I don’t think anything lowered my self-worth and my own belief in myself as a child than labels that were put on me or even the people around me. So I do a lot of coaching, I do mastermind around all this type of stuff and I am just amazed and saddened by how many people are still stuck on labels that were put on them when they were a kid by some adult way back, 20, 30 years ago, maybe even sooner than that.
I just want to use this as an outlet to rail against that in terms of not only not doing it to people in our lives, especially young and impressionable people that really will believe you when you say it, but even labels that were put on us as children that we still hold onto. Now I had tons of labels put on me when I was a kid, they were essentially never positive. I was labeled not mechanically inclined cause I wasn’t able to fix things when I was young. And guess what, I still don’t fix things very well and I truly believe it’s something that has held me back because I believe what people said about me in the past. if I want to learn how to fix something or use a tool, if I can just put my time and energy into it, I’ll figure it out. But I get stopped because I keep hearing these things in my head even from a long time ago. I was labeled through my youth as not a good student, not a good listener and I never was a good student or a good listener all through high school.
But it was interesting that once I got away from those voices, I grew up a little bit, how did I go to college for photography which is something I knew nothing about and become a prized student out of nowhere in that realm? How did I all of a sudden become a good student? How did I all of a sudden start being a person that can be taught that? Did I just grow up? Was it a subject I was actually interested in this time? Did somebody just slapped a label on me that fit their agenda but at the same time lowered my belief in myself. But there is a label that I remember slapped on to somebody but it wasn’t me but it still had a tremendous effect on my life and how I viewed myself.
My brother Steve is a year and half older than me. So obviously as a kid growing up, you look up to your older brothers, your older siblings. Often you want to be like them but at the same time, you find yourself comparing yourself to them. And there’s certainly a reason why younger siblings have a complex often because you’re never going to do most things before the older sibling does. They’re almost always gonna ride the bike before you or hit a home run in Little League before you. How do you keep up with that? How do you top that? And usually you won’t be able to. So I truly believe there’s a reason why siblings act the way they do in terms of even the birth order and Kevin Lehman, who is one of our parenting groomers, he wrote the tremendous lots of books on this, books on the birth order and why kids do what they do. And often, when you have a successful/compliant firstborn, you’re gonna find a rebellious and rambunctious second born. Because at that age, everybody is looking to fit in to their role or pick their own role and when you see that that role is taken by the firstborn, you realize “well I am not going to be that one. So I guess I got to be this one.” And I’m not sure if any of this is conscious but after coaching so many people, I see that is very common.
It was no different with me. See my brother, when he was in third or fourth grade, academically he was doing really well while I was struggling. And then came a day, actually an evening, I remember clearly and it set the tone for a lot of discord that I felt going forward in our family and even in academics.
One afternoon, my brother’s teacher talked to my parents and labeled him and said he’s Harvard material. I don’t know if my brother knew what that meant but my parents were pretty excited. I can imagine any parent would be when the teacher says that their kid is Harvard material. But I remember that day, the impact they have in our family in a bunch of different ways and nothing that I remember is positive. For my brother’s standpoint, it’s a heck of a label have to live up to when you’re in third grade. And it’s not like he was striving to get into Harvard. So everything he did from that point on was compared to the Harvard material label. I mean really, how do you live up to that, aside from becoming somebody that goes to Harvard? And from when I can remember, I never remember my brother saying that he even want to go to Harvard. I never remember him complaining about it but I always remembered the label that was put on that and then even as other teachers knowing about it. But I do remember how I felt and I remember thinking while he’s Harvard material, what am I?
School was never fun for me to begin with, I never enjoyed the process. Even from a young age, I never enjoyed the challenges of academia. I never enjoyed studying the same things that everybody else was studying or taking the same tests that every else was taking. I always kind of just wanted to do my own thing so I knew from the very beginning that I wasn’t really good in school, whatever that meant. But now I have a brother, an older brother who’s smarter than me, that is Harvard material. And I just remember that label coming with a lack of confidence in myself. A lack of belief that I was smart at all in this world that everybody else held so valuable. Not only that, but I had no choice but to be in this world for the next 10 years of my life. I still remember shortly after that, being upstairs, getting ready for bed, me and my brother both brushing our teeth. It was the beginning of the school year. I remember thinking so this is the third grade. After the third grade comes fourth grade and then fifth. I kept rattling on till the 11th grade and 12th grade and then at then I go to college and then my brother said “and then you got to get a job.” I still recall sinking my head down, holding my toothbrush in my hand. I stopped brushing and I just stared in the mirror. I’ve dealt with bouts of depression my life but that was probably the first moment of depression in my life cause I knew even at that age, this was not for me.
I don’t know if it would’ve been any different if I would had people that lifted me up in the academic world and at a young age built up my confidence and kind of guided me through that and I didn’t. But all I can remember is I’m not Harvard material. I am not labeled as one of the one that fits in here. It is very obvious in the school setting who fits and who doesn’t and often it has to do with the labels that we put on people. And to do that to such a young age is doing such a disservice to the creativity of these kids that were raising. Because taking a test well doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re smarter than the person who can create something differently. Following rules is rewarded by school because that keeps him in line for what they need to do with their job. So someone who is outspoken or creative or thoughtful or is curious will not be labeled as Harvard material but maybe they should be. Because maybe, they’re going to be the one that challenge things in a way that need to be challenged or better yet maybe they shouldn’t be labeled at all. We let these kids grow and we let them be who they are meant to be.
I’ll talk to you tomorrow!