have you checked your labels lately to see if they have ‘expired?’
  • Are you ready to move forward in your life; defined only by the labels which you have chosen?
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