Between the ages of approximately 7-9, I spent a lot of my time with a friend’s family who lived in a subdivision across the street. I’ll call them the “T family.” My memory is that, if I hadn’t spent the night over there, I would show up on their doorstep in the morning before my friend was even awake.
I would sit and wait for Mrs. T to wake up and open the door to let me in like some kind of stray cat. They took me EVERYWHERE with them and would often introduce me as their “third child.” (Kind of embarrassing and mooch-ish now that I think of it as an adult! But I loved my time with the Ts so much and they were always so generous and fun.)
I will never forget the day I was officially labeled “funny” in my mind. We were driving down a hill and I was in the backseat of the T’s station wagon, sandwiched between my friend and her younger brother. After riding and listening for a short bit, brother T asked: “Mom, why does Micki always laugh at everything everyone says?” and after a short pause, Mrs. T replied: “Because Micki has a great sense of humor.” And there it sat – a label of my character given by a woman I trusted. Maybe I already knew this about myself. Maybe I had been told several times by other people. But on that day at that moment … the idea was emblazoned upon my sleeve that I was a funny person. And I’ve run with it ever since!
I am 38 years old and I still remember the way I felt when Mrs. T voiced that judgment about me 30 years ago. What if she would have said something negative? I wonder how my self-worth would have stuck. True, I had many other influences in my life to help me form an opinion of myself; two loving parents, three brutally honest brothers, strong self-esteem, but my point is … I remember THAT exact moment. And I bet you remember being labeled at some point in your life.
So, let’s all please keep this in mind when talking with or about people. Be mindful of the self-fulfilling prophecy you are placing on a person’s shoulders. Try to tell children some positive characteristics about themselves.
Compliment a lady’s sense of style if you like it. Tell a clerk his positive attitude is appreciated. What if the one thing you say is the only nice thing they’ve heard all week … I guarantee it will stick. I know it’s bad for our bodies and I’m a sappy child of the modern age, but let’s buy the world a Coke.