More than a label

I don’t know if I really ever thought about labels until I was in school to become a counselor. In multiple classes we discussed the harm caused by labeling individuals… this discussion mainly focused on diagnosing clients. Diagnosing was required (especially for insurance purposes), but we often contemplated how to assist clients in not feeling they were these labels.  We wanted the clients to see they were so much more than a label placed on them

The different labels used by others to describe myself were never more than a fleeting thought until last January.

Matthew and I are fortunate to work for the same university. At the start of the year, I was doing an interview with a campus magazine for a program I run. For once, I love my job and was excited to share the wonderful things being accomplished. About an hour before the interview, I ran into the individual who would write the article. She was with her husband. She proceeded to introduce me to her husband… she introduced me as the women’s lacrosse coach’s wife… While technically this label is accurate, I was shocked when I was introduced in such a way in a professional setting where I worked!

I have no problem being labeled in such a way when I am at Matthew’s games, practices, recruiting tournaments… I actually am very proud to be Matthew’s wife! I love when others talk about what a wonderful coach he is. I struggled with this label in this setting. I felt my entire existence was being limited merely to being the women’s lacrosse coach’s wife! Didn’t she know I was more than that! I wanted to shout, I have a PhD!!! I was in college for 11 long years and I am much more than just a coach’s wife. I am sure the woman had no clue how her words pierced my soul.

I continued to struggle with the labels placed on me through being pregnant with Keaton. It seemed I had this newfound value to others because I could soon add the label of mother to my box. A box full of labels piled up over the years… graduate, good girl, wife, sister, daughter, doctor, counselor, friend, failure, athlete…

I have always felt a little invisible. During college, I would meet people out and I would mention they were in one of my classes. They would be so surprised and have no clue I sat close to them in the class. Individuals who are known to remember everyone don’t remember meeting me… it is almost humorous.  So when I am remembered because I am married to the lacrosse coach or because I am pro-creating, I start to get down on myself…. More like feel sorry for myself.

My wonderful husband often asks why I care what others think. When he asks, I never have a good answer. I don’t have a good answer because I know he is right. I know I shouldn’t care and I hate I do. I hate I let it bother me. I hate I continue to think of these encounters, weeks, months, after the situation. I hate it because I know the problem is not the people who assign these labels; the problem is the person I see in the mirror.

I am the one who doesn’t see the value in myself. I am the one who has continually chased labels in the hope they would make me feel a greater sense of worth in life.  Graduating the top of my high school class wasn’t enough for me to feel my own worth. Neither was being selected as a top student in the business school at college, or even completing a PhD. I kept piling on the labels and yet I continued to feel the same inside. I some how thought if I put enough labels on myself I would be enough.  Of course none of these labels helped what was going on inside of my soul.

I am the only one who can realize I am more than the labels others place on me… more like I place on myself. I have to realize my worth regardless of what I do. I am slowly starting to see my worth lies in me just being me. Even if you take away every label I have acquired over my thirty something years, I still have worth!

Do I think it was right the woman introduced me as the women’s lacrosse coach’s wife? Absolutely not! It was very poor taste professionally, but she doesn’t determine my worth. I am the one to determine my worth. I am the one to see past the labels and to be content with me being myself.  The sooner I stop handing out my power to others who assign me labels, the sooner I will be content with who I am.

I am so thankful I am slowly starting to see I am more than a label.

10 responses to “More than a label”

  1. I hope you will arm yourself with a polite, direct response the next time someone acts so unprofessionaly. It was probably unintentional on her part, and you could help her see that by stating your title or position to the third party. Just some advice from someone who loves you and is so proud of you!!!!! Glena

  2. Oh Amy, I would love to talk about this with you all day long… I have struggled and am still processing the similar situations you encountered. BTW, congratulations on your second posting!

  3. You and I are probably more similar than either of us realize! I had the same struggle when I started my job, since many of the people I work alongside were longtime friends and coworkers of Frank’s. I would get frustrated, always referred to as Frank’s wife, which got worse when he was retired and worse yet when I changed my name. I had the added element of unsolicited legal advice about his retirement, haha. I have learned to love my label and no longer worry that I don’t have an identity outside of my marriage. If anything, it is a daily reminder of the beautiful marriage and family we share. Besides, even Hilary Clinton is still referred to as Bill’s wife, and she’s formidable…

  4. I read a great book by Anthony Campolo. In it he said that “we think of ourselves as the one that we think the most of thinks of us” (paraphrased). He was talking about our relationship with God but it works for those that we think the most of. I know that you think the most of Matthew in your life (with a touch of Keaton thrown in). Now what does Matthew think of you? He thinks you are queen of the world. Take that and run with it. There are others of us that feel the same way so put that in your heart and know that life’s important labels are placed there by those that love you the most. Love you, Dad

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