It’s funny how once and a while life puts something or someone in front of you that makes you question things that would otherwise lay dormant. Sometimes it’s done subtly, and sometimes not. Sometimes we ignore what has been presented, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we laugh it off or dismiss it, and sometimes we don’t. This was a time when I paid attention to what was presented to me, and I’m glad that I did.
As I was pushing my cart through a busy aisle at the grocery store the other day when I was stuck in a bit of a traffic jam. While waiting for some room to clear, it became a waiting game with the other two women in the aisle. The woman closest to me was preoccupied with looking for something on the self, whereas the woman farther away from me was trying to figure out her own manoeuvre around a food stocking cart. We looked at each other in a “what do you think” kind of way and she said, “Here, you go first. You look like a runner. You’re probably faster than me. You go ahead.” As I thanked her and passed her with a smile, she asked me “Are you really a runner?” I replied that I was, and she said “I thought so. You look like one.”
I kept walking and pushing my cart, and while I did so I thought about how even now, all these years later, it is still so weird for someone to call me a runner. I know that I am a runner. It is part of me down deep into my soul. For goodness sakes, I do it regularly, I now own a business based on it, and I have tattoos on my body related to running. Yet, every so often I find it totally bizarre that someone calls me a runner. Why is that? Why is it not something that I can accept like the color of my eyes or the sound of my voice?
I think it’s because if I’m really truthful with myself about it, I am still growing and changing as a runner. Because I’m still growing and changing, my confidence around being a runner is always growing and changing too. Am I feeling strong? Am I setting new challenges for myself so that I can keep growing? Am I holding myself accountable? Am I overdoing things? Am I running for my love of running or am I using it as a way of not dealing with stress or things that are bothering me? These are constant thoughts that I ask myself. There are those sweet times during a run when I can just run and get lost in my thoughts. It’s at those times that I don’t question anything about myself. I just run. It’s in those times when I am content with who I am. It’s in those times that I would call myself a runner without a second thought.
The more I thought about the grocery store interaction, the more it brought up other labels that have been placed upon me and ones that I’ve placed upon myself.
What labels are on you right now? Why is it we can’t seem to get away from being labelled? Why is it we can’t just be who we are without being labelled?
The answer lies in the fact that these labels are words. That’s all that they are. Words. They only have power when I choose to give them power. Just because these words are used to describe us doesn’t mean that they define who we are. We only become those labels when we actively engage in actions supporting those labels. We have the power to choose who we want to be and sometimes we can choose to keep the labels and sometimes we can let them go. I choose to be a runner. I make that choice every time I go for a run.
When we exercise our own power of choice, we get to decide who and what we are. And the best part of that is that we can change our minds and become something or someone different whenever we want. It’s as easy as deciding what it is and then saying it out loud. Now, be careful at how you read the previous statement. “It’s as easy as deciding…” The important word in there is “easy”. The decision is never 100% easy, is it? The decision to go after something new, to become something new and the work to become this new thing or person, these are hard. It’s going to take work to get there and the only one who can do that for you is you.
The accepting of a label that someone else places upon us is usually easier for us to go along with and embody. In this instance, they have done most of the work for you. They told you what you’re going to be, how you’re going to be, and you can go through the motions to embody this new label. Most of the time we willingly accept this because it’s the easier route. But what ends up happening is that we can only grow and change within this label. It’s limiting for us and it leaves us within the space that they made for us, not in a space that we have made for ourselves. And this points again to a loss of power.
Life is a series of making decisions. So sometimes we try on different labels to see if that’s who we want to be. I wanted to be a runner, so I put on shoes and went for a run. I wanted to be a teacher, so I enrolled in graduate school and became a teacher. I wanted to be a wife, so I said yes when my husband asked if I would marry him.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather get to choose who and what I am. I would rather do the work to steer me and my life in the directions that I choose. Letting someone do that for me, letting someone else make my decisions will only ever let me grow so much. I’m in charge of the person I am becoming. It’s been a lot of work so far, but I’m okay with that because I’m worth it. I’ve chosen the labels that are on me know and I’m keeping myself available for any new labels that come up.