One day back in middle school I was taking a test after lunch. Loud silence in class as we focused on finding the correct answers to the questions. Our desks were placed in several neat, straight rows facing our teacher who also sat behind his desk. I was in the middle row directly in the middle of the class. Not my first choice as I love to be unnoticeable and blend in the background. Out of the corner of my eye I could tell my teacher was watching me. I had been looking around at the other students in the class, but not because I was cheating – I was thinking. I often do this to this very day. I look around (although I’m not really seeing) while I figure things out in my head.
It must have occurred to me that my glancing around could look suspicious so I nervously turned my head to look at my teacher. Yep, he was watching me so I immediately looked down at my paper once again. For the next few minutes I only stared at my test but out of the corner of my eye I could see my teacher had his eyes firmly planted on me. My fears were confirmed when I heard his voice say “hey stupid” (um okay). I just sat there staring at my paper. “Hey stupid” he said again out loud and I just continued to ignore him. I mean why would I answer him when he was clearly insulting me? One final time he said louder “HEY STUPID!” Now he had everyone’s attention because most of the students were looking at him – including myself. My heart beat loudly because I was the only one who knew he was talking to me! I didn’t know how long this would continue? Would he finally call me out? The next thing I knew the boy who sat behind me replied “What?”
The teacher just sat there and didn’t say anything. I’m sure deciding if it was worth it to continue and let class know he really meant another stupid student. I sat there just trying to complete my test and block out what was happening. In the end he chose to move on and let the entire situation go. I laughed about this memory for years. I mean why would I acknowledge to him or the class that I was stupid? If I responded that would show that I was claiming that title. Even that young I wouldn’t allow someone to label me.
So why do I choose to label myself?
Self-appointed labels are the ones that feel impossible to let go. Fear, anger and shame are powerful. It’s almost like looking in a mirror at a carnival – everything is hideously distorted. You walk away believing what you saw is the truth.
Why does it feel impossible for me to accept a compliment? It is soooo uncomfortable. The truth is it has been much easier to embrace the lies. The negative and destructive whisperings in my mind made much more sense. Felt familiar and safe.
It also held me captive. (Read Behind the Walls)
It takes a lot of hard work and determination to remove these labels. One by one they are starting to disappear. It is then also my job to keep them off. Sometimes the lies can be so subtle you don’t even know you’ve been duped. I honestly believed that although I always wanted a daughter it was a good thing I never had one. Why? Because I believed I wouldn’t have bonded with her and even been cruel to her. That my experiences with my mom would have passed down to my daughter.
On one of my trips to Africa an opportunity presented itself to adopt a little girl. It happened out of the blue and I was shocked and happily surprised. I didn’t even have to think about it – I was ready to do it. The person who spoke to me had connections to get the ball rolling. I called Robbie back home and he was in complete agreement and excited too. That night fear gripped me like I never experienced in my life, and the thoughts that overtook my mind were overwhelming.
I spoke to someone (I trusted) that night about the entire situation including my deep-rooted fear. This person helped me realize that I had swallowed huge lies about myself. Everything pointed to the person and mother I truly was – not the distorted image I had about myself. Even the reason I traveled so far from home and was in another continent was to help children in need. This revealed my heart towards children at home and all over the world. Standing in that guest house that night in Malawi, Africa – I emancipated myself from the false truth I completely owned and embraced. For the first time in my life I realized I wasn’t the person who could (or would) do those things to a daughter or any child for that matter. It was liberating and brought me such deep peace.
Although the adoption never took place – the good news is the label never returned either. Now on to the next…