Bad attitude. Overweight. Super hyper. Rail thin. Melancholy. Mean. Too smiley. Rude. No eye contact. Close talker. A-D-D. Annoying. Religious. Weird. Obnoxious. Funny. Awkward. Depressed.
If you are human, then at some point you have labeled someone. You probably do it every day without even realizing it; it’s like we are compelled to put people in boxes. Case in point. Recently I met a gal for coffee. My perception labeled her as beautiful, successful, articulate, funny, and if perfect is possible… perfect. I admit I was intimidated to meet up with her because in my mind I didn’t measure up… but that’s a whole other post. As she shared her story, I realized my perception – rather my labels – were not wrong just shallow. The reason she is all those things is because of her story. Her life has not been easy, not by a long shot, but she never gave up and she has not let others and their labels define her. She has fought to be where she is today, and she owns, respects and shares her story of brokenness with true authenticity. It was refreshing and absolutely motivating!
As I walked away, I couldn’t help but think how often we focus on the labels we assign instead of focusing on the story. Just because someone looks like they have all their you-know-what together doesn’t mean squat. In fact, they often don’t and it’s just a smoke screen for what really is going on. I call it smoke and mirrors, and in fact I am developing a speaking theme around the subject because I lived in smoke and mirrors for many years.
A great example of labels versus story is actor Wentworth Miller from the popular drama Prison Break. In the August 8, 2016 issue of People magazine he shares his story of being bullied, his battle with depression, and coming out as a gay man. On the outside he is a successful actor playing a bad ass character, but on the inside his story is drastically different. He has been defined by the world’s labels and his story – he – was suffocating. We should not be ashamed of who we are. Our truth is important, even if it isn’t what everyone wants or expects.
I admire his fight to be who he is – his truth – and at 44 years old he is able to share his story and not look back, and more importantly not be ashamed and defined by labels. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Now, in order to stave off future bouts of despair, the actor says, he remains highly attuned to the tools he needs to stay mentally healthy, especially when it comes to grueling 14-hour work days. “I’m watchful when it comes to [things] like sleep,” Miller says. “If I don’t sleep well, the next day I know I’m going to be tired and a little bit sensitive, and small things that wouldn’t normally upset me do. Now something’s in motion and it can snowball. I try to stay really aware of where I’m at.” Furthermore, “I don’t put pressure on myself to stay positive. Off days happen. It’s like, ‘I’m human. Keep moving.'”
Miller also shared, “Articulating how I’m feeling while I’m feeling it is a lifesaving practice. It’s part of my self-care.” He went on to say, “I [try to] keep vibrating at the right frequency… I try not to shame myself for having an off day.” Amen! I personally have found the same to be true. It may not be pretty. It may not be what others want or care to hear, but if it allows me – and Miller – a way to process our feelings in an effort to push past, then that’s what’s most important. Hence my post in July about The Pit of Despair. That post was never about self-pity or looking for encouragement. It was 100% about being honest with what I was feeling for MY SAKE. By saying – or writing – it out loud the emotions/guilt/shame no longer can have power over me. I, with God’s help, can take control of what I am feeling and process through.The best stories, after all, are the ones that end in a victorious battle.
Depression sucks. I know firsthand and I will share more as I begin to write Discovering Me. But depression doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Nor does it have to define who you are. Depression may be how you are labeled, and it may be a part of your story, but it is not YOU. In Miller’s case, accepting the depression and effectively managing his self-care is what makes his story so awesome. He is not running from the struggle, he is embracing it head on, telling the world, all with the hope of helping others find their truth. And I believe he recognizes that his battle doesn’t define him. The article ended with Miller saying, “What you say matters less than getting the conversation started. Just letting [people] know they’re not alone can make a difference.”
You may feel alone in your personal struggles and feel as though you have been unfairly labeled by the world. Please know you are never alone. First and foremost, God is there, right alongside you and the only label He has for you is “My child”. Secondly, open up and share. You just never know whose story you might run into and how it might bless your life, or better yet how your story may bless their life!
You can read the full article on Miller at People.com.